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Mark Licari

Mark Licari
Betlejuice must be hiding inside LA based artist Mark Licari, becuase his work is creepy-cool with lots of charisma. I’m seriously digging his sculptural pieces, especially the medicine cabinet. Go see his show up through February 14th at the Montery Museum of Art, or check him out at Honor Fraser Gallery.

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The Awkward Beauty Of Watching Complete Strangers Kiss For The First Time

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When director Tatia Pilieva instructed couples to kiss, she did so with a twist. The two kissers are complete strangers, and don’t even know each other’s names. In this intriguing short film, aptly titled, First Kiss, we watch each of these people meet, realize they must smooch, and proceed to do so. Not surprisingly, it’s a little awkward for most of them, but when it happens, the moment is endearing and beautiful.

As you watch this three and a half minute video, there’s varied responses to what Pilieva asks. Some people try and make a joke out of it while others look nervous. One person introduces themselves. Finally, they all go for it, and the kisses range from a full-on make out to a shorter, more diplomatic kiss. It’s interesting to see how quickly people become comfortable with each other and are able to let go of their inhibitions to embrace the moment.

Aside from the charming concept, you might have noticed that everyone is nicely dressed and is conventionally good looking. As Jezebel and other media outlets have pointed out, this video is actually and ad for the clothing line, Wren. While it might be an inconvenient truth that no doubt puts a damper on the spontaneity of the video, it doesn’t totally detract from the pleasure we get from watching it.

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The Gigantic Balloon Sculptures Of Jason Hackenwerth Are Straight Out Of A Scientists Labratory

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It may be hard to believe, but these colorful creations of Jason Hackenwerth‘s are made from hundreds of balloons. He twists and sculpts latex balloons around each other to resemble different kinds of organic and biological forms. Hackenwerth creates all sorts of creepy shapes and forms that look like you are seeing something in a scientist’s laboratory magnified. Super colorful amoeba, cells, or rhizopods hang from the ceiling. Bacteria-shaped sculptures are grouped together, sprouting weird sorts of growths in every direction.

The artist is not only inspired by science – last year, Hackenwerth unveiled a large piece in Scotland at the Edinburgh International Science Festival. Titled Pisces, it is an interpretation of the Greek myth about Aphrodite and Eros. Made from over 10,000 balloons, it was a massive twisting spiral of two fish and took three staff members almost 6 days to blow up. Hackenwerth says more about it:

I see this as a metaphor for the evolution for life and the unexpected ways we can transcend our greatest threats. My plan for Pisces is to create a complex spiral that will open into a huge seashell like form. This spiral will correspond with the dynamic with the motion of the universe – the double helix. It is the spiral from which all life is derived. (Source)

Hackenwerth starts his process with drawings and sketches to help visualize how his pieces will work on a large scale. He then inflates balloons and arranges them in various structures to see what will work for the final piece. He talks about the importance of his medium:

Using balloons as a medium for expression came from a desire to connect with a wider audience. Balloons are accessible and they seem to have a magic ability for people to feel joy. Perhaps it is a regression to childhood. (Source)

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ALEXANDER ESTERS

It’s always a good thing when a painter reaches into the toolbox and pulls out an unexpected medium or technique to mix into their bag of tricks. Such is the case with German painter Alexander Esters who uses linocuts to create the flat textured effects that pop up here and there in his paintings. This simple use of linocuts adds an unfamiliar depth to his painting technique that makes it stand out from the crowd.

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Pixel is a Dazzling Performance of Dance and Technology

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dance performance

dance performance

Adrien Mondot and Claire Bardainne, the French performance art duo that forms Adrien M / Clair B Company, has created a stunning display of dance and the digital. “Pixel” combines the physicality of human movement with unique technological creativity. Dancers leap from mountain to mountain, splash through wire-frame water, and fling themselves through showers of shimmering pixels.

In collaboration with Compagnie Kafig, the performance is an hour long and described as “a work on illusion combining energy and poetry, fiction and technical achievement, hip hop and circus.”

“Pixel” is currently touring and can be seen at various theaters in France throughout the next few months. (via This Is Colossal)

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Noam Rappaport at Ratio 3

Noam Rappaport lives and works in Los Angeles. He has just opened his first West Coast solo exhibition at Ratio 3 in San Francisco. Rappaport’s minimal structures are at once slight and commanding, often relying on negative space to complete visual metaphors. The walls behind his pieces are simultaneously backround to and an integral part of the work. The show runs through March 23rd.  From the press release: “This exhibition will feature a series of new works which simultaneously reside between painting, sculpture, assemblage, and drawing. One predominant motif within Rappaport’s work is the representation of image through minimal compositions, color, and mark making. With Rappaport’s discerning use of simplified geometric shapes and refined color palates, the compositions reflect elements of the human form, landscape, and architecture. This suggestion of imagery is balanced with concepts of objecthood as expressed through constructions of commonplace materials and shaped canvases. The peripheries of these objects become the focus as color fields divide the shallow relief canvases, aluminum sheets drape over the edge of plywood panels and graphic lines appear to float in front of the surface.

These hybrid painting supports create a physical and perceptual relationship to the viewer. Negative spaces and blocks of color begin to suggest doorways, windows, and various characteristics that mirror the human figure. The attention to the space between the viewer and the work reinforces the idea that not only does a viewer look but he or she is also looked upon to play an active role in the object’s function.”

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Houdini: Art And Magic

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.

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Kostis Fokas’ Sexually-Charged And Inventive Photographs (NSFW)

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Fokas 5

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Kostis Fokas is a rare photographer who possesses the innate ability to both create and capture personifications of the provocative in our human form. Challenging and sexually-charged, the work is visually reminiscent of fashion photography, but pulls inspiration equally from painterly compositions by using the body as a metaphor for sexuality, potency, and humanity. In a conversation with Beautiful/Decay, the London-based, Greek photographer explains, “Through my photos I wish to present a new take on the human body and explore its infinite capabilities. The use of quirky, and sometimes hidden faces communicates exactly that. Unlike photography that seeks to reveal the feelings of the objects portrayed through the use of faces and expressions, I shift my focus on the complete freedom pertained to the image of a human body. Stripped from its clothes, I leave it fully exposed and completely surrendered.”

With faces hidden and bodies often stripped bare, the human form becomes a landscape of tension, fully exploring the paradox of submission. A balding man running a brush over his head becomes a metaphor for self-conscious impotence and existential awareness, while a naked woman hovering over a cactus represents a more immediate (and less philosophical) danger. In Fokas’ work we realize that submission is often related to acceptance, mirrored by the artist stating, “Submissiveness often conveys surrender to something greater and more powerful than us.”  This duality becomes both a metaphor for the nature of photographic direction, as well as for life, as the human experience is compressed into simultaneously simple and complicated gestures arranged by the photographer with willing participants, and captured on film.

When asked if the work’s sometimes daring exploration of sexual themes and sexuality is ever misinterpreted, or even offensive, Kostas diplomatically responds, “My images aspire to touch on some of these issues, among others, and definitely raise many questions but it is ultimately left up to each individual viewer to decide and reach his own conclusions.”

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