Federico Herrero and the Truthfulness of Colours

Federico Herrero and the Truthfulness of Colours

Federico Herrero and the Truthfulness of Colours

ArtPremium takes you to discover Costan Rican artist Federico Herrero whose colorful patterns on paintings or murals enliven the environment and cross boundaries.

Published on ArtPremium Magazine Winter 2020 in the “We Believe in” section

As well as clouds can form shapes in the observation of the sky, the artist uses the vividness of its chromaticalLY painting to form a visual sign language.

Open structures in colors could encapsulate Federico Herrero’s body of works. The Costa Rican artist believes in the inclusivity of a language of vibrant shapes and forms. “Creating an openness” for the minds of different backgrounds and to reflect oneself in is the pursuit of his art. It translates in the landscape of a flourishing nature mirroring the spectator’s consciousness.

ArtPremium conversed with Herrero about the questions emerging from his monumental paintings, notably the notion of space in his site-specific works, the influence of Costa Rica, and the spiritual meaning behind his artistic process. 

Your work has taken you to intervene chromatically in the world and incorporate art into public spaces, recurring to muralism through different materials. Why did you choose to use the colors you show in your work? 

Herrero “I connect a lot with the notion of color. In my case, I try to move away from a certain propagandistic or marketing notion, I rather think about color in terms of energies and in terms of connection with sound. For me, color can also relate to a certain aspect of our nature that is more about poetry and musicality. How we connect with the world.” 

 

Federico Herrero

Beso, 2019 – Oil and acrylic on canvas – 126 x 165 3/8 in – 320 x 420 cm
Courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York

Our modern use of communication through the manipulation of colors implies a constant activation of our emotions and feelings. Yet as we are surrounded by their overused symbolism in our daily life, we fail to question the very notion of colors remote from advertising and psychology. Herrero’s artworks help to rejuvenate their primary meaning and nature, as the idea of the “very impression of life” has a similar simplicity to beauty arousing in the natural world. Herrero perceives those energies flow in the artistic process and feels the presence of every artifact and inanimate objects of our world. 

As well as clouds can form shapes in the observation of the sky, the artist uses the vividness of its chromatic painting to form a visual sign language. Although not deprived of a political aspect, it is rather evoking what can be meaningful in the observation of an urban environment, a museum, a room, or a wall. 

 

Open Alphabet Installation -Courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York

Your work has been described as having a musical property, and most importantly perhaps as being a visual vocabulary. What does “telepathic painting” stands for in your work? 

It’s an idea that relates to the notion of color and painting jumping from place to place. I see it as a way of observation also, in the way that when you start noticing something, in the way gradually it starts to appear in the space more and more. For me, there is this notion of interconnection or interconnectivity, with what you are looking for and how things start to come up in the space. It is of course a metaphor, of how we understand space and a metaphor of sometimes how what we have in our mind is also projected into space as well.”

The artist expands on the concept of meaning interconnection in his synesthetic prism, connecting vision with sound, volume, and musicality, mental thinking, and being physically present in the space while experiencing energies flowing and reverie. Federico Herrero considers the open structure of meaning as the openness and unfixed of the interpretations. The pigments, jumping from place to place, become the projection and mirror of one’s thoughts and life experiences. His colorful arrangements of geometrical forms function thus as endless openings on other dimensions.

The richness of his joyful pastel color language stems from the engaging interaction with the viewers, the space architecture, the country’s particular culture. Unconscious references we possess manifest in the way the spectator enjoys the freedom of interaction in his art. His work Mapamundi in 2003 in Havana inside a swimming pool was directed towards children to liberate a playful yet mature feeling of  “flying freely in the world” and made them look at the world from another perspective.

His immersive work expands our way of seeing and colors add depth to urban structures. The expansion relies on the space possibilities free from the intrinsic restrictive constraints of the canvas and the frame. By unifying the dimensional space and interconnecting disconnected areas or places, his paintings create renewed interaction and awareness.

 

Untitled, 2018 – Oil, acrylic on canvas – 65 x 59 in. – 165.0 x 150.0 cm –
Courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York

 

Your paintings involve the movement of the viewer, as it’s taking over streets, museum architectures. How do you take into account in your work in situ the urban environment of the cities where you exhibit? 

“I think that when I go to site-specific intervention or work, the main aspect for me is to be physically present in the space. From there, it is somehow to be open for changes to appear, to be affected by the environment, and sometimes it has to do with the culture of the place, or with the people I’m working with immediately. It has to do with the context – political context sometimes.  It is something about creating landscapes inside of another landscape, to create spaces within spaces. It is not so much about building something pre-done or preconceived and placing it in a kind of a violent way, but about creating a certain understanding of the context.”

The experience of creating the artwork is thus what generates the powerful social value of his art, be it towards communities with site-specific intervention or when the work emerges from unconventional surfaces like streets grounds, buildings, corners, ceilings, and windows. Transformed in illuminated landscapes, the gray architectures or the monochromatic minimalism of museums rooms become something radically different, as materially alive as the lively flora and fauna of Herrero‘s tropical birthplace in San José. The painting thus activates a certain perception and allows us to see beyond what is immediately visible in the space.

How did Costa Rica have an impact on your work? And would you please comment on the positioning of Costa Rica into the contemporary art market? 

“I think in my personal case it had a huge impact. At some point when I started my work, I chose to come back to Costa Rica and do my practice here: in a way it became a force for me and for my work.As an artist, it is something about the structure and the balance between urban structure and nature that I really love. It is the structure that I apply to the work as well. When I am doing the painting, the way the picture is developed is very certainly close to what I see in the environment, which is a kind of self-constructed image.

 

Where I am from in Costa Rica the structure of the contemporary art world in a way is very good because there are a lot of good institutions and a really good amount of artists. We don’t have many collectors and there is a certain frustration for local artists who do the work even though they are not a lot of people buying contemporary art locally. It might change but I am very lucky to work with galleries internationally. This became a very important aspect for me, to be able to stay here while not having to deal with the lack of collectors to support the work.

 

Installation view, 21st Century- Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan, 2011
Courtesy of the artist

Federico Herrero is constantly in search of evolution in his artistic process so as to find a new language to express in his work. Today his internal ambition “to impress [him]self” drives him to grow as an artist as well as the direct observation of the urban structure in Costa Rica where he lives. His Alphabet project was presented through worldwide collaborations with museums and with the help of galleries such as James Cohan Gallery in New York, Sies + Höke Galerie in Düsseldorf, and Galeria Luisa Strina in Sao Paulo. His other solo shows and next projects in 2020 will be concentrated in Latin America at the Pivô art center and in his native San José (Museo Nacional de Costa Rica).

