Mike Leavitt is already known for his playfully subversive figures that feature and poke fun at other artists, celebrities, and world leaders. In his newest series, Empire Peaks, Leavitt combines famous leaders and innovators with characters from Star Wars. Comprised of 18 figures sculpted out of wood, and each corresponds to one character from the movie franchise. Albert Einstein’s infamous expression is sculpted into R2-D2, while Steve Jobs is his counterpart C-3PO. Michael Jackson plays the part of the adorable Ewoks. US President Barack Obama is Lando Calrissian.
Inspiration for Empire Peaks came from Leavitt’s experience growing up as a Gen-X’r raised by Baby Boomers. With both his parents working, he had to entertain himself, relying on the cheap thrills of television and plastic toys. Describing the series, he writes:
For better or worse, each ‘Empire Peaks’ non-fictional character is complicit in the world order today. We’re all shackled to our past because of endlessly echoing paradigms. David Sirota argues in ‘Back to Our Future’ for a cyclical 30-year regurgitation of politics and culture. I think it’s an inescapable human nature causing regimes to repeat themselves. ‘Empire Peaks’ are meant to reduce modern dynasties to a sci-fi soap opera of objects.
It’s all about gluttony. Serving desires lubricates civilization. Capitalism fills desire and demand. Development expands. Culture thrives. From religious redemption to material objects, mass coveting is the driving force. (Via ARTNAU)
Recognize the above image? Maybe the name Jesse Auersalo rings a bell? Give up? We featured Jesse in Issue Y, back when B/D was still a magazine… before we upgraded to our fancy limited edition book format. Well Jesse is giving a talk at AIGA/NY on Wednesday March 3rd, 6:30-8pm. This is Jesse’s first ever U.S. presentation! Be sure to check it out if you’re in the area. Also, you can go to our online shop and pick up a copy of Issue Y or grab the t-shirt Jesse designed. Just for fun, you can see more of Jesse’s illustrations after the jump.
The late and great author Kurt Vonnegut was a visual artist, too. If you’re a fan of his writing, then you probably already knew that drawings by him appear in 1973’s Breakfast of Champions and that he illustrated the cover for Man Without a Country in 2005. But in the mid-1990’s, Vonnegut shipped his daughter Nanette a plethora of drawings. She kept them in her studio’s flatfiles (she’s a visual artist, too) until now, when the artwork was made into a book and is part of a touring exhibition titled Kurt Vonnegut Drawings. The book is published by Monacelli Press and features 145 selections of his work.
Playful line drawings are composed using pen and marker. The abstract and surreal works, in which things transform and morph to become something other than themselves, include fragments of the written word. One drawing includes a steep set of stair and muses, “There is a ceiling on human thoughts.” Other wordless works often include a minimalist portrait or figure. They are free-flowing images that feel like a stream of consciousness.
The published book includes essays written by his daughter and scholar (and Vonnegut friend) Peter Reed. He writes, “great value of this collection is that Vonnegut’s artwork gives us another perspective on his restless imagination and his creative genius. … There are constraints in writing that even the iconoclastic Vonnegut felt, but in his art he seems wholly uninhibited.” (Via Hyperallergic)
In all honesty, I’m usually very dismissive of photography. Alas! Young Chicagoan Jessica Labatte comes correct with some seriously amazing still life photographs! Lots and lots of images after the break, enjoy.
When searching for photos of popular tourist destinations, chances are many of these images look the same. Thanks to the now-ubiquitous camera phone, anyone can snap a photo anywhere. So, of course, it’s no surprise that there’s an endless amount of dull images of places like Los Angeles’ “Hollywood” sign or Rome’s Colosseum. Artist Corinne Vionnet recognized this fact years ago and crafted artworks born from banal vacation photos. Her series is titled Photo Opportunities, and it uses at least 100 found photos layered digitally to comprise one cohesive image.
In 2005, Vionnet began searching online for pictures of tourist landmarks around the world, and she observed that most snapshots were of the existing, “stereotypical” imagery of that locale. Vantage points, lighting, visual symmetry – it all looks the same.
Photo Opportunities was recently on view at the Danziger Gallery in New York. They describe Vionnet’s pieces, writing:
Working with multiple images of different monuments, she collates around a hundred appropriated photographs for each of her layered, ethereal compositions. Underneath these beautiful ghost visions is a serious concern with how the persistence of formally repeated photographic compositions affects our cultural and historical awareness.
The Impressionist-quality of these images comment on how we experience and reflect on our environment. Even though the photo feels unique to the picture taker, it is all-too-similar and later lost in the digital ether. (Via Gawker)
Mark Jenkins as been putting a lot of fun stuff in the streets over the years. His street installations are some of the best and truly bring a smile of curiosity to most on lookers. The one pictured above is my personal favorite, but make sure to check out the other fun installations coming from the wacky mind of Mark.