Photographer Laura Plageman carefully distorts her photographs in a way that is so subtle that it makes you do a double take. Using photographs that she has shot, she folds, tears, and crumples idyllic-looking landscapes. This is done in such a way that at first glance, these Plageman’s slight alterations make perfect sense. You wouldn’t necessarily question the melting tree line until you begin to study the photographs. Once you do, you can see that the mood of these images has changed. And, that’s exactly what Plageman wants. From her artist statement:
Her images explore the relationships between the process of image making, photographic truth and distortion, and the representation of landscape. She is interested in making pictures that examine the natural world as a scene of mystery, beauty, and constant change transformed by both human presence and by its own design.
Plageman titles of all her pieces as “Response to…” I see the the way she manipulates her photographs as a way of responding to the environment that she’s captured. These aren’t negative interpretations or an ill-will towards these landscapes. Instead, they add another layer of story-telling to what already exists. The creased paper adds depth, and tearing adds a new horizon line. What exists beyond what we now can’t see. Rather than showing us a landscape we’ve seen many times before, Plageman creates a totally new narrative by just a few considered folds.
Vicki Ling is an artist that creates graphite drawings of surreal landscapes. Chock full of symbolism and mystery, Ling’s images are cryptic. Part of their appeal is trying to solve the visual puzzle that she’s constructed.
Ling briefly speaks about her work, writing, “…fictional landscapes and constructions shift between two and three dimensions, creating a sensation of movement and evolving forms.” The places depicted are liminal spaces, meaning they are in transition, somewhere between what they began as and what they will become. This is made inherent in the movement and tension created by the textures and forms in the work. They are reminiscent of the ocean. We can imagine the crashing waves, tides, and the inhabitants of the sea. There is tension in Ling’s work, and it is easy to feel like at any moment waves will rush in and fill the rooms that she’s so carefully rendered. But, considering Ling’s intent, perhaps she wants an environment that could suddenly be swept away. This notion is refreshing, but also sad knowing that this environment is fleeting.
I am personally intrigued by Ling’s drawing that features a sinkhole. In this image, it looks like the top of the landscape has been punctured. The surface is fragile and looks like it is going to cave in on itself. What would it become? I imagine it to be a black hole, drawing everything in until nothing is left. Or, it could be a portal to another world. The places in Ling’s drawings could exist anywhere. They are surreal and conjure the feeling of a dream, so this could all exist in someone’s head. As the artist spoke of moving and evolving forms, these drawings are all metaphors; not only a shifting environment, but personally as we grow, change, and confront obstacles. If we are willing, we evolve just as Ling’s landscapes suggestively do.
Dimitri Kozyrev’s paintings are captivating, to say the least. His color precision from plane to line and surface to sky balances the ephemerally abstract beautifully with a hardened environment. This compositional fracturing feels like ice cracking on the pond, disrupting the reflection or illusion of us and our structures, before we crash into a new reality.
This “crash” echoes of Constructivism or Futurism, with deep contemporary critique on not just the disruption of landscape during wartime, but maybe even more so, the distortion of self, identity, and technology in relation to art and activism as these terms relate to the avant-garde, painting, and intention in today’s milieu.
On this note, Kozyrev elaborates:
“I have titled this body of work ‘Lost Edge.’ I use the word ‘edge’ because I draw a comparison between the notion of the avant-garde in war and the art world. In the early 20th Century, the avant-garde was at the height of its importance in both realms. Now, however, I maintain that just as the concept of the military avant-garde has been “lost,” because of changes in methods of warfare, the avant-garde in the contemporary art world, has also lost its edge.
“The source material for this body of work is images of ruins of the once mighty fortifications of the Mannerhiem Line, built to protect Finland from the advances of the Soviet military avant-garde. Finland’s attempt was valiant and not in vain; this war and the lives that were lost in 1939 are largely forgotten. The fortification lie in ruins, and nature is slowly reclaiming them. Similarly, the ‘cutting edge’ of the contemporary art world seems to have become blunted. Viewers of the avant-garde work of many visionary artists of the early 20th Century were shocked, challenged and inspired by The Malevich’s ‘Black Square’ and ‘Fountain’ of Marcel Duchamp. Because of changes in society, like changes in warfare, it has become difficult for today’s contemporary artist to generate the same level of response without resorting to vulgarity.”
At Beautiful Decay we are beginning to bring our readers weekend coverage, where we’ll be sharing micro art trends of the unusual and unexpected every weekend. And we figured what better way to start than with dessert?
The work featured here of artists Peter Bugg, Rebecca Holland, William Lamson, Aude Moreau, Navid Nuur and Kara Tanaka demonstrates that diverse ways confection can become conceptual. From the painstaking process of Moreau’s Sugar Carpet (which uses 4,500 pounds of loose Domino sugar) to the haunting ephemerality of Tanaka’s Social Leveler (When Immortality Became Uncouth), the use of sugar as a medium, sometimes in combination with other materials, becomes an expansive tactile vehicle.
Spencer Tunick designs and installs nude human bodies into landscapes and photographs or films them. The blending of the color and texture of human skin with industrial or natural landscapes is stark and effective; the bodies themselves become their own landscape. Tunick has traveled the world staging photographs and videos of these large nude installations, and uses anywhere from a handful of voluntary participants to tens of thousands of them. The end result is a beautiful combination of art forms, including design, sculpture, performance, photography, and video. According to his website, Tunick has been arrested 5 times since 1992 while performing in New York City, and has gone to court to defend his First Amendment rights, which he won, but was still denied a permit from the city to practice his art. As a result, he creates his work abroad and has not performed in New York City in over 10 years.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude wrap and accent their environments with millions of square feet of rope shroud and fabric. Their wrapped and accented installations recontextualize the objects and their surrounding spaces, asking the viewer to consider both the presence and absence of the wrapped objects and the perception of new landscapes. At once conceptually simple and physically difficult to bring to complete fruition, the new environments are breathtaking in their starkness and beauty. Their installations often consume years of commitment and devotion. Wrapped Trees were the outcome of 32 years of effort.
Using photography as a tool for generating evidence, South African artist Dillon Marsh approaches the creation of his serial landscape works with the methodology of a researcher. Marsh is constantly looking to capture his subjects “in the wild,” and his watchful eye has yielded a variety of interesting results—with some topics touching on landscape, ownership and disruption in both realms.
For his “Invasive Species” series, Marsh captures instances of oddly jarring, slightly unapologetic occurrences of poorly disguised cell phone towers as they dot the South African landscape. He notes: “In 1996 a palm tree appeared almost overnight in a suburb of Cape Town. This was supposedly the world’s first ever disguised cell phone tower. Since then these trees have spread across the city, South Africa and the rest of the world. Invasive Species explores the relationship between the environment and the disguised towers of Cape Town and its surrounds.”
Whether or not Yochai Matos is creating an installation to view inside or outside a studio space, he pays careful attention to the way light creates an atmosphere. For his indoor installations, existing studio light can make his work appear more ethereal, something to which “You Are a Saint” affirms. His work sometimes directly addresses the absence/presence of light, as in his outdoor installations “Landscape” and “Flame (Gate).” Because the perception of his work changes with the amount of light available for any installation, the experience of his work is as fluid as the experience of natural or artificial light in any given environment.