Matt Hall’s Magical Animal Assemblages

Matt Hall - sculpture

Matt Hall - sculpture

Matt Hall - sculpture

Portland-based artist Matt Hall creates mixed media assemblages and large-scale ink on paper drawings.  He explores the connections between historic perceptions and our sense of wonder with the natural world.  As a child, Hall was fascinated with the ability of birds to fly, fish to breathe underwater and other amazing animal abilities.  Hall’s work incorporates animal parts with other found objects, sketches and notes in an attempt to re-create, analyze, and pay homage to the seemingly magical powers of animals.

There is also a keen interest in death in Hall’s work.  A piece with a snake and a mouse is most obviously about predator and pretty.  The title, however, Mithraicism, refers to the practice of inoculating a person against poison by administering non-lethal amounts.  The piece becomes a metaphor, or sorts, whereby you can’t be immune to death.
As written in Ampersand Gallery’s press release about their last exhibition with Hall, “[his] finely detailed assemblages bring to mind the dioramas & curiosity cabinets of natural history museums, yet on a deeper level they allude to the ritualistic strangeness of reliquaries, thereby serving as an intersection where notions of religion, science, folklore & quackery collide with the artist’s imagination.”  Exquisitely detailed, the animal parts in Hall’s assemblages have been broken and put back together.  Hall uses found road kill as the basis for his works.  Evoking the spiritual practices of animalistic religious whereby interaction with animal parts was thought to transfer magical and totemic powers, Hall is creating both object and mythology.

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Rachel Hecker’s Hand-painted Ephemera

Rachel Hecker - installation

Rachel Hecker - installation

Screen Shot 2013-09-26 at 9.34.16 AM

Based in the history of Pop Art, but with intentions wholly different, Rachel Hecker’s paintings and sculptures are blown up representations of those everyday items we think of (if we think of them at all) as disposable.  Handwritten lists, post-it notes, calendar scribbles, fortune cookie papers, receipts and pricing stickers are just a few of the items Hecker transforms into acrylic on canvas paintings.

Far more personal than the subject matter of the Pop artists, Hecker carefully recreates by hand each piece of ephemera.  Of these works she says:

“They contain vestiges of our intentions and our deeds, and are inadvertent diaries and forensic evidence of how we exist in the world.  These scraps of paper detritus anticipate or record a range of experience from the mundane to the exalted, from dull repetition to fancy, and from stasis to expectancy.”

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Jessica Stockholder Transforms City Streets Into Massive Colorful Installations

Jessica Stockholder - installation Jessica Stockholder - installation

Jessica Stockholder - installation

Jessica Stockholder’s work first caught my eye when I saw images of her Color Jam, a word play on “traffic jam,” installed in a downtown intersection in Chicago in 2012.  The installation included sidewalks, streets, buildings, windows and doors.  It was a three-dimensional painting, of sorts, incorporating color and texture.  Beyond that though, the comings and goings of  Chicago’s inhabitants, yellow taxicabs, blue buses etc. augmented the effects of the work.

Stockholder seeks to undermine the preciousness of art.  By occupying public spaces she forces interaction and engagement with the work.  Visitors, whether they want to or not, become a part of the process and installation.  For another work, Flooded Chambers Maid, 2009-10, Stockholder re-imagined a portion of Madison Square Park.  Enthused park visitors, environment and weather all interacted with the installation, giving life to an otherwise static work.

Sebastian Errazuriz Walks The Line Between Artist And Designer

Sebastian Errazuriz - installation 470c09b7eac811d4eb554e1f649a2261

Sebastian Errazuriz - sculpture

Chilean born, New York based artist and designer Sebastian Errazuriz is only 28 years old, but already his work has been auctioned at Sotheby’s Important Twentieth Century Design. He was selected as one of I.D. Magazine’s top emerging international designers, he received the title of Chilean Designer of the year in 2010, and his work has been exhibited at the many institutions such as the Cooper Hewitt, the National Museum of Design in New York, The Corning Glass Museum and in 2014 he will show at the Carnegie Museum of Art.

There is a humor to Errazuriz’s work that combines wit with a sense of irreverence. Opera d’ Inferno (Fireplace), for example, is a fireplace turned into a miniature theater set.  Or Duck Lamp, which consists of a taxidermy bird whose head has been replaced with a lamp.  Personal Registration of Time Passing are a series of previously owned wind up watches that have the hour and minute hands taken out.  Rather than indicating the time, they indicate that time is passing, so carpe diem and whatnot.

Errazuriz’s public works of art maintain the same sense of profane humor, but many of them also possess a semi-political tone.  Wall Street City, for instance, involved turning median markers into dollar signs.  American Kills is a mural, of sorts, depicting side by side the number of American soldiers killed in combat and those who died committing suicide in 2009.  In one of his more ambitions projects, Errazuriz rescued a cow from its inevitable death at a slaughterhouse and moved it to a recreated farm on the top of a 10-story building in Santiago, Chile.  The Cow became a rural icon existing in an urban environment.

As the most universally impactful works usually are, the affect of Errazuriz’s use of symbols and imagery is generally straightforward, but surprisingly efficient.  Blurring the lines between art and design with most of his work, mere objects become thought provoking and insightful.   It is exciting to see what an artist so young will do next.

Robert Lazzarini’s Distorted Sculptures Challenge Perception

skull (v), 2011

Robert Lazzarini - sculpture


Robert Lazzarini is best known as a sculptor.  But that is actually an oversimplification of what he does.  Walking the line between reality and illusion, Lazarrini creates compound distortions of common objects, challenging perception and what we understand to be the limits of the material world.

