Artist Kate MacDowell uses porcelain clay to craft her nature-inspired works. MacDowell’s works are realistically sculpted and meticulous. Hollowing out a solid form and building each piece leaf by leaf and feather by feather, she intimately involves herself with the process of building. The works themselves are beautiful, ghostly white and evoke a very serene feeling. Upon a closer examination, however, things aren’t quite right. A large bird has human hands instead of its normal claws, and an apple has a tiny skull inside of it. Mice have ears on their backs. MacDwell explains in a statement, writing:
In my work this romantic ideal of union with the natural world conflicts with our contemporary impact on the environment. These pieces are in part responses to environmental stressors including climate change, toxic pollution, and gm crops. They also borrow from myth, art history, figures of speech and other cultural touchstones. In some pieces aspects of the human figure stand-in for ourselves and act out sometimes harrowing, sometimes humorous transformations which illustrate our current relationship with the natural world. In others, animals take on anthropomorphic qualities when they are given safety equipment to attempt to protect them from man-made environmental threats. In each case the union between man and nature is shown to be one of friction and discomfort with the disturbing implication that we too are vulnerable to being victimized by our destructive practices.
The careful construction and fragility of material MacDowell has chosen coincides conceptually with her work.
Walter Robinson creates amusing sculptures that work as witty social criticisms about consumerism and popular culture.
I’m fascinated by the human drive to possess material objects and by our intransigent attachment to the things we own. In my work I investigate the ways that consumer products have been crafted to perpetuate hunger for more. Brand and corporate logos, mascots, cartoon characters, advertising text and signage are the semiotic sources I draw from.
Robinson subverts meanings of familiar brands and Western cultural symbols by tweaking their scale, context and color.
With marketing and adverting psychology in mind, Robinson uses seductive surfaces, saturated color, bling and glitter to draw his audience to examine their own relationship to consumer culture and it’s effect on the environment and world events.
Olivier Ratsi‘s latest project Onion Skin is an attempt to create an unreachable plane by physical means. Two walls are connected at 90 degree angles, and a series of visual light displays plays simultaneously off of the joined walls, created a uniquely intangible, unreachable dimension. This type of work is typically elaborate for Ratsi, who describes his works as “The deconstruction or fragmentation acts mainly as an emotion trigger, which does not aim at showing what things could be, but more at questioning their references.”
Shapes that begin to form are quickly changed, morphing into others and blending into a seemingly 3-Dimensional landscape. Ratsi, who is also the co-founder of visual art label AntiVJ, gives the viewer a sound component to coincide with Onion Skin‘s hypnotic geometric shapes overlapping, peeling and unfolding. Ratsi explains, “Its aim is to generate a break with the meaning of the original items, to propose a new viewing angle and to provide the public a new field of experience, another way of looking at space and time.”
Onion skin is currently installed in Belo Horizonte, Brazil (until November 30th, 2013), after which it will be included at an exhibition at the Parque Lage in Rio De Janeiro (December 7th and 8th, 2013). (via designboom)
American artist Phillip K. Smith III found inspiration from the most basic of places in his recent project, Lucid Stead. Taking a small cabin which had been slowly eroded by the harsh environments of the Joshua Tree Desert for seventy years, Smith III modified the existing structure, adding mirrors between aged wood slats and changing LED panels to the door and window frames. By day, the desert scenery is reflected upon the modified mirrored slats, while the piece illuminates the desert landscape by night. The artist explains Lucid Stead, “This project is about tapping into the desert, into the pace of change, and is about responding to the quiet of the place. And ultimately, in that quite, the project begins to unfold.”
While the piece has a decidedly aesthetic-first quality, Smith explains that there are four ideas at play in Lucid Stead - “Light and Shadow” (the interaction with the sun, and changes in the reflections of its light), “Reflected Light” (within the mirrors, using the desert as a medium placed on the shack), “Projected Light” (the LED lights within the shack, pure color illuminating the cracks and openings of the structure), and “Change” (the shifting colors of the lights, which change so slowly as to be almost unnoticed). Smith III continues, “The project really is about slowing down…stopping and being quite so you can truly see and listen.” (via from89 and designboom, additional images via Kevin Smith, archinect)
Los Angeles-based artist Patrick Martinez (previously featured here) not only works with the messages that are seen daily on Any Major Inner City Street USA, he also uses the favored communication method of the majority of these messages to give additional contextual weight to his artistic turns of phrases. While Martinez has been lauded as The Man in Art & Design 2013 (Complex Magazine), Latinos on the Rise as well as Artist on the Rise at Scope Miami, it seems to sell the artist’s work short by boxing it in to an ethnic or inner-city-only messages, considering the crux of his work focuses on themes (consumerism, globalism, mental and physical health, violence, money, race, and a multi-cultural future) which effect the broadest ranges of a global society. To simply state that he uses the vernacular of the disenfranchised would be limiting the unique, darkly-egalitarian perspective Martinez brings to his work, as well as the implication against an unnamed force that keeps the Everyman (no matter their ethnicity or background) from achieving the most basic of human goals.Martinez expands on this idea, “People feel it’s accessible, complex but it still invites. It’s like a kiss on the cheek and a punch to the gut all at the same time. It’s not elitist, but relatable.”
