Though the work of Gabriel Pionkowski may be constructed like a sculpture, he is definitely a painter. Pionkowski meticulously takes apart his canvases and painstakingly hand paints each individual thread. Then, using a loom, he reweaves the thread into a canvas once again. Painters have deconstructed and reconstructed the concepts of painting for ages. Pionkowski, however does this in literal sense. His process of destruction and recreation reveals the literal and theoretical structure behind art and painting. The reconstructed pieces reveal the typically hidden supports of the canvas while creating a kind of absolute abstraction.
Massachusetts-born photographer Mitch Epstein has been documenting life in America since the early 1970s. As Rachel Esner says, “much of Mitch Epstein’s work is…a reflection on America, on American values and ideology, on America’s place in the world today. It is the formal and associative elements in Epstein’s images that lift them to a higher plane. These are not documents in the strict sense, because they transcend and reinvent the objects photographed and in the process invest them with symbolic meaning.” Well said, Ms. Esner.
The art of Turkish born artist Mehmet Ali Uysal is at once playful and contemplative. His work often makes use of common objects or images as its starting line. Uysal then alters its purpose or use in subtle but profound and often humorous ways. Not only Uysal’s objects, but the surrounding space can feel transformed in a way. Whether it’s a giant clothespin pinching the earth or slabs of dry wall peeled off the gallery walls, his work seems to reveal the playful potential in mundane places and things. Visitors are encouraged to revisit spaces that would otherwise be passed over forgotten.
Brooklyn, NY based artist and architectural designer Chat Travieso creates playful and interactive urban interventions that encourage people to question their assumptions of the built environment. His work takes the form of design/build installations that promote resourceful and sustainable strategies with a stress on simplicity, reuse, and making-do tactics. This work acknowledges the social and physical context of a site and often considers the existing spaces and objects in our urban landscape as a resource to be appropriated and repurposed.
Our favorite works by him are the amusing collapsable shelters pictured here.
Lauren Semivan’s black and white photography raises the dead, feels rich with ritual, and sullen from the earth. To say it is simply an abstract psychological expression would be too easy. There’s something else happening here that is magically archaic, and it’s not just the finely tailored compositions that carefully, yet seemingly casually, dig at our remains by arranging drawn fragments, bodies, vegetation, bones, and string, against a sparse backdrop. This “something else” is movement or play not just in the environment, but as or with the environment, a dreamy surreal fade that lingers.
Technically, each image is a true representation of not just what collects, but how the collection becomes. Shot with a purist sense of photography’s past, Semivan uses an early 20th century 8 x 10″ view camera and, without digital manipulation or any touch-ups at all, develops prints from a scanned large format negative. The ephemeral result, interestingly, pushes on our own anthropological or archeological impulses as a species– asking us to engage and connect with our ancestors, creatively, scientifically, and divinely.
Of her work, Semivan states, “In scientific disciplines, a line is classified as an event. Something as primitive as a scrawl on a surface reveals an aggregate of events, intersecting and changing course. Drawings made on the seamless backdrop describe an emotional space. Science is inherently experiential, as is art making. Knowing and feeling are not separate, and the whole of the environment can be used as a pedagogic instrument. Observatory elegantly draws upon a tension that exists between irrational and physical worlds. Within each image, ghosts of previous drawings.”
Cuba’s 3,570 mile coastline, nestled in the Caribbean Ocean has seen everything from glamorous vacation resorts to the horrors of revolution. But as Cuban artist, Yoan Capote shows us in his Isla (Island) series, the heart of Cuba is her relationship to the water.
Capote’s collection of canvases illustrate the beauty and turbulence of the sea. He says,
“the sea is an obsession for any island country .. it represents the seductiveness of dreams but at the same time danger and isolation.”
In the Isla series, Capote captures that feeling by utilizing fishhooks to create texture and density on his large canvases. At first glance, the works seem to be made of heavy oil but upon closer inspection you see that each wave in his ocean scape is an individual fishhook that has been painstakingly painted and nailed into place by Capote and his team. Layer after layer of fishhooks creates a physically dangerous work. If you aren’t careful, it could stab you. Capote says, “I wanted to use thousands of fishhooks to create a surface that would be almost tangible to the viewer upon their approach.” Accomplished.
The result of this intense work is not only the undulating motion of the sea, but it is a comment on Cuba’s situation, more generally. The fishhooks are a symbol of Cuba’s fishing trade and they illustrate its perilous borders but through this work Capote is also able to point to economic issues, emigration, and political isolation thus evoking a shared sense of uncertainty about the future of the country.
This collection can be seen at Ben Brown Fine Arts, London, until 29 January 2016.
Artist Lauren Tickle uses an unconventional material for her accessories: US currency. Titled Increasing Value, the objects are made out of bills, silver, latex, and more, formed into intricate pieces that you can actually wear. Tickle has her Master’s degree in jewelry, and the exquisite works don’t immediately strike the viewer as being composed of currency. Instead, the designs take advantage of the bold flourishes we see on money and the green lines appear as a pattern rather than a past president’s face.
Tickle writes about the conceptual meaning behind her work, which is titled based on how much currency was used in its creation.
My work is an experiment in the concepts of value and adornment. The Values Exploration process takes currency of defined value, distills it to graphic elements, then resynthesizes an object of much greater value. How and why are these notes distanced from their face value? Idea, concept, process, and labor create value. Is this new, finished form a microcosm of industrial production? or a parody?
I force wearers and observers to reflect on the concept of adornment in our society. One of the most conscious actions humans undertake is the decision of what to wear or not. My work takes underlying materialism and makes it explicit, imploring evaluation from all sides in each social context. (via Escape Kit)
Elizabeth McGrath is a Los Angeles-born artist known for her sculptural explorations of beauty and the grotesque. Her animal figures are both endearing and frightening; with jagged teeth and oozing, bloodshot eyes, they resemble possessed dolls, manifesting horror and fragility all at once. Many of them have been anthropomorphized with human clothing and objects, lending them distinct characters. By distorting beauty into twisted, monstrous reflections of itself, McGrath playfully comments on vanity and materiality and the forces of death and decay that fester right beneath. Her Artist’s Bio elaborates further:
“Inspired by the relationship between the natural world and the detritus of consumer culture, [McGrath] brings forth a new cavalcade of creatures from the darker corners of the streets, the city, the imagination. It is this melancholy interaction between man-made status symbols and suffering specimens of nature that make up her intricate body of work.” (Source)
In addition to her morbid menagerie, McGrath also makes similarly-themed dioramas. Channeling the aesthetics of Tim Burton, tattoo artistry, and the carnivalesque, each creation is a dark miscellany, coupling death with innocence. Visit McGrath’s website and Facebook page to learn more about her work.