Jeremy Olson, an artist based in Brooklyn, New York, is interested in geometry and simultaneous perspective. Much like the canonical works of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, Olson looks at portraits in a different manner; the intricate ways in which he chooses to scramble the geometric pieces that make up the sitter’s face, makes for a fun time. The viewer must intently figure out which pieces go where to make sense of the portrait as a whole.
Aside from his interest in geometry, Olson, also plays with traditional painterly portrait styles by using a hyperreal approach. By including all of these three elements [geometry, traditional and hyperreal portraiture], the artist breaks down the face into a spectrum of beauty that simultaneously makes for a violent yet charming visual. (via Ignant)
Lithuanian photographer Tadao Cern has created a series of photographs entitled “Comfort Zone” that depicts resting sunbathers at the beach – people who are sprawled out on blankets, their few beach belongings sitting around them. The series asks the observer to create a narrative of the unknown person, to let the details speak for the narrative. Cern says, “I started this series because I was surprised how a certain place or surrounding can affect people’s behavior. During our everyday life we attempt to hide our deficiencies, both physical and psychological. However, once we find ourselves on a beach – we forget about everything and start acting in an absolutely different manner. Is that because everyone else around you is doing the same?”
Cern seems to be addressing the seeming lack of inhibitions and the overall embracing of comfort that the beach environment courts. The variety of body shapes and positions paired with patterns of swimsuits and towels/blankets create a unique aesthetic of comfort for each sunbather – an aesthetic that is relatable and immediately puts you at ease. In these photographs, the towels and blankets don’t just serve as practical (and comfortable) beach gear – they also serve as backdrops for each portrait, framing the sunbathers but not confining them.
Cern asserts that the sunbathers had no idea they were being photographed, and that he purposely chose to only photograph people with concealed faces in order to “grant an observer with an opportunity to calmly scrutinize each and every detail without being distracted. It also helps to avoid empathy or connection between people in the photos and the observers. It really does not matter who they are – the details not only reveal their stories, but make us face ourselves as well.”
According to Cern, the selection of photographs found on his website is only part of the entire series which consists of 24 large scale prints. Images are for sale in limited edition. In addition to his personal page and Behance, you can find him on Facebook and Instagram. (via david’s sketchbook and behance)
Pieter Hugo, a South African photographer, plays with color channel manipulation to create portraits that highlight the impurities on his subject’s skin to make a statement about race, the colonial experiment in South Africa, and contemporary ideas of beauty.
There’s a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends entails portraits of the artist’s friends- all whom call South Africa their home. Through the manipulation of color, Hugo emphasizes the sitter’s blemishes and sun damage making them look darker than they would normally appear without the editing process.
In these portraits one sees how the sitters’ environment, a place where there is incredibly harsh sunlight, has started to ‘corrode’ our epidermis. This speaks to me about the South African colonial experiment – all these people from all over the world, thrown together within the confines of a nation by the forces of history. The damage left by the sun and the environment becomes allegorical of the burden of South Africa’s tempestuous and fraught past. History leaves its marks on us. It eats away at us. We cannot escape its heavy weight.
Besides the political allegories found in the work, Hugo is also interested in highlighting the errors of racial distinction by revealing that beneath it all, beneath our skin, we all look the same. As the critic Aaron Schuman writes about Hugo’s work, “although at first glance we may look ‘black’ or ‘white’, the components that remain ‘active’ beneath the surface consist of a much broader spectrum. What superficially appears to divide us is in fact something that we all share, and like these photographs, we are not merely black and white – we are red, yellow, brown, and so on; we are all, in fact, colored.” (Images via Stevenson)
The saying “home is where the heart is” very rarely relates to contemporary art. And though the works featured here are not directly about home, they are informed to some degree by immediate family,relationships and experiences that stem from it. In a global spectrum of east meets west these five artists come from genres ranging from Chinese Avant Garde to lowbrow painting, from surrealism to contemporary portraiture, to name a few. The paintings, mixed media works and digital media stills of artists: Song Dong, Brooke Grucella, Seonna Hong, Aaron Holz and Zhang Xiaogang exemplify the diversity with which the artists’ loved ones have become not only the subject for the works, but also at times part of the process, as well as a platform to tell a story that becomes increasingly universal.
I recall visiting the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco a couple of years ago to see Song Dong’s massive solo exhibition of works made with his family members as subjects, as well as a massive installation that incorporated decades worth of of family possessions as material. His work is deeply personal, with a strong narrative thread, and truly draw you into his world with their reverence and profoundly flawless execution. Zhang Xiaogang’s works from his series Bloodlines uses other family portraits as a vehicle for conveying the experiences of his immediate family that they experienced as he came of age during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Each piece in this series has a thin red line that weaves throughout the composition, symbolizing the connection of heritage and family.
Artist Steve Kim‘s series Perfect (2) draws from an unexpected inspiration. These elegant portraits are based on the avatars of Tumblr users. Kim sourced material from the blogging platform that attracts so many creatives. Avatars are often quickly executed and little thought over photographic portraits. Kim rededicates time to each photo in order to render each as a proper piece of art. Interestingly, each portrait’s title is also the repective blogger’s username.
Maiko Takeda is a student of jewelry design and fashion, a fact that is apparent in these stunning photographs. Takeda’s portraits feature figures adorned or ornamented, creating interesting juxtapositions of light and shadow, geometry, space, and logic. Out of a simple and seemingly ordered concept emerges something intricate, chaotic, and mysterious. Takeda’s work is both elegant and bizarre, a world where beauty is revealed through obfuscation and composition. Takeda is currently pursuing a Masters in Millinery at the Royal College of Art.
Gary Ward uses charcoal, graphite, oil pastels, and an overall sharp wit to examine humanity’s mess of emotion over the confusion of body and identity.
His Archeology Series, collected here, is a playful response to the quandary of life after death: how, despite fame, class, or notoriety at the end of it all, we are basically just a slew of skulls with slight form variations.
Regarding process, Ward, a self-taught artist based in Los Angeles, says he is “interested in how the mind and hand talk to each other in one uninterrupted sitting.” He likes to see the authorship of a flawed line and honors how each mistake can spontaneously charge the work in a new direction.
Genevieve Blais, a photographer based in Toronto, borrows imagery from classic art history paintings to unpack sexual politics relative to today’s contemporary palate.
Of her intention, Blais states, “The aesthetic/topical dissonance aims to elicit an uneasy response in order to subvert the implicit authority and sanctity of the icon.”
The result confronts and critiques art culture by sitting in an uneasy space between not only imagery, but also mediums– cameras and brushes, forcing us to clearly see the model as the true determinant– a staged powerful variant that has been with us since Caravaggio’s rule, humanizing the myth.