David Rochkind Documents The War Against The Mexican Drug Cartels

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David Rochkind’s Heavy Hand, Sunken Spirit is a project about Mexico’s new normalcy: day-to-day violence and corruption due to Mexico’s violent drug war since the rise of former Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

Since his time in office, the battle against the country’s drug cartels has become a priority, and in consequence more than 50,000 people have been killed and kidnapped

The cartels in Mexico are ruthless, meting out an awesome brutality where heads are rolled into crowded discos and dismembered bodies are abandoned on busy streets.

Rochkind images intend to “frame the violence as a symptom”, as opposed to the problem. He is interested in documenting Mexico’s present situations in an unfiltered manner; he says, “when documenting this conflict it is important not to reduce what is happening to a series of nearly anonymous images of carnage that could be happening anywhere.” His honest imagery is not just about violence, though. In nutshell, these photographs tell a story, a present of people whom find themselves in these horrid yet mundane situations. The photograph’s rawness intend to offer a snapshot of history, essentially a set of documents that can be referred to later on, in order to answer questions and redefine Mexican culture in the future.

I chose to work on this project because it represents how a grand, intense struggle can be transformed into quiet, daily dramas that are woven seamlessly into the lives of those involved. I am drawn to extreme crises that become internalized, even routine, to the communities that they touch.

This work was published as a monograph by Dewi Lewis Publishing in December 2012 and was honored by PDN, photo-eye and Professional Photographer Magazine, as book of the year. The project has also been exhibited internationally, including at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Southeast Museum of Photography, the Blue Sky Gallery and others. (via feature shoot)

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Dylan Shields Reinvents Classical Sculpture Out Of Cardboard

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Dylan Shields, an artist based in London, creates sculptures that investigate the relationship between classical sculpture and contemporary materials.

The sculptures further explore and build upon the existent relationship between canonical works of art (in this case and its contexts within modern society by creating them out of cardboard, a relatively new (ish) material in the realm of art-making. He uses re-cycled cardboard and parcel tape to produce work that is at both familiar yet fresh by its original use of form and perspective.

“It has been a process of trial and error to perfect my style. One of the challenges of working with cardboard is the limitation of its flexibility. Also, sourcing the right colors has been difficult as I don’t paint the sculptures, so the colors have to come from the cardboard.”

(via ARTNAU and Junk Culture)

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Jenny Fine Reanimates Her Dead Grandmother

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American artist Jenny Fine creates Flat Granny, a life-sized cardboard cut-out of her grandmother. The artist is interested in creating a tangible ‘thing’ that would resemble her dear, and very influential relative. With this cut-out, she attempts to extend a relationship beyond death. Apart from the cutout, Fine goes a bit further and develops a more’ carnal’ approach to the cut-out of her grandmother…

In an interest to reanimate her still image, I turned Flat Granny’s photographic body into a costume.

The bizarre, yet endearing idea is inspired by Victorian traditions of post-mortem photography, as well as the novel concept of a Flat Daddy/Mommy , photographic cut-outs of deployed soldiers for their children/ family while the soldier is away at war.

The photographs you see here feel and look surreal. However, there is no way to escape these vibes when you are looking at an object that in essence represents the absence of someone dearly missed and loved. This project is personal, but it also goes deeper than just a moving gesture from a loving granddaughter. It brings forth the realities of our attachment to the physical world- and the physical body, as well as the lengths we would go to in order to fill that void we feel when we’ve lost someone important in our lives.

Can something like this do the trick? Or would it be just plain weird and inappropriate?

Cayce Zavaglia’s Incredibly Real Embroidered Portraits That Look Like Paint

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American artist Cayce Zavaglia considers herself a painter.  “Although the medium employed is crewel embroidery wool, the technique borrows more from the worlds of drawing and painting”, the artist comments on her statement.

Manipulating color, especially paint with a brush, is obviously easier than manipulating color with varying wool strings and needles. That seems kind of impossible, don’t you think? Zavaglia makes it looks like a seamless process, laborious but not too difficult to actually achieve.

“Initially, working with an established range of wool colors proved frustrating.”

Painterly portraits demand for loose brushstrokes and intermingling colors, varying tones, and contrasting hues; creating a technique that would allow her to do this with wool strings was something that Zavaglia struggled with. However, with time, she came up with a system of sewing the threads in a sequence that would ultimately give the allusion of a certain color or tone. The system allowed for the threads to mimic the depth,volume, and form that we are familiar with in paintings and color drawings.

My work unabashedly nods its head to the tradition of tapestry and my own love of craft. Using wool instead of oils has allowed me to broaden the dialogue between portrait and process as well as propose a new definition for the word “painting”.

