Lorena Garcia Mateu has created a series of stunning portraits of young women, but almost all of them have their faces obscured. Mateu’s warm colors and thick paint strokes create a soft ambience to his paintings, without hard lines or defined edges. But in these beautiful, soft settings, his figures are twisted and mutated, with obstructions growing out of their faces. The obstructions themselves are organic and natural things, like coral or flowers, but are growing in unnatural places. These figures leave the viewer wondering: are we supposed to find these images beautiful or horrifying? Are these harmonious mixtures of women and the natural world, or monsters?
Gregori Maiofis is a Saint Petersburg-based photographer who stages elaborate scenes that illustrate the follies and mysteries of human existence in ironic and fatalistic ways. Many of his works are based around literary and philosophical traditions, such as proverbs and fables. This particular series, created in 2003-2004, uses tarot cards as its theme, pairing dark and absurd imagery with written titles to humorously encapsulate a facet of life and/or identity. The “Fool” card, for example — the prototypical image from a deck Maiofis imagined would be called Public Sanitation — depicts a man in a ludicrous bird costume as he prepares to jump off a roof. The “Empress” card — traditionally signifying fertility, femininity, and beauty — displays a taxidermied primate. Much of his work is produced via the bromoil process, a challenging photographic process that was popular in the early twentieth century that involves ink being painted over a black-and-white photograph printed on bleached paper. Maiofis’ resulting images have both photographic and painterly qualities, appearing historical and artifactual while satirizing human existence on a trans-generational, cross-cultural scale.
Born in Russia into a family of artists and architects and further trained in new art practices in Los Angeles, Maiofis fuses his international experiences into works that explore the strength of the image to overcome boundaries of nation and culture. While those knowledgeable about Russian history, identity, and traditions may have specialized insight into the significance behind Maiofis’ dark and clever imagery, there is still a lot of meaning left for the rest of us to identify; the figure of Justice — usually depicted as a stately figure — is naked and blindfolded, straddling her double-edged sword in a sexual manner, satirizing (perhaps) the representation of justice as a “fair” and purely objective entity. What makes Maiofis’ images so mysterious and intellectually engaging is that their meanings are never directly provided. It is up to us to divine their significance (as well as their playful, biting critiques of humanity) just as we would interpret our own lives with real tarot cards.
More of Maiofis’ clever and thematic works can be viewed on his website.
The work of legendary street artist Banksy is now iconic, even throughout the larger art world. Photographer Nick Stern uses these easily recognizable images as a starting point. Stern literally brings Banksy’s pieces to life. He restages the wall art using real people and objects in place of the spray paint and posters. Using living subjects adds emphasis to the often powerful and startling art of Banksy.
A fantastic mix of strong typography, illustration and design can be found in the portfolio of Julien Simshauser.
Amazingly ridiculous neon neo-90’s rave monsters from future primitive fashion line Casette Playa.
Check out Sarah Williamson’s prints and fill up with a sense of dark whimsy, which is what her work has a tendency to do. Incredibly decorative, surreal, and a sprinkle of naivete.
Using both printmaking and embroidery in his work, artist Max Colby explores themes of death and transformation in his series Role Play. He first prints on handmade paper, creating a collograph. This type of printmaking applies materials to a rigid board. Things with a lot of texture like sandpaper, leaves, cardboard are inked and printed. Colby has controlled the shape of the print, manipulating it in a very deliberate way. Once printing is done, he then adorns it with hand-sewn embroidery.
In a short statement about his work, Colby refers to his the imagery in his work as “figures,” which I take to mean as beings. Not necessarily human, but some other living force. Their “body” is made out from printing, while the embroidery acts as embellishment for the figure. Colby writes that Role Play features “sculptural ‘skins’ which showcase fragility and temporality in conjunction with highly embellished and extravagant applications using notions of death and transformation as a catalyst.” I imagine that these could be armor or headdresses, with pieces that have spikes sewn-in or tactile objects like beads and buttons.
There is a stark difference between the delicate collograph printing and the visually-heavy embroidery. At times, it engulfs the figures, which I think is the point. Garments last a lot longer than we do. Items are passed down from generation to generation, and evidence of what a jacket looked like will be surpass our lifetime.