I have to confess I am easily drawn to works of art that resemble or depict toys and other childhood objects. At face value these works are easy, as all of us have some form of relationship or pre-existing association with the referenced nostalgic icons. In other words, the works naturally engage us and draw us in. However, these works, specifically those featured here, use the familiar imagery to interject layers of conceptual content, moving far beyond catchy into heavier implications, through expert usage of scale, quantity and context.
Context is key in these pieces. Maurizio Cattelan is a conceptual master of context, as demonstrated in his piece Daddy Daddy, which features a large drowned figure of Pinocchio floating face down in a pool inside the Guggenheim. The result is ironic, tragic and flawless. As well, the practice of significantly altering scale such as Jeff Koons‘ balloon animal sculptures, Urs Fischer‘s Untitled (Lamp/Bear) and Yoram Wolberger‘s life-size sculptures of toy and trophy figurines, allows the objects to become monolithic, dwarf us and alter our sense of reality.
Artist and desinger Fabrizio Lamoncha works with more than a little bit of humor. His Pooprinter project statement begins with the quote “A common idiosyncratic habit in all birds is their inevitable punk nature to shit over our most precious belongings.” The project is as innovative as it is gross. Lamoncha slowly prints an alphabet on large sheets of paper by using strategically placed perches and the birds own droppings. Check out the time-lapse video of the bird poop in action above and enjoy Lamoncha’s toungue-in-cheek explanation the project:
“A group of male zebra finches underwent this experiment with rigorous commitment. The author/captor, taking the role of some kind of 1984´s Big brother, is providing the implementation guidelines for the transformation of this countercultural attitude into a marketable artsy product. The observation of this group of non-breeding birds in captivity and the experimentation with induced behaviors has been rigorously documented for this task.” (via booooooom)
Artist Katrin Sigurdardottir offers unexpected perspectives by way of her installations. For this first installation High Plane, Sigurdardottir set up two ladders in the gallery for visitors to climb. The ladders lead to a hole for the visitors to insert their heads. Once visitors peek through the holes they see they are at eye level with a miniature landscape. Pale blue islands seem to dot a white sea, the visitor looking from god-like perspective. However, the viewer also encounters another viewer peering through the other hole, reminded of their absurd size and situation. In another installation titled Boiserie, she sets up an entirely white parlor-type room adorned with period furnitutre. Mirrors mark the corners of the room which create an endless loop of reflections of the rooms interior. The mirrors, though, are interrogation mirrors visitors can use to look inside the room. The parlor is essentially only a set and roughly hewn from the outside.
The installations of Elmgreen & Dragset are a special brand of humorous – they are absurd. The art duo blend installation art, design, and even performance to turn a skeptical eye toward the familiar. The duo often begin with familiar objects and situations of habit. A slight variation seems to make the situation absurd, the behavior required silly. For example, a series of crates presumably contain art either resting in precarious positions or are already ruined. A botched art delivery becomes a commentary on the value of art.
The architectural firm Tetsuo Kondo Architects makes creative use of a unique material: clouds. They carefully manipulate the humidity and temperature in buildings to create indoor clouds. This eventually creates three distinct layers within the room with actual clouds gathering in the middle. The firm uses the space to allow visitors to experience the cloud from below, within, and above. In a way clouds are architectural components of the natural world that serve several practical purposes. Tetsuo Kondo Architects pull these clouds inside not only as a strange material, but also as a symbol of the relationship between architecture and the surrounding environment. (Via Collabcubed)
The photographic murals of Mike Hewson don’t exactly decorate the buildings they inhabit. Rather, the murals create surreal optical illusions, highlighting the buildings by nearly making them disappear. Hewson, creatively uses perspective to erase walls or even entire structures. In some of his work this reveals the buildings inside – its purpose being put to use. Other times, his work interacts with the building in order to recall an empty space or a space’s potential. Hewson’s murals hints not only at structures that we’d often take for granted, but our often overlooked relationships with them.
In his giant installation art / performance Para-Production, artist Ni Haifeng reverses the common global process of production. A massive movement of commodities takes place each day often beginning in the country of Ni Haifeng’s birth – China. Many companies defer production of their goods to the country which are then often exported for consumption in the Western world. In Para-Production, however, a large room is filled with loose garments and sewing machines. Gallery visitors are then invited to work, to sew these items together. In a way, the installation becomes a performance of labor – people that are often the consumer of Chinese-made products instead produce a product for a Chinese artist. [via]
The performances of Zhu Ming are filled with almost a lonely kind of pensiveness. Covered in paint, he enters the bubble often floating on water. The bubble is specially created for the piece and specifically designed to slowly fill with water. Soon the paint is washed off Zhu Ming’s body as he floats quietly alone. The bubble emphasizes the solitary nature of his performance, and underscores ideas of existential isolation. Zhu Ming’s work unfolds silent and strange sort of dignity that is difficult to not project onto life as a whole.