Hanieh Alizadeh, Mahmoud Ganji, Mehdi Rabie (EOT design studio). Whispering Rainbow, 2012. Satin ribbon. Hefdah-E-Shahrivar Street, Tehran. Photo via EOT design studio’s Facebook.
When every object we touch is factory-made, are manufactured environments somehow more real? Both Alexandra Kehayoglou’s Shelter for a Memory and EOT design studio’s Whispering Rainbow are knowingly synthetic; they mimic the earth’s beauty as a tribute by celebrating some of the most joyful natural elements. Shelter for a Memory’s delight arises from a collaboration between man and nature — a wooden swing that within the myth of the scene hangs from a towering, enveloping tree. In a similar way, Whispering Rainbow is a collaboration through appropriation, a reenvisioning of a rainbow remade in 150 rolls of satin ribbon (a potentially natural medium). When the wind blew the satin shook to create the sound of rain, adding an audible dimension to the rainbow’s recreation.
Whispering Rainbow evokes only happiness, and its installation across a public street in Tehran makes seeing it fun and serendipitous. Shelter for a Memory differs in both respects: viewers enter its space with certain expectations because of its place in a gallery, and the scene’s deliberate edges create a conceptual frame that conveys a sense of disillusionment and inauthenticity when seen from a distance. But its title acknowledges the potential for fiction in nostalgia, and Kehayoglou creates her wool rugs through a hand-tufting process that lends a truth to the piece. Together, both installations ask: can an artificial environment carefully crafted by human hands be more real than the nature it imitates?
Alexandra Kehayoglou. Shelter for a Memory, 2012. Wool, paint, wood, rope. Photo: Artist’s website.
Hanieh Alizadeh, Mahmoud Ganji, Mehdi Rabie (EOT design studio). Whispering Rainbow, 2012. Satin ribbon. Hefdah-E-Shahrivar Street, Tehran. Photo: EOT design studio’s Facebook.
This text was originally written for a class titled Installation Art: Design & Change at Pratt.
You can also read more pairings on the Pairings: Blog set up by our professor, Kim Connerton, PhD.
Two figures eerily creep through a scene, with a strong sense of light shooting up at them. Dark shadows are cast behind everything that catches the light, and within one of the corners sits a sculpted portrait bust, whose giant face looms like the Ghost of Performances Past. His nose is broken and his mouth is twisted, and the space behind his head is the only part painted black – an ominous warning against the dangers of acting, cautioning how much of your own self that might be forfeited in the desire to become someone else on stage.
And even though the subject matter may lean towards the creepy, the colors are anything but – bright oranges and whites against a pale green background, colors painted so thick that they become autonomous, living on their own within the 63 x 79 inches of canvas, bleeding and oozing but with enough restraint for detail. There’s a strong sense of the artist’s hand across a floor that’s painted in lines mimicking the light’s direction. But the walls and clothes seem to glow from the color within them, somehow shiny and organic at the same time.
“Performance” by Johannes Heisig, 2012
Also on view in Heisig’s booth on the Modern Art pier was a triptych of sorts – three watery interpretations of himself, each numbered as a different “Selbstbetrachtung” or “Self Reflection.” Each utilizes a distinct color palette and emphasizes a different part of the artist’s face – the first focuses on his nose, the second on his head/ear, and the third on his mouth and chin, as if he painted three different still frames from one good head shaking. They could be three totally different people, and shown altogether they play with the ideas of how drastically the way we view ourselves changes from day to day and hour to hour.
The artist stares right at you in the middle portrait – his head swimming in bright colors that highlight the fleshiness of his skin that’s even painted a burning red/orange in some places. His eyes look out disapprovingly, his mouth puckered in a grimace as if he’s judging your outfits or your bad habits from within the frame. If you look closely, you can see each individual stroke of the artist’s brush – they seem random and chaotic, but somehow take a few steps back and they come together to become an impassioned kind of melting impressionism.
Heisig’s “Selbstbetrachtung” or “Self Reflections”
Johannes Heisig, 60, has been described as a social realist painter working in subjective expressionism. From Germany, he’s painted a number of German politicians and also works in graphic design and illustration. His artwork has been shown throughout Europe since the early 80s, and at the Armory Show he was represented by Die Galerie in Frankfurt.
“Selbstbetrachtung I (Self Reflection I), 2010.
