Daniela showed me these amazing nails a couple of nights ago. I’m not one to wear nail polish—it’s a stubby-fingers issue combined with a ridiculous feeling of nail suffocation—or even appreciate it much, but these literal works of art painted on the small fingertip canvases definitely wowed me. Art lover (and nail art lover) Susi Kenna has had her nails painted numerous times in the past two years in the style of paintings by famous artists ranging from Pablo Picasso and Jean Dubuffet, to more recent artists including Shantell Martin and Barry McGee. It’s not clear to me whether Kenna goes in to her various nail artists (Mei Kawajiri, Vanity Projects, and Jessica Washick) armed with art, but it appears that may be the story. In any case, Susi Kenna has documented the nail art on her hands in a tumblr worth a peek.
Identical twins Trevor and Ryan Oakes engage in probing studies of visual perception and light through material investigations, discovering new methods in the representation of visual reality through their optical obsession. The duo have constructed a concave easel that avoids the distortions that occur when an image is traced onto a flat canvas. Their low-tech method, as I understand it, involves crossing their eyes until an object doubles next to the paper’s edge, floating over the subject matter transparently, which allows them to “trace” it much in the way some painters used camera obscuras with mirrors and pinhole projections during the Renaissance to trace their subjects. But the Oakes’ variation includes the curvature which is consistent with their findings that human vision is spherical. This optical doubling only has an expanse of 2.5″, so they slice their paper in pieces of that width, which are then joined together when finished to present the final drawing/painting. The plaster helmet attached to the easel is movable, but helps keep the head in one spot for extended periods of time.
Presently, the Oakes Twins have an exhibit of their work titled Compounding Visions at MoMath in NYC which runs through July 21, 2014. In the meantime, you might spot them in the vicinity with their easel tracing the Flatiron Building. In the video below, the twins explain their technique directly, which, if you have 5 minutes, is probably the best way to understand it.
Photos courtesy of the Oakes, except top image by Aymann Ismail for AnimalNY.
The past few weeks I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the West Village and occasionally found myself on streets I hadn’t visited in a while. One of these was Leroy Street over by Washington where I came across three typographic murals, or, more accurately, concrete poetry, on the exterior of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise Gallery. It’s hard to explain the happy feeling playful or stylish or clever typography instills in me. That might be because it’s not really logical, it’s just an emotion. It goes as far back as my childhood when the IBM logo or the Design Research logo (and store in general) had a similar effect on me. Even the subway graffiti, not the black tags all over the interior of the cars that created a gloomy feel, but the occasional spectacular tag on the outside of a train car, large, colorful, and with dimension, would inspire me to run home and title my French homework “FRENCH” in block letters or bubble type, much to the dismay of my teacher who probably could have done without the header altogether but, at a minimum, I’m sure would have preferred it read “FRANCAIS”.
Anyway, back to the Concrete Poetry. Defined as “poetry in which the typographical arrangement of words is as important in conveying the intended effect as the conventional elements of the poem, such as meaning of words, rhythm, rhyme and so on,” another term for it is Visual Poetry. After a little research I discovered that these street pieces were created by Swedish artist Karl Holmqvist who is known for his text-based works, poetry, and readings. I don’t claim to know what these mean, but I enjoyed them and the surprise of turning a corner and seeing them there. Make of them what you will.
“No one will be there on a Friday at 4pm in the pouring rain,” she said confidently. Wrong. You would think, after close to a lifetime in NYC, at some point it would kick in that nothing is ever empty, especially an event the likes of Kara Walker‘s monumental Sphinx-like sculpture/installation at the soon-to-be-demolished Domino Sugar Factory. Of course there was a line! One filled with soggy, windblown New Yorkers though, fortunately, it moved quickly with only the waiver-signing process causing a minimal delay. Once inside, it was easy to see why the line advanced swiftly; the space is so vast (90,000 square feet is what I’ve read) that even the biggest of crowds becomes minimized in appearance. All the more reason to be impressed by Walker’s 75 foot long and 35 foot high sculpture whose presence is still quite imposing despite the enormity of the factory. The official title of the work is long, but pretty much spells it all out: A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant.
Apart from the white sugar-covered (4 tons of sugar were used) sphinx with the Mammy-inspired head, there are fifteen large-scale black figurines based on ceramic racial tchotchkes that Walker came across online, of brown-skinned boys carrying baskets. These 5-foot tall sculptures are made of molasses-colored candy, much of which is slowly melting (can’t wait to see what these look like in the heat of late June) and in some cases are more red in color than brown, making it difficult not to associate with blood and the horror of beaten slaves, or of the workers who lost their limbs and lives in the dangerous process of feeding the cane into large mills. Blood sugar. There was an interesting interview with the artist on NPR last week in which Walker pointed out another curious parallel: sugar is originally a brown substance that is considered more valuable as it is “refined” and turned into a white crystal.
Walker has given us lots to think about here. In addition, I should point out that the factory itself is worth the visit. What an amazing space. Every direction makes for a great photo-op filled with rusty textures and machinery.
