The work of the street artist known as 108 is much like his pseudonym: simple and mysterious. Often large black masses of abstract street art inhabit walls. Devoid of most or any detail, these masses are frequently punctuated by bursts of color. In a way the colorful abstractions feel like offshoots or biological growths on the larger black masses. There is a larger flow to his murals that are somehow familiar. The shapes, the way interact with their surfaces, and the way in interacts with itself feels organic. 108 explains this idea in a 2006 interview saying:
“Usually I work in public spaces, you know, and the background is the most important thing. I must find a good shapes for that place, usually I prefer old walls and abandoned places, and my “thing” grow by it self, as a tree or moss did, but I know nature do that really better than me! It’s very hard for me to work on a blank white surface… in that situations I must find a good inspiration elsewhere, maybe in another work I did before or working with a good friend with good ideas.”
Other times his abstract murals almost hint at an iconography, symbols, or recognizable shapes. Like much abstraction there is a lot of room for interpretation. Still, he goes on to say:
“Most of my works come from my unconscious and are totally irrational. You can see the abstract, soft and gloomy shapes… My works are also very symbolic. The same old example of the wheel, I found it in my unconscious, it was a big fixation for me… usually I have drawn it with 8 rays inside… In fact it was the sun wheel, one of the most important symbol in ancient Indoeuropean cultures (you can find it in a lot of Indian and Celtic stuff). This is just one example.”
The engineering and design studio Bot & Dolly created the video Box. In it a simple flat surface is visually transformed in unbelievable ways. Projection mapping has been especially popular lately because of its extreme versatility among other things. For projection mapping a computer basically maps a surface, one often considered too irregular for traditional projection. The software’s images are then projected on precise locations on the surface. In this way projects can appear to interact with the surface or produce the illusion of depth. For the video Bot & Dolly seem to push the potential of projection mapping. Flat surfaces are attached to large robotics, thus the projection not only interacts with the nontraditional surface but also its movement. It does this so effectively that at times its difficult to remember the surface is indeed flat. Amazingly, all of the effects are in camera – that is, no special effects were applied after recording. After watching the video, its interesting to think about the potential use of such technology. Bot & Dolly go on to speak about the project saying:
“Box explores the synthesis of real and digital space through projection-mapping on moving surfaces. The short film documents a live performance, captured entirely in camera. Bot & Dolly produced this work to serve as both an artistic statement and technical demonstration. It is the culmination of multiple technologies, including large scale robotics, projection mapping, and software engineering. We believe this methodology has tremendous potential to radically transform theatrical presentations, and define new genres of expression.”
The human relationship with the natural world is a complex one that doesn’t seem to untangle anytime soon. With animal life increasingly being abused and habitats encroached upon anxiety is understandably mounting. Artist Chris Musina address these issues in painting and also sculpture. Musina depicts the uglier side of the human/animal relationship. Rather than highlight idyllic scenes of nature, he draws gruesome imagery of animal mistreatment to the forefront. Animal carcasses are often kept as trophies, dead souvenirs of a once living creature. Painting’s tradition of depicting killed animals is extensive – the fox hunt alone, for example, an entire genre. Appropriately, then, Musina’s animal carcasses are not there to be admired but act as animals condemning the viewer. They seem to be holding an accounting for their present condition in the painting as well as in a larger abstract sense. They act as a tool to deconstruct disassociation. Musina further explains his use of painting in addressing ecological and animal issues:
“Dealing directly with our increasingly volatile and uneasy relationship to the natural world, I draw from contemporary animal thought and a deep phylogeny of cultural cues. My work dismantles how we look at animals via “nature morte” painters, philosophy, hunting, museum dioramas, and the like. Manifested in life size compositions full of dark humor and bright color, I am addressing the animal as neither symbol nor object, but as subject, a subject aware of his or her own powerful symbolic nature. Painting represents the bulk of my practice precisely due to its place in the forefront of a history of representing animals. My paintings are populated with animal protagonists who stare back at the viewer in an uneasy gaze; aware of that place in our cultural history– asking for compassion, mercy, or simply to be put out of their misery.”
Transforming the two dimensional into three dimensions has obsessed artists for centuries. Benjamin Muzzin takes an interesting approach to this familiar challenge. Working in conjunction with the University of Art and Design, Lausanne, Switzerland (ECAL) created the video Full Turn. The piece seems to begin with a simple LCD screen television. Soon the screen is spinning quickly and the illuminated design seems to take on a certain depth. Due to the speed of the spinning screen the light blurs and nearly seems to produce a floating light sculpture.
The television screen embodies the two dimensional image, perhaps similarly to the way paintings had for previous centuries. Using a digital screen to “carve out” a sculpture of light is a challenge Muzzin was intentionally sought. He goes on to explain:
“With this project I wanted to explore the notion of the third dimension, with the desire to try to get out of the usual frame of a flat screen. For this, my work mainly consisted in exploring and experimenting a different device for displaying images, trying to give animations volume in space. The resulting machine works with the rotation of two screens placed back to back, creating a three-dimensional animated sequence that can be seen at 360 degrees. Due to the persistence of vision, the shapes that appear on the screen turn into kinetic light sculptures.”
