Friday, May 8, 2009

you got light in your ears

Precisely one year ago, on Mother's Day, to be exact, I saw a Radiohead show at Nissan Pavilion just outside of DC that was, at that point, one of the best designs I had seen in a nontraditional integration of light and live music. The stage had large LCD tubes hanging around the band that created a brilliantly synchronized, ambient light show (here's a rough YouTuber that can at least give you a sense for it). One year later, the importance of and emphasis placed on light design in conjunction with live music may not have necessarily changed all that much. After all, Pink Floyd basically defined the practice as one of the first acts to tour with a dedicated traveling light show and was creating groundbreaking musical visuals as early as the 1970's, though visually peaking post-'84...and any Phish fan can tell you that the brilliant Chris Kuroda is basically a member of the band - his instrument? A buncha crazy-dazzling light gadgets. However, today we do see the possibilities of sensory integration has exponentially grown - allowing for the creation of interactive immersive environments that blend performance and performance art.

It was only a matter of time before sound and vision became a soupy blend. Structurally, sound waves and light waves are not so distant of relatives (take out your books, class. A bit of a physics lesson), the main differences being a) velocity, with sound waves traveling at a speed of approximately 1,100 feet per second, and light waves traveling at approximately 186,000 miles per second, and b) wave composition - sound is composed of longitudinal waves and light is composed of transverse waves in an electromagnetic field. As a result, it seems only natural that there's now a great emerging trend to use interactive light as a sort of musical instrument.

Well, Nine Inch Nails, with the help of Montreal-based new media agency MomentFactory has indeed made a fine bisque. For those of us lucky enough to catch the Nine Inch Nails/Jane's Addiction tour (and/or to catch the NIN Bonnaroo set), you'll be dazzled by the multiple large LCD panels that respond and react to the band's sound and movement.

Some great video footage below (although this may or may not be considered appropriate for the young ones, depending on which side of the Tipper Gore/Frank Zappa debate you fall on).

Take a look:

Nine Inch Nails: Only (Live in HD) from WhoRu? on Vimeo.

Be sure to check out the 'Making of' video (very much worth it) to learn more.

You can see more cool interactive light shows, including this one, through this recent FastCompany article.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

all the little creatures

Great new ads from DDB Brazil for WWF help to visualize, quantify and connect to the scale and reach of our impact as consumers; from the smallest of creatures who depend upon a single tree or reef for survival to the massive implications to our biosphere in the destruction of a forest or ocean. The beautiful infographics take on magnitude - filling the ads to the edges with thousands of species who inhabit our natural resources.

Truly stunning visuals - photo-realistic and nicely organized in a clear taxonomy. This would be a great new format for digital biology textbooks, with hyperlinking ability to drill down into each life form and the most minute of details, while still maintaining the bigger systems picture.

Click on the images to zoom in and romp around all of the detail in these ads!

Thursday, April 30, 2009


Perhaps at the top of my art wish list right now is Los Angeles-based artist Richard Colman. The artist, working primarily in guache and ink, got his start as a graffiti artist in Washington, DC, where he commuted from his home base in Bethesda, Maryland. As stated by the artist himself, "while stylistically nearly irrelevant in terms of [Colman's] art," there are certainly some cues in his work that point to this early practice. "[Graffiti] is the kind of background that changes one’s perceptions of what is permanent and precious" - graffiti is "cocksure attitude, bristling edges, and menace – strange for a medium so utterly fragile." Certainly, one can see a menacing attitude coupled with human fragility in Colman's work, which often features imagery of sodomy and decapitation, though without any expressed emotion on the faces of his subjects.

Colman's aesthetic and visual lexicon borrows from Byzantine art (a pretty wide net), which is marked by a more abstract and symbolic approach, as opposed to a natural or realistic approach. Similar to Byzantine art, Colman's work utilizes a relatively flat plane, without shading or the use of other depth perception techniques. His subjects are frequently cast with a highly gestural use of their hands, an antiquated technique used to indicate a visual narrative, or flow, to the viewer, while their heads are often haloed in golden spheres, lending his images to the usually religious or royal-themed work from Byzantine artists.

To me, Colman's work seems to straddle the approach of this era as applied to subjects that look rather circus side show-ish, with somewhat disturbing human-animal 'acts' and freakishly tall or fat subjects who seem to be performing for the viewer. In an interview with Trippe from Fecal Face, Colman describes some underlying themes within his work:
"I started to think about some of my own feelings of being detached from my life, physically there but not really present, you know? I have become increasingly busier in the past few years so I've been feeling sort of like I have been disappearing from my own life...The characters...are sort of being swallowed up by the compositions, even becoming the composition. The end result represents the transition or metamorphosis of the character, changing into something completely different from what they physically are."
Since graduation from Boston’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Colman's work has been exhibited alongside the likes of Ron English and Shepard Fairey, and remains a respected figure in the DC street art community. To see more of Colman's work, visit his website or check out his current show, C.H.U.D.Z. at the Cinders Gallery in Brooklyn, NY, which runs through May 24th.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

womb with a view

Bay Area artist Martha Sue Harris has created a series of multimedia works inspired by her own pregnancy. Expecting a baby girl, the artist's figurative installation portrays womb-like bubbles filled with plush fabric, yarn constructions and little fetal creatures.

