The work of Mathew Zefeldt(previously featured here) successfully balances improbable combinations – modern with historical, digital with classical, painterly foregrounds with computer-like backgrounds – all by densely rendering them in traditional painting techniques with oils and acrylics. Having created an advanced personal lexicon of art historical references to classical sculpture, as well as to abstract and figurative painting, these figures cohesively exist alongside more modern glitch aesthetics, shifting colors, garish patterns, and computer-like repetition. Through the combination of these disparate elements, Zefeldt recalls the history of the painting medium, while referencing the potential to represent our new, hybrid reality. Explaining his work, the artist says, “My paintings are still-life arrangements that take place in my head; they are windows onto a fictional world, governed by rules based in the real world, but bent and broken…”.
These still-lifes exist in another improbably capacity, that of using both illusionistic depth and perspective, but on two-dimensional plane. This use of the flat-plane is more often found in collage, as is Zefeldt’s tendency to repeat (almost) identical imagery. When asked by Beautiful/Decay why he chooses painting to construct his explorations of a variegated contemporary visual culture, Zefeldt replies, “It would be a million times easier to collage or photoshop rather than paint. But paint forces you to slow down. Painting the same thing over and over again is almost meditative. Painting can be subversive too. Everything is getting more digital, movies etc. I think its important to keep making things manually, by hand.” This attention to craft highlights a uniquely human quality, where each sculptural bust appears exactly the same, but holds its own standard of flawed beauty upon closer inspection.
The Minneapolis-based painter will be featured in the group exhibition Figure Ground(curated by Gideon Chase - previously featured here) at Eleanor Harwood Gallery in San Francisco, CA. The exhibition (which opens January 10th and runs through February 8th, 2014) features work which explores the relationship between the figure and the foreground, testing different styles of background, illusionistic dimensions and a flat plane’s ability to contain both subject and context in a search for meaning.
Los Angeles-based artist Patrick Martinez (previously featured here) not only works with the messages that are seen daily on Any Major Inner City Street USA, he also uses the favored communication method of the majority of these messages to give additional contextual weight to his artistic turns of phrases. While Martinez has been lauded as The Man in Art & Design 2013 (Complex Magazine), Latinos on the Rise as well as Artist on the Rise at Scope Miami, it seems to sell the artist’s work short by boxing it in to an ethnic or inner-city-only messages, considering the crux of his work focuses on themes (consumerism, globalism, mental and physical health, violence, money, race, and a multi-cultural future) which effect the broadest ranges of a global society. To simply state that he uses the vernacular of the disenfranchised would be limiting the unique, darkly-egalitarian perspective Martinez brings to his work, as well as the implication against an unnamed force that keeps the Everyman (no matter their ethnicity or background) from achieving the most basic of human goals.Martinez expands on this idea, “People feel it’s accessible, complex but it still invites. It’s like a kiss on the cheek and a punch to the gut all at the same time. It’s not elitist, but relatable.”
While many of the artist’s works freely delve into multimedia (the combination of still-life realism painting with neon sign craftsmanship), Martinez’s works statement claims a simpler message. “Patrick focuses on the phenomenology of his surroundings. He brings sublime beauty to things that aren’t thought of as conventionally beautiful. He uses subject matter such as everyday people that aren’t usually painted into the limelight and elements of the city that would be thought of as objects we take for granted.”
Martinez’s upcoming exhibition, Buy Now, Cry Later at Public Functionary in Minneapolis, MN, promises to continue this tradition simultaneous cultural exploration and criticism. By focusing a glowing eye on the viewer, Martinez builds metaphors of consumption and the unending needs of Capitalism and the Human Spirit in the modern world. Buy Now, Cry Later opens Friday, November 15th and runs through Friday, December 20th.
It is difficult not to imagine a narrative when seeing the work of Terrence Payne. The Minneapolis-based artist uses elements of design, iconography, typography, pattern and figure, all rendered in a decorative style and soft pallete but with subject matter that is anything but. While the artist occasionally focuses on a central word or scrawled text behind the animals and repeating, archetypical figures, Payne’s paintings use loaded narratives that combine believable earnestness and well-intentioned antagonism.
