Thursday, April 28, 2011

Kara Walker

Kara Walker is an artist who is best known for her silhouettes. These silhouettes explore race, gender, and sexuality through a narrative that she creates with these figures. When I think of silhouettes, as I am sure many people do, I think of the Victorian lone head silhouette of a person, but Walker really changes this idea and brings it forward into a modern day interpretation. Her pieces are instillation pieces that are put directly onto the walls of galleries, and this creates a space that tells her story. Almost like a theater, the walls become her stage. Her forms are usually violent, and when she does her instillations, she takes special care of casted light on the walls; this way, the viewer becomes a part of the instillation and can better put themselves into the figures’ story.

No Place (Like Home), 1997

Cut paper and adhesive on wall

12X85ft (installation at the Walker Art Center)

In Kara’s pieces, it is easy to tell who is a white character and who is a black character. It is also sometimes hard to pick out just one story that she is trying to tell.

I could not find a title, a place, or year for this piece. However, this installation I have seen from her before and it is one of my favorites. Here she is playing with the ideas of romance, race, and many other issues that I am sure each viewer mush find for their own. First of all, her impeccable craftsmanship just amazes me, and although they are just figures that aren’t moving, you can tell they are in a story, as if they have been captured by the camera of history. I love the scene where there is a white man and woman about to kiss on the left; this shows the romance and how it interacts with the child and black woman in the boat. There is always violence in her pieces, and in this it is subtle, but the little kid is holding a dead bird at its neck, almost in the direction of the woman pointing her finger. The shadow to the right of the woman in the boat is almost an original Victorian head figure, although I do not know who it is. This piece just makes me question myself and the piece itself, and I don’t think that Walker had a specific answer and story for the boat scene.

Virginia’s Lynch Mob, 1998

Cut paper and adhesive on wall

10X37 feet

This piece really explains how Kara Walker uses racially charged figures and stories to get her point across of what the Old South had done to her own race. For me, the most terrifying pieces of this is the person hanging upside down on the stick, and the boy with the gun in his mouth and a piece of his brains flying at the woman behind him. It’s almost as if these black characters would rather kill themselves and go crazy than be hung by a white Virginian mob.

I wish I can someday see Kara Walker’s silhouettes in person, for I believe that a picture does not do justice to the giant and heartfelt pieces that she places on the walls of the museums she displays in.

Mark Dion

Mark Dion is an artist who feels that is an artists’ job to “go against the grain of dominant culture, to challenge perception and convention.” In his work, he contemplates and changes the way that dominant ideologies influence our society, culture, and nature throughout history. He uses “scientific methods of collecting, ordering, and exhibiting objects [to create] works that question the distinctions between ‘objective’ (‘rational’) scientific methods and ‘subjective’ (‘irrational’) influences.”

Scala Naturea, 1994
In this piece, Mark Dion played on the way that Aristotle attempted to classify life in a hierarchical system. Man’s creation is on the bottom, while fungi, fruits and vegetales, corals, butterflies, a stuffed cat and duck, and the bust of a scholar follow. The way Dion has placed these on a staircase is well done in signifying how a hierarchical system works, the separation it creates and the way he has played with the jump in size from step to step plays up that idea even more.

Ship in a Bottle

Dion put a very contemporary twist on this historic idea of the ship in a bottle. This twelve-foot long clear glass ‘bottle’ is by an L.A. waterfront on a grassy mound. The ship inside is resting on what looks like water but is actually an entire bed of crushed glass. When looking at this piece from the right angle, it seems as if this giant piece, the ship and bottle, are floating out on the waters of the Port’s outer harbor. Dion said, “The art of crafting miniature ships in bottles was a favorite pastime of sailors, who have been important participants in the Port’s long history and culture. My ‘Ship in a Bottle’ is a contemporary concept to unify the aesthetic of contemporary public art with that of vernacular, nautical craft-work and to respectfully acknowledge the central role played by the Port of Los Angeles and the city of San Pedro as the gateway of international commerce in the United States.”

Tar and Feathers, 1999.

When I first saw this piece, my first reaction was, “ew.” But then I remembered the way that Dion plays with nature and how it affects society. I do not like the based he put the tree on, because to me it feels like an afterthought, and I wish it looked as if it was just growing out of the floor to ground it more to this world we live in every single day. The hanging animals are quite creepy, however, the fact that they are in tar along with the tree brings them closer and part of the tree. Each animal can mean something different to each person in society, and I think that that is an important essence of this piece.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Do-Ho Suh

Do-Ho Suh’s work often explores the idea of scale and the places in which objects come from. Mini human figures, military dog tags, and cloth homes, are all objects Do-Ho Suh works with and changes conventional notions with. With these, he questions identity of people working together and as individuals.

Staircase V, 2008

Polyester and stainless steel tubes

This translucent orange-red polyester ceiling and staircase is a great example of the way Do-Ho Suh plays with the idea of space. The fabric seems to slouch yet looks as if you could walk up those stairs into the top floor. He is turning the regular space into a lower level by adding the railing above the ceiling that he created. The way he made the ceiling was very geometric and mimics ceiling tiles, yet you can see through them, allowing the viewer to put themselves in that upper floor.

The Perfect Home II, 2003

 translucent nylon,

110 x 240 x 516 inches

This piece has much more intimate meaning than the Staircase V. The color itself makes it feel more intimate than the bright orange; the cool and pastel blues and light violets make it almost ghost like. The bathroom and kitchen that can be seen in the first picture are incredible well thought out and technically beautiful. When I look at it I feel as if I could turn the knobs of the stove, open the cabinets, open the doors, and even flush the toilet. I don’t know how he makes something so soft as this fabric to look as if it is actual hard walls and objects. Brilliant.

Some/One, 2001

Stainless steel military dog tags, nickel plated copper sheets, steel structure, glass fiber reinforced resin, and rubber sheets

The title is very informative in this piece. Each individual tag represents one person, but here they are all interacting with each other to form this ghost like robe. This is another piece that is really good at representing the way that Do-Ho Suh works with the individual and their interactions with the whole. This piece is comprised of 40,000 dog tags. I think the ghost like view of this plays into the idea of mortality as a soldier. When tags are received from a body, it usually means they have passed; it is a way to tell who the person is. These 40,000 tags represent a very large body count.

Floor, 1997

This again, is showing how Do-Ho Suh enjoys working with the individual and the whole. All of these little casted people can hold up people walking on them. These two inch high figures all have their hands raised above their heads and they are all looking up at who they are supporting.

Karma, 2003

This is again playing with the small cast people holding up a larger character. I think the informative title turns it into something that is a burden and a punishment. The little people are almost like the big shoe’s shadow, and they have to keep up wit it.

Who Am We?, 1996

These portraits are teenagers, about 40,000 of them. They were taken from the artist’s high-school yearbooks. You cannot tell these are photos or even recognize them individually until you are quite close to the wallpaper. When you get close, this pattern of dots become more recognizable as  human faces. This is again playing with the idea of the individual being a part of the whole.