Mike Leavitt is already known for his playfully subversive figures that feature and poke fun at other artists, celebrities, and world leaders. In his newest series, Empire Peaks, Leavitt combines famous leaders and innovators with characters from Star Wars. Comprised of 18 figures sculpted out of wood, and each corresponds to one character from the movie franchise. Albert Einstein’s infamous expression is sculpted into R2-D2, while Steve Jobs is his counterpart C-3PO. Michael Jackson plays the part of the adorable Ewoks. US President Barack Obama is Lando Calrissian.
Inspiration for Empire Peaks came from Leavitt’s experience growing up as a Gen-X’r raised by Baby Boomers. With both his parents working, he had to entertain himself, relying on the cheap thrills of television and plastic toys. Describing the series, he writes:
For better or worse, each ‘Empire Peaks’ non-fictional character is complicit in the world order today. We’re all shackled to our past because of endlessly echoing paradigms. David Sirota argues in ‘Back to Our Future’ for a cyclical 30-year regurgitation of politics and culture. I think it’s an inescapable human nature causing regimes to repeat themselves. ‘Empire Peaks’ are meant to reduce modern dynasties to a sci-fi soap opera of objects.
It’s all about gluttony. Serving desires lubricates civilization. Capitalism fills desire and demand. Development expands. Culture thrives. From religious redemption to material objects, mass coveting is the driving force. (Via ARTNAU)
Artist Joanne Arnett‘s artwork reproduces mugshots in a uniquely meticulous way. She painstakingly recreates these images as woven textiles. Mixing thread a wire, the result is similar to a shimmering newspaper photograph. Mug shots are generally thought of as utilitarian, empty of aesthetic, and quickly forgotten. Arnett wittily juxtaposes this against the form of a tapestry – valuable textiles often passed on as heirlooms. Interestingly, the title of each piece is the accused’s sentence. For example, the title of the first image is “Two Years and a Fine of $2,000”.
The artwork of Audrey Kawasaki is completely irresistible in its portrayal of stunning technique and beautiful women. Her skilled illustration using ink, oil paint, and graphite is a sharp contrast to the natural grain of the wood panel in which she paints on. The warmth of the wood combined with the reds and oranges found in her work create a soft glow that radiates from her work. Each of her women contains an iridescent aura that invites you in, pulling you closer into the frame. There is an unmistakable seductiveness in their eyes, or in one case, the third eye, that is both intriguing and mysterious. As you examine Kawasaki’s work, something begins to feel peculiar. The beauty of her women blinds us before a strange, bizarre element creeps up on us. We slowly realize something is off, when we see things like pink, glowing rabbits circling around the figures or even a snake skeleton sprouting out of the roots of a woman’s hair.
Kawasaki flawlessly offers us women of quiet beauty that leaves us questioning each situation. She pulls her inspiration for her gorgeous paintings from both the distinct style of Manga comics and the swirling, elegance of Art Noveau. The enormously talented artist will have work up at a group show starting this June on the 26th at the Long Beach Museum of Art. Her work is included in the exhibition, Vitality and Verve: Transforming the Urban Landscape.
Visual artist Kalen Hollomon, recently titled the “cut out king of New York”, is blurring the lines between the social conformity and taboo with his mixed media artworks. His collages feature mundane city life moments, high fashion editorials and old advertisements blended with clippings from vintage pornography scenes.
“I am always concerned with what lies beneath the surface – with relativity, perception, sexuality and pop culture. My images are reality manipulation, manipulating other people’s identities. The idea of and ability to alter the value or meaning of an image or object by adding or subtracting elements is really exciting to me – adding or taking away elements from something until it becomes the sexiest it can be at that moment.”
Holomon is christened to be the child of the iPhone generation. Snapped with a smartphone camera, his creative collages started gaining exposure thanks to the social media platforms Instagram and Twitter. However, the same attention has forced the artist to censor some of his works. Hollomon says he “had accounts shut down and posts removed for as little as butt cheeks”.
Beyond the absurdity and wit, Hollomon’s work also represents the new trend of privacy-lacking public photography. His instant iPhone images from New York’s streets and subways rarely deal with any permissions for public use. That unawareness is exactly what turns such works into powerful socio-documentary messages. (via Dazed)
Though he is perhaps most famous for his internet sensation photoseries, Everyday, where he has taken a photo of himself daily since 2000 (and which was then turned into a stop-motion video which went viral), Noah Kalina‘s work actually possesses a very distinctly subtle, and personal feel. In the series Internet/Sex, taken between 2007 and 2009, Kalina pairs empty hotel rooms, illuminated only by computer screens, and composite photography which suggests naked couples having sex. The dynamic of the empty and occupied rooms, when paired together, connect a portrayal of the inherent loneliness and longing of the human condition.
Kalina, who is based in Brooklyn and Lumberland, New York, has not explicitly said what these photos are documenting, it can easily be implied that these intimate moments with open computer screens simulate the connections and separations that both sex and connection through the internet offer. Taking place in various hotel and motel rooms, the series seems to suggest a lonely traveller, using their computer to make a primal, human connection. Surprisingly, the open screens and the desire they represent offers a loneliness more lewd than photographing sex.