Giant bold letters sit in a field. They should be easy to spot, but they’re covered in mirrors so from a distance they blend in, echoing the same colors and patterns as the grass that surrounds them. In a work like this one the photographer has all the power, because choosing an angle determines what’s reflected in the glass. In some photos you really have to search for it, but it’s always there – four giant letters that spell F-E-A-R. When we see the word from straight on, the outlines of the letters look like they’re just floating there, reflecting a shinier swirled version of the green-brown grass.
Up close you can see that the letters in “fear expanded” are plated in mirror that’s been cut into differently sized rectangles, which is what causes parts of the letters to reflect patterns differently when seen from far away. Fear doesn’t seem so scary when it’s just a few giant letters and not something deep inside us. Manifesting Fear as something this huge and unthreatening forces us to laugh at it, but at the same time the Fear is being sneaky with all those mirrors, lurking in the grass, and if you could see it up close in person you’d be faced with fragmented bits of your own reflection.
Ryan Everson is an artist from the midwest, who recently completed an MFA at the University of Colorado in Boulder. This work Fear Expanded was created in collaboration with artist Jason Garcia, who typically works as a painter.
His artist statement reads:
My most recent work comes from abstract emotional states stirred up from specific self reflective moments. These moments arise as I become more aware of myself in the present and my inability to control the future. (continue reading on Everson’s website)
Paul Friedlander is both a physicist and a light sculptor, using applied sciences to create art that’s both beautiful and interactive. He constructs kinetic light sculptures by quickly rotating a rope stretched from ceiling to floor through white light. The vibrating string becomes invisible, but the white light that’s being reflected off the rope becomes visible in an exchange that let’s our eyes see magic, as real as science can make it.
The colors change and twist, forming double-helixes that stem from the shape of the swinging rope. Some of these light sculptures are small and handheld, but many of the larger ones include touch screens that allow viewers to adjust the beams. All of them are spinning at very high speeds that result in a constantly moving body of light.
The light dances and vibrates before you, creating spectrums of color that turn science into performance art. Some of the lights spring from clear bowls that make them look like long shiny ribbons reaching down to us. In this video, the ropes of light spin rapidly, changing from one dense color to one another as the each seems to melt off in succession.
Friedlander wrote that he’s been obsessed with machinery and movement since he was little – with the memory of spending six months as a child in New York, surrounded by the skyscrapers and cars and busses developing in the 1950s. He came to New York because his father was a mathematician who was offered the chance to spend six months researching for New York University. (Even though it’s a huge school, having just graduated from NYU myself feels like I have one little thread of connection to the development of this Englishman who’s combined art and science.)
It’s interesting because after graduating from Sussex University, and learning under Sir Anthony Leggett who later was awarded a Nobel Prize for his work on superfluidity, Friedlander attended art school but found its culture completely backwards and its mindset surprisingly small. No one was interested in beauty, he wrote, apparently it was out of date, “passe”:
“The big new thing was conceptualism. I came to consider the art world as some kind of strange fashion following cult. Members of the art world all shared the same views, talked nonsense and froze out any one who dared to consider their own talent more important than following what every one else was doing.”
On a personal note: I find this incredibly interesting, because it’s that exact attitude I want to spend my life trying to change – people shouldn’t think that art can be this over here, but not that over there because it’s already been done. To me, art is the greatest because each time a different pair of hands make something, even if it’s intended to be a copy of something else, it will always be a completely different interpretation of what came before. Art, by nature, should always by new, instantaneous – capturing one brush stroke or one moment in time that deserves to be shared with the rest of us. And we should always be expanding our idea of what art is, since some of the best art sits right on the edge of nonsense.
But I guess in Mr. Friedlander’s case, his art made too much sense.
String Theory II
Now, Friedlander has shown his light sculptures in four continents and fifteen countries, his work having the unique benefit of blending it at both science and art museums. After a brief stint in stage lighting and starting a family, and after feeling a deep sense of being unfulfilled he began experimenting with light in his own way.
Once he “discovered the chaotic properties of spinning string and chromastrobic light,” Friedlander organized a group of artists for an exhibition they titled “Chaos” and he found that his kinetic light sculptures were actually in when it came to contemporary art tastes. He’s been creating, exhibiting, and winning awards ever since.
If you’d like to read Mr. Friedlander’s story for yourself, he wrote a bio page from which all of this information was gathered.
A silver hand stretches from the sky, cut off just below the elbow and grabbing hold of an older black Fiat 500, stopping the car in its tracks. But there’s no driver in the car, so perhaps before it wasn’t moving. After all, the hand’s grip is loose and casual, long thick silver fingers folded over windows – fingers the size of legs, like they belong to a five-footed monster with no face.
