This weekend on Beautiful Decay we want to welcome you over to the dark side, where a vast amount of artists are churning out contemporary art fueled by the fire of Metal. A multitude of artists these days are making art inspired by the crushing sounds and dark spirit of Heavy Metal, Death Metal and Doom music, all of which weave in and out of several other genres.
I’ve been a huge fan for a while now of the work made by artists Skinner, Ben Venom and Martin Durazo, which are strongly informed by Heavy Metal. This past week after chatting with artist and Beautiful Decay owner, Amir H. Fallah and artist Skinner and reaching out on Facebook to learn more about artists tied into this music scene, I was turned onto a breadth of incredible artists. A lot of artists working with metal as inspiration have strong crossover into design and illustration, album art, posters (especially for the band Mastadon), band merch and murals. There’s also a strong genre of work that explores dark spiritual matter, mythology and death that is absolutely captivating. You can expect upcoming coverage of these sub-genres in coming weeks.
When I met Jonny Negron at the Small Press Expo two years ago, I had him sign a copy of his book, Negron, for me. Rather than just signing his name, he drew on the back cover, which coincidentally is a large picture of his face. Negron completed his doodle with a lizard tongue, drawn with a gold paint pen. This act of an excessive signature is a metaphor for the type of work that he creates. It’s in your face and unapologetic, as well as being stylish, humorous and at times, scary.
Negron is best known for his comics and propensity for drawing large women. They are extremely curvy and wear crop tops, bikinis, and leggings, or nothing at all. Couples engage in sexual acts, and while often NSFW, the drawings don’t have the same vulgarity of something like an ad for a porn site. In an interview with The Comics Journal, Negron says that he doesn’t fetishize these women, and that he’s gotten a very positive response from women regarding his drawings. He goes on to say, “You go to a magazine stand and half the magazines are the same very thin woman. Beauty is not limited to that kind of person. Anyone can be beautiful. That’s part of the statement I’m trying to make with those drawings.”
Oftentimes, Negron’s work is without context. His characters exist in blank space, and his comics focus on a moment rather than a long passage of time. Negron cites films as an inspiration to his work, using their sense of lighting and stasis as a way to pace his sequential art. Looking at his style of drawing, it’s evident that he enjoys manga and video games, but it is more well rounded than that.
Negron is really active on Tumblr and is constantly listing his work for sale in his online shop. He is also an artist with PictureBox, a small press publisher.
Artist Steve Kim‘s series Perfect (2) draws from an unexpected inspiration. These elegant portraits are based on the avatars of Tumblr users. Kim sourced material from the blogging platform that attracts so many creatives. Avatars are often quickly executed and little thought over photographic portraits. Kim rededicates time to each photo in order to render each as a proper piece of art. Interestingly, each portrait’s title is also the repective blogger’s username.
Artist Stevie Gee seems to be as laid back as his art work. Skateboards, surfboards, fins, and posters all bear his unique styling. Gee’s illustration work feels as if it’s pulled from an endless sunset in the middle of an endless summer. At once retro and fresh, the images seem to be culled from a collective memory of skateboarding/surf culture and its heritage. His endearing style has won him high-profile clients such as Vans, Nike, and Lacoste.
Illustration and design studio Brosmind created a series of illustrations that peeks under the surface. The series depicts 20 characters and what really goes on inside their bodies according to the wild imagination of the studio. Food, organs, pianos, even entire cities inhabit the bodies of each strange character. The series illustrates a curiosity for inner workings. Via the series’ statement, Brosmind says:
“We’ve been always passionate about how things work, and that’s why we created this project. A collection of 20 characters that are opening themselves with the help of a young Lydia Lopez (our lovely main character from our latest project SHE ).”
Hal Lasko, affectionately called ‘grandpa’, creates amazing art pixel by pixel in MS Paint. Lasko worked for years as a typographer creates fonts by hand. Though now 98 years old and suffering from Wet Macular Degeneration – an affliction that causes blindness in his center of vision – Lasko never stopped being an artist. He was introduced to MS Paint by his grandsons and took to the program quickly. MS Paint allows Lasko to “zoom in” on his pieces and work a small part at a time, pixel by pixel. The process is laborious and time-consuming but works perfectly for Lasko, a patient artist. Check out the video to see a short but touching documentary on the artist and his work.
Born in Tehran, amidst the 1980s political suffering and strife, Nouar’s family fled to Germany and then the US, where she resides today. Her oil and acrylic paintings touch on vintage commercial Americana with a sinister twist– but without being too cynical. Instead, each dollop of cream or slice of pie provokes a more tempting side of advertising, where the taste of nostalgia and its childlike promises are the main indulgence.
On this theme, the artist elaborates, “I have always been completely fascinated by our massive consumer culture and often feel everything around us is a commercial, constantly manipulating us into desiring things we don’t really have a need for, or shouldn’t want in the first place.”
The cities of Amy Casey exist precariously. Buildings tower, tilt, and balance about to topple. Much like actual city life, the metropolis’ in Casey’s paintings can seem like a hard-fought existence bound by community. Further tying her paintings with actual cities are the buildings that actually inhabit both worlds – amazingly, every single home and building in Casey’s paintings is based on one of her numerous photographs of actual structures. In her statement, Casey says of her work:
“Cities are fascinating creatures that I am just beginning to scratch the surface of. The work and organization that goes into a city’s creation and evolution, the constant shifting and adaptations, and the sometimes hidden history of these changes and a city’s dependence on civilian cooperation are things I like to think about.”
Also, check out a short documentary on Amy Casey here.