In: Contemporary Art
October 3, 2015
This new exhibition of JR, “DECADE, Portrait d’une generation” (Portrait of a generation) at Galerie Perrotin in Paris comprises the artist’s work of the past ten years, presenting his videos, ink on wood pieces and recent photographs. “DECADE” in the title does not only signify a period of JR’s artistic practice, but also marks the passing of ten years since the most significant social uprising in contemporary France, which is exactly the subject of the artworks displayed this time.
The exhibition starts with an installation consisting of video projections on three sides of the room and their reflections on the floor. You are put in the scene of the riots of 2005 in Clichy-Montfermeil in the suburbs of Paris, where JR first ever created large-format works in his career just one year prior to the riots.
For people who might have seen some of JR’s works before, large faces pasted on nice architecture is not something surprising. However, when huge faces are shown on damaged housing blocks which were soon to be demolished, it exemplifies the effect of the image –it feels that both the buildings and the people were yelling with strong emotions, if not painfully.
The most impressive piece in the exhibition is a video which filmed a ballet dance reiterating the social uprising from the past of the neighborhood in a delicate and aesthetic way, probably contrasting the disturbances and violence of the original event. It provides a visual link to JR’s documentary work in that territory in various stages during the past decade.
The poetic series of Ballet Diary created with ink on small-format wood panels were displayed in the gallery in a grid composition, echoing photographs of ballet corps posing in containers. As usual, JR’s works are rooted in reality while defeating existing boundaries, and are powerful in linking art and life together. This exhibition firmly stems from the artist’s acute understanding of his generation.
October 3, 2015
It is easy to discover some artists and movements that are famous and have had an impact in the field of art with their distinctiveness. Artists like Monet, Turner and Cézanne. People do that all the time. They familiarise themselves with important and acknowledged movements like Romanticism, Realism and Expressionism, but often neglect a momentous sparkle of art behind the great movement of revolutionary art.
By no means am I implying that the known movements have not altered the course of history. Of course they did, but in a different context. Today’s emerging revolutionary art, however, has something else to offer to the international community. Having all these in my subconscious, I accidentally read online about an imperative Syrian artist, Tammam Azzam.
Few months back, before the outbreak of the media that focused on the immigration issue of many Syrian refugees (which, by the way, has been a pressing issue for many years now), a picture of a war torn building was all over the media. Tammam Azzam declared his own revolution by enlisting one of the most famous mainstream kisses in Western art as an act of protest against the war in Syria. As a matter of fact, it echoes the Berlin Wall graffiti picture of Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev back in 1979, who were practising the fraternal socialist kiss. Azzam has created rebellious and dissenting art by photoshopping Gustav Klimt’s painting The Kiss on a destroyed savaged Syrian building.
The impact? Exceptional! Azzam made art out of his own reflections of contemporary events by exploring the destructions of war by men. The Kiss delivers a romantic, idealistic image of the purity of love. Inspired by Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, that a kiss is made for the whole world, it explicitly states the universality of two people connecting through a kiss and the strong feeling of love in a simple painting.
Such an image on a Syrian bombed wall delivers mixed feelings to the audience. Certainly, there is a consistent element of critique in Azzam’s approach to Klimt’s masterpiece. As I perceive this, I can extract a dichotomy between Western arts against the non-Western conceptualisation. There is that resilient attitude which is open to interpretation. The existing distinction between the western world and “other”- the alien culture- which is non-westernised has always been around. Yet, the main priority of a contemporary artist is that art should connect and not dichotomize. Azzam’s point, therefore, is well established. Apart from that, there is an important subtext in using a Western masterpiece. In a delicate way, Azzam’s main emphasis focuses on Klimt’s theme of universality and successfully illustrates, in his photoshopped work, the idea that we are all citizens of the same world.
We have seen how empathy restricts its boundaries only to the first world. I cannot help but wonder if the main message of Azzam’s piece is that violence should be dismantled, whoever the perpetrator might be. Some would say that art is there to ease the mind, however revolutionary art seeks something else – to unease the mind in an emblematic way; to make the audience consider who’s in and who’s out.
