Peter Saul’s perfectly grotesque; strangely cartoonish paintings are filled with political and anti-political content. Having been born in the 1930’s, he has lived through an immeasurable amount of political turmoil. His highly illustrative paintings come bursting with endless social commentary, with more than just a bit of humor. Associated with the Chicago Imagists and the west coast Funk Artists, Saul’s style contains heavy influences from pop culture and surrealism. His distinctive style is harshly cartoonish due to the brilliant colors and flattened space. The characters in his paintings have bizarre, exaggerated features such as big, bulging eyes that pop out of the person’s skull, and tentacle-like appendages that bend and stretch clear across the composition. Although this may remind you at first of the cartoons you watched as a kid, examine the paintings longer and you will see enormous nude body parts and plenty of oozing bodily fluids. These hilarious and misshapen characteristics further express his thoughts on these characters; some real, some fiction.
Although Saul’s style is derived from sources many may see as lowbrow, his skills as a painter and an artist cannot be denied after seeing his complex, multifaceted compositions. Saul is a master at taking silly, iconic imagery from pop culture and mixing it with the grim, violence of reality. Experiencing his paintings is a journey through time, as they include imagery of the Vietnam War, Martin Luther King Jr., and Ronald Reagan. However, the messages and situations depicted in these scenes still ring true today. Peter Saul’s long art career is memorable to say the least. You can see his powerful work in person at Venus Over Manhattan gallery in NYC where his exhibition From Pop to Punk will be on display until April 18th.
Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara, famous for his paintings of small children and animals, has a new solo exhibition in Hong Kong called Life is Only One. It recently opened at the Asia Society, and the title of the show comes from Nara’s artwork of the same name. This painting features a child holding a skull and contemplating existence. Conceptually, this isn’t foreign territory for Nara. In an interview with Asia Society, he explains, “When I was a child, the word “life” itself, of course, was a foreign concept. After turning 50, however, and with the deaths of people close to me and with the recent earthquake, I started to think about life more realistically — the limits of life, and the importance of what one can accomplish during that time.”
The children seen in Nara’s works represent what’s inside his head. He describes to Asia Society:
The children were not something I had sought or thought out, but in trying to capture what was in front of my eyes, they appeared as I tried to capture what was formless in my mind. I think, therefore, that my world expands upon my past experiences and memories, and the speaker for my own mind appears as a child. But really, if anything, those children appeared very naturally on the picture plane.
Life is Only One is on view until July 26 of this year. (Via Hi Fructose)
Javier Galindo, an artist of many talents, uses ready-made objects to create an interesting narrative that comments on possessions we value. By nature, humans are collectors. So much so, that we even have an entire T.V. series dedicated to this hoarder phenomenon. In Galindo’s series The Incomplete Tour, he creates objects that mimic, question, and alter keepsakes and mementos often collected by travelers and tourists. Specifically, he references “The Grand Tour,” a trip that many youth would take during the 18th century across Europe. The purpose of this journey was to gain knowledge of the Western world’s cultural history and to be exposed to its many treasures, such as classical antiquity. To preserve their memories, as we often do today, they would collect souvenirs. Galindo’s question is, what is this memento actually worth? It is by no means an original; it is just a fragment or a trace of what was experienced.
Influenced by classic antiquities, Galindo’s series transforms and skews these fractures of remembered treasures. The series is comprised of a wide variety of mediums including cast plaster and oil paint, as it also is included two-dimensional and three -dimensional works. Focusing on portraiture, the once traditional portraits and busts are now sliced and stacked, skewed by paint, or literally cut out of their frame. In a world where we are obsessed with documenting every moment through digital photos, it is interesting to see a reference to a time where the only way to keep the moment with you, was through collecting physical souvenirs. A photograph is like a still memory, a fragment of an event that can often warp the true memory. Just like a photograph, Galindo’s mementos are just fragments of the whole; they are hints of a narrative further skewed by Galindo’s artistic eye.
Artist, illustrator, and muralist Saddo creates paintings that are a fusion of birds, humans, armor, and more. In stately-looking portraits, these hybrid creatures look as though they’re ready to enter battle or to try and cheat death. Sometimes, act as the grim reaper themselves. The dark-colored images match the somber subject matter, and many of Saddo’s surreal works are meant to echo that sentiment.
The catalyst for Saddo’s subject mater comes from a move to Lisbon with the artist Aitch. Some imagery is influenced by Spanish and Portuguese explorers and conquistadors from the 15th to 18th century, as well as illustrations of birds, Islamic miniatures depicting battle scenes, and science fiction movies. Other paintings are inspired by the cold. “…the winter caught us by surprise, we didn’t expect it to be so rainy, gloomy, and depressing.” Saddo explains.“It deeply affected our mood and even our physical state, we often felt trapped inside our dark, moist house, inside slow moving, joint aching bodies.” Every once and a while, a coffin would appear in their illustrations and paintings.
The culmination of these disparate influences facilitate morbid, strange, and fascinating works that have intriguing small details hidden within each composition.
Japanese artist Junko Mizuno’s candy-colored works draw us into a world full of dark and erotic food fetishes. Meant as a metaphor the female sexual appetite and power, Mizuno’s illustrations feature women enjoying eggs, bacon, noodles, and more. Her maximalist style weaves geometric shapes, naked creatures, and luscious patterns into each composition. Coupled with the strong presence of a female character, it results in artwork that’s simultaneously grotesque, cute, playful, and alluring.
