Andres Serrano And Three Other Artists Make Work About Death

Andres Serrano

Andres Serrano

Tereza Zelenkova

Tereza Zelenkova

Berlinde De Bruyckere

Berlinde De Bruyckere

Death becomes us all eventually, as we are exploring in the works covered in this two part article.  In light of the Halloween season, and the historical implications of death of this season, we are highlighting artists who create work that addresses or is informed by death and dying.  Part 1 included and discussed the works of Damien Hirst, Doris Salcedo, Angelo Filomeno, Konrad Smolenski and Joel Peter Witkin.  Here we examine the work of Andres Serrano, Berlinde De Bruyckere, Tereza Zelenkova and Oskar Dawicki.

Andres Serrano has built a reputation creating imagery that is shocking and confronts the viewer with heavy content, unapologetically.  His series on death takes this to the next level. Each image, a close-up intimate composition of the deceased subject, is titled according to the cause of death.  The Death Series functions as a mirror of our own mortality, delivered rawly and beautifully in rich colors and blank stares.

The work of Berlinde De Bruyckere is rough and organic, abstractly anatomical and animalistic in delivery.  The artist’s sculptural work emanates a quality that lies somewhere between a murder scene and a meat locker.  De Bruyckere’s pieces have a realistic quality of flesh torn apart yet are executed with fairly common artistic materials such as wax, wood, iron, cotton and wool is captivating.

Tereza Zelenkova created a series entitled Supreme Vice during a journey through the deserts of the Southwest.  Captured in the bleakest and most barren of environments, Zelenkova’s photographic works meditate on death through a poetic narrative that seems to address a spiritual continuum that overlaps life and death and creates a bridge between the two polarities.  The black and white series, that spans grey areas of mortality, is bound in a book, also entitled Supreme Vice.

The obituary series by Oskar Dawicki which was first exhibited in 2004 in a show aptly titled “The end of the world by accident” is far more ironic than the previously mentioned works.  The photographic works capture collages Dawicki assembled of actual obituaries he discovered in the newspaper.  The names of the deceased in the images appear to be celebrities and other famous figures at first glance.  The works toy with the spectrum of perception of significance in the value of human life and death.

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Natalie Ryan’s Mysterious Blue Velvet Taxidermy

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Animal sculptures by Australian artist Natalie Ryan are inspired by taxidermy. While conventional taxidermy practices dictate that she preserve the skin/fur of the animal she is preparing, Ryan instead uses synthetic materials to cover casts of squirrels, bears, and monkeys. Her current portfolio cloaks these animals entirely in blue velvet.

While Ryan’s web presence is limited, her gallery representation, Dianne Tanzer Gallery in Melbourne writes about Ryan’s latest exhibition, Evanescere, stating:

Continuing to explore notions of the cadaver as a secondary form, a shadow of it’s living self, these works depict the internals of animals stripped of their dermis and identifying features. Evanescere looks at the body in a suspended state of disappearing. In conjunction with this, these works also explore the idea of the animal cadaver on display and museology as a resting place. These works combine bodies and elements of the landscape that reference the paradigm of Natural History Museum displays. They seek to question the role the body plays in the Museum and the loss of the individual as it becomes a subject to represent an entire species.

Ryan’s decision to color her work bright blue introduces a contemporary aesthetic to taxidermy. It references the trends of home decor over the past few years, in which loud, unnatural colors are applied to natural objects. When thinking about traditional taxidermy and how it uses real feathers and fur, the artist makes a statement about craft and preservation. The prevailing attitude of culture champions innovation and exploration of the new. Ryan is stripping this practice of its ritual, simply using foam casts and not real animals. She’s chosen a color and material that’s more en vogue. We are drawn to this work because it’s a twist on an old practice. She makes taxidermy fresh rather than just feeling old.