September 28, 2015
Walter Swennen, who is now a very successful painter, is a great family friend of mine. In an era of young beatniks in Brussels in the 1960s, my grandmother and Swennen spent their days in a crowd of poor young artists driven by their need to create. They lived off of very little and were each other’s sources of inspiration. They would introduce each other to foreign art pieces from the United States, and would discuss within themselves late at night over a drink while brewing up new ideas. My grandmother wrote poetry and, being that she was much younger than the rest, around the age of 16, learned and grew from this group of artists who had adopted her into their circles. Various members of this social scene adopted alcoholism and other issues that stemmed from the fundamentals of this very social and experimental community, and therefore did not make it very far in their careers, but left behind great shared memories and inspiration for the others.
Swennen was much more fortunate and has continued to paint since. He has recently come into the public eye after a couple of successful exhibits in Belgium. He is now showing at the Gladstone Gallery in New York City – a very well known gallery. His work utilizes visual aspects inspired by Pop Art and abstract expressionism; some pieces more so one than others. Swennen might not agree to these sources of inspiration, but either way these are the art movements his work is reminiscent of. He also often incorporates poetic writing into his work. To this day, his work portrays the essence of the young group of artists that created and struggled together.
Another large theme throughout his work is an evocation of childhood. Figures seemingly appropriated from cartoons or comic books have been an undying subject of his throughout his career. Belgium is a country overwhelmingly full of comic books, about two comic book stores per block, therefore this imagery, that has been most definitely drilled into Swennen’s head, is unsurprising. Yet it is very effective in evoking recognition and a sense of shared nostalgia for most of his audience.
Swennen works in a way not uncommon to his generation of artists. One could summarize it by saying he lets the ideas come to him, and he does not seek them out. By this point in his career as a painter he knows what interests him and what does not. Some of the things that do interest him, which is evident when looking over his work, are cartoons, poetry, labels and philosophy. Some of these subjects are also commonly found in Pop Art, which is why his work is so reminiscent of this art movement. However, some of his subject matter will not fall into any specific category because he will literally let it come to him naturally. For example, he once based his subject matter off of a drawing made at school by his daughter when she was very young. Swennen is not much interested in the meaning behind his pieces, but is instead very preoccupied with the aesthetics, the process and the stories behind how his subject matter came to be. It is interesting to look at his work and attempt to guess the sources of inspiration for a specific subject in a piece.
September 27, 2015
Entering the gallery space on the 6th floor of the Gagosian building on Madison Avenue, you are immediately met by a series of drawings that cover the three main walls. At first glimpse they seem to have no real distinguishing qualities between them, just monochromatic marks on paper: each piece framed and hung next to the other with marks that vary in density and thickness. Then you step closer and see that the central wall contains many more small scale drawings, arranged in a grid-like configuration, and the outer walls balance this perfectly with larger more complex drawn works, this is a collection of Richard Serra’s most recent creative expression, Ramble Drawings. Serra is an artist that constantly needs to engage with form, tracing various architectural, sculptural and natural forms in a never-ending attempt to understand the way we move through space. Usually we find Serra engaged in the creation of large-scale sculptural forms that use heavy duty industrial materials to shape and form the viewer/ participant’s notion of space. But here we see him move to the 2-dimensional plane, as he puts Litho crayon, black pastel and powder to paper.
In this series of drawings Serra creates a curtain before the viewer, as he attempts to once again search out the dense forms that proliferate his sculptural work. Marks from the various monochromatic media he uses accumulate until a density appears that takes the shape of undulating form, seeming to grasp at the textural surfaces of his usual industrial sculptural materials. One is unnerved and disoriented looking back and forth between the drawings where the curved, undulations pulse, either shallow and light or dark and deep. Unlike his sculptures or even the site sketches that he uses as sculptural blueprints to plan his monumental works, these give the viewer no space for reflection but demand attention.
