There’s a pervasive sense of childlike fantasy that seems to underline many pop surrealist works. Make-believe animals that don checkered coats, tight rope walkers and re-imagined cats all vibrate within and beyond the confines chosen by each artist at hand.
The alluring world of pop surrealism frequently ushers in a sense of mythical innocence and humor, unifying the superficial world of popular culture with the recesses of the unconscious. With underlying themes of fragility and the macabre delicately hidden beneath a veil of cultural kitsch, saccharine sweet dreamscapes transform and redefine a caustically bright world enamored with packaged goods. The fantastical worlds created through the lens of the following artists explores the relationship between the seemingly pristine and the accompanying bittersweet decay that dwells beneath it. Featured artists include: Casey Weldon, Mac Sorro, Rafael Silveira, Leslie Ditto, and Britt Ehringer.
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.”
These are real legos. Nathan Sawaya works with the popular toy to create large-scale figurative sculpture. Legos’ shatter-prone tendencies and the plastic material involved lend a fractured, modern quality to these. The cold geometry involved in each sculpture sets up a nice opportunity for reflection, and Sawaya’s emotional posing of the figures spurs even further questioning.
But the sculptures work just as well when taken at face value: legos were, and are a lot of fun to play with.
Lately, Sawaya’s been placing 15-inch “Hugmen” in various public spaces (see above), adding a little love to the daily grind. Click past the jump for more lego sculpture.
Joseph Parra, who received his BFA in Painting this year from MICA, has started his career with a running start. Back in 2008, he worked with famed architect Richard Gehry as part of HBO’s Masterclass, and last year he completed a solo show at Galerie M in Milwaukee, WI. He distorts portraits of absentminded subjects with unorthodox techniques, employing sand paper and collage. Parra’s charcoal drawings, also figurative in nature, are equally of note. His drawings (like his prints) are ghostly. His figures are presented with little distraction, no context or background. This demonstrates a confidence in his image making. He’s showing us exactly what he wants us to see. Read More >
Danish artist Troels Carlsen warps classic anatomical illustrations of natural organisms to produce mixed media works on paper. I can’t tell if the drawings that Carlsen’s manipulating are originally produced by the artist or not (maybe a mixture of the two), but the images stand up well enough even without such information. On a purely visual level, the contrast between the illustrative anatomical drawings and Carlsen’s slightly humorous injections works really nicely. But these drawings hold conceptual tones as well. Thick commentary on the body and mind is laid out cleanly for all to see. (via) Read More >
Trevor Appleson is a photographer out of London. Appleson travels the world, stumbling upon one fascinating subject after another. Overall, he has a very dramatic, forthright style that stems, often, from his placement of solitary figures against stark, black backgrounds. Read More >