Hitomi Sato and the Attraction of Light

Hitomi Sato and the Attraction of Light

Hitomi Sato and the Attraction of Light

Sense of Field – Various dimensions

 

The Japanese emerging artist based in Tokyo has a notable background in architecture and design from her study at the Musashino Art University that impacted her aesthetic. Focused on the harmony of light and humans, Hitomi Sato finds inspiration in the observation of everyday unexpected beauty produced by organic elements crossing one another by sheer chance. The unveiling of rays of light touching asphalt, or the interaction between the natural laws of the weather and high-tech are all examples of the optic play she integrates in her immersive and harmonious artworks.

As she discusses her creation process, and her vision of the future of contemporary art and technology, Hitomi Sato expands on the role of the spectator’s intervention in achieving the release of resonances of one’s inner world and memories.

ArtPremium: What is the role of light in your artworks ?

Hitomi Sato “I treat the light as a medium. When we see the environment we see it through the light, which means that, as time goes by, it looks different, it changes, and you feel the time difference. But at that point, when we see the environment, we do not just see itour body starts reacting and integrating into the particular environment. When you go back to daily life, there is so much information surrounding you that this body reaction doesn’t happen because the body is getting stiff. So what I am trying to do with the light is to release the tension of that stiff body, and I am trying to find out what is the best way to do it.”

The core essence of her art reveals itself in the tangibility and multi-sensorial experience. The temporal and spatial holistic approach in her Sense of Field (2016) work, a glimmering walkway packed with optic fibre-like radiant light film is telling of the artist’s interactive play with both the viewer and the artwork. “The audience has to feel”, and this sparking of body memory is the realisation of how the observer’s body will change when immersing itself into her optic and spatial illusion. Light, and especially natural light, has a polymorphic effect, and Hitomi Sato stresses on the freedom to choose the meaning we may find in the internal and physical involvement with the art piece, as a unique interaction, each time different.

Your installations immerse the viewer in your works while involving movement and touch. What is the role of the body in engaging ourselves with art?

Hitomi Sato : “Body involvement is very interesting because this happens without my intention in creating any particular object. There is no message in my art; I’d rather say that my art’s function is to nurture the mind and body of the observer, so that they can really define or feel their relationship between the inner and outer. Art is not just for the eyes, it is interesting for us, the creators, to make the audience understand that there are many ways to appreciate it using the five senses of the human body, including smelling, touching… The human body is great because it is not only the sight and the eyes which detect the walls surrounding you, the whole body is reacting to what they see and feel.”

 

What kind of colours do you usually tend to integrate and associate with light?

Hitomi Sato “My primary interest is in light, colour comes next. First of all, I am focusing on the light, and when I start focusing on the changes or metamorphose, then I think about the colour as a very subtle addition. I take great care when I choose the colours because, for me, it must be transparent, clear, and clean. I will not just use primary colours, but rather a subtle colour, which is closer to the light, to the sunlight.”

As a cascade of colorful panels hung from her installation Heart Washing Room, Hitomi Sato’s meticulous and elegant work engage with the landscape or urban architecture surrounding the artwork, taking into account the rhythm associated with the constant growing of a city or the dichotomic framework between order and disorder. As she explores the relationship between human beings and nature, her art forms a bridge between the outside and the inside, as a means to enhance the sense of feel. In Light of Temple that Sato created in a Buddhist temple out of an exquisite light phenomenon, she intents to recreate the serenity of being in a hut and feeling nature’s special beauty.

Thus, greatly inspired by the Japanese culture, she mentions the sunpou寸法 (measurement) specific to the Japanese strict way of making regulated or customized actions, sharing the time, or judging collectively materials and things. The thorough Japanese control, patterns, keeping a distance is analogous to the fusuma, the Japanese sliding doors made of paper, whose primary function is to shut down the outside world while still being able to feel the slightest change of the environment, light or sound. Feeling this blurry and flexible limit between the inner energies and the external nature is what Hitomi Sato renews in her artworks.

Organic elements often play a role in your installations or objects. How do you establish relations between the natural environment and the universe through the human sensesalso regarding the Komorebi effect?

I am always interested in the human being. As you live, there is an accumulation of customs, for example common sense, which comes from all the information accumulated in one’s life. What I like to try is to release those elements from the human body and mind, and let the audience or observer be free from it. What I personally think about the modern world is that we are losing the archetypethe original, basic or fundamental things are now broken up. We lost the focal point and the point of reliance.

I am trying to evoke the primitive memories of the human being by causing the vibration which can connect us to the primitive or the cosmos. When you see the shimmering water or the komorebithe light pouring through the tree leaveswe feel that it is such a lovely landscape. Yet, that kind of feeling started from the old archetypical memory, which maybe the primitive people also had. That, I think, is the vibration and the repetition of light and nature.”

 

ArtPremium: Through the influence of design you also use ordinary or plain materials in your different works. How do you integrate nature and design in your work? Is it a way to reconnect everyday objects with immaterial or spiritual senses?

Hitomi Sato “I think the process of making my art is more important, and especially regarding the materials. I am always trying to see things purely so that the materials shouldn’t be seen as materials. For example, if you take the example of acrylic, we sort of have a presumed concept that this thing is transparent and hard, but I intentionally tried to break that prejudice, just like the primitive people who have never seen acrylic before. So my main function and main concern is to deconstruct the already constructed concept and way of seeing.”

Hitomi Sato first studied architecture, without aiming to become an architect as she was more concerned about the performance space, the philosophical aspect of degeneration,“ how one piece a wall will affect the human being, and his mind and body,” and the Japanese unique way of sensing time and space. She continued her study in a graduate school with a major in science of design, where she studied basic theories of design and the Bauhaus. Her minimalistic design and various works have been exhibited in numerous countries since 2012, from a Wall exhibition in Bologna, Italy, to a project in Melbourne, Australia around the tea ceremony. Her more recent works are collaborations between architecture and art, as well as the study of the ever-present intricate relationship between individuals and nature. While exploring the three fields of art, architecture, and design, Hitomi Sato’s aesthetical aspiration is now to show the audience how to touch the light and to depict the morning sun.

 

Imaginary Landscapes of Laura Berson

Imaginary Landscapes of Laura Berson

Imaginary Landscapes of Laura Berson

Through her use of poetic and profound subject matter, Laura Berson is on a quest to figure out her position in the world in relation to the elements that surround us.

Specialising in portrait and landscape photography and having won multiple awards, Berson has a professional background as an actress, screenwriter, and filmmaker. Her work focuses on the treatment of pictorial and cinematographic light, in which she refers to the dramatic use of light explored by the Dutch and Flemish painters from the seventeenth and early eighteenth century as a source of inspiration. Her artistic practice explores how the body, mind and nature are all interconnected. There is an ever-present element of nature in her work that is related to macro- and micro-organisms, things we do not see, but things that exist, and how everything is connected yet somewhat disconnected at the same time. She tries to express all that she doesn’t know,what she feels as a human being and her perception of the world, in order to find the essence of something. Her conceptualised artistic practice allows her to play on forms by expressing the infinitely large and infinitely small. 

