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Joel-Peter Witkin’s Grotesque Yet Beautiful Photographs Capture Private Erotic Longings

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The legendary photographer Joel-Peter Witkin, previously featured here and now on view at LA’s Jack Ruthberg Gallery, weaves strange erotic narratives through his staged images, some of which take weeks to complete. His body of work reads like a love poem to the grotesque, transforming what society deems taboo into miraculously beautiful scenes.

Witkin’s images avoid judging the body, opting instead to reveal mankind’s universal but most private erotic yearnings and fears. In his reinterpretation of Canova’s famously sensual yet demurely reclining Venus, for example, naked male genitalia slip from cover as if by accident, the organ poignantly vulnerable, delicate, and human, seemingly caught between erection and flaccidity.

Sexual hunger again becomes the subject of another image that seems to deconstruct Romantic paintings like Theodore Gericault’s The Raft of The Medusa, famed for its haunting depiction of dead, drowning flesh. Here, a suspenseful, tragic rescue effort is transformed into a sort of desperate orgie on the verge of climax; a pair of heaving breasts is grabbed like melons.

The erotic, though filled with the dangers of physical and spiritual nakedness, is often elevated to the divine. A shirtless woman, her breasts bared, inserts her finger into a book much like the Virgin Mary in Renaissance paintings of the Annunciation. In these photographs, nuns pose alongside nudes, and horns (symbolic of lust) are merged with crowns of thorns (symbolic of Christ)

The gorgeous set of images challenge societal ideas of social acceptability, implying that the most exquisite beauty is often found in our most frightfully private moments of lust and longing. Within all of us, lies erotic impulses that can manifest in magical and dangerous ways. Be sure to check out Witkin’s work at Jack Ruthberg Gallery, where he will exhibit alongside his long-estranged brother, the legendary painter Jerome Witkin. (via Lenscratch and Etherton Gallery)

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Last Day To Save 50% On The Beautiful/Decay Shop!

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You only have one more day to add creativity and inspiration to your home while you save your hard earned cash.  Now you can get 50% off all books, magazines, and artist shirts and get inspired by the thousands of artists and designers that we feature in our pages. Just use discount code “happyholidays50” during checkout and save big! Sale ends January 10th at midnight PST!

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Ryan McLennan

Picture 5 Richmond artist Ryan McLennan’s new inaugural art book, “The Cost of Comfort,” goes on pre-sale today to be officially released July 1st. The book is a loose-leaf art book featuring 20 prints. McLennan’s paintings explore the dualities of nature: innocence and savagery combine to create a world that we, as humans, have become increasingly out of touch with. The book is published by Triple Stamp Press.

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Bea Szenfeld

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Bea Szenfeld is an outstanding, innovative designer based in Sweden who creates theatrical fashion shows featuring her designs. Her recent collection “Sur la Plage” a continuation off of her earlier work “Paper Dolls,” features 12 hand-made designs that was inspired off of a sea-side folklore of seamen. If you are not familiar with Bea Szenfeld’s work, you may be amazed to know that (just the same as Paper Dolls) this collection is constructed entirely out of paper. Handmade, entirely out of paper, and held together by the process of gluing, sewing, and pleating.

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Painter Santiago Salvador Ascui Creates Colorful Figurative Patterns Mimicking Conformity

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Chilean artist Santiago Salvador Ascui paints melodic, colorful arrays of pattern-like assembled people. His careful lines, bright use of color, and charmingly hand painted perfection is reminiscent of work from the Mission School movement, specifically the paintings of Margaret Kilgallen and Chris Johanson. While having the playfulness of the “new folk” work of the 1990s, his work is also informed by a strict systematic structure. His pieces function almost as color studies, guiding the eye through the placement of hue, rather than, as most figurative paintings would, narrative. As he falls in and out of saturation, his work sometimes seems to mimic the cycle of the moon. He arranges his figures in sequences, perhaps forming the aesthetic of Josef Frank meets Josef Albers.

Though the work is aesthetically joyful and decorative, his use of repetition and unification through tonality also speaks to a certain aspect of conformity and monotony. He speaks about the work as a pictorial representation of consumer culture. During the digestion of each piece, the viewer cannot help but to see every figure as the same. The patterned pieces create a true sense of identity-less beings; as if to say that everyone is within the same cycle, drawn into the same pattern (if you will), and unlinked to any sense of individuality. However, Santiago Salvador Ascui’s work also draws an important question; when does the need to be different begin to silence the need to be the same? Despite the burden of a plastic society, perhaps the unification of all figures is actually, in a sense, a positive message. (Via The Jealous Curator and Artishock)

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Jay Howell- The Ultimate Dude

Where to start with Jay Howell? The legendary laidbacksman and zinester, recently relocated to Los Angeles by way of San Francisco, seems to have taken good vibes to every corner of every creative cul de sac. Howell, who participated in the group show “Supply and Demand” at Brooklyn’s House of Vans early this fall, works his quirky, character-driven vision onto all available formats. His trademark dudes, rockers, and big-breasted babes have graced gallery walls, skate decks, apparel, original cartoons, original “nickelodeon cartoons”, album covers (he has serious ties to the musical community), and public spaces.  Sometimes it feels like he has a message, but then you kind of wonder whether it’s really reflected in his work or not. And then you’re just like, dude, who cares?

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David DiMichele’s Monumental Art Installation Dioramas


Los Angeles based artist David DiMichele creates the fantastic. His environments follow contemporary trend to construct the monumental, to surround the viewer with visual stimulus. His work however is assembled, not in the cavernous halls and galleries of museums and art centers, but on a table in his studio.

DiMichele builds his environments as finely detailed dioramas and then he photographs them. His “pseudodocumentary” photographs comment on the way we see and experience the monumental art that it pays homage to. Not often can the public experience the physical sense of an enormous installation. Most commonly, we see the work through a reproduction or website. Working in this manner, DiMichele can take the “installation shot” much further. Controlling light, angle and composition. And heighten the experience.

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Serrah Russell’s Muted Body As Landscape Photographs

Serrah Russell lives and works in Seattle, WA. Using instant film her work often presents the body as an ominous muted landscape. Her close-up snap shots take on the form of hazy abstractions. Her work has been described as a way to “illuminate the permanent effect that actions trace upon their environment. Her works are a tangible remnant of an abstracted and often autobiographical narrative of immutable occurrences that move forward in a flux of nature, culture and time.”

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