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Kate MccGwire’s Feather Sculptures are Beyond Our World

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Kate MccGwire’s feather sculptures are awe inspiring in their detail; they are the type of thing that is marveled. Gathering, peeling, and layering are just a few ways she constructs her work. The materials, vibrant colors, and tactile quality gives them an uncanny feeling. Seeing layers of feathers, we expect a winged creature attached. Instead, MccGwire has created organic yet indistinguishable forms. Her sculptures wrap around themselves, like the ouroboros, eating their own tail. Like infinity symbols, they are never ending. These forms feel powerful, and the feathers play a large role in it. Their volume, combined with a high level of craft, make us do a double take and demand our full attention.Yes, MccGwire’s winged creatures are kept under glass so they won’t escape. But wait! They were actually real. This uncertainty is exactly what MccGwire wants. From her artist statement:

Kate MccGwire’s practice probes the beauty inherent in duality, exploring the play of opposites – at an aesthetic, intellectual and visceral level – that characterises the way we conceive the world. She does this by appealing to our essential duality as human beings, to our senses and our reason, and by drawing on materials capable of embodying a dichotomous way of seeing, feeling and thinking. The finished work has a consistent ‘otherness’ to it that places it beyond our experience of the world, poised on a threshold between the parameters that define everyday reality.

While we might try and figure out what MccGwire’s sculptures are supposed to be, that isn’t her top priority. The artist is much more interested in combining our uneasiness of the unknown with the beauty of the natural world. (Via Colossal)

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Otoniel Borda Garzón’s Tornado-Like Wood Sculptures

Otoniel Borda Garzón

Otoniel Borda Garzón

Otoniel Borda Garzón is known for his use of repurposed wood to create intricately twisted installations that dominate their gallery settings. The Bogota-born Garzón creates shapes which resemble naturally destructive environmental forms, those which upset life and cause death and destruction. The insinuations of hurricanes, tornadoes and twisters is amplified by the use of splintered wood, which recalls the damage after extreme weather conditions. However, his choice of using wood is important to these piece’s message. Just as the tree’s death gives humans and animals a material to work with, Garzón continues this cycle by using wood that has also ‘died’ or lost its purpose, creating a metaphor for the constant cycle of life and death and reinvention.

This series of installations, which the artist calls Reserva, involves site-specific construction and a reaction to each individual exhibition space. For the Bogota International Art Fair, Garzón built a 40 foot high tornado (pictured above and below). The installation, which took almost three weeks to build, with an additional week to disassemble, both reminds the viewer of the instabilities of destruction, but also the possibilities of life. (via colossal and behance)

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Seon Ghi Bahk’s Cascading Sculptures Created Out Of Charcoal

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There is something intrinsically fascinating about seeing the ordinary created in new, surprising ways. Artist have long used this technique to make their viewer contemplate new connections and possibilities, and the internet has proven to be a particularly useful tool in spreading this type of work. South Korean artist Seon Ghi Bahk is an expert at this method. Using charcoal and other natural materials en masse to form familiar objects, Bahk reminds of us the connection between man-made goods and their source.

Bahk’s precision is absolute, meticulously hanging large groups of charcoal at specific heights to collectively echo architectural and building elements, such as stairs, columns, shelves and planters. Using translucent nylon thread to hang individual pieces gives each installation a floating quality, further separating them from their everyday inspiration.

In an interview with the Korean Art Museum’s Korean Artist Project, Bahk explains how he came to use charcoal in his installation work. “I first used stones as materials for the installations…but the supporting structure and installation became unnecessarily large and overwhelmed the stones so I replaced the stones with charcoal. Since I spent my childhood out in nature, I wanted to embrace natural things in my work. I found that my favorite things in nature were wind, mountains and trees. But it was difficult to express wind or mountains in my work, so I chose trees as an alternative, and charcoal comes derives from that…now I seek natural encounters between man and culture…I emphasize the materiality in its poetic shapes.”

(via mymodernmet)

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Marcos Montané’s Incredibly Intricate Wire Sculptures That Reference Science

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Marcos Montané is a Buenos Aires-based Art Director who says he is “experimenting in the fields of procedural design, generative graphics and visual music.” His work is expressed in typography, visual design and audio-reactive visuals for VJ sets. Perhaps his most striking work is what he differentiates as some of his ‘still’ works, wire sculptures that recall natural, repeating readouts from a Richter scale, echoes, orbital fields or cellular biology.