EFNI 3

From the series “Efni”, 2018, C-print. Courtesy of the artist.

Berson began practising photography at age 19, and it is through her sensitivity and softness that she is inclined to approaching themes around the body of women, mixing eroticism and fantasy, and conveying a subtle world in which strength and fragility are two sides of the same coin. Her landscapes are often a purified attempt to transcribe an architectural universe in which Man is erased by its smallness. By orchestrating light and staging, she gives free reign to her sensibility and seeks to transcribe reality into a dreamlike and reassuring image. To dive out of everyday life allows her to better understand her positioning in the world from an objective point of view. Berson’s influence is varied, ranging from elements of the universe, nature, the environment, to how all of these overlap with one another in order to form a more complex system. Our position in the world and the footprint we leave on the environment are themes that are also explored, as well as how our bodies respond to illness. She is particularly attached to show that which we do not see, stating that some illnesses are not visible to the human eye at first glance, yet that doesn’t mean that the pain one is enduring does not exist, and to explore these ideas in an empathetic manner.

In 2013, she directed a documentary on identity and its relationship to art after having worked on various short films and clips as chief camera operator and assistant. Berson worked briefly in the fashion industry where she notes that we are all transcribing to unattainable ideals of what is considered the perfect body, or image, and that we are conditioned to think in certain ways through exploitation of these images. She felt a misconnection in the treatment of human beings, which led her to feel as though the industry was meaningless and sanitised. The true essence of what is meant to be human is lost, so in her work she tries to portray women (and human beings in general) as they really are, depicting them as imperfect while she steers away from stereotypes, showcasing their sensitivity and strength.

In October 2014 Berson recalls, “I came across an article about women who are sold as slaves in Iraq and Syria. It shocked me, even if this practice is not new. In early January 2015, I learned in a dreadful document from the Iraqi news agency Iraqinews (reported by the Parisian) of the prices these women are sold for, and how they are atrociously reduced to slavery. The novelty for me was that the sale price of these women was made public, official, written in black and white, and the older the woman, the less her worth. It’s as if they were advertised in some form of catalogue, except that the items are not clothes or furniture, but women of all ages. They are sold with a thirty-four-page “manual” on elaborate rape, like a product’s purchase notice. It’s easy to imagine for an object, much less for a human being. This instrumentalisation deeply shocked me”. 

In response to this article, she presented a photo exhibition Ici et Maintenant at the Maison de la Mixité in Paris, alongside the association Ni Putes Ni Soumises. Inaugurated on 25th of November 2015, a day of struggle of violence against women, Ici et Maintenant showcases portraits of women and girls in light of the inhumane acts of certain cultures that still practice modern-day slavery. They are all depicted in the same fashion against a black background, where the women are dressed in a simple black T-shirt with a slate around their necks on which appears a price, and from time to time, a word. Their faces express a feeling of sadness, sorrow, despair, anger or incomprehension, symbolising the fact that women far too often have their identity stripped to a mere number and are treated as objects in society, and are considered inferior to that of men. The images in this series are presented as if it were someone you knew, to heighten the emotional attachment to the inexplicable ways, in which women are still treated in society today within certain cultures.

Ici & Maintenant

The artist and the series “Ici & Maintenant”, 2015, C-Print

Her work shares an interest in the investigation of identity and the place that each individual occupies in the world in relation to space, body, and consciousness. In her series Percipere, she experiments with a metaphysical doubt in a concrete way. The images pose certain questions, such as whether the body is connected to the mind, and reflect an impression of a world without meaning. The basis of the project lies in the way in which reality is constructed; a process in which our five senses intervene, and in a disorganised manner, cause our perception to change. This phenomenon referred to as derealisation, which simply put, is a disorder in which we perceive the self and the environment in a strange way. She raises this sense of not belonging to the world and the need to find a balance between these two points.

Le mythe d'Endomètre

From the series “Le mythe d’Endomètre”, 2018, C-Print. Courtesy of the artist.

Berson was heavily influenced by the contemplative slowness of the film ‘The Sacrifice’ by Russian director Tarkovsky in her series Zhertva. She reflects this ambiance in her work through an ever-present solemn element, and tries to transcribe this feeling of loneliness that is felt in the film, with the main character being on a quest for the meaning of life surrounded by elements of nature which are always present but in unusual ways. It explores how everything is connected yet somewhat disconnected at the same time, and how our relationship to the body and our relationship to the world are deeply intertwined. She articulates a physical space and a lived space, with our experiences of life being both concretely and culturally constructed within our environment, and poses the question as to how the body is built in relation to the space we inhabit in the world.

Berson’s photographic practice is identified as a search for the essence of something, an identity we can prescribe to, in relation to that which we are surrounded by, in which multiple realities are possible. She invites the viewer to explore the sensitivities to her varied subject matters in an ethereal manner. 

Berend Strik, Deciphering the Artist’s mind

Berend Strik, Deciphering the Artist’s mind

Berend Strik, Deciphering the Artist’s mind

Deciphering The Artist’s Mind: fremdkorper (Studio Koreans)

How is art transcending the artist’s historical and physical creative action? Dutch artist Berend Strik’s ongoing project Deciphering the Artist’s mind is the unfinished travel initiated in 2012 around past and present art memory, taking form in an immense body of photography artworks. 

Since the visit of Manhattan studio of Marcel Duchamp, Strik has been taking for photography subjects these particular private places, where the energies and vibrations of the creative process suddenly reveal their history through the eyes of the Dutch artist. Photographing parts of the studio architectural space, Strik prints his work and adds multi-layered narratives through colored textiles stitched on the surface, composing a completely transformed work. Informative, interpretative, a tribute to influential figures, his three-dimensional photographs are like a mise en abyme, the capture of an exclusive moment of exchange between Strik and the different artists while conveying a personal theoretical reflexion on art. 

Deciphering the Artist Mind – Studio W.D.K.

The international artists of each 68 studios visited by Berend Strik, – be them contemporaries or renowned past art history figures, like the studios of Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, John Baldessari, Martha Rosler, and others – are dimly present in the works at a phantasmagoric level. He demonstrates the intemporality of the creator’s soul, absent from the studio but still existing in the dialogue he establishes with the electrifying resonance of the studios’ creation memory.   

 Revolving his problematics around the myths of art creation, he endeavors to converse with the genius consecutively coming into being, artwork after artwork, in an intimate physical setting. The magic of the studio appropriated by the photograph is thus an endless investigation of the artistic mind projected into reality, and the seemingly impossible quest to conjure up the artists’ essence.   

Deciphering Artist Studio's Mind - John Baldessari

Deciphering the Artist Mind – Studio W.D.K.

 In the continuity of the ambitious photography project, Berend Strik is pursuing the project with a book Deciphering the Artist’s mind designed by the internationally famous Dutch graphic designer Queen of Books Irma Boom. Promising to be a “real oeuvre d’art”, the illustrations of the book associated with Berend Strik texts and with Marja Bloem will offer new narratives and a complementary outlook to his artwork. Completed with a conversation of Berend Strik with selected artists, the book will be published in spring 2020. 

