Artist Roxy Paine will be having his opening reception tonight at James Cohan Gallery called Dendroid Drawings and Maquettes, on view May 1 through May 30, 2009. The exhibition includes a scale model of Maelstrom as well as drawing studies from the artist’s well-known series of stainless steel Dendroid sculptures. This show runs concurrent to Roxy Paine on the Roof: Maelstrom, a site-specific installation at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden on view from April 28 through October 25, 2009
Last week, we shared the work of Lauren Everett and her Rocky Horror portraiture project. This week, we’re proud to feature Devotion, a series of photographs exploring the inner worlds of Los Angeles’ alternative religion communities—specifically, those surrounding Santa Muerte. With a keen eye for detail, Everett provides a unique glimpse into private ceremonies, such as cleansing rituals and spiritual masses such as Misa Blanca. Also shown are candle-lit altars, where Santa Meurte herself can be seen, represented as a hooded skeletal figure brandishing a scythe in one hand, the world in the other.
Translating as “Holy Death,” the origins of Santa Muerte are unknown, but (as Everett states) she is believed to be a “syncretism of The Virgin Mary and the Mesoamerican goddess Mictecacihuatl” (Source). To her believers, she represents healing, peaceful death, and a safe transition into eternity. Worship mainly occurs privately in homes, where people construct shrines and host ceremonies. As Everett’s photos reveal, devotees also gather at temples to receive group blessings and share stories of healing.
Everett expertly and compassionately explores a community that is not clearly represented (or perhaps even understood) by a more general audience. The imagery absorbs the imagination, but even more compelling are the portraits of the individual devotees engaging in private practices; take Sysiphus, for example, who stands with his wife in blue robes in their temple on Melrose Avenue. Also featured is Orisaneke, a woman who can be seen preparing carnation bouquets for Misa Blanca. These intimate shots invoke the immersive history and tradition of Santa Meurte, as well as the value and beautiful diversity of alternative spiritual practices.
One of the most highly acclaimed contemporary artists from the Philippines, Ronald Ventura has garnered enormous international attention in recent years. He is noted for paintings featuring complex layering, combining images and styles raging from hyper realism to cartoons and graffiti — as well as for a significant body of sculptural work.
Ventura takes the layering process in his work as a metaphor for the multifaceted national identity of the Philippines. Over the centuries, the profound influences of various occupying powers – Spain, Japan, and the United States – along with the underlying indigenous culture, have produced a complex and at times uneasy sense of identity. Ventura explores this historical and psychic phenomenon through a dialogue of images evoking East and West, high and low, old and young – seen, for example, in allusions to Old Master paintings or Japanese and American cartoons. He draws our attention to the “second skin” of cultural signifiers that each person carries with him, however unwittingly. Ventura views skin as an expressive surface – written on with tattoos, concealed under layers of imagery, or exploding outwards to reveal an inner world of fantasy and conflict.
Scottish artist Sarah Muirhead creates mesmerizing, nude paintings that are masterful in more ways than one. Her work is masterful in that it is very skillful, but also in that the subjects of her paintings are in control of their audience. Wanting to steer clear of creating nudes that are submissive to our gaze, Muirhead creates tension filled situations where the nude subject is staring at right back at you. Her subjects are not passive, but instead embody an incredible strength that challenges their audience. Each subject has a somewhat inviting stare, but still holds a control over the situation in their powerful, contorted stances and positions. In the artist’s new paintings, many of her subjects are bound by rope or string; others have intriguing elements like white, chalky substances all over their bodies.
Muirhead’s paintings are both unique and impressive, with an incredible eye for detail and color. However, her work is not entirely photorealistic. They explore this texture of the body in expressive ways. Muirhead is interested in patterns and textures, which you can see on her subject’s skin and hair. In one painting, the hair texture is emphasized by a woman grabbing her own hair and attempting to bite it. In another painting, skin texture and color is further explored and manipulated by depicting a nude posing with digital images projected onto her body and surroundings. Each subject is in mid motion, adding another dynamic element to Muirhead’s already multifaceted work. You can see Muirhead’s wonderfully tactile paintings on view now at Leyden Gallery in London until June 27th.
Finland-based artist Iiu Susiraja has an interesting array of conceptual self-portraits featuring her posing, in an unorthodox manner, with household items. Shot in domestic settings, Susiraja seems to be mocking domestic lifestyle, or possibly mocking the framework we feel we must live within: the operative chores and habits that are considered normal. The work is silly but layered. Susiraja wears items in the wrong way; leggings on her breasts, or taping high heels around her knees, the images are reminiscent of a childs brash reaction to something that makes no sense, but is so ritualized we stop questioning the absurdity of something like the discomfort of tall heels. Why do we wear them?
Certain blogs on the internet have been deeming this the “anti-selfie”, although, conceptual portraits have been around for nearly as long as photography has. We all remember Cindy Sherman, don’t we? It seems attaching a hyped up word such as selfie, which the encompassing item we have thrown today’s self aggrandizing
A selfie is a shot of one’s self, yes, but it is characterized by the blatant self-importance of it, the self-promotion, the self-self-self. It is, generally, a tactless and shameless documentation of ME. The only statement being made, if any, is a call for attention. We have only recently, as a society, begun to feel comfortable enough to do something once considered impolite or, selfish. While art could easily be argued to be some of these things, such as egomaniacal (and this would be an eternally long argument), you could hardly consider a conceptual portrait to be in the same ballpark, or game, as a selfie. Susiraja’s work is not an anti-selfie, it is simply art. If we compare her work with a generic selfie, there are some major differences in intention, audience, and presentation. What is the intention behind the piece; is the artist working as a medium to transmitting a message that reaches beyond the mere documentation of her own existence, or is it tepid self-promotion? Is the audience Instagram? And finally, was it shot on an iPhone? Taking these things into account, it appears calling work like this an “anti-selfie” would be like calling a letter an “anti-email.” Are we in a place to recategorize “art” and limit it by simply referring to it as an antithesis to a trendy movement it predated?
LA-based photographer Jeff Burton shoots mostly gay porn. Okay, that’s a bit of a misnomer. He shoots photographs on the sets of gay porn films, though the resulting work is far from pornography. Burton seems more concerned with displaying the nude human body in a traditionally artistic, non-erotic way, rather than using it to titillate. The intersection between art and porn is an interesting space.
Old school meets new school in Nunub’s recent animation entitled “The Hulk Hands Theory,” which combines old-fashioned ink, graphite, paper, etc. with rotoscopy. The real treat comes when you pause the reel to reveal the individual frames that make up this short. Enjoy!