To achieve the softness in the work, Payne first uses colored pencils to enhance the quality of light and jewel tones, then applies layers oil pastels which allows the the under-drawings show through. Payne says:
”I want you (the viewer) to see the mechanism of it. The idea is just how can I reinforce the sense of this being artificial, that these people aren’t real. They are just representations of what I am thinking about“
Terrence’s recent work has been concerned with “cataloging the human effects of trying to keep your head afloat in an increasingly polarized world of haves and have-nots” and “examining a person’s perceived place in society” and how that affects the way the work is perceived. This most recent work will be collected in an exhibition alongside Nick Howard (previously here) called Cake, at the artist-collective space Payne helped found, Rosalux Gallery in Northeast Minneapolis (which was named Twin Cities’ Best Gallery in 2013). Cake opens October 12th and runs through October 31st.
Michael Gaughan represents a new breed of hyper-creative talents whose work spans an absurd amount of media. Known for a variety of projects (including city-wide scavenger hunts, his chat-roulette in a mock-dorm room rapping identity Ice Rod, and for renting out his apartment for couples needing a romantic getaway on Valentine’s Day), Gaughan creates with an almost child-like glee. Despite the playfulness in the work, however, there is a sophistication and consistency that separates it from most. This is particularly evident in his highly-technical watercolor paintings, where art-world in-jokes exist seamlessly with pop-culture rimshots. In an exclusive talk with Beautiful/Decay, Gaughan summarizes his motivations, ”Humor is not my main medium, but definitely a consistent theme in my life and my artwork. I think that putting yourself out there in a vulnerable way is really uncomfortable and nerve-racking. It is a lot easier to do things as a joke rather than take yourself seriously, and simultaneously I am equally motivated by the possibility of brightening up someone else’s day. I ultimately want to bring joy to other people.”
Gaughan’s work references “(art) history…obscenity, pop culture, absurdity, personal experiences, fears, feelings, misunderstandings, language, human experience, and creativity as well. Skate culture is great too!” When asked about the obvious amount of time spent on each work compared to the relatively short amount of time to elicit a humorous response (and if that adds to the joke), Gaughan responds, “Ha ha I hope so. It is also important to remember that punchlines can stay with you… Just because the audience can “get it” in seconds, doesn’t mean that they won’t revisit again it in their mind. I think art-work that takes longer to understand doesn’t necessarily mean that people will remember any longer than something that took only a second to get...”
Artist James Turrell, pioneer of using light as an art medium, once said “Seeing is a very sensuous act“. Charles Matson Lume follows Turrell’s influential path, adding his own sculptural, material and architectural elements to his light works. Though the two have distinct differences, Lume’s idea that “Light is seemingly capable of releasing a kind of secret from the ordinary” holds many similarities to Turrell’s artistic philosophy.
The Twin Cities-based Lume spoke with Beautiful/Decay on the eve of being named to the ArtPrize Shortlist for 3D Works for his piece, The World’s An Untranslatable Language II (for Charles Wright) (pictured above). Using pedestals of plastic warning tapes, as well as neon duct tape, mirrored paper reflects light onto the gallery’s walls, creating the alluring forms and patterns which are the spirit of Lume’s work. The artist adds, “Yes, the light is elemental in my work. However, the materials hold meaning. For me, the pas du deux of light and materials mirrors my experience in the world.”
This relationship between the materials and the light itself is interesting, as it is the artist’s main medium, yet is given more conceptual heft with the importance placed in the ephemeral materials used to support the light works themselves. Many of Lume’s ideas are broadened (and also named after) his interest in contemporary poetry, but the artist quickly adds, “I am interested in visual pleasure, the sensual, and experiential. I am also interested in what distracts us (Is there anything in our culture that isn’t vying for our attention?) What gets in the way of really living a full life? Art allows me to find gestures in which I can sometimes access a kind of authenticity that is true.”
