The paintings by Michael Ray Charles depict controversial imagery regarding racial stereotypes from the past and present commercial culture. In Print Mag, he suggests his usage of such stereotypes are not designed to thrill, throw, or flaunt, but more so to excavate their societal relevance, revulsion, and power– examining how each affects our personal symbolic lexicons. It’s an ongoing compounding struggle to discern and detach from this branding.
Regarding this, Charles asserts, “I think about so many people whose lives these images have affected. A lot of Black people have died and many are dying under the weight of these images. That’s motivation enough for me to explore, and deal with, these things.”
Artist Gina Ruggeri skillfully plays with perspective and spatial illusion. Her work often takes the form of painted Mylar cutouts employing trope-l’oeil techniques. Natural objects such as logs, stones, and smoke seem to float off the wall and into the gallery space. In other work the white walls give way to rot, decay, and caverns. Though Ruggeri’s work is eye-catching a definite and clear painting tradition stands out in her work. She frequently forgoes the traditional canvas for plastic film but her composition and techniques is reminiscent of past styles. The background landscapes of Renaissance portraits appear to have outgrown their frames (and conventional physics for that matter) and now unfold directly on the gallery walls.
Feng Zhengquan, born in 1976, lives and works in China. His oil paintings place contemporary candy-like imagery of lipsticks, cosmetics, fruit, foliage, and creatures: all reminiscent of contemporary Asian pop culture, into old world spatial compositions– think Dong Yuan, to examine the abstraction of contemporary spaces or environments. How much of our own landscape history is virtual and how much is physical? The blurring of both is what draws us to these pieces regardless of nationality.
Hal Lasko, affectionately called ‘grandpa’, creates amazing art pixel by pixel in MS Paint. Lasko worked for years as a typographer creates fonts by hand. Though now 98 years old and suffering from Wet Macular Degeneration – an affliction that causes blindness in his center of vision – Lasko never stopped being an artist. He was introduced to MS Paint by his grandsons and took to the program quickly. MS Paint allows Lasko to “zoom in” on his pieces and work a small part at a time, pixel by pixel. The process is laborious and time-consuming but works perfectly for Lasko, a patient artist. Check out the video to see a short but touching documentary on the artist and his work.
Living and working in Budapest, Alexander Tinei originally hails from Caushani, Moldova, and his work seems to reflect the historical and current climate of these two places– a certain transition into post communism mainstream. That said, however, I would avoid labeling his work as something political. It feels more personal or social, examining identity as it relates or responds to its fluid environment. The darkness in each image is a certain type of natural blooming that slowly corrodes. Emphasis is not on reckless destruction alone, but the cultivation and freedom to pursue it.
Maybe it’s because I live in Los Angeles where rain is seldom and driving culture is strong, but these oil paintings by Tom Birkner make me want to dig through my tape collection– yup, tapes– and pop a little Tom Waits in before heading out onto the highway. I would extrapolate on this connection, but I think the actual lyrics from “Diamonds On My Windshield” illustrate it best–
Blazing through this midnight jungle Remember someone that you met One more block; the engine talks And whispers ‘home at last’ It whispers, whispers, whispers ‘home at last’, home at last
A. Ruiz Villar parcels out space in relation to geometric positions, with minimal pops of color threaded throughout. His subtle gradations of white give special depth and age to the work so imagery doesn’t feel flat, but formed, or architecturally emerging. These vibrant compositions are not easy to visually choreograph– however, Villar makes it look beautifully accidental and organic.
Of his work, Villar’s stance seems like a conceptual mash-up of science, math, and poetry, suggesting it “revolves around the quest for a language akin to the following factors: 1.1.1. Provisionality (doubt): Lack of an evident purpose. 1.1.2. Continuity: There are silences, there’s no rest. 1.1.3. Uprootedness: There’s no commitment to technique, structure, or materials.”
With the help of a huge swarm of flies, John Knuth transforms decay into creation. Flies have long symbolized death and rot in art as well as popular culture. In medieval times, for example, it was popularly believed flies were born out of carcasses rather than eggs as larvae. Knuth, though, emphasizes the flies productive role in the larger cycle of life and death. He creates his work by first feeding the flies water mixed with sugar and paint. The flies largely digest their food outside of their body, Knuth’s flies doing this directly on the canvas. While digesting, each fly leaves a small mark of pigment, a small piece of the larger record or the swarm. Check out the video to see Knuth’s process and more of his finished paintings.