Mark Hunter Brown is a truly dynamic individual. I have known Brown for the better part of a decade, and I am relatively positive that I will never meet another person quite like him. With each day functioning more like the next chapter in a bizarre novel, his zest for life is infectious. Luckily, Brown is also an amazing artist, and has managed to document his interests and experiences through countless drawings and paintings. Though he gains inspiration from his travels, the work is not limited to the places and people he has actually interacted with. Brown is also heavily influenced by the written historical accounts of different cultures and people, but the work is not about visually representing his source material. Instead, he chooses to focus on the importance of the moments recorded history has chosen to ignore. There is this dead zone in between the great scenes of history that also warrants consideration, and Brown is keenly aware of this. When asked why he is drawn to this type of situation Brown replied, “because life doesn’t look like a Delacroix painting – it’s just people walking around and eating sandwiches. These moments seem more real to me…they’re equally compelling.”
While these scenes are not infrequent in his work, Brown’s practice is not limited to this type of subject matter. There is far less literal material in Brown’s oeuvre, and his vivid imagination becomes readily apparent when looking at paintings of huge figurative fortresses or anthropomorphized coo-coo clocks snorting bones off of a table. When viewed in context these paintings start to function as some sort of bizarre allegory, but their meaning is never explicitly stated. There is such a rich diversity in the distinctive worlds that Brown creates, and no piece is less detailed than the last. Whether he is teaching at Columbia, backpacking through Morocco, or boar hunting with monks in the Italian countryside – the need to process the world into visually compelling images has remained consistent within Brown’s life. Lucky for us, his mind seems to function like an endless supply of Google image search results that I have no desire to stop looking at any time soon.
Los Angeles has always held a special place in the hearts and minds of Americans, but for most it exists in an almost fictional capacity. Hollywood isn’t a real place – it’s a postcard, a huge sign on the side of a mountain bracketed with strategically placed palm tree silhouettes. Certainly not a place to call home, but for artist Justin John Greene that’s exactly what it is. Hollywood is a part of his heritage, and the work reflects that. Born and raised in the Los Angeles area, Greene’s work is strongly imbued with the history of the most romanticized industry in American culture. In his most recent solo show at Actual Size (an exhibition space he co-runs in the Chinatown gallery district of east L.A.) the influence of the film industry is in full focus. You Oughta Be In Pictures is a comprehensive installation that utilizes painting, sculpture, and video to create a truly immersive experience for the viewer. Installation may seem like a bit of a leap from Greene’s primarily two dimensional practice, but a closer look into the artist’s process bridges the gap seamlessly. His work is a distinctly enjoyable blend of sly historical references, direct compositional tactics, and cleverly applied humor. If you have the opportunity to see the work in person I strongly encourage you to do so.
FASTWÜRMS is a Canadian artist collective started in 1979 by Kim Kozzi and Dai Skuse, who are associate professors of studio art at the University of Guelph in Ontario. Their artwork seemingly encompass all disciplines – installation, video, manifesto, performance, drawing, etc – and concerns witch positivity, working class aesthetics, queer politics, and public collaborations. Many of the images after the jump are taken from the FASTWÜRMS: DONKEY@NINJA@WITCHcatalogue that accompanied a 2007 retrospective at the Art Gallery of York University.
Chicago based artist Montgomery Perry Smith finds beauty in the unexpected. His process often includes taking discarded elements of once functional objects (i.e. the base of a papasan chair or a broken lamp) and coupling them with meticulously handcrafted details. The end result of which is a strikingly sophisticated body of work. Smith’s sculptures are as sexual as they are formal, but he is never hitting you over the head with it. Drawn forms are delicately paired with altered materials to create elegant compositions that reveal subtle references to sexuality. Since graduating with a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the spring of 2008, Smith’s artistic career has been steadily gaining momentum. A recent solo show at Sabina Lee Gallery marks Smith’s first foray into the Los Angeles art scene, but if the prediction of Smith’s future success by Chicago publication Newcity as one of nine “Breakout Artists” to watch in 2010 is as prophetic as I think it might be – we will be seeing much more of his work in the years to come.
In Jessica Langley‘s artwork, the staid landscape genre is revivified through jokes, ha-has, and a reworking of the conceptual apparatus attached to depicting the environment. Langley, a adjunct associate professor of art at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, creates new avenues at the margins of “landscape,” by interrogating its space in the human imagination rather than in its physical fact. For instance, in the series Outfitters, Langley explores the troubling conflation of killing nature with loving nature by using the brand names of hunting apparel companies like “Real Tree,” “Open Country,” and “Forever Wild” as edifying doses of black humor. In The Awwand Make CATopia Real (with Ben Kingsley) series, Langley uses kit-kats as a method to defuse all that modernist baggage that accompanies human quests for utopia. But what is CATopia? Extensive networks of imposing cat towers to play on? Free nip for all? It’s unclear, but Langley compels us to consider it worth purrsuing.
Langley is the first artist participating in Skylab Gallery‘s new artist-in-residence program in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Her exhibition at Skylab opens at the end of May 2012. Until then, view more of her work after the jump.
I feel like most people dream of falling in love one day, but what if that day turns into a year – and then another? What if the act of falling in love becomes an all-consuming force that necessitates the creation of your own color-coded language? What if your name is Michelle Jane Lee, and this series of ‘what ifs’ has actually been your life for the last three years? The end result of that experience might resemble a thirty-foot love letter and a mountain of other drawings representing your unmentionable thoughts and desires for a woman that would ultimately come to reject you. A hard pill to swallow for most, but Lee seems undeterred in her pursuit of the unattainable. After all, true obsession is captivating – for both artist and audience in this case. Her work is incredibly personal, absolutely honest, and exceptionally beautiful. If you are in or around Los Angeles on April 7th - I recommend that you attend the opening reception of her most recent solo exhibition at Gallery 3209.
Philadelphia-based Armando Veve‘s impressive body of work shows his ability, and eagerness, to explore several different drawing methods, from the naive to the refined. In doing so, he leaves no doubt to the viewer that he makes a choice, and executes that choice with clear intent. He doesn’t seem to have many limitations. He also dabbles in ceramics, curation, and digital abstractions. At this pace, his work will only get better and better, and endless gifts will be bestowed upon us just for looking.
Aidan Koch, a comics writer and illustrator who’s previously been featured on Beautiful/Decay, has started a new blog entitled Field Studies to help fund an extended period of traveling. Koch, who hails from Portland, Oregon, is drawing intriguing sights she encounters during her travels – often depicting local flora, or a recurring pup named Edie – and selling each original piece for $20 through PayPal. The payments go back into Koch’s travels, thus generating even more field studies.
The studies themselves manage to come off as both timeless observations and, with the focus on plants, for instance, articulations of the zeitgeist. They are austere without being restrained and composed without being constrained. Most usefully, they serve as visual inlets to her larger body of artwork. For those not already familiar with Koch’s comics and styles of drawing, a good place to start is her comic book The Whale published by Gaze Books.
As part of her season of traveling, Koch will be the artist-in-residence at Skylab Gallery in Columbus, Ohio, during the month of June. As there is a lot of America in-between Portland and Columbus, I suggest checking out Koch’s drawings that are after the jump, then finding one that suits your daily décor needs on her site.