Uta Barth uses photography to capture her own personal dreamy moments with light, and in doing so, exposes its environmental power over our solitude and romance . . . or romance with solitude.
As a viewer, I find myself drawn to the window, the curtain, and the wall in each piece, not only because it’s illuminated accordingly with sharp visceral attention, but also because I’m intrigued with how the mundane awakens. It feels childlike, reminiscient of a world without technology and other busy distractions. Ironically, or maybe not so, it also feels wise– close to death. There’s drama in the little details as the hand pulls back the curtain or the camera approaches the glow. It’s not so much about being a voyeur as it is about being here and being still– sharing the space where light opens into mood and reflection.
Of her work, Barth notes, “In most photographs the subject and the content are one and the same thing. My work is first and foremost about perception.”
To say these pieces are only about composition: space or pattern, would be to ignore the aura around the intention of these images, which are all shot inside her home– there’s a depth that resonates with an almost intrinsic documentary feeling. Unlike James Turrell, she does not appear to be mathematically immersing us in the immediate moment of light and awareness; instead, she’s quoting from the lightness in her own life, and we are privy enough to bear witness.
The house is a shape everyone has some form of relationship with. Whether it symbolizes comfort, global financial crises in housing market, cookie cutter mediocrity or family, the house as a mundane symbol or object has been elevated to captivating experimental art and high art on several occasions. This weekend we share with you a selection of significant works that adapt houses into art objects.
Urs Fischer‘s Untitled (Bread House), constructed of bread, bread crumbs, wood, polyurethane foam, silicone, acrylic paint, screws, tape and rugs leaves every ingredient exposed. Stepping inside this large sculptural work recently at MOCA had the effect of walking inside a decaying fairytale, as the work is naturally allowed to crumble and decompose in exhibition. Stepping over piles of crusts of cinnamon raisin bread amidst dirty rugs and peering up at the bubbled polyeurythane foam that seeps between boards and rows of old bread, the viewer may feel any combination of wonder, amusement and fear- much like Grimms Brothers Fairytales.
An Te Liu‘s Title Deed evolved from the Leona Drive Project in Toronto where a number of vacant tract houses were offered to artists to be reinvented as artistic installations. As this project took place in 2009 in the height of the housing market crash, the artist observed that the simple shape of the existing house represented the 20th century iconic Monopoly board game house pieces. The simple, yet flawless execution of Title Deed situated within a functioning suburban neighborhood carries comical yet heavy implications.
Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, a Brooklyn-based painter and illustrator, responds to street harassment by creating dialogues through art in public places. Stop Telling Women To Smile, a series of portraits depict strong willed women responding to catcalls or inappropriate comments.
This series, which has been fostering solid conversations since it’s 2012 NY inception, is simple in its assertion, yet complex in the response. Madison Carlson of Feminspire addresses some male reactions the work has evoked, one of which involved a penis being drawn on the woman’s face. The New York Times additionally notes: “Andrés Carlos, 50, stood by the freshly pasted posters on Tompkins Avenue. ‘A woman likes nothing more than being told she is beautiful,’ he said. ‘For me, this is ridiculous.’”
But, Fazlalizadeh and Carlson disagree with Carlos. This is not about beauty, but control. Carlson asserts, “Yelling or whistling at a woman on the street like she’s a dog who will come when you call, or telling a woman to ‘Smile. It can’t be that bad. You’d be so much prettier if you smiled,’ dehumanizes her. It reduces her purpose to pleasing the male gaze. The posters, answering that reduction with confrontation, are meant to show street harassers that they are not entitled to women’s smiles or any other part of them.”
These sculptures are made from the bones of dead people. The photographic portraits of these sculptures are made by Arne Svenson. What results is Unspeaking Likeness, a strangely captivating series of death portraits, collected here.
For four years, Svenson sojourned from coroner’s offices to law enforcement agencies allover the country, snapping photographs of facial reconstruction sculptures which were built by forensic artists and molded from unidentifiable victims’ skeletal remains, with the intention of resolving crimes.
The narrative hidden behind each “face” is a mystery, and, as viewers, our own hearts tense with sadness when considering each subject’s lurid last moments of life. It’s almost too much; so, we reject the idea of reconstruction in relation to rejuvenation. It feels psychological, how we need to detach. The “face” in the context of Svenson’s portraits are not representative of an emotional life nor physical body; instead, it’s a mask or doll with a troubling echo, seemingly touched by the hands of Frankenstein.
