In 1951, surrealist artist Salvador Dali teamed up with photographer Philippe Halsman to create In Voluptas Mors or Voluptuous Death. A black and white photograph, this image is simultaneously strange, complex, and alluring. It features a giant “skull,” a living picture that is made up of seven nude female models that took three hours to arrange and photograph. The final product has the artist standing next to the skull, looking like the ring leader of a circus. And, in many ways, he is.
Additional photos have recently surfaced that reveal some behind-the-scenes moments of In Voluptas Mors. Not only do we see the apparatuses needed to hold the models, but we see how the skull was constructed with bodies. From the looks of it, there was a process of getting one section of the skull situated and balanced. This would repeat until the structure was stable enough to be captured on film.
In Voluptas Mors was not the first time that Dali and Halsman collaborated, nor was it the last. They originally met in 1941 and worked together over the course of 30 years. All of their efforts were eventually published in a 1954 compendium titled Dali’s Mustache, an homage to the artist’s facial hair. Check out the upcoming exhibition at The Musée de l’Elysée, which runs from January 29 until May 11, 2014 to see these images in person.
Spain based street artist Ruben Sanchez has a peculiar artistic style. His work can be found internationally (his latest, the top photograph, created in Dubai). However, his home of Spain can be found in his artwork anywhere its painted. Influences such as Picasso’s Cubism or Miro’s Surrealism are clear in his spray painted mural. He goes on to say of the influences that can be found in his work:
“If you dissect any of my artworks in an operating room you will find graphic design, tribal art, graffiti, cubism, skateboard culture, 90’s and 80’s music, flamenco, social situations and a kaleidoscope among others.”
At times strangely numb, and at other points echoing a modernist affection for the coldest of structures and surfaces, the most recent work by Philadelphia painter Erin Murray certainly doesn’t lack in focus. Murray’s fixation on the bland, eerily coded architecture of American cities reveals an underlying criticism (or slightly tongue-in-cheek reference) to the simultaneous banality and sinister intentionality that exists in the spaces around us. Rather than allowing these ever-present backdrops of contemporary life to fade quietly into the background, she brings them forward in the hopes that the viewer will find the same suspicious significance in each graphic, expertly rendered façade.
Where her graphite works are dark and slightly ominous, the lush, surrealistic landscapes Murray has sketched out are deliciously disorienting. As a group, they reflect a curious interest in space, place and structure—something that might eventually push Murray’s works off the page and into the 3D realm.
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.
Emile Morel creates surreal digital illustrations reminiscent of whimsical childhood fantasies such as The Neverending Story and Where the Wild Things Are. His illustrations depict dream worlds, often with children, and heavily feature anthropomorphic characters rife with bestial and primal imagery. His work is evocative of fairy tales, complete with a dark and foreboding element encapsulated in the “grotesque” nature of some of his figures and human animal hybrids. Intimate and highly allegorical, Morel’s attention to detail, especially in this medium, is impressive.
Kim Tucker’s ceramic sculptures are burly messes of gender– exorcising primal desires, akin to a Bukowski or Fante novel, with a dash of Freud, but crafted with more of a surrealistic feminine charge. Each nude, for example, sexually and emotionally gestures at our gentle need for communion from one body to the next, illustrating psychologically how we bleed failure, rejection, isolation or loss.
KCRW’s Laura Schumate laments on each figure’s soft absorption: “There’s a desire to protect them like your own children or a friend, while acknowledging their familiar sorrow within yourself.”
On that note, the entire menagerie evokes not only Tucker’s inner children, but also our own, as they engage in “psychological storytelling”– narrating open wounds we are inclined to protect, lick, mother, or share: a deep commiseration over the tragedy of bodily confinement.
Ron Ulicny is a Portland-based artist who creates “viscurrealistic fabrications”, sculptural works that draw their impact from surreal change-ups in material selection. A vintage bowling pin is sliced open, and a nocturnal forest is inserted into its midsection. A hand saw’s blade is replaced by multiple paintbrushes. I wasn’t necessarily surprised, when going through the artist’s portfolio site, to find quotes from Jasper Johns, Magritte, Duchamp, and Rauschenberg, each of whom are pretty clear influences on Ulicny. But, even in emulation, Ulicny’s work is completely singular. He knows his materials so well (where does he find some of these things?), and his execution might be a little cleaner than some of his heroes. You’re gonna want to check out more of the artist’s works, so find a selection below, but hit up his website and tumblr to get the full picture.
Min Kim’s collages tend to evoke many feelings at the same time. While they seamlessly combine an almost naive poetic narrative with impeccable skill and adult morals, they offer us a visual language founded both in Korea and America. Kim’s manga-like figures seem to exist in a world where flora and fauna blend together with the earth and the sky, constantly evolving into each others forms. She combines the emotive strengths of Asian comics with the heritage of the psychedelic surrealism of the seventies.
The story of western contemporary art is only of use to her in the most superfluous way, she certainly doesn’t dwell on the past. Instead she looks for visual traditions in different cultures and tries to express their essence in her work. This cultural potpourri is translated to her own language of form and technique, which may be as diverse as her inspiration. We can view the end result as a whole of vibrant color, skilled paper craft and a sense of honest innocence. The stylized figures in her works are often drawn in grey, in contrast with their surroundings. Still, the stories she tries to tell are about blending, about the changing of form and about always becoming. These seemingly contradicting choices symbolize the feeling of being both the same and the other. A feeling all too common in today’s multicultural civilization.