 Corinne Timsit and Berend Strik are announcing their collaboration on current and future projects. 

 Berend Strik was born in Nijmegen, The Netherlands in 1960, and lives and works in Amsterdam. He has exhibited in numerous art galleries, solo exhibition shows and major art institutions (Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Tilton Gallery: New York, 5th Biennale d’Art Contemporain de Lyon…) and is present in large collections (The Centraal Museum, Utrecht; Museum de Lakenhal, Leiden and Haags Gemeente Museum, S’Gravenhage)

 

 

 

Carlos W. Desrosiers:  The Experience, an immersive exhibition in Paris

Carlos W. Desrosiers:  The Experience, an immersive exhibition in Paris

Carlos W. Desrosiers:  The Experience, an immersive exhibition in Paris

“When a piece is done, it always feels like a complete song to me.
There is no more instruments, notes, or tones needed.“

 

Carlos W. Desrosiers’ upcoming exhibition from June 23 to July 31 at VOS Paris challenges the status quo of exhibiting art on limited formulated canvas. The American self-taught artist from New York presents The Experience, revealing his original 9 paintings from his “What you see” The collection splashing out from their core basis and becoming materially alive in the entire space.  

 

 

Liberated from its frame, the vitality of the painting invades the room on various supports, which results in an augmented viewing experience. Like independent phenomenons emerging from the original work of his paintings, his ‘Figures’ take up space on the windows or walls. Fragments are hanged to the ceiling, while three-dimensional sculptural unities become autonomous living organisms. The jumping off point art piece multiplies itself through an explosion into other lives in the exhibition.

Through an organic body of work of installations, photographs, signed multiples, or prints, the artist cultivates his aesthetic of vibrant colors surge. He incorporates writings and natural elements as energies that assist the work in the creative process.

The exhibition is accompanied by music as a means to awaken awareness for the vibrations of the art. The artist becomes aware of the completion of the work when it resonates wholly, as both music and art can touch a higher frequency. The colors tones he applies frenetically, like music notes dancing on the drawings, interact with what is true to the soul, and trigger all the senses.  

On the main original canvas, the thick layers of paint are the essence of his “panning technique”, a process usually associated with audio recording. Infinitely adjustable and rotative, his works exceed the fixed gaze and suggest an expansive view and endless possibilities of interpretations.

 

 

The Experience is thus incredibly immersive and takes the individual into the heart of the latter’s self universe. Moving forms devoid of a figurative depiction, his collection of paintings morphs depending on what resonates to the viewer’s subconscious. Carlos W. Desrosiers is adamant about knowing what people perceive in his abstract landscapes, unfolding what is beyond our past and life experiences. He always seeks to manifest a different reality with innovative perspectives, and to truly engage with the everyday curious onlooker, stating that his work is “a clear mirror of self for the observer.”

Carlos W. Desrosiers’ artistic expression hinges indeed upon this notion of movement and collective subconscious. His genius resides in his creative power and spiritual overview, his belief that every object of the world possesses innate wisdom. Before considering himself as an artist 6 years ago, he had an inner desire to transfer his knowledge of the mind and “the esoteric and healing power of men” into a tangible way to awaken humanity.

 

 

Very passionate about all healing techniques including Taoism, self-development, and kinesiology, he was impacted from a young age by the “healing world” as his father is a naturopathic doctor. His thirst for knowledge, the consciousness of his self-awakening paved the way for the discovery of his real duty as an artist, and each crafted piece revealed him new techniques.

When first meditating on art history, he felt an immediate connection with Jackson Pollock’s artistic splattering as an intuitively free and uncontrollable process. What Carlos W. Desrosiers calls his “subconscious reprogramming” techniques takes on form in the painting act through losing control of his hands, leaving the physical element and unlocking his hidden potential.

 

“Beautiful images emerge out of the erratic and out of the chaos”

 

 

 

With parents coming from Haiti to America, Carlos W. Desrosiers was born in New York City in 1988. While not having an economically privileged background, Desrosiers worked at a golf course for 12 years only to later be emerged into the world of Rap music as an A&R manager at the age of 17. Developing a strong rapport with artist and working on different projects and albums, Desrosiers quickly became a key component to artists and their recording process. He has been evolving in the highest spheres of the Rap/Trap music industry, being very close to top renowned artists like Rihanna, Travis Scott, and Migos.

He created in 2012 his first body of art still in progress named “What You See Collection Private Experience”  including over 20 artworks exhibited at Art Basel Miami and at The Fearless Artist Art Basel Pop Up Gallery in December 2015. His “Living abstract” body of artworks and murals were shown in Lower East Side Manhattan, New York City in February 2016.

 

The Experience by Carlos W. Desrosiers
From 23 June to 31 July 2019
VOS Paris
21 avenue Kleber 75016 Paris

A hopeful breath at the MCA with FEDERICO HERRERO

A hopeful breath at the MCA with FEDERICO HERRERO

A hopeful breath at the MCA with FEDERICO HERRERO

Currently exhibited in the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Federico Herrero has taken over the two-story entrance of the MCA space, with his Alphabet project a recurring motif of communicative and playful patches of colours from the wall to the reflection of coloured lights on the ground.

After a 10 months joint collaboration with the museum through an impressive mural installation, the occasion for an immersion into the colours and the vibrations of the room will soon be ending. Until May 5 2019 the international Costa Rican artist invites the visitor to penetrate the new environment created with enticing pastel colour blocks reminiscent of the flora and fauna of Herrero‘s tropical birthplace.


Observable from the painted windows of the atrium, the city’s buildings are covered and transformed with the artist bright blue, yellow, orange filters. The swift change of season in Chicago allows for a continuously mutable exploration of the relationship between nature and public urban culture, between art and social life.

 

 

Born in 1978 in the midst of the natural density of San Jose, Herrero was influenced by graffiti and urban art, media, and everyday city art but also recalls color field painters and Central America muralist tradition. From his first notoriety at the 2001 Venice Biennale as a young artist, his artwork gradually progressed into more abstract and less figurative forms. The artist has developed his oeuvre from canvas paintings to mural and monumental pieces, usually breaking free from the wall space, challenging usual space restrictions like grounds, corners, ceilings, and windows, in his artistic expression of a chaotic and joyful landscape.  

 

 

Although his paintings first appear as patterns of geometrical drawings or as the mental forms of a mapping process, his idea of linguistic chromatic shapes in the Alphabet exhibition comes across as the perception of living, “jumping from place to place” pigments, crossing boundaries and giving new life and vividness to the environment. He uses a conventional painting technique to produce a multicolored and visual sign language in order to engagingly interact with the architecture and the city of Chicago- directly through formal colours.