September 26, 2015
With the right kind of motivation and a well-planned layout, one can hop across Brooklyn from one gallery opening to the next, and get the full and rich depth that this exciting fall 2015 season has to offer in the Brooklyn art world. Start off on the top of the map, use for your absolute guide and bible Brooklyn’s very own Wagmag, a comprehensive guide to the ever increasing gallery spread in Brooklyn, and get ready for the Greenpoint exhibition spaces. In particular I would recommend checking Heliopolis gallery, Yes Gallery, Java Studios and all the way up on Green Street you can work your way into the intimate space of the 106 Greene gallery.
Specifically at the 106 Greene space they’re exhibiting a solo exhibition from Brooklyn based artist Phoebe Berglund, Waiting in Line, where the artist uses assorted materials including dirt, concrete, bananas and stilettos all pieces from which she cantilevers her deconstructed, heavily painted frames. This work provokes the viewer to consider urban decay and the nature of our built environment, always subject to time and erosion. Commodity culture and technological innovation are foiled by man’s impotence to reconcile with his own temporal limits his finite nature and ultimate mortality. But this will only be your starting point, the beginning of a journey that leads on through all the diverse creative approaches and unique spaces Brooklyn’s art scene has on offer this season.
Next on the list, travel down to the very epicenter, where Brooklyn’s gallery spaces just keep emerging with work that attracts and provokes. This is the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn and here there are galleries ranging from obscure and small, like the City Reliquary or The Boiler, to larger older and more established exhibition spaces like the WAH Center or Brooklyn Art Library. On display in one smaller but worthwhile gallery, Moiety Gallery, a body of work from the French multi-media artist Thomas Mailaender, this exhibition is a series Mailaender has titled 1998. This title brings along with it a functional signification as it directs the viewer to the fact that Mailaender has decided to bypass the use of newer materials and technological processes to develop his distinct photographic collages.
Instead what Mailaender has done here is carry the imagery from his youth, a compilation of found internet images that pre-date the ability to instantly call up images by the thousands via search engine, forward re-examining bizarre images from the early days of computer development. Endured to the process of photomontage Mailaender uses this analog process by taking his images from their digital base and collaging hard copies, then recapturing the images now as collisions between disjointed imagery. In the final prints we see a mixture that combines the grotesque, the tabloid bizarre and the uncanny, a wonderful dizzying popular culture hybrid. Images range from the a carnival extra with bloated stomach drawn on with circular designs to a Neanderthal man and his 20th century wife who has just given birth to an alien child, these call up the late 90’s trash tabloid culture that exists and becomes even more distorted as nostalgic references to a recent past when computer technology was just emerging and remained rough and unrefined in its early stages.
Next stop along the seemingly endless gallery spree that exists within Brooklyn’s ever growing, ever thriving fine art scene, the Bushwick area offers some truly exceptional galleries and exhibition spaces, what I have found is that Bushwick specifically holds some of the greatest performance art spaces. Tucked under the j-train overpass, along the Broadway strip, there are galleries like The Living Gallery, Wayfarers, Good Work Gallery and my personal favorite, Grace Exhibition Space. Here, in these spaces, a cultivated atmosphere has arisen for multi-media and performance works, even large scale installations, to co-exist and spark endless discussion and debate. At the Grace Exhibition Space, during the entire fall art season into the December, there will be a collection of Performances curated by Whitney V. Hunter, the current David C. Driskell PhD Fellow at the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts. This series of Performances titled The Sphinx Returns, seeks to promote the idea and discussion of performance art as the center for myth and ritual in our contemporary lives, injection a sense of the mysterious and the fantastic; but also taking on tough issues like race, gender and sexuality, marginalization and art criticism. I was lucky enough to be present at the opening for the first performance series and what a complete and spectacular adventure, pieces by international artists Hector Canonge and Lion Ayodele, took the body as a site for past traumas and allowed the viewer to contemplate modern identity in relation to art history and world history.