A Subtlety will be up Fridays through Sundays until July 6th at the Domino Sugar Factory on Wythe and South 2nd Streets in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. And it’s free! Be sure to check out the geometric street art by Rubin415 outside along the fencing while you’re there (bottom photo).
Chilean artist/designer Sebastian Errazuriz (previously here, here, & here) has taken the birthday piñata of his youth and put a spin on it for this year’s NYCxDesign Festival. His monumental Golden Calf, or Cash Cow, will provocatively serve multiple purposes: a symbol of celebration; a symbol of capitalism; and as a symbol of “anti-capitalistic” greed. At the end of the festival, guests will be invited to smash the symbol of capitalism to smithereens. The oversized piñata will be filled with over 1000 dollar bills that will tumble out once the beating is successful. The irony that Errazuriz anticipates is the moment when the anti-capitalist rage in the piñata bashers turns into greed as the very same crowd ends up running for the cash themselves, stuffing their pockets with the bills. “I’d like to see people rolling on the ground and fighting for dollars,” he said. Wouldn’t it be nice if he were wrong.
Errazuriz’s golden calf will be on view at Industry City in Sunset Park, Brooklyn until May 20th at which point mayhem should ensue at 5pm.
Top photo: NY Daily News. All others: courtesy of the artist.
A recent project at the University of Isthmus in Panama City by one of my favorite Spanish art collectives, Boa Mistura (previously), engaged the architecture and industrial design students. Invited to give a two-week workshop, the artists worked with the students to create a design using their signature anamorphic style which was then executed by the students. Seeing the university as a Ciudad del Saber (City of Knowledge) they created a type mural on the side of one of the campus buildings that reads pensar (think) from one angle, and sentir (feel) from another; two key elements in obtaining knowledge.
All images courtesy of BoaMistura
Based in North Carolina, Patrick Dougherty has become noted for his amazing work with saplings and sticks which he uses to create fantastical, quasi-architectural structures that seem to evoke another time, place, or fantasy realm altogether. Individual sapling branches and sticks are woven together in windswept fashion, fitting in as if part of the natural landscape. Combining his carpentry skills with his love of nature, the artist began to learn more about primitive techniques of building and to experiment with tree saplings as construction material. These works have evolved into largescale environmental pieces, requiring saplings and twigs by the truckload. Almost seems like a Hobbit should be peering out the door of some of these.
You can see Dougherty at work in the trailer for the film Bending Sticks, below, which documents his stickwork.
via Nashville Arts
French transmedia artist Miguel Chevalier presented Magic Carpets 2014 in Morocco at the beginning of the month. The spectacular lighting installation turned the massive floor of the Sacré Coeur church in Casablanca into a joyful interactive experience. From a sea of vibrantly colored spirals to pixels that gave way to cellular-inspired patterns, the contemporary animated projections moved along nicely complemented by Michel Redolfi’s music. See it in action in the video below. I could see this working very nicely at our own Park Avenue Armory here in NYC…hint, hint.
Milan-born and based street artist Fra.Biancoshock created his own artistic avant-garde which he labeled “Ephemeralism”. A combination of classic conceptual and performance art, Epheralism is a movement in which work is produced to exist briefly in space but limitlessly in time. Fra.Biancoshock’s works have been realized in Italy, Spain, Croatia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Malaysia and Singapore. I’ve kept the titles since in many cases they really add to the work. You can see more of his work here.
Believe it or not, Belgium-born Henk van Rensbergen is an airline pilot; a job which takes him to many locations around the world. But it is the urge to explore eerie abandoned sites which he’s possessed since childhood, that has led him to take this stunning series of photographs (and books) titled Abandoned Places. Van Rensbergen captures the ghost-like atmosphere that exists within these spaces, whether they be homes, offices, amusement parks or hair salons. The presence of those who once inhabited these locations is almost palpable. The stories (or the stories we decide to create in our minds) are there to be told via his amazing images. These few are just the tip of the iceberg. You can see so many more over here. I think it’s safe to say, flying might be Mr. Rensbergen’s official profession, but photography is clearly his passion.
Dutch visual artist Martijn Sandberg creates Image Messages in public spaces as well as in paintings and sculpture. He explores the tension between text and image, legibility and illegibility, public and private domain. In his site-specific public artworks throughout The Netherlands, Sandberg plays with the material bearing the image which in turn camouflages the message from certain angles, and exposes it from others. “Image is message is image.” Whether created using bricks on a building facade, tiles on a floor surface, concrete staircases, or a wooden fence, there’s a trickiness to all of Sandberg’s work that both challenges and amuses the viewer. And as if that weren’t enough, the messages themselves are often chuckle-worthy, such as in the third photo down in what looks to be brass strips: “U Heeft Tien Bewaarde Berichten” which translates as “You Have Ten Saved Messages.”
SVA design student Motoko Ishii used what looks like cassette tape or reel-to-reel audio tape to create a visual interpretation of Radiohead’s song Last Flowers. The project was done for Olga Mezhibovskaya’s typography class at the School of Visual Arts, and this particular assignment, titled Visual Music, invites students to select a piece of music of their choice and express it with the tools of typography. Nice assignment and beautifully executed, down to the serifs, by Motoko.