Mizuno’s inspiration comes from a range of historical and cultural influences, as well as traditions found in both Eastern and Western worlds. Fairy tales and the works of Aubrey Beardsley and Eric Stanton are also visible. Narwhal Contemporary writes about her paintings, stating, “One reoccurring image is that of the iconic multi-armed goddess cloaked in symbols of life and wisdom, surrounded by fleets of devoted minions and enveloped in flames that will never consume her.” They relish in their unapologetic gluttony.
Mizuno currently has work in a solo exhibition titled Ambrosial Affair at the Narwhal Contemporary in Toronto. This is the second in a three-part exhibition series titled Junko Mizuno’s Food Obsession. It’s on view until March 15 of this year.
Spanish photographer Eugenio Recuenco has taken the timeless and iconic work of the notorious artist Pablo Picasso and translated it into contemporary photography. He models each photograph in this series after a single Picasso painting, recreating it as a seductive, contemporary photograph. Each painterly photograph is taken in such a way that even these real life women seem to be painted onto a canvas. Having had his hand in commercial and fashion photography, the influence from modern high fashion can be seen. Because Picasso’s work contains such vivid colors and a strongly recognized cubist style, the model’s make-up and clothing are a vital part of what allows the photograph to imitate Picasso’s paintings.
Cubism, the artist’s most famous stylistic period, is achieved by dissecting parts of the subject in the painting, and breaking them down into geometric forms. In this case, the subjects in the photos are women covered in geometric patterns imitating Picasso’s paintings. Recuenco brilliantly achieves this reference to Cubism not only by the women’s clothing, but also by the perfectly placed photo fragments. Several of the photos in this series are altered so that there is an abrupt crop in the image, with extra limbs on the other side. This cleverly recreates Picasso’s ever-popular figures with extra legs, arms, or eyes. Some may say that there are just some things you can do in a painting that you cannot do in a photo. Recuenco proves this wrong with his incredible and imaginative use of make-up to mirror Picasso’s fractured portraits and misplaced facial features. In one photo, an entirely new eye is created, while in another, a sharp, black line dissects a woman’s face. Intelligent and original creativity is of no shortage in this photographer’s unbelievably beautiful series paying homage to a fellow Spanish artist.
Make sure to check out Eugenio Recuenco’s new project, a short film titled “A Second Defeat.”
Spain based artist Paco Pomet paints colorful clouds of pink and blue that consume and take over vintage scenes of landscapes. A skilled painter, Pomet uses oil paints to create surreal landscapes where his vibrant colors transform each image into something out of the ordinary. He paints his transformative palette like a wave that will eventually consume everything in its path. Pomet’s work starts out looking like vintage photos of tranquil wilderness in black and white or sepia tones, but then a burst of colored slime oozes and covers the scene. His fluffy pinks and fiery reds cut through the composition to reveal new elements, changing the situation and meaning of each image. Not only does this now distort the circumstance of the painting, but also the setting has become a whole different world where anything is possible. This is a place where tree trunks can glow, the sky can drip, and mountains can break in half. Each color is placed cleverly and adds a bit of humor and curiosity to his work.
Pomet’s paintings show influence of traditional western paintings and landscapes, with their inclusion of desert scenes, covered wagons, and cowboys. His choices of misfit colors do not only break up this traditional imagery, but ads a contemporary, dream-like quality not unlike that of contemporary pop-surrealism. His paintings hint at analogue photography, but with elements of modern design.
Paco Pomet is represented by Richard Heller Gallery in Santa Monica, CA and currently has a solo exhibition on view until February 15th. Make sure to see the artist’s incredible work in person while you have the chance!
Artist Dan Witz seamlessly combines traditional, academic realism with rebellious vibes of the underground punk scene to create his massive paintings of mosh pits. His impeccable technical skill allows him to paint photorealistic scenes that embody the pulse and energy of the punk music scene. Each painting is an energetic force to be reckoned that demands a serious presence. The amount of people crammed into each piece accurately captures the chaos and action involved in mosh pits in real life. Dan Witz’s work is packed full of incredible movement and human energy that can be felt in the viewer. Because in almost all of these paintings the image is completely devoid of an environment or setting, they have a deeply psychological affect. An excitement and anxiety is created as you see the range of expressions on each person’s face in the sea of bodies. As Witz fills each frame from right to left with herds of people, an unmistakable flow of powerful strength is formed.
Based in Brooklyn, Witz is a painter as well as a street artist. Spending time in punk clubs and playing in bands when he was younger influenced the subject in which he paints. However, we can also see the influence of classical painters due to his more traditional painting style. This type of hyper-real approach is often associated with a more academic way of thinking within the establishment. He is able to take this conventional method of painting and use it to rebel and revolt. Dan Witz’s Mosh Pits series has recently been featured in this past month’s issue of Juxtapoz. This quote from the interview explains the influence and effect punk rock has had on Dan Witz.
“Punk rock had opened my eyes enough for me to understand that art could be about more than providing expensive wall candy for rich people. I could actually speak truth to power…”