According to her website, "Martha Sue grew up the only child of metalwork artists in a small house in the outskirts of Tucson, AZ." She attended The California College of Arts, where she received her Bachelors of Fine Arts in film, video and painting. She continues to be inspired by "the flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert," which "gave her an eye for the strange and wondrous in nature."

Visit Martha Sue Harris' site for more of her multimedia works, including her work in installation, animation, drawing, painting and fabric sculpture.

bob dylan's 115th dream

Although this spread from Vanity Fair is a year old now (May 2008 issue), and may be old news to you, it just came across my inbox today. Quite a lovely photo treatment from artists Andrew Nimmo and Beth Bartholomew, who brought the mind and consciousness of Bob Dylan to life by plotting the artist's words onto the photo by theme.

It's a beautiful concept, to take the intangibles - imagination, belief, emotion, soul - and create visual artifacts that piece together the fragments and multidimensional elements of identity so as to make accessible a greater understanding of self. The typography treatment is delicate and whispy, with Dylan's musings seemingly floating off into the ether as he perhaps walks down (Positively) 4th Street; his stature is appropriately thoughtful and introspective.

To delve deeper into the psyche and themes of Bob Dylan, check out his XM Radio show: Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour.

Monday, April 27, 2009


I am absolutely loving the work of Jacob Magraw-Mickelson. His organically-structured compositions look like topography maps on acid, with farm plots and colorful, pulsating underworlds connected by plumbing sinews and electrical ligaments, creating vibrant Dr. Seuss-like landscapes. Ahhh...dreamy.

With representation at the Richard Heller Gallery in Santa Monica, California, Magraw-Mickelson's work has been featured in The New York Times, Fishwrap Magazine, McSweeney's Quarterly and in the Anthropologie catalog.

For inquiries on
Magraw-Mickelson pieces available for sale, contact the Heller Gallery.

Friday, April 24, 2009

brothers grim

We've heard the many examples from art history of works begun by one artist and completed by another - usually the case being that of master and student, like Giorgione and Titian, Viani and Cavazza, Giovanni and Belliniano, etc. In these cases, however, you find the student emulates the style of the master, completing the piece in what presumably was the original artist's vision and aesthetic. In other examples of group paintings, the mashup of unique styles leaves the resulting piece looking more like the remains of a food fight than a composition.

The work of the Clayton Brothers certainly is a great exception. Rob and Christian Clayton create pieces together that share a multidimensional voice and point of view. While the works embody the unique styles of Rob and Christian, the end result...just frankly works. While it certainly helps that both brothers are working in a psychedelic, surrealist style that allows for a variety of images and patterns to hang well together, there's something to be said for their unspoken understanding of the harmony and balance of their canvases. While the pieces are heavily layered and thick with detail that's both objective and decorative, neither artist appears to be attempting to 'dominate' the other. There's a clear perspectival plane and central image or theme that the brothers build together without using up the canvas for the sake of diffusing the others voice:
"The concept of symbiosis resonates through every aspect of their paintings and installations. In a practice devoid of ego and restraint, the Clayton brothers develop intense compacted narratives on an intuitive basis. Rob and Christian Clayton seldom work on the same canvas at the same time, or discuss of their projects during making. Playing off their unspoken synergy, they take turns inventing, adding to, and editing each piece, propelling their ‘stories’ through spontaneous improvisation. Entwining their independent approaches, styles, and palettes, their works operate as co-authored epics, fusing the concept of self with the communal."

There's something at once dark, snarky and celebratory about the brothers' work, which creates a dynamic and complex narrative on their canvases. Often in grisly states, they include the animate and inanimate - both somehow frozen in place and devoid of any expressive emotion, while great lines of movement and ecstatic splashes of color seem to imply a passing of time around these figures. The brothers include familiar imagery from their worlds, like branded products that indicate themes of consumerism and perhaps commentary on advertising as these objects also are somewhat lifeless and hollow, though contain designs and flourishes around them so as to bring attention and energy to their existence.

The brothers both received their BFA's from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, where they now both hold faculty positions. Their work has been exhibited in notable shows throughout the world, including The Armory Show in New York, Art Basel in Miami and the The Royal Academy in London. To see more from the Clayton Brothers, visit their website.