It’s not a monster, but a child’s hand, holding the car like a toy, playing with it along our teeny tiny streets. The name comes from what most children say while they play with toy cars: “vroom vroom,” evocative of the way we all sort of speak our lives into existence, validating with words that end up being just as small as we are.
Because how much control do we really have anyway? If our brakes fail and smash us into a building, how much difference would it make knowing that a giant metal baby was in charge of all the chaos? Would you trust the baby more than a bearded prophet with surviving stories?
Lorenzo Quinn uses his sculpture as a visual facility for communication, all with the goal of helping viewers develop values like understanding, tolerance, and harmony. A Roman-born artist who studied at the American Academy of Fine Arts in New York with the intention of becoming a surrealist painter, Quinn discovered his passion for sculpture at 21 and moved to Spain after the birth of his first child. Now at 47 Quinn’s sculptural works have become enormously successful, shown all over Europe since the late 80s.
“I make art for myself and for people who want to join me on a walk through my dreams,” Quinn said, “The way we live our own lives, is paramount. That is why most of my work has to do with values and emotions. ”
“Vroom Vroom” was initially presented at the Institute of Modern Art in Valencia, Spain in the summer of 2010, and appeared that same year at the Abu Dhabi Art Fair. In January 2011 the sculpture was settled in Park Lane, London as part of the Westminister City Council’s sculpture festival.
The nearly 15 feet high sculpture creates an open dialogue about our place in the world, the child’s hand indicating the littleness of it all and the title opening all sorts of other discussions about reality, awareness, and language – what does it mean to you?
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.
“Throne For The Greatest Rapper Of All Time,” 2005 Found Wood Furniture, 96”h 69”w 48”d
Marc Andre Robinson creates sculptures, drawings and videos from his studio in Brooklyn, all of his work concerned with family and what it takes to belong in one.
His works with chairs show a playful relationship between art and artifact, using found furniture that has probably held the generations of many families within them, giving each piece a stronger sense of realness – art repurposed instead of just created for its own sake.
“Throne For The Greatest Rapper of All Time” looks like either a very elaborate 19th century sex toy, or a complete dining room set come to life, becoming a more powerful Transformer-version of chairs and pieces of table. But the work is very sit-able, and looking closely you’ll see all the stacked chairs come from different sets and different tables. Wooden antennae stretch up symmetrically creating a very impressive silhouette, the backs of the chairs exaggerated and elongated, like a father figure overcompensating.
“By Themselves And Of Themselves” accomplishes a feat against gravity, a huge circle of interlocking chairs standing upright. All the chairs face out, some are plastic but most are wooden, and again each chair comes from a different set – a mismatched bunch somehow made whole.
Peter Callesen uses paper itself as a medium, carefully cutting away forms and shapes from a sheet of backdrop, then reconstructing those fallen bits into miniature sculptures that are sometimes still connected to the flat blank paper they used to be, almost as if they were falling out of place. These simple delicate masterpieces combine two-dimensional shapes with three-dimensional sculptures, now affected by gravity and casually laying upon the wooden frame’s platform.
In “Dead Angels” this is exactly the case, winged skeletons falling from the cutout silhouettes of flying angels. The concept behind trace and form lends itself to this duality of ideas – the lack of paper inside the angels’ forms indicate their absence, accounted for by the three skeletons only held up by the paper’s thick wooden frame, their wings still attached but useless. I especially love the third skeleton, hanging by one big toe to the angel he used to be as his body leans upside-down, but in a silly way, arms outstretched as if to say ‘oh well.’
Dead Angels, 2007 Acid Free paper, glue, acrylic paint, and oak frame. 127 x 94 x 11,5 cm.
“City of Homeless Thoughts” visualizes its title metaphorically, the intricately cut profile view of a head is filled with interlocked tubes and wiring that branch outside his form, cast above the frame litered with miniature paper houses.
City of Homeless Thoughts , 2008 Acrylic paint, on 120 gsm acid free paper, pencil and oak frame. 139 x 106 x 13 cm.
“Cut to the Bone II” is the funniest of them all in a dark twisted kind of way – a skeleton against a dull pink background rolls down the paper his form came from, his skeleton legs and feet still drawn inside the painted paper that’s held rolled up by his skinny little skeleton fingers at the hips.
Cut To The Bone II, 2008 Watercolor and pencil on 120 gsm acid free paper, glue, and oak frame. 139 x 107 x 13 cm.
“The Roots of Heaven” shows a poetic detail of a tree too symmetrical to be real, its cut out form laying on the frame, still connecting and now visually serving as the tree’s roots, linking it to its past.
The Roots of Heaven, 2009 Acid-free 120 gsm paper, glue, acrylic paint and wooden frame. 107 x 107 x 13 cm
See more of Peter Callesen’s work on his website here.