So get out and explore the expanding art world around you, if you are working and/or living in NYC from Queens to Brooklyn, Manhattan to Harlem there is art all around you. I have laid out for you some great spots to visit on the Brooklyn art scene, but all over the city the exhibition season has started and shows will be continuously opening, from the smallest gallery to the largest museum exhibition. Get out and see what is on offer this season in NYC, and if you are in the borough of Brooklyn then you know what to do, take that winding art trail throughout the urban environs and seek out something culturally uplifting.
September 25, 2015
When looking at Chris Burkard’s Instagram feed, two things will cross your mind:
1. Amazing, and
2. I want this to be my life.
Chris Burkard is a self-taught photographer who went from sleeping in his car just to be closer to his internships to stacking up 1 million Instagram followers and a steady studio spot out in Grover Beach, California. He’s made a name for himself in the surf and outdoor industries, working with top brands such as Apple, The North Face, Patagonia, and many many more.
I actually don’t remember how I came upon Burkard’s account – I’m an amateur photographer myself so I’m always looking through the various hashtags connected to outdoor photography for inspiration; even though I don’t remember, I’m sure glad I did follow him because I’m given a dose of daily awestruck.
His Instagram feed mainly covers his landscape and adventure shots, but it’s nothing to snuff at. It seems that every picture he takes is perfect: from the lighting to the framing, every moment is captured at exactly the right time. While I can sense that this is dedication at its finest, I can’t help but wonder at how he could possibly take these photos.
The colors and images are insanely crisp, and his stills look totally unreal. Whenever I see a new photo, I can’t help but be jealous – Burkard’s whole life is surrounded by this immense beauty and his job is to capture that. One look at his website shows his passion for his work, specifically within this quote, taken from his thoughts on being a photographer and having photography as a career, “Remember the camera is just a tool. What is more important is how you look at the world. Curiosity and a desire to explore, as well as passion is huge necessity when it comes to photography.”
In regards to this dedication, Burkard held a TED Talk this past March regarding one of his main (and craziest) past-times: surfing in ice-cold waters. I can’t even fathom jumping into freezing water just to get the right shot, but that’s an entire level above that Burkard is on. You can see what it’s like to be on the other side of the camera in the making of these incredible photos, and seeing the conditions that he sometimes works in makes you shiver like you’re out in -10 degree weather right along side him.
Chris Burkard started as a 19-year-old who found he had a talent with a camera and turned into a recognized photographer among many communities. I can’t get enough of his images and look forward to seeing the next each day. The most memorable posts have been from the past few months on his trip to Iceland, which has been a huge throwback for me; I got to take a trip there during the summer of 2013, but just missed the Northern Lights by a week. Sure enough, Burkard posts this rad and almost haunting image of these spectacular green lights and I turned green with jealousy myself.
Make sure to follow Burkard on his Instagram, check out his website to see more of his work, and keep an eye on his Facebook – if you’re interested in photography and live near his studio (or in my case, willing to move to work with him…) he updates his site on internships, though they’re booked out far in advance. He also has workshops and prints available for sale, and recently gave out thousands of free prints (10,000 to be exact) for getting 1 million followers on Instagram. Talented and giving, what more could you ask for?
Adventure is out there and Chris Burkard is running right along side of it. Find your muse or your next travel destination through his work, and I promise you won’t be sorry.
September 22, 2015
As far as art goes, Eli and Edythe Broad rule LA (by the way, Broad is pronounced BROH-de like ‘yo bro’). The billionaire-philanthropist couple has been buying up important works of modern and contemporary art since the 1970s, and ever since then they have been generous in lending out those pieces to museums and exhibitions. However, the opening of this museum marks a special occasion as they have decided to showcase their personal collection to the public.
The Broad, located in Downtown Los Angeles, opened its doors to the public on September 20th, 2015. And I, as your resident ride-or-die art enthusiast, was able to score the insider’s look and do the busy work so that you could have the best visit ever. Here is a breakdown of what you need to know about this new museum.