Visual artist Jennifer Davis is well-known on the internet for her whimsical and imaginative drawings and paintings (previously here). But in one of her latest series, Davis takes her trademark renderings and has paired them with an unlikely match, paper shooting targets.
In a conversation with Beautiful/Decay, the Minneapolis-based artist explains the history of the series, starting with inspiration for a printed target seen in an architecture/lifestyle magazine. “…I learned that I could get enormous packs of different colored targets from a gun shop for under $20. I started off thinking more about the symbolism of guns/violence/innocent victims/”badguys”/etc. (one of the first targets I made was called “Riddled”- I cut an intricate pattern of tiny holes all over the target.)” Davis then began using the colored paper targets as a base, decorating them with hand-drawn and painted intricately unique characters.The series evolved as Davis began taking commissions and painting other people’s ideas and applying them to the targets. “I started doing a lot of commissions, which morphed the way I was thinking about them. It is a fun exercise for me to paint someone else’s vision- it has stretched the way I think about the targets. I no longer relate them only to violence. I think about each one differently and it is interesting for me to play with adding whimsy or beauty to such a symbol. I am transforming them into something new.”
The lush, vibrant colored pencil drawings of Joe Sinness portray screen and stage stars, queer icons, and online erotica submitters, combining them with antique or thrift store items, flowers and jewels to create carefully constructed tableaus. The technical ability of the Minneapolis-based artist is what one immediately notices, and it is only after that the viewer must attempt to make sense of the laboriously drawn scene before them.
Sinness creates each still-life by hand before photographing and then meticulously executing them with Prismacolor pencils. ”I want each still life to have a visual richness or lushness to highlight and celebrate the figures or kitsch objects presented (and I use the term ‘kitsch’ with the utmost seriousness)”.In works like the Shining Indiscretions triptych (seen above), Sinness created a loose mythology which the work is based on, but does not depend upon. Titled from a Tennesse Williams quote (“All good art is an indiscretion.”), Sinness built hundreds of scenes imagining what a queer,flamboyant spirit such as Williams might physically look like, eventually settling on a triptych of shapes formed from gold lamé. The triumph of this triptych is that the viewer most certainly does not need to know this backstory to enjoy the work, because the images are so visually striking and meditative that they speak for themselves. However, they also have a strong conceptual intention and purpose which informs the work for those who wish to dig deeper.
Sinness continues, “I am interested in how objects and people seeking fame become consumable products, a paradox that sees their artistic endeavors pursuing immortality become disposable and commodified. My imagery and subjects are first looted and then loved… In mining these subjects and devotedly recasting them together in shrine-like still lifes, they are given new life in narratives which mirror their subject’s original aspiration and desire for fame and immortality.”
“NYC is a very fast paced city.” said artist HOTTEA in an exclusive talk with Beautiful/Decay. “When I walked across the bridge people are either jogging, running for exercise, walking with friends or alone to get from Brooklyn to Manhattan or vice versa. When observing people walking or running across the bridge, there really wasn’t any reason to look up or slow down. I like creating pieces that dramatically change the space and encourage people to re-look at a certain area.”
One of the most famous of the now-burgeoning international street arts scene that uses yarn and other non-damaging/permanent materials, the Minneapolis-based artist tried to create a similar project on a visit to New York several years ago, but was stopped by authorities. With careful planning and the help of several friends, HOTTEA was able to complete the public installation, creating a canopy of changing colors over a Williamsburg Bridge. Titled ‘Ritual‘, the artist explained that the very act of taking the bridge instead of the train became a ritual, slowing down his journey to the City and being able to process his day, the skyline and enjoy his surroundings. Realizing this, he wanted to create a signature work that would give others the same chance.
Referring to the installation, HOTTEA explained, “After about 5 hours, people continued to slow down but now more and more people were stopping. Either to take photos or to interact with us directly. When the piece was near completion after about 11 hours, everyone that came into contact with the piece either slowed down or stopped completely. I was in awe to see such a fast paced city slow down, stop and look up.” (via Colossal)