One of the world’s largest museum, the MCA was founded in 1967 and offers inventive displays for new contemporary artists, with a permanent collection including more than 2,000 works. The current installation is organized by MCA Associate Curator José Esparza and Pamela Alper Associate Curator.

 

Today, Herrero’s wide range of artworks can be seen worldwide from numerous exhibitions in museums or galleries to public installations and he has become one of the major figures in the Latin America contemporary art scene. This October he will be exhibiting at the James Cohan Gallery while his future solo shows will take place in Brazil at the Niterói Contemporary Art Museum in Rio de Janeiro in August 2019 and in São Paulo at the Pivô art center in 2020. In his native San José, Herrero will also show his projects at the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica in 2020.

 

The endless wave spectrum

The endless wave spectrum

The endless wave spectrum

 

Language is extremely interconnected with politics and the ways of the world, in this respect it is valid to say that it is a living system at the mercy of outer influences. It evolves as civilization does, however can technology be detrimental to communication? James Clar, an American artist using different mediums such as video, light sculpture and installation examines, through his oeuvre, technology’s influence in language and in our lives.

During his sojourn at Dubai, Clar became acquainted with cultural and political systems diametrically opposed. Despite the city’s rapport with muslim customs, Dubai is considered as a child of the global era where the majority of its inhabitants come from foreign countries and where English is the second language spoken. The metropol significantly influenced Clar’s narratives, his piece Global English evidences English’s hegemony, “it’s use as the standard communication language”. The British writer George Orwell recognized too language’s relevance, in his book 1989 he imagined a society ruled by a totalitarian regime in which a new language was implemented – newspeak- to better control the population. Although we haven’t yet attained that point, the loss of dialects and (other) languages symbolizes the United States power over the rest of the world. At the same time English’s implementation narrows the logic spectrum homogenizing concepts, wiping off entire ways of thinking.

Though technology is not demonized by the artist, he’s not eager about it either as he emphasizes the collateral impact of it in our daily basis. After Walter Benjamin’s opposition to the mechanical era, technology has largely surpassed any forecast made by philosophers or thinkers alike. Nevertheless, if someone predicted the ascend of media and its preponderance was the Canadian communicologist Marshall McLuhan. Even before internet’s explosion and the arrival of Facebook or other sharing platforms, he stated that from the moment man put a satellite into orbit, nature ceased to exist. This conception of the world where nature is man made is largely considered by Clar in his work. His installation River of Time reproduces an historical Ford model mimicking a waterfall, mechanical components blend together creating an artificial environment, natural and manufactured meet hence questioning innate rules. But if nature hasn’t ceased to exist, McLuhan’s poignant assertion insinuates in every possible way. As an example to this Clar pointed out artificial light’s effect in our day to day; natural light no longer dictates the dream cycle nor our activities. The information era is defined by a relentless stream of data discharging before our eyes all types of information. As we wrestle to cope with the incessant pile of available information, the latter becomes an aesthetic form. The Fire won’t stop, an artwork composed by a LED screen, a computer and a non conductive liquid streams a video on loop of a man on fire. The never ending action and its disposition makes it conflicted and absurd, we can’t help to question the real impact of technology in our lives.

eXistenZ is paused furthers and interrogates the way our contemporaneous ecosystem is constructed. This particular artwork takes inspiration on the film Existenz by David Cronenberg in which a “virtual reality” game called eXistenZ replaces reality. The sequence chosen by Clar shows the two main characters in between two worlds, the game and reality. After Ted Pikul (the main character) decides to pause Existenz he experiences an odd feeling, reality feels less authentic and thrilling than the game. While the video is on a loop, an EEG sensor analyzes the computer’s own brain waves. Absurdity is prompted by a nihilist mechanism, over analyzation of waves and the infinite loop makes us question on technology’s real role. Machines have become “extensions of our beings and are metaphors – they are literal, not figurative”, nowadays technology isn’t a mere tool but a necessity. In between the fictitious world generated by technology, how can we differentiate reality from fiction? Our cellphones, televisions, ipads and every technologic product aids us in a world where the body isn’t the sole phenomenological indicative, machines are thus sensible extensions of our senses. Nevertheless, are they assisting or originating gaps? The French writer Albert Camus defined absurdity in his essay The Myth of Sisyphus as the “divorce between man and his life, the actor and the setting…”. When a man detaches himself from his habitat and ceases to establish a relation with his surrounding, he’s alienated and loses the purpose of his life. Once again Clar doesn’t preach for a return to a “natural” idealistic Arcadia but highlights the void generated by technology. Nodody’s Home produces an illusion of presence, behind the door we see what seems to be the shadows of people walking, but we soon discover the piece is playing upon our perception.

In Clar’s oeuvre there is not arbitrariness or judgment, in the manner of scientists he restrains himself to study the collected information and present it to his audience. Clar’s design is not political nor moral as his objective is to build an aesthetic based on light systems. If Artists like James Turrell and Dan Flavin have already developed their own study on light what Clar has to offer is a new perspective on the matter. While Turrell’s approach is attached to a cosmogonic vision, Clar tries to give shape to the way computers understand light and life itself. His austere arrangements evoke the binary codes and the simplified language of machines.

Cold and artificial forms populate Clar’s universe but does this means we’re witnessing a sensible revolution? Even though humanness prevails robotic faculties and mechanics are concocting new dialects and communication means. How is this affecting our topography’s memory? How is the human mind and eye transforming? Clar knows how to formulate questions without giving exact answers.

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Where life and dreams are as one

Where life and dreams are as one

Where life and dreams are as one

 

Nostalgia to some is a feeling leading to sadness, a yearning for the past accompanied with regrets. American writer Michael Chabon defines it rather as a straight connection with the past: “is the emotional experience – always momentary, always fragile of having what you lost or never had. (…) It’s the feeling that overcomes you when some minor vanished beauty of the world is restored.” Evgenia Arbugaeva, a Russian photographer, born in the small town of Tiksi has undertake the task of, if not restoring, at least rendering visible the almost vanished beauty of the world. Her projects, Amani, Tiksi, Weather Man and Mammoth Hunters explore the relation between man and nature accentuating the latter’s force.

 

 

Whether it is an abandoned laboratory in the forest of Amani in Tanzania or the splendorous Russian Arctic, Evgenia’s photographs position isolated or abandoned geographical regions in our radar: “I realize that my work (…) contributes to a certain preservation of, or allows to have some information about the place because most of the places where I go, there is no much information about them.” What we thought lost, what we ignored becomes existent and while she unravels the marvels of magical places frozen in time, the spectator learns that present and future are in reality commingled temporalities. In her most recent series Amani, Arbugaeva portrays an abandoned laboratory in the jungle of Amani, in Tanzania. Although abandoned by the scientific community after the country’s independence during the 60’s, the last keeper of the building, John Mganga preserves it zealously. Isolated by the forest and the neighboring natural reserve, the laboratory is struck in a limbo working as a memento from the golden years.

