Walking up to the brick façade of an industrial NYC building, the rumble of a freight elevator vibrates through the entrance until it creeeeeaks to a halt on street level. The gate lifts. Paul Brainard pushes one foot down onto the bottom half of the freight elevator door so I can climb inside. Genial and quick, he leads me through a warren of artists’ studios, every space is spilling over with the alchemical instruments of the artist: tools, canvases, and paint. Nestled against a large window is Paul’s studio with a drawing table and painting shelf. After a few pleasantries, he reaches into a plywood painting rack and rotates with a golden frame that catches the evening light in a bloom of yellow. The drawing inside is so thick with gunmetal tone graphite it hardly resembles paper. Underneath glass, some images are suspended like intricate seahorses, in a thought-space, thick and transparent, like gelatin. Other images appear to dance languidly on the metallic ground. Paul talks briefly, painfully, about how both his parents passed away this year. He shows me a tattoo on his arm from an old New England gravestone rubbing. Everything, the language, people in his life, and images in his drawings, are appearing and receding like a tide. Paul addresses this topic we all eventually face with a solo show, My body is a grave, opening October 6th at the Second Street Gallery in Charlottesville, Virginia.
source Do you like the arts? (Spoiler alert: if you are browsing this website, you probably do). Do you believe that more people should have access to art and have the chance appreciate original artwork from their local community? Good. Now, do you like bingo?
If you are wondering what one has to do with the other, then you must have missed last week’s Art Bingo event with the Art Connection – a nonprofit program established in 1995 that connects artists and donors to community service organizations through the placement of original artwork. The charity finds homes for art pieces (donated by local artists and collectors) in healing environments, where the artworks serve to enliven the spaces and become points of inspiration that allow their recipients opportunity for reflection, comfort, and hope.
“instagram logo copyright free Virginia S” (CC BY 2.0) by vastateparksstaff
What is art? Well, if Edgar Degas was right and art “is not what you see” but “what you make others see”, then art can be anything. However, what if the vision someone else has isn’t quite what you expected? And what if this vision is bound by a ton of T&Cs? This kind of issue has become prominent since visual material has taken over social media.
When Instagram first launched in 2010 it was a social network where users could share their personal pictures. Since then, it has grown and evolved into a platform where businesses, social influencers and even artists can showcase their work.
New York based artist James Connolly gives old and worn out record covers a new spin. The artist transforms each one by hand painting fun scenes within the given content, turning calm and commercial images into outlandish and other worldly painted depictions. The artist finds these used records in junk shops and revives them through manipulating their covers to become fun, psychedelic, and slightly bizarre. His works transform singing beauties into strange oblong creatures, it melts and merges the flesh of trumpet players, it implants nature where is does not belong (such as trees growing from eye sockets and fungi from faces), it even gives shrimp heat ray vision and adorns a “Top of the Pops” dancer with a ribbon of sausages. Perhaps the most interesting of these works are those which almost act as a play on color theory. Connolly disappears figures into perfectly mixed hues that blend bodies into backgrounds, allowing them to fully be a vehicle for shape and pattern. There is a very fun a vintage feel to these works, even outside the reality that they are, in fact, vintage. There is a hyper specific handling of imagery that does truly speak to the illustration style of the 70s which promotes a certain aspect of fluidity. There is a sort of quiet contemplation, and if you can almost follow the artists train of thought and innocent playfulness. This series seems like an excellent exercise in creativity.
Chad Wys is an artist, designer, and writer from Illinois. Inspired by postmodern thought, Wys’ works examine the reproduction of the image, and the way plural images—as superficial iterations of an original object—operate on us to suggest a sense of meaning and worth.
This theoretical approach is brilliantly exemplified in Wys’ Readymades series, featured here. The Readymades consist of found busts and ceramics that Wys has adorned with eye-popping colors, bold gradients, and silvery tears. By re-contextualizing objects of “antiquity” with garish, modern color schemes, Wys compels the viewer to contemplate their feelings and values in relation to such objects. He explains further on his website:
“By retooling the object and then re-presenting it for the viewer I intend to elaborate on the conversation that takes place between the observer and the reproduction in its ‘initial’ state. Through the reclamation and manipulation of these objects I mean to acknowledge, to underscore, that our possessions can, and often do, manipulate us.” (Source)
Wys observes how, as markers of class and income, art pieces and knickknacks signify arbitrary measures of personal worth. By “disfiguring” the cherished objects, Wys produces a visual, mental disparity that deconstructs their value; the clownish colors show the tenuousness of their “high status.” While subversive in intent, the finished Readymades are curious and beautiful art pieces in and of themselves, at once celebrating and critiquing contemporary art practices and embracing imperfection. The ultimate significance of the works, however, is the viewer’s cognitive responsibility; as Wys states, they are “meant to mean different things to different people who are at different stages of understanding” (Source).