Oh boy. So, ticketing to this museum is free (thanks Eli and Edythe!) and can be reserved in advance here. However, all online tickets have been reserved through mid-October. BUT! Worry not, because that is not the only way to get into the museum.
If you are ready to work a little bit, you can get to the museum door early in order to pick up a standby ticket (limited numbers available). I did this at 7:45AM on a Sunday morning because
suburbia has dulled me and I jumped at the chance to feel alive again I care about you, dear reader, and wanted to make absolute sure that I got a ticket on opening day so that I can tell you all about it.
The tickets are grouped into half-hour time slots. Mine was for the 10:30AM entrance and I would highly suggest you to go no later than 11AM if you want to make the Yayoi Kusama exhibition in good time.
I felt very happy amongst these galleries. Many works were familiar to me since the Broads have a habit of lending them out to other museums. The lighting was exquisite and the space vast. There were quite a few well-known pieces:
The most popular work at the Broad is, of course, Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Room. In fact, this is usually the most popular work at any exhibition. This room, back in 2013, inspired a mob outside of David Zwirner on its last day and people waited in the New York cold for up to five hours just to catch a 45-second glimpse of it. Thankfully, the Broad came up with a better management system than a physical queue. You make your reservation to the room with your cellphone number, and within 10 minutes of your reservation, the system texts you. My wait time was about an hour, which gave me the perfect amount of time to roam the two floors of art.
This is my second time seeing the Infinity Room, and I must say that the pictures are often more beautiful than the experience itself. 45 seconds is not nearly enough time to enjoy it, and typically you will spend all of it taking photos. I wish that I could’ve spent a few minutes in there.
Recently, visiting the Five Myles gallery located on St Johns Place, just off of Franklin Ave, I witnessed a group of young musicians and visual artists converge on a singular opportunity to occupy a space, inviting the viewer to slip into an immersive audio-visual experience. At Five Myles, the group of artists behind the aptly named, “Ashcan Orchestra,” opened up the show; on the main-stage would be what the composer Jonah Rosenberg labeled as an “electro-acoustic chamber opera,” under the title of “Ode to Jackeen.”
The chamber opera, consisting of four musicians on various instruments, including percussion, flute, acoustic guitar and violin, combines the Ensemble Sans Maître, with the composer’s vision for a performance based on counter-cultural, beat author Kenneth Patchen’s “The Journal of Albion Moonlight.” But, you may ask, a bit facetiously, where does the opera come in? Well, accompanying this tribe of art school experimentalists is a singular feminine figure, tall, lithe and hauntingly evanescent; from this figure, the operatic tremolo issues, charging the entire piece with a shocking Gothic flare of tradition, in the service of a neo-expressionist cacophony. More on this later, but first to give a little more detail on the opening performance and the inspired Five Myles program that makes events like this possible.
Five Myles gallery, as they express in their mission statement online, works with the local community in midtown Brooklyn where they are situated. Local artists and musicians during the summer season are allowed to invade the gallery space with absolutely no charge, putting on unique, experimental performances, exhibits and concerts for anyone who shows up. This is something that they call the “Space Program,” and it was this program that brought this extraordinary group of young artists together.
Now to go into further detail on the opening performance, the Ashcan Orchestra,” takes this traditional label at its very root, to orchestrate, what they achieve is a simultaneous orchestration of sound, light, rhythm and movement. In this performance one first encounters the totemic like structure that they’ve crafted for the show: a cubic piece, rising to around four feet constructed with wood, lights and wire. Around this structure the artists group themselves with a collection of bells, xylophones, toys and objects, and so the sound begins and the lights fire off on the totem like some monstrous traffic light given consciousness. Producing a panoply of dissonant chords, vibrations and notes they build the sound to moments of discomfort, shocking the listener as if to shatter an innocent moment of childhood nostalgia. The entire performance ripples with dreamlike incongruity and creates strange audio-visual combinations that both stimulate and unnerve the viewer, an experience that I highly recommend.