Chabon’s definition of nostalgia reverberates in the photographer’s images as they don’t relinquish the past but construct bridges interconnecting as well as questioning what we consider to be modernity. Old furniture and the laboratory’s shabby equipment contributes to the picture’s atmosphere soliciting the spectator’s imagination to recreate the rest of the photographic decor: “I ask myself this question, why I keep going to places struck in the limbo, struck between two worlds? I think this space of memory is very interesting for the artist because it’s so open for interpretation, that’s what really excites me”.

Her series Weather Man offers a similar stylistic device, Arbugaeva photographed the character’s measuring apparatuses underlining with this simple gesture the cleavage between today’s technology and that used by Weather Man. Objects metamorphose through the artist’s lens into taciturn accomplices conferring to the vernacular the ability to speak.

Analogous to furniture or gadgets, landscape communicates an unspoken message disclosing yet other components of her character’s personality. Quietness and reverie are conveyed in her series Tiksi, where a young girl from the region joyously plays in the Russian tundra, unfolding before our gaze her inner universe. Moreover, the artist’s approach mimics the methodology adopted by filmmakers associated with the “cinéma vérité” where the camera is acknowledged by the person filmed or photographed. Unlike other documentary sous genres, cinéma vérité envisions and permits the director to participate in the field experience, he is not there to purely contemplate, he’s a catalyst triggering action and emotional responses.

Arbugaeva follows this same precepts for she establishes a relationship with the people she photographs, her lyrical images externalize an internal feeling and are palpable imprints of the connection she shares with her protagonists. Her series Mammoth Hunters is probably the most “objective” one, as it illustrates an article for National Geographic. Yet, even within her journalistic production her aesthetics prevail with dreams and fantasy permeating her images. An example to this is a photograph of a mammoth hunter asleep in his tent, an image of a mammoth decorates the ceiling evoking what might be part of his sleeping universe. In the end “it’s not about photography”, as Arbugaeva stated in a recent conversation we held over the phone, it’s more about life and human relations. Beyond solely documenting what she sees, the photographer’s essence fill her clichés thereby unraveling her own doubts and psyche: “every time I photograph I try to figure out who I am, as many photographers do”. The power of Arbugaeva’s images lies in her ability to express in the blink of an eye what she and her character feel, the intangible and inexplicable become visible as affection materializes in her photographs.  

 

 

But what is real and what belongs to the realm of dreams? The problem of truth is indirectly posed in each photograph taken by the artist; nonetheless her intention isn’t the pursuit of ultimate objectivity rather the opposite: Arbugaeva’s captivating images question the structure of the world. In a society colonized by reason and practical thinking, her images propound an alternative existence in which dreams hold a leading role. Life’s futilities have no room in Arbugaeva’s work, she focuses on philosophical questions urging her spectators to interrogate themselves. In this respect, light can be considered as a metaphor of the mental activity occurring in her protagonists mind, such as in the series Weather Man where we see a portrait of this character looking blissfully into the void. When looking at the subtle lightning in this photographs, it is impossible not to think of Vermeer’s paintings, both artistic practices favouring contrast over harmony.

“What is life? a tale that is told; what is life? a frenzy extreme”, such were the words of the Spanish author Calderon de la Barca to poetically analyze the difference between dreams and life. In the writer’s universe, such as in Evgenia’s, the two are interwoven together and merge as one.

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Tucked in the far right corner of the image, dressed in motley, specked with black dots is the artist duo Anthony Aziz and Samuel Cucher in clowning disguise as the silent observers in the woven chaos of Aporia. This iconography is a recurring motif to Aziz + Cucher’s work ever since its first appearance in their self-reflective work By Aporia, Pure and Simple in 2012 rather as an answer as artists to the question “how proceed?”. A significant culmination of their 26-year career and their aesthetic, Aziz + Cucher fully assumes their role as fools and as the vehicle to the viewer’s understanding of the truth to the realities of living.

Unassuming and ethereal, a peacock is captured in its full virility, in a moment of majestic sexual dominance surrounded at the same time by ritualistic ruins and modern urbanisation. Within a barren field, a bed of dandelions sprouted in the midst of figures screaming in silent, excruciating pain as if writhed by some other-worldly, imposing force. Five sheep look on as people hurry on with their nylon bags in search for a better settlement. The beasts’ docile innocence starkly contrasts with the ignorance of the selfie-takers. This is the aesthetic of violence prevalent in Anthony Aziz’s and Samuel Cucher’s tapestries – hypocrisy in our modern way of living, corruption of our natural habitat.

In Aziz + Cucher (A+C)’s Some People Tapestry Cycle (2014-2016), digital images taken from the duo’s travels to Israel, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, and countries within the Balkans are electronically woven by their collaborators Magnolia Editions into Jacquard tapestries. The symbolic meanings to be studied in the featured animals, the Renaissance composition, and its employment to depict battlefields remain faithful to the historical functions of tapestry. Yet, in a stroke of genius, A+C’s artistic report on the current belligerent sentiments gives the medium a contemporary revitalisation, moving a topic so blatantly political onto the stage of an Absurdist theatre.

The violence in A+C’s work stems from the uncanny; it is the sight of familiar objects put in extraordinary circumstances. Considering A+C’s audience, they are the people who frequent the contemporary art milieu. Therefore, when we see building cranes in the background and ceremonial carvings on the wall in The Visitor, the peculiar positions that the figures are in with bags on their heads in The Road or limp bodies lying on the ground in Some People, our associative brains recall the horrific imageries perpetuated in the news. The effect of anxiety or even agoraphobia that plagues every single person in our globalised society does not require the artists to be specific like their predecessors, Paolo Uccello’s The Battle of San Romano (1440) comes to mind, but rather this question of land, home and humanity is mythicised and becomes universal in their tapestry.

Retrospectively, the evolution of A+C’s previous photographic and video oeuvre constructs a condition unique to their way of shaping the uncanny. Fairly early on in their first collaboration, Faith, Honor and Beauty (1992) evokes a strong sense of malevolence in how society views the human body. We see the subjects as the canon of beauty, yet there is a chilling impression to the photographs because the figures are without their sexual organs. The confrontation towards censorship in art, which was extremely polemical during the 90s culture wars in the United States, using literal self-censorship in their work was the first step A+C took to question the origins of our fears. From the dissolution of the body to the eeriness of the mechanical flesh in Plasmorphica (1997) and in Chimera (1998), to the architectural abstraction in Interiors (1999-2000), and again to the ecstasy, hallucinatory imagery in Synaptic Bliss (2003-05) and Scenapse (2007-2013), we see a trajectory against figuration or even anthropocentrism.

