Robbie Augspurger’s halo-framed, serious soft lit yearbook style photos of meta-mockingly universal avant-garde hipsters kind of look like every kid I went to art school with. Alone, meditative, satirically pleased in their undulous Alanis Morisette-induced irony, they hold symbols of their trade. Cheap beer, American Apparel headbands, bushy beards, outmoded key-tars, bad/good sunglasses (including post-op laser eye surgery senior citizen style & your weird Uncle’s shades) and Bill Cosby sweaters. You know the type. I can’t explain why simple headshots of people who look like extras in a Miranda July/Michael Cera movie, done in tasteful/tasteless late 80’s/early 90’s Kodachrome, are so endlessly amusing. But they are. Robie also does wedding portraiture. Fitting though, right?
The impenetrable geometries of John Powers’ abstract sculptures call to mind a wide range of influences, borrowing equally from art movements like postminimalism and pop culture icons like Star Wars. Meticulously constructed by hand, Power’s forms are constructed out of a limited formal vocabulary: Polystyrene blocks cut to a selection of preset sizes, attached to each other at 90 degree angles. The resulting structure gives the appearance of being a computer-aided design but is in reality the outcome of a human-executed algorithm, dictated by the artist’s intuition expressed through the repetitive action of connecting blocks.
Yevgeniya Kilupe, a Holocaust survivor and self-taught artist, started making masks to supplement her pension after a life of working in the factory. Around six years ago, artist Christine Jurjane discovered Yevgeniya and her otherworldly masks at a market and immediately recognized Yevgeniya’s talent. Christine introduced Yevgeniya to Linda Luse, the owner of Galerija Istaba, and they soon put on an exhibition of these fantastical papier mache “characters” to wide acclaim, eventually supporting Yevgeniya to open her very own Etsy shop. Watch the full documentary after the jump.
In his paintings and installations, Georgia-born artist Travis Somerville references the inherent history of racism toward black individuals in Southern politics and culture. With motifs spanning Jim Crow to the Ku Klux Klan and Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King Jr., Somerville tackles a wide range of race relations in American history. While most of the themes and narratives of the sculptures—which are often made of wood and typically feature drawn or painted portraits—are rooted heavily in the past, Somerville, a white male, uses historical relics and bygone references to challenge his audiences and invite them to question America’s current state.
In light of recent instances of race-related controversy in the news—namely, the murder of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri—the commentary presented through Somerville’s sculptures has become increasingly prevalent. Brown, a black teenager, was shot and killed by the white officer while unarmed, and his death has sparked civilian outrage and unrest both locally and throughout the country. While the depravity of racial profiling and its potentially fatal consequences has dominated the news since Brown’s death in August, Somerville addressed its historical reality three years prior, with Ballad of George Stinney 2011.
Comprised of two classroom chairs featuring a graphite portrait, tied together with rope, and hanging suggestively from the ceiling, the piece references the tragic tale of George Stinney, a fourteen-year old African American boy executed in 1944. Killed for a crime against a white individual for which, after his death, he was eventually deemed innocent, he remains an example of the systemic racism present in America.
Ultimately, while killed exactly seventy years prior to Brown and still unknown to many, Stinney, through Somerville’s art, is presented to the public as a reminder of America’s prejudice past—and, unfortunately, as a reflection of its present, too.
Be sure to check out his work at Senator Corey Booker‘s office in Newark, New Jersey for a group exhibition featuring Kara Walker and Mickalene Thomas (January 2015), at ARCOmadrid (February 2015), and at a solo booth at VOLTA NY (March 2015).
For as long as she can remember, Kerstin Zu Pan has been drawing and painting. when she began her studies of the arts, she gravitated to photography as her medium of choice – and with it, refined her unique visual style while combining the languages of various media. using her imagination like a brush, kerstin’s lens takes the familiar and rearranges it, catching beauty by surprise when it plays around in rare, unobserved moments.
The Berlin-based photographer has worked her craft in unusual circumstances, blurring the boundaries between fashion photography and high art. The powder white skinned and rainbow colored hair figures in Zu Pan’s Supervision series (featured here) is one of our favorite bodies of work by the talented photographer.
eL Seed is a Tunisian artist who writes graff in arabic. His work is often socially aware- he recently completed a large piece in his home country that translates to “Oh humankind, we have created you from a male and a female and made people and tribes so you may know each other.” The phrase, a verse from the Quran, was used to “convey a message of mutual respect, tolerance, and dialogue in a country brimming with countless possibilities.” And last November, he did a wall that read “this is just a phrase in Arabic” as part of a commentary on Western prejudice and misunderstanding of Middle Eastern culture. Pretty solid skills to top it all off as well.