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.
Alicia Savage captures her life with a surreal twist that pushes beyond the static point and shoot. From absurd flights of fancy to soft reflective moments, each self-portrait conveys an independent sense of travel or transcendence: movement that emphasizes the importance of dreaming in relation to personal exploration and documentation. Conceptually, it’s that simple– but technically, it’s a little more challenging. Her exquisite use of color, light, setting, and digital manipulation curiously compels us to enter these departures with great anticipation.
Emily Deutchman‘s 44 watercolors liven up the genre of presidential portraiture with — you guessed it — boobs. Each take on the president’s official portrait becomes a super easy, lowbrow Where’s Waldo. But, you know, with boobs. While seated portraits can often be elitist, the results here are a great reminder on Election Day: just because you may have held one of the highest offices in the world, your image is still very much in the hands of the people.
Joseph Parra, who received his BFA in Painting this year from MICA, has started his career with a running start. Back in 2008, he worked with famed architect Richard Gehry as part of HBO’s Masterclass, and last year he completed a solo show at Galerie M in Milwaukee, WI. He distorts portraits of absentminded subjects with unorthodox techniques, employing sand paper and collage. Parra’s charcoal drawings, also figurative in nature, are equally of note. His drawings (like his prints) are ghostly. His figures are presented with little distraction, no context or background. This demonstrates a confidence in his image making. He’s showing us exactly what he wants us to see.
Steven Kenny’s portraiture and figure paintings form a vibrant commentary on the nature of balance, sexuality, and that fickle concept: transcendence. Controlling a unique penchant for lighting and surrealism, Kenny has filled a rich portfolio with figures and dynamic echoes that pervade every sense with which we associate being alive.
Bill Sullivan‘s large-scale works; which cover a range of meaty subject matter from lucid portraits of unwitting subjects in the street, to confounding postmodern digital prints on canvas, are both visually appealing and conceptually titillating. Even while navigating such a wide artistic breadth, Sullivan’s work is still pulled under one umbrella; that of the artist’s mind. Sullivan applies a piece of his own subjective vision to all his material, it doesn’t matter what the specific subject matter is. And this is all that can be asked of an artist.
Jose Lerma‘s work borders between 17th century noble portraiture and wild abstractionism. Unlike his college teachings at the University of Wisconsin-Madison he works outside of the box with heavy brush strokes and massive amounts of paint. Which adds another dimension to his work: texture. Lerma also dabbled in political science and law and an MFA in painting, he is an internationally exhibiting artist with shows in Berlin, Korea, New York, Belgium, and Italy, Puerto Rico, and Houston. If you happened to miss the big article we did on Jose in book 2 you can still get a copy and read the massive interview with him. Available here!
This guy’s sweatshirt says it all. The dark, capacious surroundings try to steal the show but his face has such a “just you try” intensity that, despite his size, you know he could for sure kill you with his bare hands. See, Moscow based artist, Olya Ivanova, knows that good portraiture should give the viewer an understanding of what it feels like to be the subject of the image. And it feels pretty serious.