Thursday, May 28, 2009

Textile, Found-object Madness and Color Exploding, Dance, Music, Art, Boundary Crossing, happening now... at the center of the universe.

If you’ve been wondering what can be done with all those 80’s sequin sweaters, 70’s knit doilies, brightly dyed human hair, thousands of buttons, and a variety of other detritus turned art materials, that is not pretentious or hokey, but is a dynamic artistic contribution. You need look no further than Yerba Buena center for the Art’s headlining exhibition “Meet Me At The Center of The Universe” works by Nick Cave. The exhibition features the largest assembled collection of what Cave calls “soundsuits”. The suits are essentially costumes for the human body made from the aforementioned materials, culled from 2nd hand depositories, beauty supply stores and nature. These suits, when worn create a variety of sounds attributable to the different materials used to make them. The pieces themselves are highly and meticulously embellished sculptures. However, when worn, and with the inevitable addition of movement they become both instrument, and dance costume.

I had the pleasure of viewing this show last week, and was not disappointed. The first room I entered in the exhibition was one with video footage of the suits being danced in and examples of different sound qualities that emit from the various costumes. Up until then I’d only seen the “soundsuits” via computer image. The addition of movement was revelatory and immediately evocative of ritual, or some sort of tribal ceremony. The largest screen showed dancers wearing colorful "soundsuits" made of raffia with what appeared to be clown faces. The dancing was being performed on crowded, urban city streets. There was an air of celebration and whimsy, but also a touch of menace or moral ambiguity (set off, no doubt by the crazy clown smile). This jubilant yet fearful paradox seemed to resonate throughout the exhibit. 

All of the soundsuits cover the whole body from head to toe, and as is the case with costumes that disguise the identity, a sense of otherness is created. Who are these characters? Where did they come from? And what were they here to say? My brain was working overtime trying either to cast them into some imagined environment or trying to recall from what dream (or nightmare, albeit a very interesting one) they seemed familiar.

Aside from the soundsuits, the exhibition also featured what can only be described as life sized “taxidermied-like” bears and beavers. Instead of fur, teeth, or skin, the forms were entirely covered in knit sweaters, which were stretched and sewn over the sculpted animal forms.  Much to my chagrin images of these animals are nowhere to be found. I have to assume that these creatures are a very new part of the artist’s oeuvre and so have not been widely documented yet. Anyhow, I particularly loved a polar bear that was covered entirely with cream colored, cabled sweaters. (If I could’ve ridden it out of the building I would’ve.) Atop the bear sat a “soundsuited” figure made almost entirely of bright green human hair. The figure faced backward with its head and shoulders slightly slumped. This was the only instance in which there was an interaction between the human and animal forms. The relationship between the two only served to further elaborate upon this mythical world that I’d imagined these beings harkening from.Wherever and whatever this place may be it is undoubtedly a charming and incongruous locale. Where the ominous is humorous and the somewhat sinister is simultaneously compelling.

*The exhibit also includes several photographs of the artist wearing the “soundsuits” and 2 very large circular wall hangings fashioned from those sequined sweaters I mentioned earlier.

If you get a chance and are in the Bay Area area, do go check this show out.  It runs until July 5th.The link that follows is to the YBCA page.




Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Book of Imaginery Books

Osaka-based artist Junzo Terada—illustrator of everything from toys to stationery—created this (above) great book called Hon no Hon or The Book of Imaginary Books, a hard-to-find (Japanese bookstores only) collection of book covers created for the simple love of book covers.

You can buy journals and postcards featuring Terada’s work from Chronicle Books.
Or, if you must have his work in fabric, try Super Buzzy for your Japanese fabric and notion needs.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Voice from the Abyss

When I was a lonely suburban adolescent hankering to be part of a creative tribe of sorts, I would have killed for this world called the internet. In my present day www meanderings, I occasionally come across a kindred soul with whom I would have loved to virtually know. This anonymous sweetie pie is one of them. Hooray for music. Hooray for the internet. Hooray for being able to call into the abyss. . . and actually be heard.

(Yes, you do sense the beginnings of a regular column.)

Voice: ju218, age 19 from Dijon, France. Song written by Death Cab for Cutie.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Forecast - 100% Chance of Raining Rundgren

What is it to be a man?
While I struggle to understand and develop my own personal definitions, I was blindsided by this album cover as I walked down the music aisle of the public library. Todd Rundgrens genitalia descended upon you me like Thor, the viking god of thunder. Dazed, I struggled with the decision if I, myself was man enough to listen to such music. With an unsteady hand, I raised up the album from its resting place and read the flip side track list; the final track entitled Man up confirmed that our destiny was intertwined.

This One Man Army produces, performs and writes his own music. However I don't believe it stops there. . .I would go so as far as to say that it is likely he was the mastermind behind the conception, layout, and even the photographer of the cover shot!

Wielding a guitar & cymbal as weapons to be used against those who dare show up to his concerts; a semi-aggressive squatting pose; and an unreadable expression may have been enough for lessor men, but not our gladiator Todd. To complete the illusion that his essence dominates every inch of the album cover, I believe he intuitively used the Photoshop Filter > Render > Clouds > to create a flesh colored stormy backdrop.

While I expected the same intensity as vocalist Nathan Explosion*, it was more like a ballad rock song from White Snake. My words do this album an injustice, so I will borrow Mr. Rundgren’s words from track 2 entitled Afraid: “Why suffer for nothing? Suffer for something.”

*Lead singer from the animated series Metalocalypse

Monday, May 18, 2009

Calling all typophiles!

Check out what Melbourne-based creative director Rhett Dashwood has gathered from his journey through Google maps:

Monday, May 11, 2009

The work of Johan Potma

Dutch painter (currently living in Berlin) surprised and delighted me after I stumbled into 111 Minna gallery in San Francisco. We all have seen how monsters (the friendly types) have migrated out of our closets and into art galleries. Johan however has developed a more sophisticated breed of monster that possesses more than just adorable/ugly good looks but also has a refreshing sense of humor. One thing that really fed the critic in me was his attention to detail. Unfortunately any pictures seen on this blog won't do the work justice as he incorporates small sculptural details likes staples, metal found objects, while making great use of antiques tabletop/chest lids as frames for the artwork. If you get a chance run down to 111 and see the work first hand (shown until May 30th).

His work brings a genuine smile to my face and is one of the few artists that makes me wish I could own one of his paintings (but I won't tell you which one). Click here to go to his website.