See more from Johannes Heisig on his website.
From within a plain framed canvas sticks a nail, and atop it stands a matching silver bug, holding some kind of weight across its shoulders. Existing somewhere between reality and a Pixar movie, the little silver fellow is given character, a purpose, and the ability to walk on two legs. The nail he balances upon isn’t in the center of the canvas either, it’s just off to the side, and the little bug walks towards the wide ocean of white as if he were unaware of the inability to travel through physical matter.
But that doesn’t matter anyways, because in this artwork he’s frozen in time, and as if there were three different suns, three of his shadows stretch out from where the nail meets the canvas – two drawn on with pencil and a third that is an actual shadow, created by the lights above booth 2.11 at VOLTA NY.
A work by Colombian artist Sebastian Mejia, the strong little bug was echoed throughout the artist’s booth at the fair, sometimes framed on portable canvas like this one and other times just nailed right into the wall with shadows drawn temporarily. And even though the bug would have squashed if it were alive and real, the image of something so inconsequential trying so hard at something was adorable and disheartening at the same time, since the task seems so menial and even if the bug did succeed at whatever it was he was working towards, no one would care regardless.
But it’s probably not so much about what he’s trying to do, but about how we perceive what he’s trying to do. He’s immortalized by two carefully drawn shadows, meaning that there are at least four different representations of him in one place – a factor multiplied every time someone takes a photo. He’s strong the way we imagine hardworking insects to be, but he’s silver, and a shinier silver than the nail he balances upon and the q-tip shaped weight he carries across his shoulders. He’s smaller than the disposable pieces of cotton we use to clean our ears, but he’ll survive much longer and be remembered for much more.
It’s hard to fully appreciate this one in two-dimensions, although it is very much a two-dimensional work. Works of art framed in shiny gold appear to stretch back into the distance, but everything is actually made of something shiny and plastic, even the fading black shadows scrawled beneath each work. The trains within the paintings that look farthest away are just as close to you as anything else, they’re just smaller.
Shadowed wall drawings come from a cracked pedestal on which an ancient statue should stand – the floor and walls both filled in with gray to become the silhouettes of something nonexistent but expected. Sebastian’s whole booth, titled “Sombras Nada Mas” or “Shades Nothing More,” created a game between your brain and your eyes, as each piece forced a recognition of what was represented and what was really there.
Sebastian Mejia was represented at VOLTA by balzerARTprojects in Basel, Switzerland. According to his artist statement at the fair, his work “focuses upon the dissemination of visual information in different cultures.” He uses his work to examine the differences in symbolism between European and Latin American cultures, but all with a heavy-handed sense of comic relief to lighten the mood.
“Mejia’s work is an epistemological enquiry into the nature of knowledge, how it is acquired, presented, and how it can be retained, communicated, and implemented… Based on the ‘Allegory of the Cave,’ Mejia argues that language is a mere shadow of reality. Translated into the ‘visual,’ shadows of objects cannot represent reality of forms – truth must be experienced rather than told as language fails to convey belief. As ephemeral as his work seems at first sight, they are also about monumental historical and intellectual concepts, such as cultural interactivity, lightness, and adaptation.”
For more of Sebastian’s work, see his website – on the homepage there’s a pretty interesting video of the artist reading a book about Vasari in a library.
flash acrylic paint on tyvek
12 x 30 feet (144 x 360 inches) Image from artist’s website.
“Stardust” is a flash of make-believe, tricking your eyes into seeing something only found through a very powerful telescope or on the background of a Mac. The wall is painted like its falling apart, crumbling to reveal the image that’s breaking through behind. A star appears to be exploding – mid-transition on its way to becoming a white dwarf or a black hole – something other than what it used to be. With an asymmetrical form glowing bright, white light springs from the center while the rest of it shines red through the clouds that cover it.
Image via Slow Show.
Adam Cvijanovic is a 54-year-old artist born in Cambridge, MA and now living in New York City. His work has been featured in the New York Times, Time Out NY, the New Yorker, along with ArtSlant, ARTnews, and Art Forum. He is currently represented by Postmasters Gallery in New York, and according to his CV he was continuously creating and exhibiting work from the mid-eighties until 2010, but hasn’t publicized making anything since.
For more of Adam’s work, see his Postmasters profile.
Image via Slow Show.