Following the Ashcan performance, there comes the next re-evaluation and subtle deconstruction of traditional highbrow elitist cultural music formats, this was witnessed in the “Ode to Jackeen.” The performance began and it was immediately clear that this was not going to be a smooth harmonic display, a display of virtuosity by the musicians, yes, but in dissonant chords and jarring climaxes where the instruments seemed to almost shriek and jabber in unison with the persona of Joe Bobo. Images were projected onto a screen doubling as backdrop and stage set, as the ensemble played around the poetry inspired by the composer channeling wild beat lyricism. But aside from this, constant bits of narrative interlude would fall into place between operatic bursts and the convulsive notes of the ensemble.
This is where my interest was piqued, for on the whole there was an abstract and almost universalizing quality to the piece that rendered impressions of inner psychic torment, the surreal torpor of unconscious dreamscapes. However, this use of a narrative overlay pulled the piece together and gave it a substantive ground and context. Then it came to me, before me was a necessary continuance of Dada Theater, the amalgam of Dada’s symbolist poetics and anarchic style, overlaid into the beat generation’s project, driven by a wild denunciation of bourgeois morals and restrictive normative codes. Originally, this anarchic theater that took confusion, irrationality and the de-hierarchizing of fine art, feeding directly into an epistemological crisis over what art could be and who was authorized to produce it, was born of post-war tension and trauma. Here, we see that war has continued by any other means, for now it is the war of the self against the socialized norms encoded within, psychic trauma writ large.
Ultimately, this particular muse from the beat generation emerges from Burroughs’ dark corridors of the movement, that prose which attempted to capture the raw reality of mid-twentieth American subjectivity, a subjectivity constantly put upon by an ever more institutionalized and bureaucratized social-landscape. Joe Bobo our hapless character within the narrative skit is a Kerouacian “dharma bum,” a “desolation angel” simply trying to get a meal, get some kicks and explore the American roadways, but he is beset upon by sinister and sterile medical personnel representing the terror of the juridico-medical discourse that labels and apprehends all those that do not conform to a call for ceaseless productivity and middle-class norms. In this way, the sublime crescendos of the ensemble become Bobo’s psychological discontent, his strange medicated visions, and distorted hysteric hallucinations made manifest. This is an authentic channeling of the beat project and a worthwhile experience, if the ensemble reunites make sure to be in the crowd.
September 16, 2015
WARNING: this is a total fan-girl post. Furry Little Peach is one of my ABSOLUTE favorite Instagram accounts, top 10 hands down. But don’t worry–you’ll love her too.
I stumbled upon Sha’an d’Anthes aka Furry Little Peach during one of my late-night insta-creeping sessions and was immediately captured by her vibrant use of color and fun representations of flora and fauna motifs. Her feed is filled with unique sketches and watercolors of forest critters, cacti, sea creatures, portraits, and tons more.
The 22 year old Sydney based designer, illustrator and storyteller’s work speaks to a whimsical aesthetic that evokes pure childhood imagination. D’Anthes incorporates natural and space-inspired elements, such as forests, trees, constellations, nautical imagery, and much more. Like a true artist and instagrammer, she shows us her full creative process. Her feed is filled with her merchandise, sketches, cluttered work space, and the only other thing important to Instagram: food. Every now and then she’ll gives us a #onthetable snap of the yummy meal she’s having.
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D’Anthes always keeps me entertained and scrolling with her variety of images and documented dedication to her craft. Instead of only posting finished works she almost always includes a sketched version or multiple variations of her design. This lends a closer look into various elements of her image–a detail shot of an intricate drawing, what kind of materials she’s using, how many sketches she’s done before finally deciding on a style, etc. It’s refreshing to see the creative process behind her beautiful works. Not only does it make me like and appreciate her art even more but I feel that I am getting to know her on a more personal level.
She gives us even more clues to who she is with posts from her everyday life adventures. When she isn’t drawing and painting she travels around Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand and Japan, posting stunning nature and landscape shots. And of course, making us all jealous and hate our day jobs even more.
Who would’ve thought that a cactus could look so cute and cuddly?!?
