Glitzy Rotting Fruit and Rusted Automobiles by Kathleen Ryan Consider the Tensions of American Consumerism
In Beachcomber, artist Kathleen Ryan (previously) continues her inquiries into consumption and the unsightly remnants of American life. The solo exhibition, on view now at François Ghebaly in Los Angeles, brings together Ryan’s latest works that explore the tension between revulsion and delight, all imbued with a quintessentially California ethos.
Skewered fruits, beach umbrellas, and automotive parts exemplify this relationship between the beautiful and the grotesque through the artist’s signature gemstone treatment. Cobwebs of glimmering quartz crystal tether one side of a rusted Dodge trunk to the other, while precious materials like agate, lapis lazuli, and turquoise become the rotting patches of otherwise supple fare. Each of the sculptures references seaside objects and nostalgic coastal travel, whether through fruit garnishes as in “Deluxe” or the clam-shell folded Volkswagen trunks in “Generator VII.”
Created at life-size or larger, Ryan’s works question the rampant consumerism and a generalized sense of gluttony that pervades much of American sensibilities. She explores kitsch as it relates to class, evoking aspects of suburban life like backyard barbecues and the reverence of cars, road trips, and the wide expanses visible from open highways.
If you’re in Los Angeles, you can see Beachbomber through March 25. Otherwise, find more from Ryan on her site and Instagram.
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Art Craft Food
Embroidered Snacks and Mass-Produced Food by Alicja Kozlowska Chew On Consumerist Culture
In the ongoing series Embroidered Ordinaries, Alicja Kozlowska translates the mass production of Pop Art into tightly stitched sculptures. The Polish artist sews packages of Oreos and half-eaten cookies, rusted cans with peeled-back tops, and 12-packs of Coca-Cola at full scale, recreating the recognizable logos and designs of ubiquitous snacks and goods. Each work begins with a felted structure the artist covers in myriad knots and stitches, which produces textured iterations that reflect on consumerism and the lasting impacts of over-consumption.
Find more of the Embroidered Ordinaries sculptures on Kozlowska’s site, and keep an eye on her Instagram for upcoming additions.
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Piped in Decadent Layers, Yvette Mayorga’s Bright Pink Playhouses Luxuriate in 90s Nostalgia
Within the luscious pink acrylic that composes Yvette Mayorga’s Surveillance Locket series, messages of joy and nostalgia for a 90s childhood coexist with critiques of consumerism and gendered labor. The Chicago-based artist uses tools like piping bags and tips to apply paint in peaks, curls, and scalloped edges evocative of an elaborately decorated cake. She builds each relief layer by layer, drawing on techniques she gleans from baking shows and Instagram tutorials. “Cake decorating is a true craft that is super laborious,” she says.
This sense of labor permeates Mayorga’s body of work and provides a conceptual framework that’s as subversive as it is celebratory: “The color pink holds so much weight that is tied to fragility and prescribed to femme identity and gender norms. Piping and baking labor is also very gendered and constitutes a perceived notion of labor,” she says. “I am saying that pink and baking labor is powerful. The hyper femme is powerful.”
Alongside fields of ornate textures, the artist also uses the tactile material to define labyrinth-like playhouses, which reference the small, plastic clamshells called Polly Pockets. “It’s a toy that I always dreamed of owning,” she tells Colossal. “To me, it’s a marker of attaining an Americaness that as a child of immigrants is often sometimes forced upon us in order to fit in.” Mayorga’s iterations include recreations of her childhood home alongside gilded rooms, staircases, and Rococo-style flourishes she admired while spending her childhood summers in west-central Jalisco and Zacatecas, Mexico. More modern emblems like cartoon-style characters and the televisions she used to watch MTV and Looney Tunes, alongside frames showcasing art historical works and selfies, complete the decadent mansions.
Beyond their idiosyncratic and playful reflections, though, Mayorga’s works contain more ominous messages. She stations toy soldiers in entries and underneath staircases, shrouding the works with “a feeling of an impending doom” as the concealed characters surveil the scenes in a nod to patrols at the U.S./Mexico border. “My practice is a compounding of these two worlds coming together to create surrealist landscapes that are about the pink, decadent, playful, real-time, nostalgic, art historical, surveillance, and consumerism. To me, the decadence becomes the surrealist in-between space that marks my identity, because it is imagined and an aspiration,” she shares.
