Over the past twenty years, photography has undergone a dramatic transformation. Mechanical cameras and silver-based film have been replaced by electronic image sensors and microchips…
Since the beginning of the 1970s, Rebecca Horn has been creating an oeuvre which constitutes an ever-growing flow of performances, films, sculptures, spatial installations, drawings and photographs
The exhibition, organized by The Costume Institute, celebrates the late Alexander McQueen’s extraordinary contributions to fashion. From his Central Saint Martins postgraduate collection of 1992 to his final runway presentation, which took place after his death in February 2010, Mr. McQueen challenged and expanded the understanding of fashion beyond utility to a conceptual expression of culture, politics, and identity. His iconic designs constitute the work of an artist whose medium of expression was fashion.
The Romantic Mind
Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims (MA Graduation Collection), 1992
Pink silk satin printed in thorn pattern lined in white silk with encapsulated human hair
“You’ve got to know the rules to break them. That’s what I’m here for, to demolish the rules but to keep the tradition.”
McQueen doggedly promoted freedom of thought and expression and championed the authority of the imagination. In so doing, he was an exemplar of the Romantic individual, the hero-artist who staunchly follows the dictates of his inspiration. “What I am trying to bring to fashion is a sort of originality,” he said. McQueen expressed this originality most fundamentally through his methods of cutting and construction, which were both innovative and revolutionary.
Like his contemporaries, Christo rebelled against abstraction, seeing it as too theoretical and proposing in its place a manifestly physical art composed of real things. Christo began by wrapping everyday objects, including tin cans and bottles, stacks of magazines & furniture.
In 1961 he started collaborated with his wife, Jeanne-Claude, using industrial materials like polypropylene sheeting, canvas & ropes to wrap objects. The use of fabric sometimes involved wrapping an object, sometimes a bundle; these coverings partly obscured the object’s contours and hampered its function, thus transforming it into an aesthetic presence.
In 1964, just after moving to New York, this repertory of forms was augmented by a series of life-sized store fronts, for example Store Front (1964) the view through their plate-glass windows blocked by hanging fabrics or by sheets of paper stretched across their fronts, again rendering their function uncertain.
In “Made in heaven” Jeff Koons made works depicting his sexual relationship with his wife, the Italian porn-star Ilona Staller, also known as Cicciolina. These provocative works show the naked couple in explicit poses and reference paintings by artists such as Edouard Manet to examine the place of sexuality in visual culture. Koons employed Ilona’s regular photographer and backdrops, to create the distinctive aesthetic associated with ‘glamour’ imagery. Blurring the boundaries between fine art and pornography, Koons challenged the conventions of artistic taste, encouraging his audience to make their own decisions about what is acceptable.
Aziz + Cucher have been collaborating on and exhibiting digital photography projects and sculpture since 1991. They live and work in Brooklyn, New York. Anthony Aziz began with an interest in documentaries and photograpy, while Sammy Cucher’s work originated in theatre and video.
Their collaborative interest is in “creating visual metaphors for the increasing role that new technologies play in our lives and how they affect us politically, socially, and psychologically.” They explore the possibilities for human beings in a time when we can transform ourselves and nature from “known forms into unknown forms” as a result of the potential inherent in the coming together of computer science, biotechnology, genetics and nanotechnology.
Matthew Barney is the producer and creator of the “CREMASTER” films, a series of five visually extravagant works created out of sequence (“CREMASTER 4” began the cycle, followed by “CREMASTER 1,” etc.). The films generally feature Barney in myriad roles, including characters as diverse as a satyr, a magician, a ram, Harry Houdini, and even the infamous murderer Gary Gilmore. The title of the films refers to the muscle that raises and lowers the male reproductive system according to temperature, external stimulation, or fear. The films themselves are a grand mixture of history, autobiography, and mythology, an intensely private universe in which symbols and images are densely layered and interconnected. The resulting cosmology is both beautiful and complex.
Janine Antoni was born in Freeport, Bahamas in 1964. Antoni’s work blurs the distinction between performance art and sculpture. Transforming everyday activities such as eating, bathing, and sleeping into ways of making art, Antoni’s primary tool for making sculpture has always been her own body. She has chiseled cubes of lard and chocolate with her teeth, washed away the faces of soap busts made in her own likeness, and used the brainwave signals recorded while she dreamed at night as a pattern for weaving a blanket the following morning.
“I mopped the floor with my hair…The reason I’m so interested in taking my body to those extreme places is that that’s a place where I learn, where I feel most in my body. I’m really interested in the repetition, the discipline, and what happens to me psychologically when I put my body to that extreme place.”
