The Square is a series of photographs by Korean artist Seokmin Ko. Someone in each photograph can be found holding a mirror toward the camera. Given, the mirror is more easily found in some photographs than others. Still, the mirror in somewhat hides the person holding it, the reflection blending in with the background. This is essentially a camouflage that works by imitating its surroundings. Ko alludes to this in his statement, and draws similarities to social situations. Peer pressure for conformity and social norms compel people to use such a social camouflage. That is to adopt behavior that mimics surrounding groups in order to hide a person’s individuality. Still, fingers peek from behind the mirror – perhaps an allusion to the persistence of individuality.
Of course there are several ways to read Seokmin Ko’s work. Like a mirror it reflects interpretations singular to each viewer. Ko’s most recent solo exhibition illustrates this. Interestingly the curater presents an entirely different approach to the series. In part, the gallery statement brings out:
“Ko is an artist of his own time. The mirrors and reflective glass make more sense as portals to other dimensions—dimensions perhaps similar to ours or radically different. The patterning reflected in the mirror is never a seamless match with the mirror’s immediate surroundings; these works are not about tricking the viewer. In Ko’s images, the human, as the carrier of artifice, is a kind of discrepancy and belongs neither in the natural world nor in the constructed world. This is obvious in the architectural photographs where the human presence disrupts the dehumanizing machine-made grid. Ko’s is a humanist vision amidst a world that has become foreign to its inhabitants as creators, but as Einstein famously said, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” Ko’s disruptions offer hope.” [via]
Artist Brian Adam Douglas makes use of a unique process. Before exhibiting at galleries, Douglas began his practice on the streets of Brooklyn under the name ELBOW-TOE. His distinctive style was easily spotted as he used wood cuts, charcoal, collages, and stencils throughout New York City. Douglas has since further developed his process, style, and subject matter. He has retained his painterly style that could be found in his street art and paintings. However, Douglas now applies this to a special kind of cut paper art or collage work. In fact, he prefers to call it “paper painting”. Douglas paints individual parts of paper precise colors and carefully cuts them. All of these small pieces are then often adhered to a wood panel to create one painting-like composition. While he has often focused on individual people, Douglas has now ‘zoomed out’ in a sense. His work now often encompasses entire landscapes or scenes. These scenes frequently touch on natural disaster and specifically the way people cope with them. The statement of his current exhibit at Andrew Edlin Gallery further describes this style:
“Virtually all of the works in Douglas’ new series deal with the rebuilding of life and purpose in the wake of catastrophic deconstruction brought on by natural disasters and climate change(including overt references to Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy). They are not merely about the breaking down of things but about an innate capacity to cope with disaster and the rehabilitation of purpose. Spending up to half a year on a single piece, Douglas’ laborious process demands a pictorial integrity where nothing is wasted and everything serves his intensity of purpose. Forgoing the relative ease and fluidity of the brush stroke, the artist methodically builds his compositions through shards of color incised from sheets of paper he has painted, forging a novel way to combine painting and collage into a singular hybrid.”
Artist Andres Serrano‘s series of photographs The Morgue investigates ideas of death and our relationship with it. Working with a forensic pathologist Serrano photographed the bodies with a near classical beauty rarely associated with the morgue. Serrano ensured the anonymity of each person through tight cropping or veiling the face. The way in which the light interacts with the bodies and their veils is reminiscent of Italian baroque painting. The chiaroscuro of each photograph seems to underscore some mystery behind death balancing the morgue’s comparatively cold analytic approach. Further, the careful attention to detail and composition dignifies each person. Each subject, some actually unknown persons, are considered individually as initial shock gives way to contemplation and reflection. However, these are not sentimental images. There still remains a certain emotional detachment, a terrible loneliness in death, and Serrano’s intention is ambiguous. Each photograph’s title is each subject’s respective cause of death, and have been inserted in each photographs’ caption. Also, please note: Some may consider these photographs to be graphic and/or disturbing. (via boum!bang!)