With succulents being all the rage these days, they’re popping up all over different creative mediums. D’Anthes gives her own take on these prickly plants with her most recent project, Prickly, from this past July. Presented at Goodspace gallery in Sydney, Prickly is her second successfully exhibited solo show.
Unlike d’Anthes previous bodies of work, this show is formed around a plant oriented subject matter. Bringing fun and freshness to this nature-inspired aesthetic, she remains true to her signature watercolor medium. Goodspace describes her approach to this exhibit as “focusing solely on the audience’s reactions to colour, texture and visual devices…The artist’s new collection evokes the feeling of nostalgia, stimulates the imagination, and upholds her use of ‘childhood’ as a theme.”
Her cacti are truly inspirational…as weird as that sounds. They’re simple in form yet d’Anthes creates them with a subtle complexity that is simply mesmerizing. After all, a cactus is a very strange looking plant. Actually, they’re completely un-aesthetically pleasing. They’re also sharp and can physically hurt you. But d’Anthes paints them as charming, playful and even delicate. In some works they are crowded together like one happy cuddly cactus family and in others they stand alone, as proud representatives of their oddball plant species.
Perhaps Prickly lends the message to embrace what is unconventional and that everything can be beautiful, all preconceptions and stigmas put aside. Or maybe d’Anthes just really like cacti and thinks they’re fun. Either way the exhibit is unique, vibrant and happy–an emotion that is at times underrepresented in galleries.
One of my favorites from the show is a three-part timelapse series where d’Anthes depicts Dawn, Noon, and Dusk with canvases crowded with cacti in three different hues: purple-pink, green-blue, and red-orange.
When d’Anthes is not producing art in her studio and working on Prickly, she works for Cypha, a self-described “boutique Creative Technology studio” as a designer.
Here are my personal favorites: foxes, whale-constellations, and bears.
September 14, 2015
While attending the Laguna Beach Arts Festival this August, I was introduced to the work of Eric Gerdau. A Rhode Island School of Design alumnus and New Yorker gone rogue, Gerdau is now a Laguna local. He was displaying two paintings at the annual Laguna Beach Arts Festival, held in an outdoor venue that is nuzzled into the bowl of a canyon with the ocean only a short distance away. The large oil paintings stretch vast across the small space allotted. From afar, they appear as simply bands of rich color, fusing with one another at the edges. However, as I approached I saw that they were paintings of the sea. The sky in both works is in the moment of transition from day to night—the water reflecting the horizon’s transformation.
The two pieces on display, “Late Bloomer” and “Marmalade,” show a calm ocean; the ripples in the foreground catch the last gleams of light. In “Late Bloomer,” the ocean extends into the background, becoming a deep blue that strikes the intensely vibrant magenta of the horizon so that the meeting point of the two seems to vibrate. I was reminded of a Rothko.
“Marmalade” is the same composition, but an entirely different experience. The ocean in the foreground is dark, shadows accentuate the small ripples spanning the length of the piece; burnt orange light licks the peaks. As the eye moves up the painting, the ocean turns from rose to a light apricot hue, and rather than the horizon clashing against the water, they fade into one another seamlessly. The sky at the horizon is pale, for a moment yellowed and then a muted blush, which melts into periwinkle blue by the time you’ve reached the top of the painting.
At a glance, Gerdau’s paintings may be just simple seascapes. However, odd distinctions arise that diverge from the norm of reality. The scenes portrayed are beautiful, but there is something unsettling about them. In both, it seems as if the light emanating from the sunset comes from the entire expanse of the horizon rather than one point. There is no saturation of color in the sky that indicates the location of the sun; it is equally distributed across the horizon. The sensation of viewing the works is a strange one, the subconscious seems to pick up on this unnatural uniformity in light and color before the mind can catch up. The pictures are too pristine, the chaos induced by the sun’s dipping below the surface has been cleaned up, smoothed out so I almost feel like I’m looking into a scene from The Truman Show. Upon the surface, everything seems just fine, but if you pay attention, you’ll see something is rotten in the state of Denmark.