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.
If you’re the type to stop and smell the roses you probably have some appreciation for the natural world. Unfortunately, in this age of technology, less and less people take time to connect with our natural surroundings, which makes the works we’re featuring here so important. The works of Jeff Koons, Ackroyd and Harvey, Binh Danh and Portia Munson all take plant-life and re-contextualize it; the viewer is faced with something familiar cast in a new light. In the cases of Koons and Ackroyd and Harvey, the scale of their works looms over the viewer to remind them that the nature of all things are continually evolving, even that of human civilization. With Portia Munson’s Garden installations, we literally walk into a new world that is groomed yet overgrown, familiar yet psychedelic. Binh Danh’s plant-based portraits balance the fragile surface of the leaves with the powerful imagery of the victims of the 1970’s Cambodian unrest. Though the works are largely different, one thing binds them together, the power of nature to communicate a feeling and a message without words.
Directed by Ryan Hope, Skin is a dark, stylish examination of tattoo culture as high art, and a film that tests the boundaries of art and the human body. Featuring contributions from Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons and Raymond Pettibon, the film is a beautiful visual essay from the frontiers of contemporary British art. Watch the full documentary after the jump.
At the SFMOMA’s Rooftop Coffee Bar, baker Caitlin Williams Freeman has found a fun way to pay homage to the artists featured in the museum. If you’re in the area, visit the museum, then swing by the Coffee Bar to munch on pastries of art you just saw!
Usually I don’t get too excited about shows on PBS but I have to say that Art:21 is by far the best thing i’ve ever watched on public television. If you’re not familiar with the show, Art: 21 is the only prime time show dedicated exclusively to contemporary artists. Each season follows 14 of the biggest names in the art world as they walk you through their conceptual process, studio practice and share rare behind the scenes footage of work in progress. Some of my favorite episodes from previous seasons include the legendary interview with Barry Mcgee and his wife Margaret Kilgallen and LA painter Lari Pittman. This is a must see show for anyone interested in the international contemporary art world.