The Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles has not one, but two very appealing magic-related exhibitions opening April 28. The first, Houdini: Art and Magic, travels to us from New York. Featuring tons of Houdini-ana, the exhibition looks not only at the historical Harry Houdini, but also at his enduring legacy. To that end, the exhibition includes a number of artworks by contemporary artists inspired by the Houdini legend, including such luminaries as Matthew Barney, Petah Coyne, Vik Muniz and Raymond Pettibon. The Skirball has created a second exhibition to give context to Houdini. This is called Masters of Illusion: Jewish Magicians of the Golden Age, and it focuses on Houdini’s predecessors, colleagues and competitors in both Europe and the US, focusing on the years 1875 to 1948. The exhibition examines more than 40 fascinating careers, largely forgotten, and contains many outstanding objects, all displayed in “period” environments meant to evoke vaudeville stages, Victorian magic parlors and the like. Both exhibitions feature vintage photography, gorgeous promotional ephemera, original props and costumes, and rare documents, and Masters of Illusion includes four renowned automata.
Paintings and sculptures collide and meld together in the installations of Priscila De Carvalho.
“The visual form of my installation originates in memories of my childhood home—an island in the southern part of Brazil—a serene setting surrounded by the sea, with majestic palm trees and lonely houses scattered along the shore, and crowned by a vibrantly colored sky at dusk. The content is fueled by the writings of Maria Manuela Margarido and Alda do Espirito Santo and personal memories of my country’s political resistance to colonialism. My lifelong social and political awareness began at an early age and, ultimately, found its way into my art in the form of figurative narratives that portray the joy and resilience of the human spirit confronted with social and political hardships. Specific imagery in By the Sea (parrots, coconut palms and the evening sky) was taken from Margarido’s poem Nightfall, which reflects on the disjunction between childhood dreams and adult realities and reminds its readers to dream high.”
Nothing if not disturbing, Alex Van Gelder’s Meat Portraits portray carcasses, flesh, entrails, organs and other animal parts from an abattoir in Benin. Found and photographed in the marketplace, or carefully staged into contorted compositions, Van Gelder’s photographs are corporeality at its most raw. Thoughtfully describing them as portraits rather than some kind of protest, or statement, Van Gelder is specific about his process. The photographs possess an abstraction that is compelling and unnerving. The artist says of his work, “African butchers don’t use electric saws as Europeans do but cut up the meat by hand which produces a variety of styles.The slaughterhouse was in the open air and in front of it a small market where they would sell the still warm meat. I worked there on and off for one year producing my Meat Portraits. I consider these portraits still lives.”
Appalling and even nauseating in their uncensored savage-ness, there is a strange beauty to the images when one steps back and pretends they’re something other than meat. Surprisingly not a vegetarian, Van Gelder’s images are less about animal rights and more about the emotionally evocative formal qualities the camera can capture.
Ben Aqua has a deep fascination with color, costume, and uneasy subject matter. Thumbs up!
Jason Levesque aka Stuntkid is having an upcoming show May 4th – May 29th at the Jfergeson Gallery in VA.
Born in Hong Kong, Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung now lives and works in New York. His art is incredibly socially conscious, exploring and excelling in high-definition video animation, video games, net.art, digital graphics, and mixed media installations. Currently in progress is video installation “In GOD We Trust.” He envisions Obama as a reincarnation of seven spiritual leaders and prophets. Far from worshipping Obama, “In GOD We Trust” delves into the hopes and changes the 44th U.S. president promises to deliver–and the obstacles he will encounter along the way.
P.S. The “GOD” in “In God We Trust” is an acronym for “Global Obama Devotion.” Not our national motto!
Photographer Eolo Perfido’s series Clownville is a place where nightmares are real. In this series, Perfido photographs a hodgepodge group of bloody, cackling, and all together demented-looking clowns. What makes this set of clowns so horrifying is the incredible attention to detail the photographer has taken into account when developing such a dark, desolate atmosphere. We are able to see each crusty hair on the clown’s body, every white, chalky flake of skin. They have become just as grotesque as they are unwanted. The clown, who can be thought about in a cheery, amusing way, is often a subject that many people fear. Among all of the classic, cult horror films lies the infamous and terrifying clown. It has been appropriated to suit every child’s nightmare. Still, there is something incredibly sad about the clown, even in some of the characters in Clownville. Although frightening, many of Perfido’s clown seem worn out and used, as if they are just misunderstood and unfortunate. This sense of hopelessness can be seen in the photograph exhibiting a fairly large-sized clown smoking on a couch. Another representation of this is found in the face of the big, teary-eyed clown staring straight into the viewer, with no smile. The entertainers are perhaps tired of entertaining us.
Eolo Perfido’s heavily stylized approach to photography is very apparent in his series Clownville. Many of his photos have a very staged look, almost like a play, while at the same time feeling genuine. Others have an old, classic flavor due to their grainy quality and black and white tones. There is something different that can be found in each clown as their creative make up and poses reveal bits of their character. As unnerving as this series may be, we cannot look away from these unforgettable, chilling faces.