Italian street artist Agostino Iacurci is one prolific muralist. His signature style has popped up around the globe in unique locations. The first image, one of the largest murals I’ve ever seen, dominates the side of a skyscraper in Taiwan. Consider the second set of photographs which can be found inside the walls of a maximum security prison near Rome. The third set is over 985 feet long and on a school in the Western Sahara. Iacurci’s singular narrative-like style has seen exhibitions and walls both small and large is a story told globally.
The Metamorphosis Series by artist Shi Shaoping is a poetic look at life. Shi created 3,000 ceramic eggs over the course of a year. Each egg weighs about 22 pounds and as a group come in at about 48 tons. The eggs were then taken to some of China’s loneliest locales. From grassland to beach, deserts, and mountains, the ceramic eggs were spread out on the ground. The entire project was documented with photographs and videos.
In a way The Metamorphosis Series is as much a site specific installation as it is a performance. Shi set before himself an intentionally difficult project, one that would entail hard work, a journey, and perhaps transformation. Like the egg, these too are a symbol of life. However, they clearly also point toward potentiality – the field of eggs seems poised to hatch. The exhibition statement goes on to relate about the project:
“Shaoping is like a fortuneteller who uses the 3,000 giant eggs to remind people of the weight of life. The beauty of the work is the unpredictability, and the unlimited imagination it brings. The fragile yet vigorous eggs of life emphasizes that we eventually have to respect every single living thing in the universe. The sands may cover the frost-glazed castle; the soaring fallen leaves may blanket the ground. The persistence and power of life, however, will fight against the mediocrity and itself. The contradiction is the language Shaoping’s looking for to express his world of Metamorphosis. This triggers the speculation and discussion on contemporary art and life value.”
Artist Jeffrey Gibson blends art histories and cultures with seeming effortlessness. His work isn’t the pastiche of past decades, a witty pairing of disparate influences. Rather, Gibson’s work appears more to be rooted in contemporary remix culture. Portions of modern and contemporary art styles inhabit art pieces along traditional Native American artwork with an inclusiveness that’s refreshing. Interestingly, the gallery statement of his latest exhibit at Shoshana Wayne Gallery notes:
“This mash-up of visual and cultural references comes from the artist’s Choctaw and Cherokee heritage, moving frequently during his childhood—to Germany, Korea and the East Coast of the U.S. , and his early exposure to rave and club cultures of the 1980s and 1990s. Gibson cites that the sense of inclusiveness and acceptance, the celebratory melding of subcultures and an idealistic promise of unity all galvanized by the DJ’s power to literally move an audience to dance to his beat, continues to serve as a primary inspiration for his inter-disciplinary practice.”
Still, the way in which the Native American styling especially stands out makes the Native American artists largley left out from the discourse of modern art history conspicuous. The gallery statement continues about this relationship: “The paintings are done on elk rawhide stretched over wood panels. Gibson arrived at this format after years of looking at painting techniques found in various non-Western art histories, of paintings on shields, drums and parfleche containers (animal hides wrapped around varying goods). The paintings also read within a modern and contemporary art context whereas artists from the 1950s and 1960s were looking towards traditions such as Native American and Oceanic art to create ideals of spirituality, animism and purity. One can infer artistic influences from Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly, and Donald Judd.”
It’s in this way that Gibson inserts himself and his heritage into art history: by this smart mixing and remixing, and an artist’s eye at the past.
Photographer Martin Klimas‘ series “What Does Music Look Like?” is a fun attempt at answering that very question. He uses paint as a vehicle for sound. Klimas places brightly colored paints on a surface that sits just above a speaker. Playing loud music such as Kraftwerk or Miles Davis makes the paint splatter above the speaker with the vibrations making it “dance”. The paint jumps and splattes while being captured by the camera. Klimas snapped approximately 1,000 photographs to capture the set.
Perhaps more so than any other form of art, street art has the capacity to engage with the neighborhood its found in. The work of artist Ernest Zacharevic, also known simply as ZACH, takes this to a literal extent. ZACH’s murals are often found interacting with features of the building or objects nearby. A bike leaning against the wall becomes a vehicle for a spray painted child or dock posts become giant pencils. ZACH highlights the life of the city in a way by actually making it come alive. The walls seem poised to interact with passersby, and encourage engagement.