I first met Robbie Conal back in 2001 when B/D was just a part time hobby run out of my bedroom. He was one of the first LA artists that I met, and we immediately hit it off. Fast forward a decade, now Robbie is a great friend of mine, and a loyal Cult Of Decay supporter. He is the type of artist that gives his time, energy, and sharp wit to anyone and everyone without thinking about what they can do for him. Over the years we’ve featured Robbie on our cover (you can get a copy here), included him in shows we’ve curated, released videos about his work, and had him write an amazing article about his painting mentor and hero Leon Golub (You can get a copy of that issue here). Needless to say we back him 200%.
Robbie is having a much deserved show opening this week in LA at Country Club. If you’re a fan of what we do at Beautiful/Decay then you must go to this show to support the original King of Postering, and the ultimate Mad Man of Paint. If you’ve only seen his work on the street then this show will be a true eye opener, as all of Robbie’s posters are actually prints of paintings with hundreds of layers of rich paint. So join me, the rest of the B/D team, and help celebrate one of LA’s great artistic treasures.
Robbie Conal:The Missing Link
November 20th-December 22nd 2010
Opening Reception: November 20th 6-9pm
@ The Buck House
805 South Genesse Avenue
LA, CA 90036
Photographer SD Holman uses her talent as a portrait photographer to capture women who fall outside of the traditional gender binary. In her series “BUTCH: Not Like the Other Girls,” masculine women are not oddity or other. These are photos of women who identify as butch captured by a butch woman—they are women defining themselves. In this way, Butch has much in common with the current social campaigns stripping women of makeup, enhancements, and retouching and declaring them more beautiful without the artifice. This is part of Holman’s intent with the show—to use the Butch identity as an example of one of the classifications through which women are objectified. The difference though is the hate and fear that Butch women have faced as transgressors of societal constructs of femininity. Holman says:
“Butches and all gender variant folk walk in a world that is really hostile to them, so we tend to look inward. I was inspired to show their beauty by my wife Catherine, a femme who loved butches, and encouraged me to do this when I started talking about it.”
The rich diversity of butch women is evidenced here. Just as there isn’t one way to be a woman, Butch includes women of all shapes and colors and styles. The fluidity of gender is apparent in each photo.
Holman is an artist. Her portraits are classically beautiful, with their artful lighting and dramatic contrasts. The subjects mostly gaze through the lens to the viewer, unapologetic and authentic. There is no contrivance in these images, no sense of willful provocation nor is there any sense of apology. Author Amy Bloom writes, “Intimacy is being seen and known as the person you truly are.” These photos are intimate and groundbreaking, brave and matter-of-fact, beautiful and handsome.
With his paintings, Adam Miller recontextualizes baroque and Hellenistic style elements by placing them within a modern futuristic landscape. Miller implements mythological, ecological, and humanistic themes in order to address ideas of technology and progress and “the struggle to find meaning in a world poised between expansion and decay.” His dreamy and angelic compositions reflect contemporary concerns with a classic and realist style. Imagery that might at first appear dated and inaccessible becomes relatable and modern upon closer inspection.
The creative geniuses at Architectural Elements (AE) have created a torturous-looking metal cage that will give its “prisoners” a taste of near-death. Known as a Faraday cage, the device is used in conjunction with Tesla coils to channel 4 million volts of electricity. Locked in the trap, participants are forced to stand still while the glowing current strikes the barrier inches away from their face. The stamped steel mesh allows the electricity to flow harmlessly around the cage. Even though the device is engineered to be safe, such a close encounter with a lethal force is sure to spike the adrenaline.
Several celebrity magicians — such as David Blaine, Chris Angel, and Penn & Teller — have used Faraday cages in their suspense-filled performances. AE, however, has put their own creative spin on the apparatus, invoking the gothic, “mad scientist” aesthetic of Frankenstein: complete with gears, leather, and aged-looking metal, the cage looks cold and sinister. Below is a further description of the imagination that went into this creepy creation:
“Solid head rivets, accurate involute gear tooth geometry, 3D printed bronze logo and specifically designed brass details, manually distressed reclaimed fir, sculpted hexagonal mesh, expert patination, hand crafted leather work and a thousand other details went into the creation of this masterpiece. These details taken individually are insignificant but as a package turn heads and demand distinction in any setting.
‘It was great to have a project where our staff was able to flex their design and fabrication muscles and make it exactly the way we wanted it,’ said AE owner Joe Clark.” (Source)
The video above shows the construction of the cage, concluding with a brief visual of the electric bolt. It is scheduled for installation at the Spark Museum of Electrical Invention located in Bellingham, Washington, so be sure to check it out. Read more about AE’s Faraday cage here.
Chinese artist Li Wei’s photographs defy gravity with himself often at the helm. They are the documentation of reality that involves sometimes-dangerous stunts that the artist says aren’t doctored by computers. Instead, he uses mirrors, wires, acrobatics, and more to give the illusion that people are flying and have transcended above cityscapes.
In a 2012 interview with The Creators Project, Wei says “we are all controlled by someone else. Our thoughts and actions are all controlled by an unseen force.” These images demonstrate an effort to break free of constraints and limitations, and teeter the line between fantasy and reality. Specifically, Wei is talking about the rapid change in China’s economy, but they hold a wider-reaching message. His photographs could be seen as a meditation on our consciousness, hopes, and desires of wanting complete freedom but having to live within the confines of society.
Carsten Höller’s work intends “to trigger the organic responses that underpin the structure of learned behavior, to unbalance the rational mind…Using his training as a scientist in his work as an artist, Höller’s primary concerns relate to the nature of human perception and self-exploration. He has undertaken many projects that invite viewer participation and interaction while questioning human behavior, perception, and logic. His “laboratory of doubt,” embodied in objects ranging from carousels and slippery slides to upside-down goggles, often contains playful, hallucinatory or darkly humorous overtones in order to provoke experience and reflection.” – from Gagosian Gallery. Read more about Höller’s work and his 2011 exhibition at the New Museum here.
I’m really shocked by how life-like (and well-dressed!) these plaster figures are– what a great art and fashion combo. He also balanced a taxidermied elephant on her trunk, proving something that seems outside the realm of possibility by what we think we know about gravity.
For six years the Dutch photographer Willeke Duijvekam followed the lives of Mandy and Eva, documenting their inner and outer attempts to align their sex assignments at birth with their gender identity — both girls were born as boys.
“Willeke Duijvekam reveals how for both girls the radical transformation into self-confident young women was chiefly an internal process. Her subdued photographs show how Mandy and Eva are absorbed in their everyday activities, or in their own thoughts. They are two remarkably normal girls — the one more vivacious, the other quieter — who do nothing other than live according to the dictates of their feelings.” (Source)
Duijvekam presents this series as an ingenious photo book, Mandy and Eva. The best designs enhance the subject matter, bringing new interpretations and depth to the work without taking over the narrative. In Duijvekam’s book, the subtle photos of the two transgender girls are incorporated into an interleaved book. In the video of the book, the pages are separate but related, each girl always present in the other’s spreads, advancing and retreating at the turn of a page. It is a masterful match of form and content. The book progresses backward through time, reversing the expected progression and reinforcing that these are two girls. The bodies that they were born into are much less important than the bodies in which they have become themselves.
“In my work I am guided by what moves and surprises me. … Ideas for projects are constantly unfolding and possibilities reveal themselves around every corner. The trick is to be open enough to recognize them the moment they appear and driven enough to pursue them. Diversity is what draws me to the people I meet, but at the same time I’m fascinated by our similarities.”