Los Angeles naive Andrew Hem paints epic, supernatural scenes that use color and movement to create moments of the otherworldly. His paintings are utterly breathtaking and feature a true knowledge of color theory and master a saturation that runs similar to the impressionist works of 19th century Europe. His treatment of flesh and rounded rendering of the human body is reminiscent of an Eastern aesthetic — creating ties with his Cambodian heritage. His vibrant figurative work holds similar notes to the powerful paintings of Dana Schutz; both painters using a pastiche of painterly traditions to create works that are undoubtedly contemporary and unmistakeable their own — their paintings hold no boundaries due to the sheer talent they hold as painters. Hem’s work is alluring and demanding. He brings his viewer around the world, creating works that depict scenes from Asia, South America and the United States. Each piece captures a moment of pause and perhaps, even enlightenment. There is a true essence of ethereal energy within these works. For example, his pieces such as Igloolik, Close to the Edge, Lost and Found and Civic show bodies in motion, unnatural flotation. There is a fairytale like element in his work — like each painting is a new scene within a story about Hem’s fantastical life. Experiencing the work of Hem is like peering into the unknown, maybe witnessing something sacred and hidden from the common eye.
Brooklyn based artist Matt Phillips creates colorfully complex paintings that act as vibrant odes to the ordinary. Phillips’ practice meditates on his comprehensive observance of classic aesthetics, including modernist abstraction, folk art, and African textiles. Drawing notes from these traditions, his paintings meld low and high brow art, creating contemporary pastiches that are just as colloquial as they are clever.
Phillips’ uses notions of pattern, textile, and the decorative to hint at referential codes that allow the abstract to take on tangible, even comforting forms. It is the moment in which each work switches from foreign to recognizable, that invites in humor and endearing relatability. For example, his piece Bungalow (Spring) depicts a warm tonality along soft river blues on a overtly sunny day, and hums the delicate, independent flow of a melodic riddle.
The artist paints with a pigment and silica blend — this mixture results in each brush stroke becoming dry instantaneously. Due to the lack of forgiveness within this process, his work not only speaks about the traditional observation of light, but also to economical choices and purposeful mark making. Although each painting begins as a mapped geometrical formation, his method of building composition pushes through routine constructs of painterly semantics and becomes playful with common structures such as the grid. Phillips has a true touch for quiet beauty and perfected moments of yearned memories.
Check out Matt Phillips’ spectacular solo show, Comfort Inn, at Steven Harvey Fine Arts Projects in New York, running until February 6th. The exhibition is taking over both of the gallery’s two locations located at 208 Forsyth Street and 237 Eldridge Street.
Canadian artist Kit King and her husband Oda collaboratively paint unbelievable photorealistic portraits that pose questions on beauty, identity and sexuality. The artist couple, who met on Instagram after posting identical drawings, create each of their pieces as complete equal partners, something sort of unheard of for photorealistic collaboration. King and Oda’s work aims to address complex issues about character and selfhood. For example, their works Facelift and Our Little Secret, depict amazingly detailed close ups that provoke feelings of unsettlement and confront the complexity of appearance and eroticism. While Facelift outlines the lengths we are willing to go to for physical perfection, Our Little Secret faces issues of beauty, lust, and objectification. King, in her artist statement, states,
“through a focus on hyperrealism, my paintings are reflections of the ephemeral visual relationships around us. Capturing fleeting moments that affect our emotional state from a singular glance, under the aegis of a heightened sense of reality. My current bodies of work are heavily focused on light and shadow, and how the element of light can alter the relationship of a viewer and subject. The goal being to propel the audience to connect to one transient moment, captured through mood, established from the control of light and shadow.”