Alberto Seveso’s high speed photographs of ink mixing with water are hypnotic and fascinating. Each shot depicts pushes of color twisting and bending with an emotive cadence, lulling itself into an ephemeral sculpture, detailed with sharp visceral attention.
Although such imagery is not new, per se, this specific collection feels intrinsically magnetic due to the captive nature of submerged color naturally bonding or relating before diluting. It’s more about documenting the ease of abstraction than pushing a forced abstract agenda.
Jason Middlebrook‘s work incorporates lines onto wood planks found in New York State, as the artist forms abstract ‘landscape’ painting that play with colour. The artist’s painterly abstracted forms create a hypnotic quality to the work, as the ordered lines subvert patterns of trees to seek a re-engagement in our relationship with nature itself.
In Phillip Toledano’s new book, A New Kind of Beauty, you will find photographs of those whom have gone through extreme cosmetic surgery. The images are quite shocking, but there is also something quite unusual about them; you can see, through the sitters’ victorious stances, that they actually feel quite powerful and actually beautiful.
‘A New Kind of Beauty’ possesses an interesting aesthetic. The photographer decides to portray his subjects, not under a glamorous light, but instead in way which exudes an air of strength and power. Although the artist says that he is referencing 16th century artist Hans Holbein (which he is) I say that he is also reflecting an aesthetic that very clearly references that of Greek and Roman sculpture. I find it compelling that Toledano’s juxtaposes something so contemporary as cosmetic surgery, to something so dated. But, his line of thought makes sense.
We all know that the Greek and Romans were obsessed with beauty, perfection and youth. They found beauty in perfect young bodies, hence the many grand sculptures of young naked bodies (usually men). Their stance, for the most part, was stoic; emotion made the beauty fade away…their stance was always upright, a symbol of power and honor. Similarly, the photographer renders his sitters in poses that clearly show off their wannabe young bodies and faces (some are covered by draped robes and veils, yet another detail that references this particular stylistic period). They stand tall and emotionless, even if their highly transformed faces say otherwise. Their ‘beauty’ is fake, but it is theirs, and they are owning it.
In a way, Toledano is documenting contemporary human beauty as well as ‘admiring beauty’ in the same way the Greeks and Roman did in their time.
“We will be able to redefine what it means to look human, and I think these people are the vanguard of that type of evolution.”
However, it differs in that this kind of beauty is manufactured and maybe not so beautiful after all. The photographer wants to make sure we realize that this is our society’s standards of beauty. Whether it is actually beautiful or not, real or not, well that’s not something to fret about. It is an obvious fact that the public is eager for perfection, youth, and hypersexualized physical attributes, so here’s the outcome of the pressures to be just that.
“I wanted to make beautiful and distinguished portraits of these people. … I wanted to represent a particular part of beauty from our time. It will be very interesting to see in a few years time how I compare physically to these projected images.”
Wookjae Maeng is a Korean artist who works with ceramics, focusing on the relationships between man and animal. The ghostly pieces often resemble commemorative busts or mounted heads reminiscent of big game trophies (the kind you’d seen in a hunter’s den). Sometimes, works are painted to blend in with wall treatments or trendy decor.
“I concentrate on art as a vehicle to communicate contemporary social and environmental problems to the viewer by stimulating, not just emotion, but sensibilities and memories,” Maeng writes. Stimulus is an important idea, and it’s used to evoke the viewer’s curiosity and to inspire them to figure the greater meaning of the work.
Maeng also explains why he chose to feature animals in his sculptures:
In our environment, numerous creatures live in harmony. Yet there are other creatures that merely exist without enjoying their natural right due to human classification and negligence. I would like to express the nature of the relationship between human and other creatures-a relationship that, in other to thrive, demands careful coexistence and balance between the urban and the natural, for example, and an awareness and empathy for less visible creatures. In my work I hope to provide an opportunity-however brief-for modern man to consider the realities of the environment in which he exists, even as he continues his daily existence indifferent to it. (Via Optically Addicted)
Bill McRight, of Philly powerhouse Space 1026, employs gnarly printmaking skills in the creation of images not confined to a place in time. In McRight’s work, Garish figures sans-pupils populate a stark environment of violence, movement, and open mouths containing sharp teeth. But it all looks so good that the reaction of the viewer is inclined toward pleasure rather than pain.
For the artist Eliza Bennett, her flesh is her medium; in embroidering her palm with thick threads, she hopes to explore the ways in which we view gender roles. Her hand, swollen and bruised by her own careful work, is titled “A Woman’s Work Is Never Done,” and her gruesomely precise handiwork serves to remind the viewer of the strife of women laborers, many of whom are paid far less than their male counterparts.
Embroidery, like most traditionally female crafts, is often belittled and considered frivolous, but Bennett’s representation of women’s work is urgently and painfully profound. By literally—and unflinchingly— penetrating her own epidermis, the artist subtly subverts the notion that the efforts of women are superficial or shallow.
Building upon these themes of gender constructs, Bennett’s project blurs the lines between the private realm, coded female, and the public realm, coded male. In many ways, her skin serves as the bridge between the internal self and the external world; in embroidering it, she makes a public spectacle of her own personal narrative. As if reading her own palm, she traces its lines in various soft colors, creating intricate patterns and granting certain patches of flesh both psychological and aesthetic importance.
Bennett’s pointed social critique of ideas of femininity is made stronger by the intimate nature of the work. Feminist scholar Betty Friedan once explained that in the battle for gender equality, the personal lives of women must be made political, that internal struggles must be made visible. “A Woman’s Work Is Never Done” is a poignantly simple execution of this idea; here, Bennett weaves a painful visual story onto her hand, stretching it outwards for public consideration. (via Hi Fructose, Design Boom, and anti-utopias)
AJ Fusco is a multimedia artist currently living at Skylab Gallery in Columbus, Ohio. His past body of work, seen after the jump, consists of finely wrought, large-scale graphite drawings that put the viewer’s received distinctions between natural and digital imagery in doubt.
There is always something wrong about Yvonne Todd‘s photographs. By utilizing the effects and techniques of commercial photography studios, Todd creates quietly strange images reminiscent of 90s glamour shots, or of head shots that always turn out looking amateur. Full of ill-fitting clothes, cringe-worthy props and awkward poses, Todd pushes the ideas of what is conventional beauty, and how quickly these norms change.
Her palette in itself is very rarely considered beautiful – saturated with sickly pinks, boring beige, flat creams, dull greys and flooded with unflattering light it is hard to find these images attractive.
The subjects appear confident at first glance, but there is an underlying sense of sadness, longing and an unease about themselves.
These people are reminiscent of trophy wives; of people obsessed with vanity and image; of compulsive individuals determined to be the best version of themselves. Men sitting uncomfortably, surrounded by objects they are unsure of; women staring into the mirror, practicing how to be seductive; girls striving to act above their age; amateur dancers trying to appear more skilled than they are. These poses are so often seen in modern advertising, and popular media. Todd says:
“My interest is a bit broader than beauty and artifice; I’m really interested in manipulating the conventional and familiar. I feel compelled to create “revised” photographic conventions drawn from advertising imagery, stock photography, catalogs, brochures, corporate portraits, mass-market fiction, religious cults, soap operas, show business, and the glimpses and fragments that resonate in my memory and imagination.”
These photographs may seem outdated and surreal, but could as easily be a reflection of all that is toxic in our modern day western capitalist society and our focus on image and representation of oneself.