Maltese artist John Paul Azzopardi puts together delicate sculptures and complex structures made from bone. His figures and objects are a combination of being frightening and entrancing. They are gothic and modern. Architecture and organic. Morbid and energetic. The Maltese artist welds bits of bone together, forming ornate ram’s skulls, haunting bats with outstretched wings, axe-welding menacing mythological creatures, and hybrid beasts with intimidating profiles. Azzopardi is very poetic about his approach to his work – describing the metaphysical aspect to his sculptures:
[It] is a collection of fossilized structures that explores the gentle temperance located within the constitution of sound, i.e. it’s very silent center. The architectural relationship that oscillates back and forth from the simple and the complex to the living and the dead connects space and form, creating existential structures of interwoven silence. The death embedded in it’s form, it’s life. This might confront the spectator with a spectre, the simulacrum of itself that stalls, halts being something in it’s tracks. (Source)
He exploits the nature of the material he is working with. Bones are the things that knit our bodies together, and are also one of the last things to decay. They have a lot of symbolism and spiritualism embedded in them – Azzopardi is making that more apparent and immediate with his art works. He goes on:
Facing truth, man often does not look. S/he does not see, for instance as when confronting the world, the transient. The rules of words then is that what one see, is what one is, and (to admit) that facing truth, we often see nothing, hear nothing, and say nothing. (Source)
It seems these sculptures announce to us our impending decay, and for us to embrace it, and yes, to even celebrate it.
“Ideas win today in our society. […] I ingest, then digest. Art is really just a mirror of ourselves.”
A truthful quote that Desire Obtain Cherish (DOC) aka Jonathan Paul takes into account while conceptualizing his body of work. The pop sculptor, obviously influenced by Jeff Koons and Andy Warhol, combines street, pop, conceptual and appropriation art in order to create sculptural pieces that explore contemporary society’s ever-growing obsessions: sex, gender, drugs, commerce, media and fame.
Desire’s kitschy, yet critical work exposes “society’s inability to control itself as it examines the commercial promise of fulfillment and happiness that ends in dependency.” DOC employs an exaggerated and sarcastic outlook that might come off as cleaver but pretentious and judgmental, but never in a bad way. New Yorker art critic Benjamin Genocchio characterized DOC’s work as “not malicious [..] He is more like our social conscience, delivering up uncomfortable and unpleasant truths wrapped in the most beautiful and seductive of packages.”
Although a conventional artist in paper, DOC deviates from the stereotypical standards of “good taste” in art as his ideas are more in line with contemporary commerce and marketing methods rather than traditional artisan methods. (via ARTNAU)
French photographer David Bertram’s latest group of images are portraits of self-portraits, Claytime presents people who were asked to model their own faces out of clay.
“The Art of the portrait is often associated with the idea that the eyes of the pictured person are a window on his soul, his inner truth. Only eyes can really say that much ? This question is the basis of the work that is presented here, which offers a more psychological than physical lighting of each subject. I got inspired by an psychology exercise that involves asking the patient to model his own face out of a piece of clay, to unconsciouly reveal his own traits, its complex, its fears, in short, his psychic identity to his analyst.
This playful exercise gave its name to the series, Claytime, which presents different people all having modeled their own faces in clay. Despite differing modeling abilities, their faces are in some cases, rough, in other perfectly crafted, but always revealing.
In a second step, I photographed these people, inside their homes, within a framework that defines them both personally and socially, and offers several clues about their personalities. Subsequently, a photo montage allowed me to replace their “real” faces by their mental projections in clay. Once placed on the shoulders, the head of clay either contrasts with the body which receives it, or rather is an almost organic extension of this body, mysteriously revealing the forces that espouse or oppose in the person’s mind, the game between subjective and objective acting as a revelator of the soul… A kind of X-ray of the mind. I chose to light those pictures in a rather painting mood and often privileged static poses in order to give each portrait the expression of an ancient statue, frozen in time as the remains of a personality, memory of the real identity, the one that never changes.”
