Pieter Hugo’s Portraits Reveal Skin Impurities To Comment On Race And Beauty

Federica Angelucci, Cape Town, 2011

Federica Angelucci, Cape Town, 2011

Ulrica Knutsdotter, Cape Town, 2011

Ulrica Knutsdotter, Cape Town, 2011

Rob van Vuuren, Cape Town, 2011

Rob van Vuuren, Cape Town, 2011

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)

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Family Values: 5 Artists Draw Inspiration From Family

Zhang Xiaogang

Zhang Xiaogang

Song Dong photography

Song Dong

Seonna Hong

Seonna Hong

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.

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Tumblr Avatars Redrawn As Artful Portraits

Avatars

Avatars

Steve Kim illustration3

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.

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Stunning And Bizarre Geometric Fashion Photography

TakedaPhotogInstall5

TakedaPhotogInstall6

TakedaPhotogInstall7

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.

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Drawings Of Life After Death

 

Gary Ward - Drawing Gary Ward - Drawing Gary Ward - Drawing

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.

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Photographs That Borrow From History To Critique Sexual Politics

Genevieve Blais - PhotographyGenevieve Blais - PhotographyGenevieve Blais - Photography

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.

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Vintage Portraiture Without An App

 Kathryn Mayo Winter and Douglas Winter - Photography Kathryn Mayo Winter and Douglas Winter - Photography Kathryn Mayo Winter and Douglas Winter - Photography

Kathryn Mayo and Doug Winter, a husband and wife photography team based in Sacramento, collaborate with their models to create vintage portraits, seemingly of the past, using the traditional wet plate collodion process. This type of photography was born in the 1850s, but soon faded from the foreground, due to the proliferation of more practical, less time consuming processes involving dry gelatin emulsion.

However, in today’s fast-paced iPhone app culture, where formatting is clean, easy, and instantaneous, ironically, the slow painstaking process is exactly what this artistic pair prefer about collodion. Mayo elaborates, “Each image takes about 15-20 minutes to complete from focusing the camera, coating and sensitizing the plate, exposing, and processing. So, models need to have patience as not each image comes out perfect, and it takes a few to get one we like–sometimes, there are times when the chemistry isn’t working up to par and we don’t get anything at all.” Regardless of outcome, their passion is not just about product, but discovery and investigation. Mayo continues, “I love the idea of using a process steeped in history and with the ghosts of photographers who have come before me.  It is a process that is wholly addicting.”

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Classical Photographs of Contemporary “Beauty” (NSFW)

Phillip Toledano photograph1 Phillip Toledano photograph9Phillip Toledano photograph2

In a classical compositional style, Photographer Phillip Toledano‘s series A New Kind of Beauty depicts subjects that have drastically augmented their bodies.  The photographs contrast classical ideas of beauty with the contemporary and nearly obsessive pursuit of it.  A fixation with beauty is ancient, but the images examine it in the light of modern body modification.  Toledano says of the series:

“I’m interested in what we define as beauty, when we choose to create it ourselves.  Beauty has always been a currency, and now that we finally have the technological means to mint our own, what choices do we make?”

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