Favio Martinez, better known on the street as Curiot, is a street artist based in Mexico City. His murals and paintings are especially colorful and complex. Curiot has a well-known and easily distinguishable style. Strange creatures populate his compositions. While each creature is definitely alien, Curiot creates them using familiar animal-like components. Often, these creatures are seen being worshiped by comparably tiny people giving the murals. In a way, this pulls Curiot’s work out of science fiction and places it more as a meditation and variations on Mexican Culture. The gallery statement from a recent solo exhibit at FFDG further explains Curiot’s inspiration:
“Curiot’s colorful paintings, featuring mythical half-animal half-human figures and scenes, which allude to Mexican traditions (geometric designs, Day of the Dead styles, myths and legends, tribal elements), are rendered in precise detail with a mixture of highly vibrant yet complementary colors. “Growing up in the States sort of gave me a diluted Mexican culture, I had no clue what I was missing out on until I moved back 10 years ago”, says Curiot. “The bright colors, folklore, ancient cultures and the beautiful handcrafts are some of the things that I embraced and which influence my work deeply”. The 11 new paintings in “Age of Omuktlans” tell the story of man’s distance from his natural path as he focuses his energy on satisfying his material pleasures and the dystopia this creates.”
Artist Matthew Craven primarily works in collage. His work, however, diverges from a lot of typical collage styles. Craven doesn’t juxtapose found imagery to create an effect from the contrast. Rather, he sources imagery of what seems to be ancient archaeological artifacts. The black and white images resemble the photographs of old issues of National Geographic. Further, the way Craven assembles the images doesn’t seem an attempt to draw disparities. Instead, he almost appears to categorizing objects, setting up classifications without labeling. Still, his work is fine art and not an exercise in archaeology. Craven doesn’t offer easy conclusions – there is no simple reading of history to be gotten in his work. Rather, Craven looks back at history with his collaged images as art does. It underscores the difficulty in reducing human history to one accurate narrative. The gallery statement of his current solo exhibit at DCKT Contemporary further explains:
“Archaeological remains and ruins act as backdrops for forming crypto-historical collages and drawings. Images from lost cultures, relics and landscapes both well-known and extremely ambiguous create the patterns within the works. The results are compositions that highlight a new connection to our past in an aesthetic that is intended to be both cinematic in scope and visionary in perspective. Understanding that our view of history is deeply flawed and inherently biased, we are left with a puzzle of strange pieces. Oblivious Path combines these puzzle pieces into a new framework. Some of these pieces appear to fit together despite thousands of years and tens of thousands miles separating these ancient civilizations. Using source materials from historical texts, Oblivious Path scrambles our current notions of space and time. The powerful images we are left with cannot be reinterpreted, translated or disregarded. What is left was carved in stone. It is permanent. They are our sacred truths.” ( via the jealous curator)
Generic Art Solutions is a duo made up of artists Matt Vis and Tony Campbell. The two artists comment on present day anxiety by re-imagining classic paintings. Their photographs are carefully staged, often to resemble classic works of art. Their images are clearly populated with subjects, clothing, and settings that are all modern. However, the compositions immediately bring to mind the paintings of Caravaggio, Goya, and Marat. Perhaps a reason the images of the classic artwork and re-imagined in the duo’s photographs are still relevant is because people have never moved beyond the anxieties and problems that plagued us centuries ago. The gallery statement for their upcoming exhibit at Miami’s Mindy Solomon Gallery expounds on that point:
“The work of Generic Art Solutions (whether it be a photograph, performance, video, or print) begins with a thoughtful re-examination of the human condition, and the effect of recurring cycles of technological advancements and cultural awakenings. But, how much has mankind really evolved? Aren’t we essentially still making the same mistakes? According to the artists, it would certainly seem so. Compare Gericault’s famed painting ‘The Raft of the Medusa,’ 1819, to the G.A.S. representation of Deepwater Horizon’s oil spill in April 2010, as depicted in their photographic work ‘The Raft’ (2010): these two artworks portray shockingly similar tales of human suffering brought on by corporate greed. Or, take Delacroix’s ‘Liberty Leading the People’ commemorating the French Revolution in 1830, and the perpetual revolutionary uprisings of the Arab Spring as seen in G.A.S.’s ‘Liberty,’ 2011. The artists state: “However evolved we may think we are, the folly of human behavior is still the root of all societal (dis)functions. This is a sobering thought that demands attention. But there is a message of hope in these contemporary homages: through thoughtful reexamination and a commitment to change, we can break the cycle of repeating our mistakes.”
Nøne Futbol Club is a duo of Paris based artists. They work in a wide variety of mediums and forms from video to installation. However, nearly all of their work seems to be tied together by a certain mischievous sense of humor. Though not always overtly political, the duo’s art is definitely subversive. For example, consider Lift a Finger, the first piece pictured here. The maneki-neko, usually a statuette of a welcoming or beckoning cat suddenly becomes hostile with a simple change of hand gesture. The pharase “KEEP WARM BURNOUT THE RICH” is turned into a branding iron. The implement not only burns, but more importantly is a tool for displaying and designating ownership.
Nicolas Rosette goes onto describe the duo’s practice saying:
“Nøne Futbol Club is a duo that is capable of mobilizing as many accomplices as necessary to make their works and performances.
The playful component is inseparable from their creative process which tackles the world like a playground for the expression of an art whose nature has continually bordered on the cellophane of the white cube and the great palaces must take the risk of being a mass distribution product. The recursive principle in their work is reversal. It is not about diverting elements from pop culture(or popular culture, the term changing depending on whether this culture comes to us from one side or the other of the Atlantic Ocean) but of a reversal whose final address is always popular culture. A double inversion, whose process of revelation reflects back to us as in a mirror the possible destiny of an art world which has become less subtle than the current popular media cultures; whose practices of critical and jubilatory diversions are the foundation. Would the Nøne Futbol Club be applying to contemporary art what digital cultures have subjected Chuck Norris, the pope and Darth Vader to?”