Our planet is a truly magical work of art; complex, multifaceted and textural. Perhaps this is why Andy Warhol, a name that is unlikely to be associated with this topic, once said, “Land really is the best art.” Viewed in this simplistic yet profound light, land, or Earth, serves almost as found object in the implementation of Earthworks. In other instances land becomes the canvas, or the sculptural negative space for installation, or even a foundation and medium to explore sociocultural patterns.
Lita Albuquerque has used the earth and its materials for decades to create ephemeral and spiritually infused work. Her incorporation of performance, photography and installation creates multiple dimensions and lenses to experience our world, our relationship to earth and the stars, as well as their rhythms and cycles. The images featured here of her project Stellar Axis document an artistic expedition into Antarctica, which was the first and largest ephemeral work created on the continent. The installation of ninety-nine spheres across the icy landscape mimics the pattern of the ninety-nine Antarctic stars above- visually linking Earth to the cosmos.
Julia Fullerton-Batten’s models seem naked in their nudity, and this is not just a clever play on words. John Berger, in his book Ways of Seeing, explains the difference: “Nakedness reveals itself. Nudity is placed on display. The nude is condemned to never being naked. Nudity is a form of dress.”
Here, in Fullerton-Batten’s Unadorned series, each model is indeed nude, as Berger suggests, posed on display, manipulated by the photographer to convey an idea, however . . . because he or she wears a certain type of nudity in the vein of old world masters from the 15th – 17th centuries . . . and because they are arranged in contemporary settings by female hands . . . and because their bodies are curvy and soft, as opposed to thin and hard . . . what results is also a fascinating feeling of nakedness: a complex historical/sociological revelation of us as a species in relation to gender, weight, and image.
The saying “home is where the heart is” very rarely relates to contemporary art. And though the works featured here are not directly about home, they are informed to some degree by immediate family,relationships and experiences that stem from it. In a global spectrum of east meets west these five artists come from genres ranging from Chinese Avant Garde to lowbrow painting, from surrealism to contemporary portraiture, to name a few. The paintings, mixed media works and digital media stills of artists: Song Dong, Brooke Grucella, Seonna Hong, Aaron Holz and Zhang Xiaogang exemplify the diversity with which the artists’ loved ones have become not only the subject for the works, but also at times part of the process, as well as a platform to tell a story that becomes increasingly universal.
I recall visiting the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco a couple of years ago to see Song Dong’s massive solo exhibition of works made with his family members as subjects, as well as a massive installation that incorporated decades worth of of family possessions as material. His work is deeply personal, with a strong narrative thread, and truly draw you into his world with their reverence and profoundly flawless execution. Zhang Xiaogang’s works from his series Bloodlines uses other family portraits as a vehicle for conveying the experiences of his immediate family that they experienced as he came of age during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Each piece in this series has a thin red line that weaves throughout the composition, symbolizing the connection of heritage and family.
“NYC is a very fast paced city.” said artist HOTTEA in an exclusive talk with Beautiful/Decay. “When I walked across the bridge people are either jogging, running for exercise, walking with friends or alone to get from Brooklyn to Manhattan or vice versa. When observing people walking or running across the bridge, there really wasn’t any reason to look up or slow down. I like creating pieces that dramatically change the space and encourage people to re-look at a certain area.”
One of the most famous of the now-burgeoning international street arts scene that uses yarn and other non-damaging/permanent materials, the Minneapolis-based artist tried to create a similar project on a visit to New York several years ago, but was stopped by authorities. With careful planning and the help of several friends, HOTTEA was able to complete the public installation, creating a canopy of changing colors over a Williamsburg Bridge. Titled ‘Ritual‘, the artist explained that the very act of taking the bridge instead of the train became a ritual, slowing down his journey to the City and being able to process his day, the skyline and enjoy his surroundings. Realizing this, he wanted to create a signature work that would give others the same chance.
Referring to the installation, HOTTEA explained, “After about 5 hours, people continued to slow down but now more and more people were stopping. Either to take photos or to interact with us directly. When the piece was near completion after about 11 hours, everyone that came into contact with the piece either slowed down or stopped completely. I was in awe to see such a fast paced city slow down, stop and look up.” (via Colossal)