03 | ALNIS STAKLE
15 | SHEHREZAD MAHER 25 | LIONEL CRUET 35 | IBN KENDALL
COVER | ALNIS STAKLE
43 | JAVE GAKUMEI YOSHIMOTO
How would you describe your work to a complete stranger? I’d describe my approach to photography as an alternative experience of observation and acquisition; an experience that changes my understanding of things and people along with my habitual itineraries; and experience that adds a quaint hint of sentimentality to my memories and, eventually, transforms my personality into a qualitatively different self. I’d also mention my love of storytelling and suggest perceiving my photographs as snippets of compelling stories, be they long or short. These stories resemble fairy-tales in that the boundary between fact and fiction is deliberately blurred. Where do you find your inspiration? I’m inspired by nature, daily life and contact with other people. Each series of works has its own source of inspiration, but the point of departure in every creative journey is my intuition and emotional reaction to the outside world. I often shoot at night, because to me, night is a special time when habitual aesthetics of the environment change. What emerges is an environment that is experienced and perceived differently.
How would you best define your approach to photography? Photography is a ritual in my religion whose main result is pleasure. By pleasure I mean scopophilia or delight in observation. In your Taxonomy of Fear series, it is possible to earn your inner journey into your memory. Could you describe this to us in more detail? My most vivid and, at the same time, traumatic childhood memories are associated with fear of death and the different coping mechanisms for dealing with it. These works are products of a subjective study, which was undertaken in order to make sense of the origins of my memories and trace their ambiguous links to my family, home and socio-political context. It is my firm belief that photography can capture more than just the visual reality. To me, every image carries layers of profound, tacit meanings. The cryptic nature of photography notwithstanding, this medium delivers messages whose very inexplicability is their fundamental feature.
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LSD SERIES Photography Archival pigment in prints on rag paper 100 x 100 cm - 39 x 39 inches (ed 5) 2001 - 2008
Theory of R series Photography Archival pigment ink prints on rag paper 40 x 27 cm - 16 x 11 inches (ed 5) 2013 - 2015
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Ilgas project Photography Archival pigment ink prints on rag paper 50 x 50 cm - 20 x 20 inches (ed 3) 100 x 100 - 39 x 39 inches ( ed 3) 2010 - ongoing 06 | MADE IN MIND
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These profound, elusive meanings, which resist logical explanation and interpretation, are the very core of each image. They are read subconsciously and intuitively. Paradoxically, what may seem like the simplest of images are, in fact, most densely saturated with encrypted contents. These images are vernacular – products of a genuine emotional response to experience. I have been practicing photography since I was twelve years old (1987). Effectively, this study is an exploration of both my childhood and family photo archives, through which, I look for visual clues to confirm my recollections of fear of death. Subsequent work with these images involves re-photographing them, occasionally focusing on a tiny fragment and enlarging it. When I approached this task, my conscious decision was to use old Soviet film rolls. Quite literally, and on a physical level, it helped me connect with the contents of the archive and the memories it holds in the context of media materiality. Using old film rolls - whose emulsion is on the verge of deterioration - and taking multiple shots of old photographs has yielded images that appear distorted and scratched, full of “visual noise” and other unexpected defects. Tell us about your Theory of R series Most of my work is autobiographical. The Theory of R series is related to a fundamental change in my life – my moving to another city. Riga, the capital of Latvia, has been my home since 2011. At the time of my moving, the economic crisis was still a resonant topic in the media and social discourses. In Latvia, the crisis was dealt with by throwing the lower classes under the wheels of the juggernaut, which greatly aggravated their economic insecurity. Even now, 32% of the Latvian population is at risk of poverty (i.e. with monthly income below 260 EUR).
Shangri-La series Photography Archival pigment ink prints on rag paper 120 x 96 cm - 47 x 38 inches (ed 7) 2013 - ongoing
Not Even Something Photography Archival pigment ink prints on rag paper 130 x 130 cm - 51 x 51 inches (ed 3) 2011 - ongoing
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Heavy Waters project Photography Archival pigment ink prints on rag paper 100 cm x 100 cm - 40 x 40 inches (ed 7) 2011
Heavy Waters project Photography Archival pigment ink prints on rag paper 100 cm x 100 cm - 40 x 40 inches (ed 7) 2011
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Half of the Latvian people reside in Riga, and individuals who suffer from poverty and social exclusion are by no means an unusual sight in the capital’s streets. The impersonal Soviet architecture of residential areas, the patchwork of suburban allotments, which give temporary shelter to the homeless during the winter months, and downtown shacks and slums where people have to make do without the benefits of sewerage or running water are in stark contrast to the splendor of grand façades and luxury vehicles in the areas considered tourist attractions. These contrasts make the city an ambiguous, socially constructed territory where people focus on what they want to see and avert their eyes from things they would rather ignore. Although these works are not documentary in the purest sense of the term, their purpose was drafting a subjective theory of Riga. This project is part of a greater photographic and scientific study of Latvia, whose main outcomes were a group exhibition in Mark Rothko Art Center (Daugavpils, Latvia) and a book , titled Latvian Landscape. How would you describe your work processes? How do you get from idea to final product? I begin with an idea which has some social significance or urgency, but tend to then move towards more subjective motives as the work progresses. The point of departure is always my intuition. How would you describe the art scene in your area? A brief description of the art scene in Latvia is difficult to give.
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We are lucky to have some splendid artists. And yet it is worth mentioning that here, in the post-soviet space, we tend to focus on the collective past of several countries, where art developed in isolation from the Western discourse. That is to say, no traditional art market existed in the soviet times, the theory of art was isolated from Western discourses, and artists often became mouthpieces for official propaganda. Soviet censorship and propaganda radically transformed public perception of art and its functions over the course of 70 years. Granted, things began to change in the 1990s, but even now art is still perceived as something decorative rather than viewed as a legitimate and powerful means of research, provocation, communication, education, etc. I’m not talking of artists, of which we have many, but of general consumption of cultural products by the masses. How important is your environment in shaping your work? How does the place you live in influence your art? It plays a pivotal role in my work, but the exact nature of this influence is hard to put into words. I’d say the place I live in affects me on all levels – physiologically, emotionally and cognitively. My living space includes territory, itineraries, and the people around me. All these aspects can combine in the most peculiar ways, making my life either heaven or hell. In your opinion, what role should the artist have in society? I believe artists and their works suggest alternative models for interpreting reality. I’d compare an artist with a priest who preaches and practices art, and therefore invites his or her contemporaries to make a new sense of the habitual and the mundane.
Melancholic Road project Photography Archival pigment ink prints on rag paper 120 x 66 cm - 47 x 26 inches 120 x 90 cm - 47 x 35 inches (ed 7) 2011
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Alnis Stakle (1975) lives and works in Latvia. He holds PhD in art education from Daugavpils University, Latvia. Since 1998, his works has been exhibited in Latvian Museum of Photography, Latvian National Museum of Art, The Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art (LV), Modern Art Oxford (GB), Langhans gallery in Prague (CZ), Art Center ‘Winzavod’ in Moscow (RU), ‘Gostiny Dvor’ Museum and Exhibition Complex in Archangelsk (RU), Regional Art Museum in Tjumen (RU), Museum Center in Krasnojarsk (RU), Russia State Center of Photography in St. Petersburg (RU), Contemporary Art Museum in Santo Domingo (ES), Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires (AR), Museum of Modern Art Carlos Merida of Guatemala City (GT), Centre for Fine Arts BOZAR in Brussells (BE). www.alnisstakle.com/ LSD project Photography Archival pigment ink prints on rag paper 100 x 100 cm - 39 x 39 inches (ed 5) 2001 - 2008 14 | MADE IN MIND
What are the most important influences that have moved you as an artist? Why do you make art? I have always wished I was a musician. Growing up, I surrounded myself with instruments, wanted to be good at playing them and make music somehow. However, my interest in music far exceeded my talent. I excelled in art academically but I didn’t take any particular joy in making it while in school. I had never really seen contemporary art until I journeyed to New York and made my first dedicated trip to MoMA when I was 19. Quite suddenly, a whole new world opened up for me. I understood the language of what I saw, even though I didn’t understand how or why I understood it. Art became a way for me to try and move closer to the immediacy and emotional effect music has on me, without needing to become a musician. As I came across art and music that really moved me, the desire was created to have that effect on others. This feeling occasionally emerges also when I read great literature. I have recently been reading Anne Carson’s writing which I find really beautiful and I
aspire to that ability to communicate so many nuances and previously inarticulate moments with one simple gesture or word. Your work intrigued me in that you have not focused on a particular medium. Your practice extends between sculpture, video, installation and performance, but the medium seems to be rather in the service of an idea, central in your poetry. Do you think so? How do you get from idea to final product? I agree. I am in constant pursuit of a productive relationship with the instability and doubt that is inherent in committing to multiple mediums and ideas. I also value uncertainty about how or when my work is to be viewed and moments when viewers make small decisions where they don’t generally expect to make them. I don’t think of the works as final products, but rather as variations on ideas that are constantly evolving or devolving. Sometimes the work is impulsive and happens quickly, as in the case of Paper for a Cloud and Winter Sodium Self. Every time I think I’ve identified the trajectory from an idea to a piece, the
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24.8째, 66.8째 -- 41.3째, -72.9째 Warm mist humidifiers, mixture of distilled water and sea salt mailed from Karachi, Pakistan New Haven, CT 2013
Floaters in my Eyes Graphite, Inkjet print 30 x 45 cm - 12 x 18 inches 2012
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pattern changes. Sometimes months will go by working tediously on another carefully planned project and its carefully assorted set of confusions, and out of nowhere a rogue idea will burst forth through the proverbial kitchen door of my belabored mansion plans, dancing and singing and almost bumping into and crashing all the porcelain and china. Multiple projects play off of each others energies and ideas, sometimes fantastically, sometimes miserably.
ANIMAL PHARM #8 collage on paper 30 x 22 inches - 76 x 56 cm 2014
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You have lived in many different cities, your training has obviously been influenced from that. What did you bring with you artistically from each of these? In Pakistan, I was schooled quite conservatively in realistic painting. At Bennington College, VT, I slowly lived my way into values I still hold dear - that I donâ€™t need to declare an allegiance with any one medium and that developing a style was not a very interesting goal to begin with. I was surrounded by incredible artists and mentors and this slowly helped me shake off the rigidity of my training in Pakistan. The image that comes to mind when I think about this is of a dog vigorously shaking water off its coat after a long, reluctant bath. In Berlin, I realized the importance that walking had in my processing of ideas. And I think the best tools for criticality, self reflection and learning to trust myself came from my intense two years in New Haven as a graduate student at the Yale School of Art, where I met some incredible people with whom I still have conversations that help move my ideas and art along.
Winter Sodium Self Deep chest freezer, Ice from a storm sawed off from a street in New Haven and stored in the studio 2013
If you imagine yourself as a rock, all your troubles will fall away Road painting Karachi, Pakistan 2012
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What is the message behind each of your artistic features? I am referring to your play with the natural and atmospheric elements and status changes, like in the artworks Paper for a Cloud, 24.8°, 66.8° -- 41.3°, -72.9° , Winter Sodium Self…? Tell us a little about these works. The works don’t have a message, or defined goal in mind. With a lot of works, especially Paper for a Cloud, I’m still uncovering what my desires were to make them. Oftentimes I follow through on my instinct to collect or make something without really understanding why at the time. There are days when that feels like the primary challenge of making art; trusting your impulses, and moving forward with them when you’re in a state of not-knowing. Growing up around a sister who is a journalist in Karachi, and working briefly for a newspaper there created an interest in the researchers anxiety of the unidentifiable and the archivists anxiety of the un-documentable. I am fascinated by the simultaneous deadening and preserving that is involved in the act of archiving an event or memory. Often times the commitment to resuscitate life into something is all that remains. The commemorated thing itself, whether it is the sea that I grew up near, a moment of psychophysical oneness I felt with a piece of storm ice on a pavement, or the daily news, becomes a place-holder for a passed moment. 24.8°, 66.8° -- 41.3°, -72.9° is a work that consisted of six warm mist humidifiers that released a mixture of distilled water and salt from the sea I grew up near in Karachi, Pakistan, which I had my sister mail me. If you were around the humidifiers long enough your lips could start tasting the salt in the air. It was an ‘instant mix’ or ‘instant soup’ created from salt which, in Pablo Neruda’s words, is the “dust of the sea.” In retrospect, I think I was going through a brief spell of homesickness for that sea in particular.
Dog Island (Stills) Single-Channel Video Duration - 26’33’’ 2014 20 | MADE IN MIND
These atmospheric elements refer potentially to the sublime but the execution of the work and the way in which it manifests is quite anti-sublime and possesses a day-to-day quality and sense of failure from the outset. To use Werner Herzog’s phrase, they were exercises in the “conquest of the useless.” You have also produced public interventions. How have you used street art? Tell us about this aspect. I think my tendency to work outside in Karachi came from my frustration with the very conservative programming and structuring of gallery spaces in Karachi. Three projects done there (Color wheel for the city, The birds only come down to the city when there is a death, and If you imagine yourself as a rock all your troubles will fall away) involved breaking a lot of rules; they were covertly done
The birds only come down to the city when there is a death Intervention in the city Water, mixed bird seed Karachi, Pakistan 2013
right before dawn, when the painting of public surfaces, cleaning and re-filling a large abandoned fountain pool or the scattering of 60 pounds of bird seed could go undetected. A lot of that confidence for breaking those rules comes from having grown up there and knowing how to test the threshold of just how much I can get away with. Besides enjoying the freedom I wouldn’t have had in a gallery space, I am genuinely fascinated with the stories that certain parts of Karachi tell. It is rapidly spewing forth stories and histories which go unrecorded or neglected. It creates a special kind of anxiety, joy and fear in me as an artist. That city makes me feel like a child greedily stuffing an infinite amount of sad magical marbles into their small pockets.
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What artists have influenced your body of work? Recently, I have been particularly inspired by Guido van der Werve, Pierre Huyghe, Ragnar Kjartansson and some of Allora and Calzadilla’s work. Tell us about If you imagine yourself as a rock, all your troubles will fall away. If you imagine yourself as a rock, all your troubles will fall away was a painted variation of a quote by painter Agnes Martin that was taken from her writings in The Untroubled Mind (1972). The sentence is simultaneously didactic and cryptic and was meant as a sort of mysterious and briefly appearing inscription on a road that runs parallel to the sea shore in Karachi, Pakistan. It is most legible from a moving vehicle and has a tone that is both alienating and confiding - a post-it note of sorts to a home city, right before leaving it at the end of a long visit. Sometimes, works like that and the color wheel are dedications to close and inspiring friends and in the case of this painting, it was also accompanied by the sadness of having to depart again and a desire to mark the city in some tactile way before leaving. What has been your most rewarding artwork? I think right now it might be Dimensions of a Fish. It was my first video and it
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still throws uncomfortable questions my way that I struggle with. With time, it ever so slowly reveals the logic of certain instincts I had while making it that I didn’t understand at the time. It helped develop a kind of atmosphere in which a lot of the following works were made. What are your thoughts about the art world? It depends on which art world I was to think about because each city I’ve been in has revealed such a different art world to me. But one thing I would love to see less of in these worlds in general is lengthy wall texts - explanations of the art or patronizing intellectual prepping and pre-conditioning of the viewer before they even encounter the art. What are you working on now, and what are your plans for the future? I’ve been slowly developing ideas for a series of small sculptures, reading a lot, and making small drawings. I recently moved to New York and the dust from the transition has only recently settled. I hope to continue staying here for maybe two more years and then might entertain plans to move to Berlin. Either way, I want to continue making art wherever I end up.
Shehrezad Maher was born and grew up in Karachi, Pakistan (1988) and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She studied visual arts at Bennington College (2011) and received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Yale School of Art (2014). Her practice spans sculpture, video, installation and performance. Recent exhibitions of her work include a solo show in Karachi, Pakistan (Hover/Hum), several public intervention projects in Karachi, and group shows and screenings at Flux Factory (upcoming, Queens, New York), Regina Rex (New York, NY), Storefront Ten Eyck Gallery (Brooklyn, NY), Temporary Agency Gallery (Queens, NY), The New Filmmakers Series at Anthology Film Archives (New York, NY) and Twelve Gates Arts (Philadelphia, PA). www.shehrezadmaher.com/
Paper for a Cloud Single-Channel Video Duration - 4h 32’33’’ Mount Washington, New Hampshire 2014
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When did you start to be interested in the visual arts? Please, tell us about your artistic path. I started in the visual arts very early in my life. One of my teachers in elementary school noticed my interest and oriented me towards extracurricular classes to develop techniques and a proper vocabulary. Years later, I earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from La Escuela de Artes PlĂĄsticas in San Juan, Puerto Rico, with a specialization in Image and Design. The program in which I was enrolled was oriented toward the fine arts and the discussions that emerge from the uses of images and informational design. I subsequently enrolled in a Continuing Education program at the School of Visual Arts in New York after graduating. The focus was on Photography and Contemporary Art, and our discussions included those topics as well as the art market in New York City.
I earned a Master of Fine Arts in Digital and Interdisciplinary Art Practices (DIAP) from CUNY â€“ The City College of New York. DIAP engaged a variety of digital practices, as well as performativity, site specificity, and social engagement in the digital era. What subjects do you deal with in your art? I frequently rely on methods of collaboration, sometimes outsourcing for production, to make my work and perform artistic research using images, texts, and articles, amongst other materials, to generate and develop projects that address the complexities of technological, geopolitical, and natural influences upon perceptions of reality. My work is customarily made with found imagery, and it is produced by combining advanced digital printing processes and
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Espacio Intangible (Exterior view) Audiovisual installation in storage container 18x40x20 cm - 7x16x8 inches 2014
sound components. Performance has, at times, played an integral part. I have recently been devoted to topics surrounding unauthorized immigration in the Caribbean. Construction after the destruction, a recurring theme of post-colonialism, and the parallel realities of transmedia and communications are also of interest, and my aim is for viewers to be able to use the alternative points of references to rupture and expand the lenses of their consciousness, and to contribute to the surrounding global discourse.
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How much has your place of origin influenced your artistic choices? Being from the Caribbean has provided me with a unique palette of ideas and techniques that inspire my artwork and promote the hybrid-like, interdisciplinary quality of my artistic practice. It is a melting pot of culture, ethic, traditions, experiences, and perceptions that have strongly influenced my artistic choices.
Could you tell us about your Espacio Intangible artwork? Espacio Intangible is the result of an artistic research on the concept of the cloud, used as a metaphor to describe a complex system of interconnected networks of digital storage. For this project I converted a mobile storage container into a life-sized installation, with an immersive interior environment that retrieves a digital images of clouds and its metadata through narrative sound. All the images were previously collected
via email and social media, coming from acquaintances and friends from across the world. What about (b)(6),(b)(7)(C)? Can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind this series? (b)(6),(b)(7)(C) is a series of images appropriated from the internet where individuals are intervened, arrested in land by police officers from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
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Making Windows on Wal ls Audiovisual Installation 2015
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The subjects are censored using a black square to protect their identity and that is where the title was originated. (b)(6),(b)(7)(C) is a codification used by FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) for protection of personal information in law enforcement records. What artists have influenced you? There are several artists that have influenced me. One of them is Alfredo Jaar. He is an artist, architect, and filmmaker from Chile. In his work he is motivated by politics and real events often using participation and audience engagement. Cildo Meireles is a conceptual and installation artist that uses the language of resistance to political oppression in his work, Meireles is originally from Brazil. His work has been very inspiring for me. Also, IĂąigo Manglano-Ovalle is an artist that works with technological mediums, sculptures, and video installations that depict scientific issues and natural phenomena. Although these artistsâ€™ practices differ, their mode of working is similar, making interesting and attractive overlaps.
(b)(6),(b)(7)(C) Diaital inkiet print on high-density polyethylene 182 x 121 cm - 72 x 48 inches 2014
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Stitching Oceans Performance 213 x 183 cm - 84 x 72 inches 2013
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Streams Video installation TRT 1:00 minute looped 2014
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Residuo de cielo Audio Visual Installation 2013
Tell us about Making Windows on Walls and Sun at Midnight. These give me the impression that you like to play between illusion and reality Making Windows on Walls (Interior View) Is a large-scale audiovisual performance using a video projector with a video feedback of a hurricane hitting palm trees and a sun that persists shining. The audiovisual performance connects concepts of domestic interior spaces and the sensation of being trapped within a space of uncertainties and hopelessness.
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A voice over from an analog radio narrates the weather conditions alongside news of despairing people in the Caribbean ocean. What are you currently working on? I am currently working on an upcoming exhibition for the Fall of 2015, I will soon have more information about this. Also I am preparing for a residency at Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts in Ithaca, New York, where I will be doing some research and focusing on production for a new project.
Streams Video installation TRT 1:00 minute looped 2014
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Lionel Cruet was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and currently lives and works in New York City and San Juan. In 2013 was the recipient of the Juan Downey Audiovisual Award 2013 at the 11th Media Arts Biennale at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Santiago, Chile and in 2014 had a solo show entitled Lionel Cruet: In Between, Real and Digital with Bronx River Art Center in New York. He participated in numerous group exhibitions include, SuperReal: Alternative Realities in Photography and Video at El Museo del Barrio in New York, and the Sound Art Fair at Sala de las Artes, Universidad de Sagrado CorazĂłn in Puerto Rico, amongst others. Cruet received a Master of Fine Arts from The City College of New York â€“ CUNY and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from La Escuela de Artes Plasticas in San Juan, Puerto Rico.His general research focus has been in subjects of geopolitics, technology, and environmental spaces, using digital printing processes, audiovisual material, performance, and installations. www.lionelcruet.com/
Mirage (Espejismos) Video Installation Single channel video 2013
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IBN KENDALL What initially inspired you to start making art? Tell us a bit about your background. Iâ€™m a Jamerican born in Brooklyn, New York. My mother is Jamaican and my father is Africn American. My mother was the one that first introduced me to the arts by taking me to galleries and museums as a young boy after seeing that I had a knack for drawing. How important is your environment in shaping your work? My father was a serious drug addict when I was in elementary school which compromised my innocence and forced me to move as fast as my environment. Making work that follows this childhood journey has served as my visual notes on everything from abuse, addiction, sex, race identity to depression and more. This has not just been cathartic but also informative changing my point of view on these topics from conception to execution.
COON ALCHEMY SERIES Oil, mixed media, wood, iron and scarf on canvas 97 x 152 cm - 38 x 60 inches 2011
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Was there an artist or art style that inspired you? Two artists that have inspired me over the years are Kerry James Marshall and Terry Richardson. I know Terry has gotten some bad press lately and most feel the need to give a disclaimer for liking him but I don’t. How do you get from idea to final product? It varies as every path is a little different. For example the idea to do a skin bleaching piece (PSA-B-16) came about when I was at a bar with friends discussing the number of black celebrities that have screwed up their faces in the process of appearing less black. In my piece about “Asian fetish” (PSA-B-27) this was inspired from a line in the Wedding Crashers movie “that was my first Asian”. After I get the idea, I look through my photos I’ve shot over the years and see if I can use one of them. If not, I set up a photo shoot and once I get the photo that I want I just keep reworking it - sometimes trashing it completely and sometimes leaving it to return later. Tell us about the series of photographic manipulations that you have made with your family’s photo album My Coon Alchemy series came about on my trip to the family farm in Jamaica. I came across a trunk that had family photos from the 1940’s to the 1960’s. I was in awe at their stately presence given they were a little over 100 years removed from slavery. I knew my family didn’t have much and remember fondly my grandma telling me “just because your broke doesn’t mean you need to show it”. This got me thinking about slaves and their decedents and the pattern of using what is allotted for survival to also create a sense of identity. COON ALCHEMY SERIES Oil, mixed media, washboard, door hinge and purse on canvas 127 x 117 cm - 50 x 46 inches 2011 COON ALCHEMY SERIES Oil, mixed media, dresser and brush on canvas 122 x 152 cm - 48 x 60 inches 2011
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COON ALCHEMY SERIES Oil, mixed media, can ,shoe, razor and mirror on canvas 152 x 147 cm - 60 x 58 inches 2011
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PSA-B-14 Drawing Mixed media, crayon and graphite on paper 99 x 73 cm - 39 X 29.5 inches 2014
PSA-B-9 Drawing Mixed media and graphite on paper 76 x 57 cm - 30 X 22.5 inches 2013
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Like soul food where you have to put your soul into it to make it palatable because you are working with ingredients that are very low on the culinary totem pole (i.e., chitlins and catfish). Hip Hop music was also created under this same sentiment because kids in the inner city couldn’t afford instruments. I wanted to make work that embodied this alchemist lifestyle. So I enlarged my family photos and I accompanied them with discarded items from the street and antique stores. These works certainly talk so much about me and my life as a Jamerican. You wrote : “the discourse on race is so anemic in the shadow of political correctness that we don’t really know how to properly discuss it”. How do you deal with the Race topic in your work? I deal with it head on but with humor which allows me so much more flexibility. When the topic of race is displayed without humor a lot people feel that they are being preached to. We associate humor with entertainment which eliminates the sense of feeling proselytized. What other themes do you pursue? #Homophobia #Judeophobia #TheDiseasetoPlease #Feminism #Fashion #DrugGame #GenderRoles #etc Do you think that art can improve our society? I do but it won’t be with just one isolated piece or genre. I think it will take about a whole generation of time with multiple creative arts to make real lasting changes. PSA-B-21 Drawing Mixed media, crayon and oil on paper 76 x 57 cm - 30 X 22.5 inches 2015 PSA-B-8 Drawing Graphite on paper 50 x 65 cm - 20 X 25.5 inches 2013
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PSA-B-16 Drawing Mixed media, oil and graphite on paper 76 x 57 cm - 30 X 22.5 inches 2013
Ibn Kendall (b. 1977) received his BFA from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia and has gone on to be in group and solo shows in the United States and Europe. He is a multi-media artist using photography, painting, drawing and text. Ibn’s current work depicts his views on “postracial” society focusing on vice vs. virtue, how they are allocated, and to whom. He considers his pieces Public Service Announcements because they challenge the current climate of using political correctness as a fear tactic and a shield obscuring honesty.
This endless tolerance leads to intellectual passivity -- a kind of uncritical acceptance of all points of view, no matter how facile. This is also why Ibn uses humor in his work. It allows him to do the kind of in-depth investigation of human motives that might otherwise be shunned in a “polite society.”
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JAVE GAKUMEI YOSHIMOTO
What initially inspired you to start doing art? I think like most artists, my intention of creating art started at a young age. I was always inspired by popular culture and illustrations, but what really triggered my interest was this box set of cards that I received as a child that represented various renaissance era painters. I had no idea what it took to create something of that magnitude and quality, and growing up with these cards gave me a goal to shoot for. But I think the answer to this question is much deeper than that, as far as â€œdecidingâ€? the moment of wanting to become an artist, I felt Iâ€™ve always known, but for years after finishing high school I was jumping from one job to the next, cycling through dead end jobs and my personal artistic practices suffered. Returning to academia eventually allowed me an opportunity to not only hone down my skills, but follow the mentorship of my art professors with a structured, dedicated art making schedule. I also started realizing the potential impact of what an art work can do, which goes beyond the romanticized notion of the sole artist in the studio.
I think that artists, with the right context and content, can shape society and educate a community and influence the local culture. How would you describe your subject matter? My current subject matter deals mostly with current events, focusing on especially disasters, both those that are natural in origin and man-made. I believe within these subjects there is an abundance of narratives, containing heartbreaking stories of trial and survival that people face in dire and desperate situations. Somewhere in there lies a story about humanity. It is my aim to try to capture some of that humanity within my works. Talk to us about the Disaster series During my final year of graduate school at Syracuse University, I heard of the news of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami that struck the northeastern Japan. The 9.0 magnitude earthquake damaged many buildings and homes, which triggered fires, mudslides, and eventually the tsunami that hit about five miles inland, displacing 300,000 people from their homes, with 20,000 people missing or
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Baptism of concrete estuary (Detail) Painting Acrylic, gouache and ink on paper 106 x 930 cm - 42 x 366 inches 2012
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Baptism of concrete estuary (Detail) Painting Acrylic, gouache and ink on paper 106 x 930 cm - 42 x 366 inches 2012
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losing their lives. Having been born in Japan many years ago I felt empathetic to the survivors. I had difficulties falling asleep for many nights. I wanted to somehow give back and help. Sure, there were many charities popping up asking people to donate money to help the cause, but I wanted to do something with my personal talents and skill set. I would spend the next year painting my baptism of concrete estuary, which is a 42 inches high, and 30 feet (10 meters) long gouache on paper painting capturing the event. I wanted to create a memorial and honor those who lost everything on that particular day. After completion of the scroll painting, I decided to take some time off since it took a huge physical and mental toll on me personally. Three months later, I came back to create a follow up piece, Harbinger of late winter day’s dusk, which was a more compact, traditional rectangular version of the scroll that was easier to transport and exhibit. This new format allowed me to talk about the same narrative without having to build a large table or structure to support as the display. I remember being told by a curator
during the midst of my scroll painting that I “created a curatorial nightmare” and it was indeed that. This new smaller version allowed me to create a new series that evolved from my previous Godzilla invading series. The pieces that followed depicted a variety of narratives, such as the tsunami debris that washed up in the Pacific Northwest, to Hurricane Sandy that hit the New Jersey area among others. I began to see possibilities of topics centered around water, and thus began the Disaster series of works. What are your artistic influences? What art do you most identify with? As far as artistic influences go, I’m always drawn to a variety of works. As I mentioned earlier, I was initially inspired by renaissance works, but I’ve had interest in surrealism, impressionism, minimalism, Chinese brush paintings, pop art, Japanese woodblock prints, contemporary digital illustration soft wares, street art, the list goes on. There’s value from the different mediums and art movements that I find vital, and I
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try my best to incorporate certain components I find intriguing into my work. The influences are most evident with both my Godzilla invading series and Disaster series, where it is a mix of influences from the woodblock prints, Chinese propaganda posters, popular culture works, and so on. As for what art I identify with the most… I’d say I’m more inspired by the stories of the artists themselves and not necessarily the art itself. Sure, I have my favorite works such as Goya’s Third of May, Hopper’s Night hawks, Manet’s Olympia, but again, it really comes down to the artists’ stories. My favorite story has to be the life of Vincent Van Gogh, especially considering what he had to endure, starting so late in his practices yet being so incredibly efficient and persistent in production. Despite only selling one work in his lifetime he never quit. His tale is incredibly sad, yet he’s certainly an inspiring historical art figure to me. I am nowhere near as efficient or fast as he was, but I do hope to be more consistent in my output down the line. What about the Godzilla invading series? Why did you choose this topic? I grew up in Japan until I was about ten years old, afterwards moving to the United States. There’s this one toy that I have, an ugly plastic toy that I’ve had since I was 3 years old that goes with me wherever I have moved to. I don’t intentionally pack it with me, but it somehow ends up in my luggage every time.
