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Messing Up Ideas Of Beauty: The Queen Of Afro-Kitsch, Mickalene Thomas Challenges Us All

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Mickalene Thomas arranges collages, stages photographs, places rhinestones, directs art films and layers up oil and acrylic paint, all in the name of beauty and feminism. Her glittering artworks are a homage to black culture, cubism, portraiture, ideas of the still life and what it is to be a woman. Initially inviting women into her studio and coercing an energy out of them, she aims to represent these ladies as “beautiful, sexual, desirable, stylish and fierce”. (Source) Thomas says she, as well as other black women have had to consider this question of beauty often:

Beauty has always been an element of discussion for black women, whether or not we were the ones having the conversation. We’ve had to contend with the element of our hair. Beauty pros and cons have changed the world of how we perceive each other. Some people go to great lengths to bleach themselves to conform to the norm, the whiteness, and all the complexities. (Source)

Thomas’ artwork is an exploration of how one presents themselves – the images we create of ourselves, how we chop and change our appearance, and why. She has been involved in a couple of different projects lately as well. Including designing pop star Solange Knowles’ EP cover and airing her directorial debut on HBO called “Happy Birthday To A Beautiful Woman” earlier this year. This art film is a kind of love letter to her mother – and an extension of her research into women and their identity. While her work is undeniably beautiful and luscious on the surface, she is concerned more with what that exterior is hiding. Thomas says:

I am drawn to objects and people that have undergone some kind of a hardship. They are beautiful and there is an artifice to them, but if you dig deeper, there’s another layer. (Source)

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Video Watch: Fashion Designer Jeff Staple Interviews Jose Parla

A little over a week ago, we featured an interview between James Jean and Jeff Staple. This week, check out another vid of Staple stirring up some insightful chatter with a talented artist.

NYC artist Jose Parla is known for bringing the most subtle graff references to his abstract expressionist paintings. Tags and drips meld seamlessly with texture and scale in his atmospheric work, eschewing the familiar graffiti-aesthetic-as-gimmick-syndrome.

Full interview after the jump.

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Allison L. Wade Turns Her Own Break-Up Text Messages Into Art

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Breaking up is hard to do. And, if executed via text message, it can be even harder.

In her solo exhibition, “It’s Not You,” artist Allison L. Wade explores the proliferating plague of the break-up text. Featuring much-anticipated new additions to her acclaimed series, “Break-Up Texts,” this exhibition once again draws inspiration from the artist’s own love life.

Presented as blocks of text set against painted and photographic backdrops, the text messages featured in “It’s Not You” include those both “sent and received by the artist during dissolving personal relationships.” Citing irony as the basis of her series, Wade’s seemingly arbitrary selection of backdrops—spanning solid, lurid colors, computer-generated gradients, and peculiar images lacking context—emphasize the level of detachment present in the modern-day break-up text.

By pairing emotionally-charged, life-changing words with generic, ambivalent backgrounds, Wade successfully demonstrates the inherent disconnect between break-up texts and the emotions that prompt them.

While some of the text messages featured in “It’s Not You” are bizarrely comical (“Sorry I have been out of touch this week. There was a snow storm and I have been watching movies”), others are undeniably poignant, such as the bleak declaration, “I knew you would do this to me.” Whether silly or sad, it is certain that, as individuals in the 21st Century, there is a break-up text we can all relate to. (via Rick Wester Fine Art)

Check out “It’s Not You” now through January 10, 2015 at New York’s Rick Wester Fine Art!

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Isabel Chiara’s Award Winning Surreal Gif Collages Blend Classic, Vintage, And Modern Imagery

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Spanish artist and illustrator Isabel Chiara creates impressive gif collages, some uncannily reminiscent of animations in the Monty Python vein. Chiara cites the great masters of painting as her influences, and that’s something you can easily identify in her gif collages. One of her gif collages, “George Clooney is Inside,” was recently awarded Best Gif Collage at The Giphoscope Award 2014. Blending popular culture, absurdity, and classical aesthetics, Chiara creates unique animations that captivate your attention by telling a story. Juxtaposing classic and vintage human figures with modern, surrealist elements undoubtedly yields humorous and enchanting results. Visit Behance to explore more of Chiara’s work. (via cross connect)

