Vietnamese painter Nguyen Xuan Huy introduces us to the disruptive effects and ongoing legacy of the Vietnam War. His works carry a rooted sense of grotesque which makes it impossible to stay intact. Huy outlines Vietnam’s grimreality by confronting pop art aesthetics with hints of Socialist iconography and heartbreaking results of Agent Orange warfare.
Huy, who is currently based in Berlin, aggregates many aspects of art history by mimicking famous painter’s artworks. Motifs from Matisse’s Dance, Bosch’s Garden Of Earthly Delights, and even Michelangelo’s Creation Of Adam are taken and distorted to outline the traumatic consequences country’s post-war experiences. Twisted naked bodies, guns and dead animals join in a feast of spite and sorrow.
Agent Orange, a poisonous defoliant, was used by the US military and its counterparts to spray on the Vietnamese countryside hoping it will destroy the food sources and thus, end resistance. Only later it was titled the Chernobyl of Vietnam because of it’s irreversible effects, specifically the crippling birth defects. Chemicals used in Agent Orange caused genotype mutations which are present even three generations later.
“It’s insensitive to imagine that because I was born healthy that I am untouched by this issue. <…> So many people are potential carriers of the altered genotype, this is a problem which could affect each and every citizen of Vietnam.”
There is a reason why Amy Bennett‘s paintings look like dioramas. In fact, it is part of her process to build miniature dioramas of various scenarios before the painting process begins. When completed, these miniature constructions are used as models for the pieces you see here. The paintings, she says, are “glimpses of a scene or fragments of a narrative. Similar to a memory, they are fictional constructions of significant moments meant to elicit specific feelings.”
This arduous process is perhaps a way to reconstruct the process of memory making itself. When we construct memories, we are feeling and living that specific moment. When we are trying to reenact or recall that memory, it all feels distant, blurry, and small. In this case, the painter’s initial construction (the physical building of the diorama) and re-constrution of it (trough painting) mirrors this process.
I am interested in storytelling over time through repeated depictions of the same house or car or person, seasonal changes, and shifting vantage points. Like the disturbing difficulty of trying to put rolls of film in order several years after the pictures have been taken, my aim is for the collective images to suggest a known past that is just beyond reach.
New York-based artist Samantha Keely Smith paints abstract landscapes that resemble the swirling, unknown depths of the ocean. Although Smith’s work appear to depict real sceneries, she is inspired by inner worlds- precisely, by the energies and colors that mirror the flux of emotions.
“My images are not at all real places or even inspired by real places. They are emotional and psychological places. Internal landscapes, if you will. The tidal pull and power of the ocean makes sense to me in terms of expressing these things, and I think that is why some of the work has a feel of water about it. My work speaks of things that are timeless, and I think that for most of us the ocean represents something timeless.”
Working with oil paint, enamel, shellac, and large scaled canvases, the artist creates grand works of art that feature multiple translucent layers of color, soft but large and imposing brushstrokes, and sweeping gestures that evoke crashing waves, surging tides, and stormy floods. ( via My Modern Met)
Generic Art Solutions is a duo made up of artists Matt Vis and Tony Campbell. The two artists comment on present day anxiety by re-imagining classic paintings. Their photographs are carefully staged, often to resemble classic works of art. Their images are clearly populated with subjects, clothing, and settings that are all modern. However, the compositions immediately bring to mind the paintings of Caravaggio, Goya, and Marat. Perhaps a reason the images of the classic artwork and re-imagined in the duo’s photographs are still relevant is because people have never moved beyond the anxieties and problems that plagued us centuries ago. The gallery statement for their upcoming exhibit at Miami’s Mindy Solomon Gallery expounds on that point:
“The work of Generic Art Solutions (whether it be a photograph, performance, video, or print) begins with a thoughtful re-examination of the human condition, and the effect of recurring cycles of technological advancements and cultural awakenings. But, how much has mankind really evolved? Aren’t we essentially still making the same mistakes? According to the artists, it would certainly seem so. Compare Gericault’s famed painting ‘The Raft of the Medusa,’ 1819, to the G.A.S. representation of Deepwater Horizon’s oil spill in April 2010, as depicted in their photographic work ‘The Raft’ (2010): these two artworks portray shockingly similar tales of human suffering brought on by corporate greed. Or, take Delacroix’s ‘Liberty Leading the People’ commemorating the French Revolution in 1830, and the perpetual revolutionary uprisings of the Arab Spring as seen in G.A.S.’s ‘Liberty,’ 2011. The artists state: “However evolved we may think we are, the folly of human behavior is still the root of all societal (dis)functions. This is a sobering thought that demands attention. But there is a message of hope in these contemporary homages: through thoughtful reexamination and a commitment to change, we can break the cycle of repeating our mistakes.”
Megan Van Groll paints women– mediating on the fine line between nakedness and nudity, or how these two concepts relate to freedom or identity. Likewise, from bathing in cocoa puffs to sensually brawling at a donut shop, her food motif is an interesting one, often working in tandem with the female form– provoking thoughts of fetish from the outside, but also, a much more personal and complicated binging ceremony.
Of her own craft, Groll states, “My narrative portraits of women are, at their core, a painted attempt to understand and portray how modern women create identity and meaning from the world around them. I am interested in exploring the way we perform our projected ideal personas, for ourselves and for others.”
Born in Tehran, amidst the 1980s political suffering and strife, Nouar’s family fled to Germany and then the US, where she resides today. Her oil and acrylic paintings touch on vintage commercial Americana with a sinister twist– but without being too cynical. Instead, each dollop of cream or slice of pie provokes a more tempting side of advertising, where the taste of nostalgia and its childlike promises are the main indulgence.
On this theme, the artist elaborates, “I have always been completely fascinated by our massive consumer culture and often feel everything around us is a commercial, constantly manipulating us into desiring things we don’t really have a need for, or shouldn’t want in the first place.”
With funny fake titles that satirize the real thing, Harland Miller paints a colorful collection of paperbacks which function as a shrine for predictable literary personalities from Waugh to Hemingway . . . and he doesn’t stop there. He also gets personal, implicating his own self-titles into the mix, adding a whole other autobiographical subtext that is both playfully light and familiarly bold.
Miranda Donovan explores the invasion of graffiti from the exterior world of landscapes and buildings to the interior one– of bathrooms, bedrooms, and yes, even galleries, where street artists are finding more and more of a home these days. However, Donovan’s work is not just about street politics or the art of tagging here– each piece also examines the quality, textures, associations, and contexts of walls themselves.
Of her work, in Cool Hunting, Donovan states, “The point of departure is a wall, which so often people just overlook . . . It’s something in our daily space constantly, internally and externally, and there’s a romanticism in that, which draws me in. The different combination of languages, the grid, the broken plaster breaking up that grid, the colors, the erosion, is something that really excites me. It’s about combining those languages to tell a story about the passage of time and the analogy of the human psyche, peeling back the onion layers to find the core.”