In works like his Flowfields I & Flowfields II (above, and below – grouped and singular), Montané explains his inspiration and process “I was always amazed by the visualizations of flowfields that return some 3d softwares. In this case I used a topology optimization software and export the resulting lines to turn them into wire structures. The final result is a compact mass of wires.” The mass of wires takes on the appearance of sound waves solidified, equal parts organized yet chaotic(-looking).

Montané’s One-Piece Structures (below, with white backgrounds) are generated structures from a single piece of wire. Although simpler in their construction, the One-Piece Structures (which are named and numbered as Variations) equally complicated geometries, such as computer landscapes, GPS-tracking fields or sonar readouts.

You can follow Marcos Montané’s work at his Tumblr and Flickr accounts.

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Jim Hodges’ Chromatically-Mirrored Boulder Sculptures

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American artist Jim Hodges has always had an innate ability to impress ideas of time into commonplace objects, whether using napkins for drawings, silk flowers pinned to walls or collections of broken mirrors. In his work, Untitled (2011), metaphors for nature are again followed by human involvement, allowing for reflection from the smallest material interactions.

Comprised of four boulders which are capped with stainless steel veneers in gold, pink, lavender and blue, Untitled finds each stone arranged into a circular environment that directly invokes the viewer’s sense of space. Light and reflection play a role in the viewing, as colors meld and give the stones a surprising airy and weightless quality. Untitled’s colors were inspired by Hodges’ travels to India, where Hodges was enamored by the intense use of color, as he describes, “this layering, layering, layering of material, to the point where what’s being covered, its identity, seemed to start being erased by the accumulation of color.

Scale is equally important to Untitled, and speaks to themes of change and impermanence. The works are quite massive, with each boulder measuring close to six feet in height and collectively weighing almost 90,000 pounds. Collected in Massachusetts, before being brought to a fabricators in Upstate New York, the boulders were chosen specifically because they were carved and moved centuries ago by the glaciers which covered the North American continent. While the weightless quality is provided by the translucent hues, and the permanence of the heavy rocks is insinuated, Hodges deftly reminds us that nothing is immovable or permanent.

First displayed indoors at the Gladstone Gallery in New York City, the work was then moved to the Walker Art Center’s outdoor grounds to coincide with the Sculpture Garden’s anniversary, as well as an upcoming retrospective exhibition. Hodges retrospective, Give More Than You Take, is currently on view at the Dallas Museum of Art and extends through January  12th, 2014. The exhibition will then travel to join Untitled (2011) at the Walker Art Center. (via walker art center)

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Pamela Council’s Sculptures Made Of Fake Acrylic Nails

Pamela Council - Acrylic Nails, Paint Pamela Council - Acrylic Nails, Paint

Pamela Council - Acrylic Nails, Paint

Pamela Council - Acrylic Nails, Paint

New York-based artist and product developer Pamela Council creates sculptures using hundreds of fake acrylic nails. Putting together these tiny, mundane objects, she builds extraordinary busts, lanterns, and sculptures about Olympic athletes. Her socially-conscious work focuses on the deeper meaning of these objects. What kind of associations do we have with them? Council writes about her thought process, stating:

I take everyday objects and re-figure them as I consider their associations and power. The process begins with research and includes a dissection of the cultural implications of the product, from why it was created, to how and where it is made, sold, and used. This enables me to extricate the object from its commercial value and present it in sculpture. Through this process, the object becomes re-possessed.

Mass-produced objects that are used on the body interest me the most; recently, my focus has been almost exclusively on beauty products. As I continue to investigate these cultural artifacts, my goal is to create a new dialogue and awareness about the things that we collect, consume, and discard. Hopefully, it will encourage an analysis that eulogizes the significance of these objects even as it allows for a more critical view of their value. If it works, my art will serve as a proxy for the objects and psyches we decide we can live without.

Council created a sculpture titled, Flo Jo World Record Nails, which used 200 sets of the manicured nails that Florence Griffith-Joyner wore during the 1988 Olympics, when she set the 200 meter world record. Council painted each set and had them for sale. You too could harness the same power as Flo Jo – being young, extremely talented, all while remaining stylish.

You can visit Council’s Tumblr, Blaxidermy, for her photos, work in progress, and things she comes across in her day-to-day life.

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