Lazzarini’s works are not mere deformities.  Using mathematical distortions and algorithm-based operations, such as mappings and translations, Lazzarini bases his alterations in reality.  Along the same lines, he chooses to fabricate the warped objects in their true material.  A skull is made of reconstituted bone, a hammer of wood and steel, etc.  This intense attention to detail is important to Lazzarini.  Earlier this year he and his team attempted to create a series of broken liquor bottle sculptures.  Despite consulting MIT experts and Dale Chihuly’s team the project was sidelined because it was too difficult to realize.  Such dedication and through research are major components of Lazarrini’s artistic practice.  Part of this obsessive thoroughness is his desire is to eliminate art-specific materials from his work.  In doing so the viewer’s experience is completely different.  There is a sense of authenticity, which makes the distortion all the more extraordinary.

Violence is another component of Lazzarini’s work and it extends beyond the fact that he chooses to work with guns, bullets, knives and skulls.  The objects themselves are disturbing, and the way they exist in our visual field is also disquieting.  We so want to make sense of them, to right the disfiguration so that we can easily understand them. Ultimately though, Lazzarini’s works completely refuse that possibility, making them all the more compelling.

Catch Lazzarini’s latest show, jam shot, at Dittrich & Schlechtriem in Berlin up now through November 2.

Paola Pivi’s Feathered Polar Bears


Paola Pivi - sculpture

Paola Pivi - sculpture

Last year Beautiful Decay featured Paola Pivi’s 360 Degree Rotating Airplane in New York City Plaza.  Pivi is making art headlines again with her fantastical feather-clad polar bears.  Influenced by the surrealists, Pivi’s plumed bears walk the line between dream and reality.  They are her version of the ready-made.  Prone to “visions,” Pivi says that she often sees animals located in a strange setting.  For her most recent show, entitled Ok, you are better than me, so what?, at Galerie Perrotin’s new space in New York, Pivi created a series of sculptures influenced by a vision she had of a polar bear dancing with a grizzly bear.  Rather than taxidermy actual animals, Pivi had an expert create bears from urethane foam, plastic, and feathers.  The results are fantastic in the truest sense of the word.  Meaning, they are imaginative, fanciful and slightly absurd.

In proper surrealist fashion the bears engage an element of surprise and unusual juxtapositions, which Pivi strives to create with all her work.  The bears, for instance, embody several contradictions.  All at once they are both real and whimsical, frightening and amusing, and serious and absurd.  Mostly though, they seem like a lot of fun.

Pivi has lived all over the world, but currently resides in New Delhi, India.  Her show that opened Sept 18th at Galerie Perrotin’s New York location will be up through October 26th.

Alois Kronschlaeger’s Architectural Interventions


Habitat, 2012


Spire, 2011

Alois Kronschlaeger - installation

Skylight Vitrine 2009

Austrian-born artist Alois Kronschlaeger creates work that exists at the intersection of art and architecture.  He is interested in environment and light, and in exploring time and space via geometry.  Often referring to his works as “architectural interventions,” Kronschlaeger is fascinated by the way viewers rearrange themselves within a space occupied by one of his interventions.

At times Kronschlaeger’s work feels surreal, as with Habitat, a large-scale installation in the Mammal Hall of the former Grand Rapids Public Museum.  For Site:Lab 2012 Kronschlaeger created what he called “a very awkward imagery of juxtaposition.”  He took the existing landscape of 27 habitat dioramas built in the mid-20th century and incorporated contemporary architectural interventions.  The impact of the combination of the organic and the geometric was strange and disorienting.   A viewer wonders about what is real and unreal, an inquiry that requires the him to further analyze his experience.

At other times Kronschlaeger’s work feels like pure science fiction, as with Spire, the massive installation he did for Site:Lab in 2011.  For this work Kronschlaeger’s installation occupied three floors of an abandoned commercial building in downtown Grand Rapids.  The work took over six weeks to create and the finished project was a grand demonstration of Kronschlaeger’s interest in environment, light and the ways new materials can revive and transform a space.

Kronschlaeger furthers his inquiries in his less dramatic works as well, such as his skylights, wall pieces and smaller sculptures, which I am particularly drawn to.  This fall he will finish a large work at MOCA Tuscon (see video below), and will then head to Beijing where he will create another site-specific structure.

Adela Andea’s Otherworldly Light Installations




Adela Andea’s light installations and sculptures seem otherworldly.  They almost feel organic, reminiscent of vivid underwater scenes, but the lights, wires and other tech that make them seem more like alien landscapes.  The Romanian-born, Texas-based artist seeks to explore the line between actuality and virtual reality.  Weaving LED and CCL lights with pulsing electrical components Andea creates installations that transport a viewer to a place where art becomes experience, and that experience is all encompassing.

Andea likes to think of her work as incorporating many layers of truth.  She embraces the possibility that there isn’t one reality, and her work strives to capture that notion visually. With the fast and overwhelming advancement of technology, Andea’s installations represent the dialogue between people and new technologies.  The desire for a viewer to have a personal experience with her work, but to also think about the way that information can be manipulated to form one’s notion of reality is the driving force behind her complex installations.

In her artist statement Andea writes: “The numerous transitions in my life made me think about the enormous capability of people to adapt to situations and even more, search for the new possibilities of personal development through inquisitive experiences.”  A witness to the Romanian Revolution in 1989, and eventually forced to immigrate to the United States in 1999, Andea is certainly qualified to make work that comments on the experience of experiences.

Her work is currently on view at the Texas Biennale, now through November 9th at the Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas.