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.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

happy earth day!

It's Earth Day - our annual calender reminder of our impact and footprint as consumers. Each year, however, this day becomes gravely more important, and a change in our behaviors evermore critical. Inevitably, activities and events seem to pop up around this time of year in hopes of bringing the circumstances of our environment to the forefront of consciousness and awareness. But today is just like every other day. We consume, we discard, we use once and destroy, we produce, we build, we tear down...all in a day's work. Certainly, today is a great day for the small changes, but it's also a great day to ask what we are doing to not just change our behaviors today, but to change our rituals and habits, our philosophies of consumption and our purchase decisions everyday. We're hitting the dire straits, where the incremental changes to be made are now the table stakes, and transformations in how we live are a necessity. Maybe you and I don't feel the impact of our waste today...but is it worth waiting until we do?

I usually find most Earth Day programs and environment-focused public service announcements fail to create a lasting impact. They're too easy to forget and it's too easy to ignore their messages, partially, I believe, because of the lack of cold, hard facts. I want the numbers - I want to know what kind of a dent I will create if I choose to walk or bike to work instead of drive, or what will happen if I recycle my can versus throw it away. I want to know the global impact I have if I change my behaviors, and what will happen if I don't. The information is out there, it's just not necessarily present where it might be most helpful - like in our grocery stores.

So, in light of Earth Day, and in the name of quantifying our global impact, I thought that for today's post I might share a video with you that I found both informative and inspiring. This video was created for a special Earth Day exhibit from the New York office of agency Deutsch and the Bronx Zoo. The exhibit, on display now through April 26th at the Bronx Zoo, features large, skeletal-looking sculptures in the shape of our endangered animals made from recycled materials.

Check out the video and be sure to visit the Bronx Zoo if you have the opportunity!

Happy Earth Day!

Monday, April 20, 2009

houses in motion

I have a mild obsession with miniatures - so much so that it's even the source of a nickname I've had since childhood, when I was a more avid collector of the tiny: dollhouse accessories, miniature tea sets, just about anything that played with the smaller side of proportion. It's no wonder that I stopped dead in my tracks upon seeing images of the latest work from Ana Serrano featured at Scion's Papershapers event in Culver City, California.

Serrano's latest is a combination of sculpture and collage, featuring brightly colored cardboard-crafted houses stacked on top of one another like homes built into cliffs for an at-all-costs view of the coastline. The 25-year-old first generation Mexican American born in Los Angeles explores "those in low socio-economic positions, with particular interest in their customs and beliefs, as well as the architecture, fashion, and informal economies, present within this segment of society" through her work. A graduate (with honors) from Art Center College of Design, Serrano draws much of her inspiration from Wes Anderson, Michael Gondry and other stop animation films, which she watches while working.

If you have the opportunity, catch one of Ana Serrano's shows. The Papershapers event will continue through May 11th, while Serrano's work will also be featured at Desmadre: Fresh Latino Perspectives in America, opening May 14th at Vermillion Gallery in Seattle.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

bang, bang, snap, snap

This is what you get when you combine an air rifle, a Nikon D40 camera, a $300 homemade one-millionth of a second flash unit...and point it at your collection of small random things: play-dough, Christmas ornaments, fruit, razor blades, microscope slides, paint balls and M&M's. The California-based photographer Alan Sailer truly captures the moment. Take a glimpse into the micro world that begins and ends in a blink, leaving the naked eye with nothing more than a colorful splatter.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

lego-lfactory system

I had posted about this campaign on the Sign Language blog, which focuses on information design, but thought it might also be interesting for creature readers. I really took to these visual information maps which represent an award winning campaign from the Dubai branch of ad agency PF7 on behalf of Brainobrain Jumeira Child Development Program. Illustrated by artist Jason Freeny of Moist Production, the anatomy schematics for kids took top honors at the 2009 Dubai Lynx International Advertising Festival presented by Cannes Lions, earning the Gold Medal in Print and the highest award of Grand Prix in the Outdoor category. As a result, $20,000 in scholarship money was given to the Brainobrain Jumeira Child Development Program in honor of this award.

The ads are playful, elegant and detailed - with multiple layers of information, packaged in kid-centric visual metaphors. Science IS fun when you use balloon animals, legos and gummy bears - and use map real estate to build on the metaphor, as seen on the balloon animal poster with instructions for making the balloon dog.

The ads utilize an important principle of information graphics and mapping: map as platform to expand your brand. The map employs the Brainobrain Jumeira program signature approach of whole brain development-based education for children by "activating left and right hemispheres of the brain," through the use of both logical and creative elements (i.e. visual information). Truly an excellent example of how proper execution of information design can reinforce the connection between your brand and your audience.

Ads that make you smarter - go figure!