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Dollhouse Scale Rooms By Leanne Eisen Miniaturize Sex Trade Spaces

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Leanne Eisen - Play

Leanne Eisen - Play

The world of dollhouse miniatures is dominated by sweet structures with period-perfect furniture and impossibly tiny accessories. Leanne Eisen subverts all expectations with “Play” her photo series of 1/12th scale brothel, strip club and other sex trade sites. Eisen makes the pieces of these meticulously detailed scenes herself, having found difficulty in sourcing ready-made miniature condoms, porn magazines and sex toys. The spaces have a seedy, disreputable air enhanced by the details—a used washcloth hangs haphazardly over the sink, sequined shoes are abandoned on the strip club stage, and a forest of egg timers sits under posted house rules. Although Eisen had not been in an actual brothel, she researched films, documentaries, books, and photographs to create her voyeuristic spaces.

The photographs in “Play” are enlarged, playing with scale to disorienting effect. Scenes that are rendered in miniature are suddenly life-size again, with no referent of scale in the images. These are realistic spaces but they are also fantastical. No woman will ever spin on the golden pole. The cow clock in the kitchen will always read 10:10. These abandoned rooms tell their stories through their contents. She says:

I am very interested in residential spaces; the artifacts that we accumulate and leave behind, and how they tell our stories in our absence. I also find the idea of a space that is seemingly a workplace as well as a residence intriguing. In these photos, the viewer takes the role of voyeur, and can take the time to analyze the setting at a perhaps more manageable, less intimidating scale.

The series also serves as a commentary of the accepted social roles for women in a residential space. Where a traditional dollhouse might have a domestic mother figure keeping house, these spaces are intended for women as sexual objects. Whether in the sad paneled room with the pink-clad single bed or in the black walled sex chamber with its red X and metal cage, these are spaces intended to commercialize women.

Through detailed conceptualization, deliberate craft and artful photography, “Play” blurs the lines between whimsy and menace, making pointed observations about the place of women in this world.

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Ivan C.

cgMeet Ivan C. – a visual artist from Mexico. Although he works commercially, his work is conceptul, believing art should now be “Cosa Virtuale,” with technology not leading the ideas, but setting free all the visual possibilities for the interpretation of reality. Ivan releases his imagery through multiple mixed-media processes involving digital photography, digital collage and experimental graphic manipulations.

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Joel Tretin Makes Jokes With His Camera

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Joel Tretin calls himself a Photo Humorist and that description seems perfectly apt. His photo series Stranger in Paradox “looks at what’s true and totally screws with it.” At first glance, the pictures seem deceptively straightforward—portraits of the city shot in a somewhat generic ad-agency aesthetic. Hidden in plain sight are the visual jokes: a parking ticket on the windshield on a sports car in a building height ad; a carousel over a revolving door; an elephant walking though the green murkiness of a subway. The Photoshop manipulations are mostly seamless—it really looks like that woman is pushing an eight-seat stroller, and that sporty yellow cab looks real next to its stodgier brother. A stack of cars make the most of a lone parking space.

The subtlest images make you work for them. A lit Wall Street façade, American flags… oh, there. The don’t walk sign is flipping the bird. The traffic sign points to the “Road Most Taken” an apparent play on Robert Frost’s Road Less Taken.

Photo manipulation in art is often used to create surreal imagery. And these pictures are surreal in that they portray things that are unreal and often fantastic, but the photos lack the intention and technique that transform pictures into fine art. Which seems to be just fine with Trentin, who says:

I am a failed stand up comedian, who now tries to make people laugh through photography.

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Rashaad Newsome At Marlborough Gallery

Rashaad Newsome’s obsessively-handmade collages in customized antique frames comprise a visual vocabulary that combines high neo-Baroque style with low pop-advertising imagery. His richly-detailed compositions form a kind of Rosetta stone for hip-hop culture. Newsome culls familiar images of luxury goods from glossy consumer magazines: sports gear, jewel-encrusted brooches, rings, watches, furs and yachts, which he then uses to create contemporary coats of arms set against meticulously-patterned backgrounds. See Newsome’s work from October 20th-December 3rd 2011 at Marblorough Gallery.

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