The Frankfurt based Luminale 2014 — one of the world’s largest and most renowned light festivals — concluded this past weekend. As per usual, there were many impressive installations this year including Cornea Ti, a collaboration between Interior Architecture students from the School of Design Mainz and Ensemble Modern Frankfurt. Consisting of three connected containers that formed a sort of interactive stage, visitors would step through the amorphous tunnels triggering the many integrated LEDs hidden within the walls of the structure with their movements. In addition to the movement, sound caused the light to change, illuminating letterforms that would transform and morph into anagrams, only visible from the perspective of the audience. I haven’t been able to make out any words myself in the video below, but I sure do like the effect.
Reminiscent of the summer of 2000 when The Cow Parade hit the streets of NYC—we were huge fans, having set out on the mission to find all the cows and photograph ourselves with our favorites, pre-social media era, just for our own pleasure…imagine that!— this April the city has kicked off The Big Egg Hunt NY with close to 300 eggs “hidden” around town that Fabergé commissioned artists, designers, and architects to paint, or create their own, all in the name of charity. The participants are an impressive bunch, from artists such as Jeff Koons and Julian Schnabel, to architects Zaha Hadid and Morphosis, to graphic designer Debbie Millman, fashion designers including Cynthia Rowley and Diane Von Furstenberg, and, of course, street artists: Dain, Cost, Faust and plenty more. Unlike the cows at the beginning of the century, the eggs can be tracked via smartphone app that will notify a person if they’re near an egg and will place it on a map once it’s been discovered (and checked in) by ten people. It seems many of the street art eggs are located downtown, other eggs are exhibited in Grand Central, Rockefeller Center and Columbus Circle (there are a whole bunch more photos here.) But those are just a few eggsamples… there are lots more to find all across the boroughs, so get cracking! Well, you know what I mean. You have until April 17th. After that they’ll be exhibited at Rockefeller Center through the 25th and then auctioned off. Anyone can bid via the website and there are also more affordable mini versions available in the site’s shop.
Photos courtesy of The Big Egg Hunt NY & facebook page; danap07’s instagram; and complex.
After years of great success in advertising in the 80s and 90s, British photographer Carl Warner suddenly found his work less in demand and not as fulfilling creatively. Searching for something to rekindle his interest in photography as well as put some new energy into his flagging business, Warner started creating Foodscapes having found inspiration in the produce section of his supermarket. After going viral, these foodscapes opened the door to new clients and a burst of work. From the foodscapes, Warner then departed to a series of other scapes including these Bodyscapes. Maybe a tad disturbing, these contorted and manipulated bodies certainly do make some fantastic landscapes. And the titles fit perfectly. A few examples: The Cave of Abdo-men; Cut Throat Valley; and Headless Horizon, just to name a few. You can see more of these Bodyscapes and the rest of Carl Warner’s work over here.
Recently, I ran across more of Hense’s (previously here) beautiful exterior murals. Originally recognized as a graffiti artist, Hense (aka Alex Brewer) moved into granted and commissioned public art, mostly in his native town of Atlanta but, more recently in other cities as well, from Detroit to Richmond, Chicago to Lima, Peru. These spectacularly colorful and cheerful abstract murals could brighten the gloomiest of neighborhoods or the most abandoned of buildings. I love them all. But, even if you don’t have a wall or building to cover, the good news is he paints canvases too. You can see more of Hense’s exteriors here and paintings over here.
Earlier this year, Madrid launched an innovative project that seeks to “redecorate” lower income neighborhoods of the city with contemporary art interventions, both in the form of sculpture/structure as well as murals. Starting in Tetouan, the initiative to improve the urban landscape has been quite successful and is continuing on into other neighborhoods: first Usera, then Villaverde in the southside of the capital. One such project is Hypertube, a collaboration between PKMN Architects and Taller de Casqueria. The playful looking structure is made up of six precast reinforced concrete tubes two meters in diameter and two and a half meters in length. These dimensions make it possible for anyone to stand inside, from child to adult. Its objective: a “gathering place for neighbors and passers-by.”
Photos: r2hox’s flickr; marta nimeva; & intermdiae
Dan and I went to The Last Brucennial this past weekend and in the midst of the fun chaos that is the show, we spotted some work that really stood out for us. Among these were two large photos by Alyse Emdur which elicited several emotions at once: confusion; laughter; and sadness. And that was before I even googled the artist to find out more about these! We assumed the artist had placed the bizarre murals in these depressing office spaces/institutions, but as it turns out, they all truly exist in this manner. Prison Landscapes as the series, as well as book, is called, is a collection of photographs of prison waiting rooms, that typically have backdrops—often painted by the inmates themselves—which are used as portrait set-ups for the inmates and their visitors to pose in front of for photos. These idealized landscapes offer a brief escape…a chance to pretend that they are somewhere else. Emdur invited hundreds of prisoners to send in their photos for inclusion in her book Prison Landscapes which was initially inspired by a photograph she found in 2005 of herself at age five, posing in front of a tropical beach scene while visiting her brother in prison. Poignant and at the same time a little unintentionally humorous.