Aporia

However, a turning point came in 2006 in the form of the Israeli-Hezbollah War. With family ties in both Israel and Lebanon, the sense of ridicule and helplessness in the present complicated political realities gave impetus to A+C’s donning of the garb of jesters. While the duo confesses the self-deprecating image of the costumes, the interpretation runs deeper. The quintessential Shakespearean fool is a device, a motor that goes beyond giving comic relief to tragedies, but instead rendering deeply complex and traumatic scenes more understandable in their metaphorical resemblance to reality. The physical intervention of the A+C clowns, the artists’ departure from abstraction, and their subsequent change in the support of expression to tapestry in 2014 mark the duo’s questioning of the nature of power and the value of humanity sitting on this house of cards.

The unique tactility and the almost relief sensation in A+C’s design metamorphoses the moment captured in their digital images into sequences of movements.

This effective medium defines itself between the closeness and the distance with the viewer. The unique tactility and the almost relief sensation in A+C’s design metamorphoses the moment captured in their digital images into sequences of movements. The solemnity yet mystic fleeting fragility of the textile adds to the fear of contact dictated by the unspoken decorum in exhibitions and the romance of art. It is in itself essentially a symbol of the empty shell of power woven centuries after centuries.

Look closely at the tapestry Aporia, there is a severe expression of anxiety in the work’s narration: jet fighters across the tinged blue sky, scenes of struggle in the foreground, and undescriptive flags and gibberish signs waving in mid air. The centralised triangle with the male figure in a worker’s jumpsuit and a surgical mask as the apex of the tension and in the composition is unceremoniously skewed by the two odd figures on the right. The artists, as clowns, have the function of exposition in this storyline. They are not a physical demonstration of the silliness of the conflict, but rather a statement of truth, of the existence of such a conflict, the essence of which comes from us, the viewers looking at our reality in the third person perspective, from us looking at these figures as aliens and that we are aliens to them as well. While fools are a most unostentatious character in a play with a most pitiful ambition, it is through this pretense that A+C achieve catharsis in their personal tragedies and through which we, the viewers, recognise the cynicism of our phenomenal world.

FHB_Man-Woman

In our post-reality consciousness, all acts are political. Such is a great point of contention in the realm of the arts. In a moment of consideration, contemporary art can oscillate between propaganda and a reflection over calm waters. Ever since their first project together, Aziz + Cucher never cease to position their art in the current cultural and collective psyche, yet the relentless sensation of sterility muffles all conspicuous or personal commentary. Their ongoing tapestry series presents an even more eloquent demonstration of an abject anxiety under our warring times. The tapestry medium, from its historical to contemporary usages and manifestations, transmutes the inherent stirrings of the human soul into lasting forms.

Eamonn Doyle – “I, On , End”

Eamonn Doyle – “I, On , End”

Eamonn Doyle – “I, On , End”

When Heraclitus voices that change is the only constant, it is an oxymoron. The three photo books, i (2014), ON (2015) and  End. (2016) by Irish photographer Eamonn Doyle demonstrate with a befitting articulation of staccato this modern rhythm of the city of Dublin. To and from the cityscape at the same time diversifies and stabilises in its unique equilibrium under the colours and textures in Doyle’s street photography.
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The Persistance of Memory

The Persistance of Memory

EL BANQUETE.2006.140 X 200 CM

Armando Romero’s career is one to be envied as during his formative years he was taught by tutelar Mexican artists such as Juan Soriano, Francisco Zúñiga, José Luis Cuevas and many others.

Although he was influenced by the muralists and their practices, especially by Siqueiros, he also fought against their academic pedagogy. His artworks often, if not always, confront the spectator with paradoxical “realities” and aesthetics within his canvases. This is not as irrational as it seems, Romero follows the Hegelian triad – thesis, antithesis and synthesis – in order to explore the possibilities that the pictorial space has to offer and to give as much data as possible to his audience. He is inspired by other triadic semantics such as the one conceived by Joseph Kosuth in his conceptual artwork One and three Chairs where 3 realities are confronted – the material object, a photograph of the chair and the definition of the word chair: language, material reality and image, three realities, three experiences to grasp the world.

Romero’s dialectical images can be interpreted in a variety of ways and the spectator chooses and is encouraged to adopt and experience multiple viewpoints. Thus he invites the spectator to question the long-lasting reigning norms of the art world. Even though all the “academic” rules are the legacy of Western academies and movements, they have an impact throughout the world. This could explain why Romero is still regarded as irreverent, as he never adhered to any of the avant-garde movements and always proclaimed his independency. Romero is a Steppenwolf, one of a kind. Not only does he reject outdated quarrels among both noble and popular ways of expression, he also questions our Eurocentric perception of art. For instance, for Romero and other Mexican artists, ugliness and the grotesque are part of the pre-Hispanic aesthetics and thus relative. Pre-Hispanic aesthetics, described as “ugly” and “grotesque” during the XIX century are as worthy as the beauty canons imposed by the European academies. Furthermore, Romero questions the notion of “kitsch”, a term coined by the American art critic Clement Greenberg. In his essay Avant-Garde and Kitsch, Greenberg explains that kitsch is “destined to those who, insensible to the values of genuine culture, are hungry nevertheless for the diversion that only culture of some sort can provide”. Romero, unlike Greenberg, doesn’t condemn the popular culture, his sculpture Payaso (2015) bears witness to this belief: a clown sculpted in what seems to be marble appears vandalised. In it we can read the names of the American artist Donald Judd, the avant-garde movement Fluxus, and even the name of the Greenberg; alongside all these “high” culture references, the portrait of Don Ramon (a popular character from the Mexican TV show El chavo del ocho) appears, breaking the harmony, mingling all the symbols together defying this sclerosed assumption.

ENTRE HEROES Y DIOSES I.2006.200 X 200 CM

Romero is an iconophile: religious and art history iconography along with comic personages are omnipresent in his artworks. From Las Meninas of Velazquez and Bosch magic creatures to The Jetsons, The Pink Panther and Superman, these superheroes and pop culture icons populate his universe and through them he challenges the separation between high and low art. His visual repertoire is composed by infinite images, which, like many artists from his time, he was exposed to throughout his life. This exposure is the product of a cult we profess towards, the cult of images and their omnipresence in our everyday life. In his painting La Mona no está lisa (2015) the eponym woman shares the canvas with the hatter, a fictional character from the film adaptation of the book Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. In this particular painting, Romero also makes reference to the creator of the ready-made, Marcel Duchamp and his work L.H.O.O.Q (1919) where the latter painted a moustache on the Mona Lisa’s face, yet another act of irreverence that demonstrates the painter’s connoisseurship of images.  Rather than “copying”, – Romero follows a long line of creators practicing the art of the pastiche – he beguiles the spectator with his contemporary “trompe l’oeil”, presumable stickers juxtaposed within the painting and painted by the artist. He often creates amusing fictions combining graffiti, photography and painting, reminding us of the assemblages of Robert Rauschenberg.