The artist soaked her hair in hair dye and mopped the floor with it.
Lick and Lather
7 soap and 7 chocolate self-portrait busts, 24 x 16 x 13 inches each
“I wanted to work with the tradition of self-portraiture but also with the classical bust…I had the idea that I would make a replica of myself in chocolate and in soap, and I would feed myself with my self, and wash myself with my self. Both the licking and the bathing are quite gentle and loving acts, but what’s interesting is that I’m slowly erasing myself through the process. So for me it’s about that conflict, that love/hate relationship we have with our physical appearance, and the problem I have with looking in the mirror and thinking, ‘Is that who I am?’”
Lipstick display; lipstick made with pigment, beeswax and chewed lard removed from lard “Gnaw,” and heart-shaped packaging tray for chocolates made from chewed chocolate removed from chocolate “Gnaw”.
“All of my objects sort of walk the line between sculpture, performance, and relic. Any time I use performance, it’s not so much my interest in performance but my interest in bringing you back to the making.”
In her video work and performances, Ene-Liis Semper focuses on her own psycho-physical experience. Semper’s work refutes recent strategies employed in video and film work, which attempt to show reality directly as a series of unmediated images. Semper possesses a definite aesthetic position that serves as an oasis to borrow a metaphor from the title of one of her works an unexpected visual spectacle in the context of the contemporary desert of images.
Ene-Liis Semper points the camera at the intimacies of her personal life, observing subtleties of psychological and bodily experiences. Nevertheless, the final sequence of images is far removed from recent artistic strategies which show reality directly as an unmediated image, as if seen through surveillance or web cameras.
Having graduated from theatre art and design, Semper is clearly familiar with, on the one hand, strategies of staging, the progression of narratives and the building of dramatic undertones, and, on the other, the reinforcing role of visuality, its potentials and impacts. In her creative undertakings Semper distills the best of both fields theatre and visual arts
Ene-Liis Semper likes to cast herself in the leading role. Whether the Estonian artist is testing out different methods for suicide (as in FF/REW, 1998) or living out hygienic obsessions in a white-tiled space (Licked Room, 2000), her concrete physical presence as an engaged body is the basis for videos that take their measure from reality.
Semper’s classic Oasis, 1999, seen at the Venice Biennale that year, in which a blossoming flower, together with its soil, is planted in Semper’s mouth–portraying the fusion of nature and the human body.
“Usually, I do not make stories about my real life,” the artist says. “Mainly my works are more like mental ‘results’ of my living here and now, not quotes of everyday situations, but I just could not resist the temptation to make a video of the situation I was in a couple of months ago with my very first baby, my beloved partner, and myself. The banality of the situation cut me out of my confiding happiness.”
Chicago artist Jeanne Dunning investigates the human body to create color photographs that question issues of identity, sexuality, and the interior and exterior self. Drawing from a variety of sources, Dunning’s images appear to be other than what they are: a piece of fruit resembles a human orifice; a woman’s head appears to be shaped like a phallus; a human hand takes on a smooth yet lumpy intimacy. In another series, Dunning’s body seems dwarfed by a huge, unidentified mass, leaving the viewer to project his or her own phobias and fetishes onto the images. Referred to as “representations that have been explicitly coded as representations,” by The Los Angeles Times, Dunning’s photographs at once fascinate and disturb, attract and repulse.
Jeanne Dunning’s photographic, sculptural and video work explores our relationship to our own physicality, looking at the strange and unfamiliar in the body, gender and notions of normality.
Bodies and food have been important subjects for Dunning since 1990, when she created the series Samples. The work involved photographing mundane fruits and vegetables at close range to resemble human organs–a skinned tomato that evokes a swollen tumor, for example. In 1996 she began to make her own edible concoctions: thick, flesh-colored puddings and homemade icings. In this exhibition, a tapioca-like substance appears in several photographs, oozing down angles of the body or forming a pool under the head of a sleeping woman. The nature of the liquid remains ambiguous, alluding to sweet and vulgar things. Thus the images themselves can cause both attraction or repulsion, depending on the instinctive reaction of the viewer.
Dunning’s work stimulates an irrepressible desire to look. In her photographs of women with mustaches and the insides of nostrils (dating from 1988), she encourages viewers to stare at what would normally be taboo. The same principle is at work in her recent photography. Each picture sets up a curiosity–something is often strange or unreconciled. This is especially true in her pictures of women. By emphasizing the crucial details or aberrations, Dunning refuses to let viewers passively indulge in female beauty.