Harbinger of late winter day’s dusk Painting gouache and ink on paper 76 x 104 cm - 30 x 41 inches 2012
Spritual America HD Video duration 4’28” 2011
In a New York minute Painting gouache and ink on paper 66 x 104 cm - 26 x 41 inches 2013
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I am constantly stalked by this unwanted, hideous companion. It made sense to somehow incorporate this figure into my works as an ongoing part of my journey around the world. However, that’s not the only reason why I chose to paint Godzilla. Ever since I moved to the states, I’ve struggled with my cultural identity. Being a first-generation ChineseJapanese-American, I had difficulties fitting in. I found myself being stereotyped, I’ve faced racist comments quite often, and it was difficult to cope. I came across different types of stereotypes being directed at me in different regions of the states. In the west coast, I was mistaken for a janitor, even though I was a teacher. In the east coast I was mistaken as a food delivery person. It was personally irritating, and I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb. I wanted to create a series that talked about this feeling of isolation, displacement and being immediately judged based on the way on my appearance. For this, I returned to one my childhood memories in Japan. I remember watching the Godzilla films growing up. He was this anti-hero, yet everywhere he went, he was always attacked by the locals. This was exactly how I felt. It didn’t matter what Godzilla was doing, he was always unwanted and told to go away. I imagined that Godzilla must be the loneliest creature in the world. I related to that feeling of loneliness. I then decided to use Godzilla as a symbol for isolation and for my travels around the country. I was Godzilla. Godzilla was me. I also wanted to reference my cultural heritage that I felt I abandoned long ago. I returned to Japan one summer and immediately I was influenced by the local woodblock prints. I was also surrounded by the massive amount of popular culture of Japan- manga, anime, etc., and I wanted to capture these graphic style images.
They are a Hmong us Painting gouache and ink on paper 35,5 x 43 cm - 14 x17 inches 2010
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Baptism of concrete estuary Painting Acrylic, gouache and ink on paper 106 x 930 cm - 42 x 366 inches 2012
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Having used digital software like Adobe Illustrator in the past, it gave me even more reason to utilize these graphic, flat color fields in my compositions like the works of Takashi Murakami. Using a pop cultural icon such as Godzilla also made my work appear humorous on the surface and makes my compositions more accessible to the general public. My viewers would have to take a closer look to see that my narratives are usually a lot darker and more personal. In the end, the series addresses my interpersonal relationships, my wanderlust around the country to search for my identity, and my observation of the local cultures I’ve encountered, be it in the large metropolitan cities, or in small town America.
there’s some ground that the viewers can relate to. I don’t wish for my subject to be too literal, because I do want my viewers to come away with their own interpretations in the end. As far is image sources, I search for images that are visually striking, or I might start with the idea and see what type of composition would develop. It is usually a fairly intuitive process, but every once in a while, I’ll put out a sketch that really resembles a chicken scratch more than anything else. It is nothing more than a reference point to begin, but mostly I rely heavily on and place faith in my intuition that the composition will turn out fine. Does it always turn out fine? No, but in the past I have been able to adjust and “fix” whatever mistakes appeared.
How would you describe your work processes? How do you decide what to represent? I usually look for topics that are contemporary or currently relevant. Without something to relate to in my subject matters, it’s hard to engage the audience, so first I look for a narrative that I find close to my heart. Whatever the topic, news, or event that I want to cover, it has to be personally engaging for me to want to retranslate it visually. If I can create a narrative that’s humanist in nature, then
What is your favorite experience as an artist? I think the most exciting experience I had was when I had my first solo exhibition in New York City after the completion of the scroll. I created smaller prints to be sold as a fundraiser. During the middle of the reception, some of my audience members came to tears looking at my painting and told me just how much it has touched them personally. There’s nothing more rewarding than to have someone believe in the cause of
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Stray dog strut Digital illustration 304 x 579 cm - 120 x 228 inches 2010
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my painting, and then having them turn around and contribute to such a cause. At the end of the exhibition, we donated all of the proceeds to a non-profit in Japan - in Sendai - , where the tsunami hit the hardest, to start an arts program for the children. While the money we donated wasnâ€™t a great amount, it was the first time I realized how I could utilize art making to bring people together. There was nothing more rewarding to me as an artist than affecting the bigger picture and helping out on an international level. It was an incredibly humbling experience to say the least.
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I shoot you shooting me Serigraphy 23 x 30 cm - 9 x 12 inches 2014
A history of violence Serigraphy 23 x 30 cm - 9 x 12 inches 2014
Jave Yoshimoto is an artist and educator of multicultural background. He was born in Japan (1974) to Chinese parents and immigrated to United States at a young age. Yoshimoto has since traveled and lived in various parts of America which influenced his artistic practice. He believes in creating art works that are socially conscious and true to his authentic self. Yoshimoto has received his Bachelors from University of California Santa Barbara in Studio Art, his Post-bac
calaureate Certificate in Painting and Drawing and Masters of Art in Art Therapy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and his Masters of Fine Arts in Painting at Syracuse University. Yoshimoto currently works as Director and Assistant Professor of Studio Art program at Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva, Oklahoma http://javeyoshimoto.com
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