A seemingly unlikely source of inspiration for contemporary artists, figurative sculpture has a long history. From the classical figure sculpture of Greek antiquity to African Yourba figurines artists have always had an inclination to depict the human form. Meeting the challenges of making such an old tradition new and relevant, these contemporary artists re-imagine the human form.
Contemporary master Jim Dine, often categorized as a pop artist, appropriated from art history. He selects icons, such as the Venus de Milo, to re-contextualize for a modern audience. Nathan Mabry draws from archaeology, Dadaism, surrealism and minimalism. He makes references across the art historical timeline, “crashing,” as he calls it, multiple aesthetics together. Interested in the impact of historical and mythological events on our collective consciousness, Katy Schimert creates sculptures that feel like they might have walked out of history. Fascinated with surface, Schimert uses her mediums to make the forms feel new, evoking a unique kind of introspection. Kevin Francis Gray’s work addresses the complex relationship between abstraction and figuration. He combines Neoclassical sculpture with an urban aesthetic. Fernando Botero is a Colombian artist who creates sculptures depicting people and other figures in large, exaggerated volume. The overstated features are meant to be humorous and generate political criticism.
Laura Crosta has a plethora of work in her portfolio but her balloon series is one of my favorites. Also make sure to check out the “I Date A Hooker” series which documents Jeff Fischer’s dating highlights with hookers.
Colorfully playful yet dark and sometimes sinister, Dana Schutz’s paintings will make you laugh with joy and cringe in disgust all at once. I recently came across a very interesting article about a painting she did in 2005 entitled ‘The Autopsy of Michael Jackson’ – I know, I’m a few months late on this one, but it’s still worth a look.
Vietnamese painter Nguyen Xuan Huy introduces us to the disruptive effects and ongoing legacy of the Vietnam War. His works carry a rooted sense of grotesque which makes it impossible to stay intact. Huy outlines Vietnam’s grimreality by confronting pop art aesthetics with hints of Socialist iconography and heartbreaking results of Agent Orange warfare.
Huy, who is currently based in Berlin, aggregates many aspects of art history by mimicking famous painter’s artworks. Motifs from Matisse’s Dance, Bosch’s Garden Of Earthly Delights, and even Michelangelo’s Creation Of Adam are taken and distorted to outline the traumatic consequences country’s post-war experiences. Twisted naked bodies, guns and dead animals join in a feast of spite and sorrow.
Agent Orange, a poisonous defoliant, was used by the US military and its counterparts to spray on the Vietnamese countryside hoping it will destroy the food sources and thus, end resistance. Only later it was titled the Chernobyl of Vietnam because of it’s irreversible effects, specifically the crippling birth defects. Chemicals used in Agent Orange caused genotype mutations which are present even three generations later.
“It’s insensitive to imagine that because I was born healthy that I am untouched by this issue. <…> So many people are potential carriers of the altered genotype, this is a problem which could affect each and every citizen of Vietnam.”
Japanese art photographer FUKE P-San transforms his photographs into emotional experiences by applying expressive color palettes. In FUKE’s photographs, color and light becomes the subject of the work, as opposed to an objective characteristic. FUKE photographs the world around him, then uses digital color and light effects to give the photograph a painterly aesthetic, one that mirrors the beauty he sees and feels when experiencing the scenery he encounters. He says, “There is so much beauty in our everyday life that goes unseen simple because we develop a different sense of how we value beauty often influenced by our every day life routine.”
FUKE’s color palette and composition evokes the work of artists like Edvard Munch, Egon Schiele, Vincent van Gogh, and Claude Monet, and registers an emotionality not frequently seen in photographic work; this is largely due to his work’s painterly qualities. He hopes his images enhance viewers’ perceptions of the world, and influences the way they perceive beauty.
“Open new windows in your mind and heart, notice and catch the beauty of ordinary small things, watch them well and find a way to make this beauty even bigger. Find the mystery in everything; feel it and this will open your heart to new worlds that you previously thought they never existed. Art can give us Happiness, and help us communicate with ourselves and others to a higher level.” (via cross connect and life treasure collector)