When walking towards a painting by Anoka Faruqee your eyes refuse to settle. Turquoise, formed into an elongated triangular band, is pinched between two golden curves. The turquoise is misbehaving. Instead of sitting still it appears to flex and blend into the yellow. As you get closer the painting changes, and at arm’s length another dramatic shift occurs, the previous turquoise and gold bands of color atomizes into narrow, serpentine, overlapping lines with several more colors, no longer just turquoise and gold. Looking across the room your eyes settle on another painting. This square shaped canvas is a warm gray that seems to dance. Upon closer inspection the pleasantly worked surface transforms into a swirling design of forest green and cherry red lines. Faruqee calls this series of paintings the Moiré series, after the illusion with the same name. The history of Modern art is often told as a race towards extremes, but will that be true of 21st century art? Anoka Faruqee’s work seems to place less emphasis on ‘pureness’ than other abstraction. Faruqee’s work suggests that we can be more complex, and where artists over the past sixty years searched for the strongest statement, maybe our searches will lead in different, more nuanced directions.
Photographer Hassan Hajjaj‘s latest project focuses on the sub culture of young women bikers from Marrakesh. Titled the “Kesh Angels”, he created striking images of groups of women wearing colorful veils and djellabah straddling worn scooters and motorbikes.
They represent something quite traditional, yet also astoundingly subversive and daring.
The women all hold strong poses, and are somewhat confrontational. Hajjaj places them within bright and beautiful frames – choosing different images and symbols from the Medina, all with a distinct Pop Art feel.
Primarily a portrait photographer, Hajjaj is well versed in bringing out the colorful character of his subjects. He started his career taking photos of friends, artists, musicians and strangers on the streets of Marrakesh. His style perfectly embodies the social, active and vitality of the culture in northern Africa, while offering a glimpse into the more unknown aspects.
Using a slight hip hop influence, Hajjaj also reflects on issues of consumerism, branding and globalization and how these issues affect a place like Morocco. The subtlety and humor he uses to approach such complex subjects is very effective. Seeing these women in traditional clothing, branded with Nike is unsettling at the very least – and that’s not even mentioning the motorbike in the middle of the scenario. Engaging in what is usually a male dominated activity, these women are breaking many taboos, and display an easy confidence about it all.
Hajjaj has been involved in many projects aimed at raising awareness of the treatment and roles of women in Morocco. With such a strong visual language, he is definitely succeeding in capturing our attention.
Rachel Whiteread’s architectural installations are recognizable objects made with unexpected materials. A door made of resin that appears translucent pink, or a black mattress that looks like the leftover coals of a fire help to reconsider the objects possibilities and meanings. The mattresses say two very different things in white and black, made obvious also by the way the two are installed and documented. One lying flat in the middle of a decaying room appears totally dejected and quite violent. The white mattress is propped up against a wall, giving it a lighter look, as well as the actual condition of the room being more clean and the lighting more forgiving.
More epic in proportion is her “Water Tower” (1998) that is atop the Museum of Modern Art in New York, or her installation at Trafalgar square, “Monument” (2001) where she recreated, and placed the plinth upside down on itself. Presumably the water-tower is not able to function as such, and the plinth on top of a plinth is funny as well. Both are made of completely clear material, so they’re there but not. It’s a creative way to toy with materials and the viewers expectation and reaction to them, especially in object used in a practical sense, or ones with which we are well acquainted.
Alaina Varrone is a embroidery artist who, according to her, was born to a family of weirdos and storytellers. She uses this natural inclination to tell tales using thread which are often explicit and erotic in nature. We see naked men and women, sexual acts, and general kinkiness stitched into cotton fabric. Sometimes, Varrone will use delicate-looking floral patterns that add to the delightful absurdity of her work.
Typically, embroidery is seen as a craft, and an activity that’s a favorite among grandmothers (although it does have a thriving community of younger folks). It’s content is generally seen as inoffensive and family-friendly. Varrone has turned this convention on its head by sewing scenes that that are anything but. Her characters go after their desires and fantasies, creating an amusing juxtaposition between how we’re used to seeing embroidery versus all of its possibilities. (Via Juxtapoz)
The title “Skate Fails” evokes a series of aborted tricks and falls, but in the hands of ceramist Xavier Mañosa and Alex Trochut for Mañosa’s brand Appartau, it’s the skateboard itself that fails. Made for the San Francisco based company FTC, these ceramic pieces are ingenious riffs on skateboarding’s perils, from the accordion of an abrupt stop to the shattered pieces of a too rough ride. Even in this deconstructed form, the boards are recognizable thanks in part to the inclusion of skate trucks. Mañosa said:
“The idea comes from the attempt to translate the skateboard to Dali’s liquid clocks. Alex and I started experimenting with different kinds of liquids, like honey or acrylic paint, observing how it dripped and flowed. We applied these exercises to the ceramic skateboard, melting it and seeing how it burned and wrinkled. The outcome was the collection of melted boards.” (Source)
It’s a clever idea executed beautifully, in clear, bright colors, glossy metallics, and nebulous form. The curiously lovely distorted and broken forms serve also as grim reminder of the skateboard riders’ reality, where a stray rock or crack can mean a hospitalization or worse.
“Ceramics are fragile and if they fall they break; something very important in my work,” Mañosa said. “I don’t create indestructible things.” (Source)
Not indestructible, but bright, interesting, and utterly cool.
Since the internet, the never-ending evolution of words and phrases changes like the blink of an eye. These neon signs were created from the messy scrawl of Seattle-based artist Dylan Neuwirth. Plucking from modern day “web speak,” Dylan has made a collection of glowing emblems that mark our point in history, almost to the second. There’s nothing more attention grabbing than a neon sign, and this installation illuminates the oddities of modern day speech in a playful way. The universal appeal of this work is enhanced by the statelessness of it; words and phrases not directly from any one region or culture, but drifting out from the collective voice of the internet.
Neuwirth describes where he fits into it: “I see myself not as a regional artist or attached to any one place… I want to be everywhere. Make work that looks like it could be anywhere. To be singular and be synonymous at the same time. Like a totally underground electronic artist who infiltrates the top charts only to return to the murky depths again.”
You can’t help but think: what slang will we be using five years from now, one year from now, or even a month from now?
Swedish photographer Erik Johansson creates surreal photographs that capture the supernatural in the everyday. Although they’re obviously doctored, his skills make the compositions look as though they’ve really happened. We see a lot of things that take place in open spaces and nature, and Johansson’s subjects are shown literally sewing up a landscape, effortlessly rowing through a green field, and setting the ships in a painting free into the ocean.
Johansson looks at photography as a way to collect material and to realize the ideas in his mind. He looks at every new project as a challenge to make it as realistic as possible, and he often succeeds. It’s part of the fun that goes along with Johansson’s work, because we generally think of photography as a documentation of something that actually happened; seeing wintered ushered in via someone’s bed sheets, for instance, creates a delightful confusion. We know that there’s no way that this picture is possible, but Johansson has crafted it so realistically that for a second we might believe it.