The paintings by Michael Ray Charles depict controversial imagery regarding racial stereotypes from the past and present commercial culture. In Print Mag, he suggests his usage of such stereotypes are not designed to thrill, throw, or flaunt, but more so to excavate their societal relevance, revulsion, and power– examining how each affects our personal symbolic lexicons. It’s an ongoing compounding struggle to discern and detach from this branding.
Regarding this, Charles asserts, “I think about so many people whose lives these images have affected. A lot of Black people have died and many are dying under the weight of these images. That’s motivation enough for me to explore, and deal with, these things.”
While looking at sausage, most people only see sausage– mouth watering deliciousness; Karsten Wegener, however, sees a work of art by Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, or Vincent Van Gogh. Each playful photograph translates a meaty culinary treat into a classic contemporary masterpiece, acknowledging the food’s curvacious qualities and raising the bar for its standard of use.
As Anthony Bourdain says, “Context and memory play powerful roles in all the truly great meals in one’s life.” The same thing goes for artworks we admire and aspire to create.
Inspired by her Oakland surroundings and the mysterious life of collected objects (from homeless shopping carts to a public disposal & recycling area), Amy Wilson Faville collages her own drawings in with an assortment of vibrant materials such as old mattress fabric, file folders, vintage wallpaper, and other scraps. Comparable to quilt-making, Faville’s compositions incorporate consistent patterns with eclectic pops of color, conceptually mirroring her subject matter.
Speaking on her Carts series specifically, Faville states, “My goal was to use the power of beauty to transform images of squalor into splendor.”
Feng Zhengquan, born in 1976, lives and works in China. His oil paintings place contemporary candy-like imagery of lipsticks, cosmetics, fruit, foliage, and creatures: all reminiscent of contemporary Asian pop culture, into old world spatial compositions– think Dong Yuan, to examine the abstraction of contemporary spaces or environments. How much of our own landscape history is virtual and how much is physical? The blurring of both is what draws us to these pieces regardless of nationality.
Myoung Ho Lee, with the aid of assistants, cranes, and ropes, places blank white canvases behind trees in various natural settings throughout South Korea– in order to bring a part of the background into the foreground. According to The New York Times, the artist only digitally retouches “the trace of his own hand” because “If the mechanics of the artwork were visible, it would be easier for people to recognize the scale and the method . . . I want to hide them, to infuse a magical and vague aspect to my work, so that viewers may question and try to find answers themselves.”
Photographer Joe Maloney revisits the art of summer slumming along the east coast in his retrospective show “Asbury Park and The Jersey Shore, c. 1979” at Rick Wester Fine Arts. Maloney, according to The New Yorker, chose Asbury Park specifically because the area was “distinctly working-class, non-affluent, semi-urban, slightly run-down beach town, with a music culture and a vibrant street life.”
Most striking about this collection, however, is not just the “Darkness On The Edge of Town” vibe meshed with beach resort kitsch, but even more so, the intense level of isolation that vacation culture embodied before cell phones, Wi-Fi, and the Internet at large. Each portrait seems quiet somehow: subjects full of secrets and aspirations. Its a trapped or estranged sort of quiet that I strangely miss . . . and maybe long to reclaim.
Living and working in Budapest, Alexander Tinei originally hails from Caushani, Moldova, and his work seems to reflect the historical and current climate of these two places– a certain transition into post communism mainstream. That said, however, I would avoid labeling his work as something political. It feels more personal or social, examining identity as it relates or responds to its fluid environment. The darkness in each image is a certain type of natural blooming that slowly corrodes. Emphasis is not on reckless destruction alone, but the cultivation and freedom to pursue it.
Megan Van Groll paints women– mediating on the fine line between nakedness and nudity, or how these two concepts relate to freedom or identity. Likewise, from bathing in cocoa puffs to sensually brawling at a donut shop, her food motif is an interesting one, often working in tandem with the female form– provoking thoughts of fetish from the outside, but also, a much more personal and complicated binging ceremony.
Of her own craft, Groll states, “My narrative portraits of women are, at their core, a painted attempt to understand and portray how modern women create identity and meaning from the world around them. I am interested in exploring the way we perform our projected ideal personas, for ourselves and for others.”