Jan Fabre’s Macabre Remake Of The Pieta By Michelangelo

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I’m sure you recognize the reference here. In case you were in doubt, the Belgian artist Jan Fabre is reinterpreting the most iconic work of the renaissance, Michelangelo’s Pietà.

Michelangelo’s famous work of art depicts the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion.

Fabre’s interpretation gets personal, a little macabre, and a bit controversial…

In his rendition, Fabre places himself as Jesus with a butterfly perched on the side of his mouth. The heavy, dead-looking body wears a crisp, classy but torn suite. A closer look reveals a scarab at the edge of his cuff that is slowly drifting off towards the artist’s lifeless hand, which is tenuously holding on to a human brain.

The Virgin Mary’s face is replaced by a skull, which many would say is a reference to the Vanitas, the universal symbol of death.

The work was shown in Venice in 2011. This was in close relation to, but not a part of the 54th edition of the Venice Biennale. Given the place and the country (a very religious one) in which it was shown, you can image the controversy it created. The artist commented on the matter:

“is not to convey a blasphemous or even merely or provocative message. This work represents a “performance sculpture” that illustrates a mother’s real feelings when she yearns to take the place of her dead son.”

(via Exhibitionism and Flanders News)

Kevin Cooley’s Stunning Photographs Of Fire And Smoke

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Kevin Cooley creates Controlled Burns, a series of striking images that showcase swirling and imposing clouds of black, white, and gray smoke. Inspired by the communicative purpose of smoke signals during Papal conclave, the series focuses on ideas and actions dealing with communication, specifically human interactions with nature.

Cooley creates and manufactures the images himself, the smoke is real, and so is the fire creating it, but the artist here is rendering an image, controlling it and taking charge of something that can potentially be uncontrollable. The project is indicative of something we are well aware of, particularly our impotence yet possibility to control natural, powerful elements in our world. The paradox makes us contemplate on something we know, but do not really think about often.

Fire is a powerful natural force that we harness for greater good, and it is the only Classical element that we can create on demand. Yet, when out of control, it has the potential for grave destruction. Controlled Burns is a visual representation of this inherit duality, symbolic of our desire to conquer and control, reminding us that sometimes we must fight fire with fire.

Beginning January 11th, 2014, the Kopeikin Gallery will present Cooley’s work in UNEXPLORED TERRITORY, an interdisciplinary exhibition that explores “the limits of human exploration and our desire to conquer and control nature.” Themes range from colonial exploration of the American West, harnessing fire in the form of combustion to launch rockets into space, to anthropomorphic actions of everyday objects such as box fans, and helium balloons.

You Won’t Believe The Stunning Portraits Kumi Yamashita Creates Out Of Nails And Thread

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You might remember Kumi Yamashita from one of our October posts featuring her extraordinary collection of works with light and shadow. If you recall, Yamashita subtly manipulated materials such as paper, fabric and wood to strategically use lighting on them in order to create shadow art installations. Her imagination and impressive craft skills lead her to create this new ongoing series entitled Constellation (a title that references the Greek tradition of tracing mythical figures in the sky).

This body of work consists of three materials: a wooden panel painted a solid white, thousands of small galvanized nails, and a single, unbroken, common sewing thread. She creates these stunning portraits by using the single,unbroken thread wrapped around thousands of nails. The task at hand is laborious, but the result is well worth the work.

The Japanese artist’s piece from this collection, Mana (an 40h x 30w cm portrait of her niece), was recently selected as one of 50 finalists for the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, a triennial event being held at the Smithsonian Museum’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Yamashita’s artwork was selected from over 3,000 entries and is on display at the National Portrait Gallery until February 23, 2014. (via Twisted Sifter)

SpY Installs 150 Security Cameras On One Building. You Won’t Believe What They Catch On Camera!

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SpY, an urban/graffiti artist, installed 150 fake security cameras on a building façade in Madrid, Spain. The piece, titled CAMERAS, has no intention of watching over anything, the cameras are simply on the wall for show, rather, to make a statement about excessive surveillance in today’s world. As his website states, “SpY’s s work involves the appropriation urban elements through transformation or replication, commentary on urban reality, and the interference in its communicative codes.”

The repetitiveness, and overwhelming saturation of the cameras, imposes critical questions about cameras of any sort in our lives. Whether that might be security cameras, to a personal camera, to the camera on your phone or computer, we are surrounded by them in our urban landscape and personal space,they questions is: what are they really filming?

Cameras signify the documentation of something important, a bad or good event, but definitely not something mundane. If we are surrounded by cameras, we are also surrounded by the expectations of something grand, something bad or good always happening. This is too much of a burden.

SpY’s pieces want to be a parenthesis in the automated inertia of the urban dweller. They are pinches of intention, hidden in a corner for whoever wants to let himself be surprised. Filled with equal parts of irony and positive humor, they appear to raise a smile, incite reflection, and to favor an enlightened conscience.