You have multiple chances to see Mayorga’s dioramas in person this year: in April, she’ll be at EXPO Chicago, in a group show in Hong Kong this fall, and will open a solo show at Crystal Bridges The Momentary in October. A commissioned work will also be installed in O’Hare’s Terminal Five at the end of the year. See more of her works on her site and Instagram. (via It’s Nice That)
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Wander Through a Mountain of 25,000 Mannequins in an Astounding Look at Consumerism and Waste
In a wooded area of Lincolnshire, it’s not unusual for people to partake in what’s dubbed a “drive through body part heist.” The preposterously named activity involves a trip to Mannakin—a Midlands mannequin distributor frequented by a wide array of clientele like merchandisers, film crews, and Halloween devotees—where visitors spend 15 minutes scouring its meters-high pile of discarded forms for, none other than, body parts. These challenges to fill a car with as many pieces as possible are just one part of the company’s business model, which involves saving the used fiberglass displays from landfills and returning them to the retail ecosystem.
English YouTuber and educator Tom Scott walks through the staggering heap in a recent video and talks with director Roz Edwards, who’s amassed about 25,000 figures from locations all over Europe that are now scattered across the property. The short documentary project dives into the company’s process for revitalizing worn arms, legs, and torsos and confronts the strange, surreal environment created when thousands of lifeless bodies occupy a single space in what’s ultimately a striking visual indictment of consumerism and our collective approach to waste.
You also might find this short documentary set in a mannequin factory interesting.
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Thousands of Fresh and Artificial Flowers Overrun an Abandoned Convenience Store in a Small Michigan Town
Port Austin, Michigan, is a picturesque village on the Lake Huron shoreline lauded for its beaches, water sports, and vegetable-shaped rock formations. With a population in the hundreds, the small community relies heavily on tourism to fund its economy, a reality Detroit-based botanical artist Lisa Waud contended with in a recent pop-up installation in one of the town’s abandoned convenience stores.
Titled “Party Store”—this colloquialism refers to a small shop selling snacks, alcohol, lottery tickets, and other cheap staples—the immersive project transforms a dilapidated space into a lush garden of fresh-cut flowers grown in Michigan and artificial replicas sourced from resale shops around the state. A water-damaged drop ceiling, stained carpeting, and wood paneling peek through the colorful botanicals, which envelop a commercial coffee machine, crawl across shelving, and bulge out of dimly lit coolers.
Similar to her other site-specific works like her 2015 transformation of a condemned duplex in Detroit, Waud describes “Party Store” as a “cleansing reset,” one that uses the tension between life and decay as a prompt to consider cultural understandings of permanence and disposability. She references pieces like Robin Frohardt’s grocery store stocked with plastic food and Prada Marfa as influences, two large-scale projects that criticize consumerism through their satirical imitations of common and luxury goods. “In spending time in Port Austin, I recognized a similarity between its tourism culture and that of my hometown of Petoskey,” Waud writes in a statement. “The local economy relies on the tourists, but often the folks who come can have a ‘disposable’ quality to their visit, exemplified in the increase of consuming convenient items—often packaged in single-use plastic.”
“Party Store” was dismantled after its July 16-18 run, when many of the materials were recycled or reused. “By installing flowers that will ultimately be composted into a space that historically sells items that cannot be biodegraded, I hoped to bridge a connection for responsible choice-making in its visitors’ future,” the artist says.
To keep up with Waud’s floral transformations, head to her site and follow her on Instagram.
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Miniature Scenes by Slinkachu Comment on Consumer Culture
For the last 13 years, guerrilla miniaturist Slinkachu (previously) has been creating barely noticeable scenes to be discovered by unsuspecting passersby. The London-based artist uses tiny model people whose minuscule size creates humorous and thought-provoking scenarios. Slinkachu often comments on current events and social dynamics in his work. An installation at the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent features a purse placed nonchalantly on a gallery bench, which turns out to be a meta-gallery. Inside the purse, small figures admire glorified tokens of consumer consumer culture like framed credit cards and lipstick sculptures.
Slinkachu’s work is on view through June 22, 2019 in a two-person show with Jaune at Thinkspace in Culver City, California. You can see more from Slinkachu on Instagram, where the artist often shares videos that help contextualize the scale of his installations.
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Happy Halloween! A little tragedy left in the Mohave desert last week 🌵🔪
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