While many of the artist’s works freely delve into multimedia (the combination of still-life realism painting with neon sign craftsmanship), Martinez’s works statement claims a simpler message. “Patrick focuses on the phenomenology of his surroundings. He brings sublime beauty to things that aren’t thought of as conventionally beautiful. He uses subject matter such as everyday people that aren’t usually painted into the limelight and elements of the city that would be thought of as objects we take for granted.”
Martinez’s upcoming exhibition, Buy Now, Cry Later at Public Functionary in Minneapolis, MN, promises to continue this tradition simultaneous cultural exploration and criticism. By focusing a glowing eye on the viewer, Martinez builds metaphors of consumption and the unending needs of Capitalism and the Human Spirit in the modern world. Buy Now, Cry Later opens Friday, November 15th and runs through Friday, December 20th.
Joe Black is an artist who uses Pop Art against itself. Collecting iconic imagery (often choosing those which have already been famously exploited by other artists), Black creates large-scale hued portraits using copious amounts of consumer items. One of many artists using collected masses of materials into larger mosiac-style works, Black claims that he is open to using any material as long as it is small and plentiful (past pieces have used Lego pieces, toy soldiers, pins, ball bearings, badges) and relates to the source image. These images, which are best seen from a distance of fifty feet, offer a contextual surprise for viewers upon closer inspection.
Though trained as an artist and painter, Black claims to be uncomfortable labeling himself a professional artist, preferring to consider his work more based on image-making and craftsmanship. One such aspect is the time-consuming application of several thousand smaller pieces which make up his whole images, which Black hand-alters by using aerosol to add tones that give gentle gradients which become the lines and shading of the portrait. (via u1u11)
Using repetitious and precise cuts, artist Robbie Rowlands manipulates objects and environments. They are monumental manipulations and demand your attention the moment you see them. He installs his work in abandoned homes, school yards, and gymnasiums,using elements from the space to create his sculptures. Doing so gives the place or object a mind of its own. The walls breathe and the floor is alive.
Writer Simon Cooper wrote about the work in an essay that accompanied Rowlands’ Disintegration exhibition in 2008. Despite the time passed, I find that his analysis is still apt for the artist’s current body of work. Cooper writes:
Rowlands bases his sculptural work on things that exist at the fringes of our awareness, utilitarian objects such as lampposts or desks. He refashions them into something altogether different yet in a way that never allows their original identity to be shed. The mass produced and functional designs are softened and framed in terms of a new aesthetic, giving the object a renewed energy or sensibility. The effect is to reveal hidden potential in what had come to be regarded as outmoded. If the former object is largely unrecognizable in the new sculpture, the process is not one of violence, rather there is a sense of redemption, as if the object has been liberated from obsolescence, from forgetfulness.
Rowlands repurposing gives us the opportunity to remember the thing or place, but place it in an entirely new context. Sometimes, the way something is cut and later posed feels like a cartoon. Take, for instance, the basketball hoop that has been cut. Seeing this hoop laying on the ground, like a turtle on it’s back, is simultaneously comical and sad. We’re reminded that while it has no practical use anymore, it didn’t before it was manipulated. Rowlands has saved it from total obscurity.
Tatiana Blass built a human body that leans over the spine of a chair. She built this body out of wax and gave it a spotlight to shine; however, its glow not only illuminated, but also curdled the figure’s shape with heat. Arms broke off and bone emerged. Soon the body itself was only spine.
Spine against spine.
On another day, at another location or time, Blass built another body, a lying down one. The heat was not on the back, but instead rising from below. The body melted and there was no bone. Only a puddle of wax, something similar to where the body began.
The dissolution is the performance, the performer is the object: it moves to mirror our horror, to show its aliveness: our aliveness.
This concept of sculpture as a temporary structure feels relative to Urs Fischer’s own monolithic candlelit figures which also weaken over time. Both generate a sense of narrative that we relate to instantly– feelings of loss or devastation amidst chaos. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. Wax to wax. What slips through our fingers: a certain temperature from day to day. We cannot gauge. An inevitable ritual.
The music must come to an end, and it does, especially for Blass’s other installation (video above), as Thiago Curry pounds five easy pieces on the keys, while two men pour melted paraffin into the grand piano.