Laughter is an indispensable element pervading Romero’s paintings and sculptures. According to the French philosopher Henri Bergson, laughter and humour are two assets inherently human. In his book Laughter (1900) Bergson explains that laughter and the comic derive from particular social situations and can lighten relationships between individuals. Armando Romero ludicrously addresses his audience by disassembling the hermetic walls that often surround contemporary art. Historia de Ziggy Stardust y las arañas de Marte (2005) is a canvas referencing not an artist or philosopher but the famous song Ziggy Stardust by the British singer David Bowie; Romero creates a bond with his audience by evoking cultural phenomenon that everybody can relate to.

LA MONA NO ESTÁ LISA. 2015.90 x 60 cm.

Armando Romero doesn’t pertain to a particular “school” of artist, he dodges stigmas by constantly juxtaposing concepts: Walter Benjamin’s “aura” and Marshall McLuhan “copy”, critiquing the “spectacle society” and at the same time praising it. Unconventionally, the artist separates from his predecessors, even with his acolytes, by creating a unique “style” and iconography. Romero is compelled by desires, remembrances and human experiences more than by philosophical currents. Like Proust, he condenses in a canvas multiple temporalities, that all exist at once. What he seeks to develop is a converging and fusing of epochs as well as different “cultural temperatures”. To Armando Romero, what persists is the human experience and our memory not the rules emitted by a detached elite, the ultimate duty of the artist is to convey emotions and to share his humanness with others.

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Chamber of Reflection

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MB-NGC 3372_flat

Night Sky NGS 3372 from the series “Night Skies”, 2013,
cocaine dust on photographer’s velvet, 132 x 306 cm. Courtesy of the artist

 

Photography and image-making by extension, have become part of the everyday rituals of contemporary western societies. The proliferation of images has become a synonym of acknowledgment, a symptom of our obsession for appearances and the praise of individualism. Susan Sontag’s call for an “ecology of the image” has been exceeded by social media and the “cult of personality”. To neutralize this visual superabundance, young photographers must innovate by giving new shapes to the imaged and by stimulating the ocular organ, they have to some extent, be able to alleviate the viewer’s gaze. Matthew Brandt’s strategy is to dig into photography’s past to present old-fashioned techniques of reproduction revitalizing them and offering a renewal in contemporary aesthetics.

At first glance, his are captivating photographs of vast landscapes reminding us of the tradition of the first American photographers who revealed to wider audiences the hidden treasures of the American West; photographers such as Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Timothy O’Sullivan are among those who inspired Brandt’s body of work. His photographs from the series Water Bodies, especially Two Ships Passing U.S and Pacific Ocean bear witness to his penchant for ancient techniques. In a recent conversation held with the artist, he attributed the implementation of these procedures to what they enable him to do when creating an image: other than the playful asset, uncertainty plays a tremendous role. Brandt finds the mystery lying behind each take fascinating, ostensibly analog images magnify the desire to discover the image.

The brisk cascade of images in social media copes with the tandem of our contemporary world, the artist’s technique requires certain equipment and time of exposure and certain material that corresponds to the methodology used during the 19th century. The resulting images are far from the plethora of data in mass media. His artistic takes possess a particular texture and linear composition bestowing them softness and harmony. While Brandt relinquishes old fashioned techniques, he associates photography with chemistry rather than with a simple reflex. Photos are for him invitations to the past where each take is carefully thought about and constructed.

While Brandt relinquishes old fashioned techniques, he associates photography with chemistry rather than with a simple reflex.

Art and its techniques are an unparalleled footprint of a society’s way of thinking and seeing. Impressionism is an example of the evolution undergone by the human eye, without photography’s arrival, painting might have never been liberated from the mimetic burden. Clippings – a series created during 2014 and 2015 – uses the pointillism technique making a parallelism between photography and painting. These artistic avant-gardes explored human perception terminating with the Western tradition of perfect sight, they focused on blurry configurations. Clippings is an investigation of how an image is made and for the artist the latter relates more to a moveable oscillation of components than to a static structure. His unorthodox methods of representation – among them we can cite the use of kitchen ingredients in his series Taste Test in Color, honeybees, dust and recently cocaine for Night Skies – encourage spectators to be inventive and to understand that there is more to his photos that meets the eye.
MB-Lewis-Lake-WY-3

Lewis Lake WY3 from the series “Lakes & Reservoirs”, 2013,
C-print soaked in Lewis Lake water. Courtesy of the artist

 

One wonders then, what is the requisite to making photography or to creating an image? New technologies have widened its definition, but Brandt does not choose technology. Instead, he introduces elements from what he portrays, conferring to each photograph a special “aura”. This concept was firstly evoked by Walter Benjamin in his essay The Work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction, in it the German philosopher underlined the inherent dangers of “new” techniques. Benjamin feared art’s trivalisation as well as the audience’s loss of interest for the original. Yet, Brandt’s work disputes the philosopher’s claims by creating unique photographic pieces. His series Portraits is made with body fluids provided by the people photographed, to some extent each take contains its special DNA, one that can’t be reproduced infinitely. Lakes and Reservoirs operates with the same logic as he developed the photographs with the water collected from the lakes. The approach is further developed with Bridges over Flint, as it takes a political nuance. In the wake of the American elections, the photographs appear as indicators of the genesis of a critical moment in history.

Boundless connections derive from each of his artistic projects, Wai’anae for instance is an investigation on how Hawaiians relate to their land. Brandt took photos of Wai’anae’s nature, he later developed them, folded them in banana leaves and buried them on the ground. Moisture, rain and the soil transformed the photographs into quasi abstract printings, the experience was correlated to a Hawaiian burial ritual in which the body is folded and becomes part of nature again. Photography’s connectedness to death emerges as we remember Barthes statement “that had been”, image making reveals itself as a morose testament, a modern memento mori. Memory is indeed a fascinating feature in photography making, a part from taking part in modern ritualistic activities, it testifies to our presence in exotic places. In relation to tourism photography, Brandt created a whimsical character, the epitome of bad taste and questionable behaviour representing mass tourism. With a fist in the air, a Hawaiian shirt and a hat, Hands up embodies mass tourism and photography’s role in modern holidays. It was again Sontag in her essay On photography, that described photography’s place during the holiday season and how picture taking eased German and American workers giving them the feeling of doing something with their idle time.

 

MB-Two Ships Passing_Pacific Ocean_U.S_300dpi

Two Ships Passing, US from the series “Water Bodies”, 2011,
salted paper print, 107 x 133 cm. Courtesy of the artist

 

Matthew Brandt’s photographs are historical journeys retracing the steps of photography and its evolution over the years. One of his latest exhibitions showcased at the Museum of Modern art in New York, was a video performance with the musician Julianna Barwick where Brandt was in charge of the video-making. This is a major factor asserting that Brandt doesn’t limit himself to photography’s stillness, movement is gaining in importance in his artistic practice. It is of little importance if Brandt’s interests broaden, what remains in his photographs and videos is his ardent curiosity for image and its by-products, a lucid testimony of what image has become.

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