social commentary

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Art

From Play to Politics, Artist S.C. Mero Transforms Los Angeles’s Streets into Sites of Satire

October 4, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Vote-by-Mail” (2020). All images © S.C. Mero, shared with permission

An explosive mushroom cloud, an absurdly large bike lock, and a lobster served up from a pothole are a few of the installations from artist S.C. Mero that relay both the irony and irreverence of modern life. Working across Downtown Los Angeles for the last decade, the artist transforms infrastructure into temporary sites of critique and play. “Both of those realities are equally true not only of my environment but life itself,” she says. “Given the nature of this neighborhood, the subject matter can seem quite political because the disparity of wealth and its consequences are more apparent here.”

Many pieces utilize crumbling streets or areas the city has yet to fix as the base. In creating a miniature streetside swimming pool, for example, Mero left the soy sauce packet, cigarette butts, needle caps, leaves, and other debris found in the exposed manhole before she covered the cavern with plexiglass. Those objects are now frozen under the clear material and surrounded by lounge chairs and a diving board fit for Barbies and Kens.

Other works like “Vote-by-Mail,” which is included in a group exhibition on view through December 10 at Torrance Art Museum, are more explicit in their commentary on contemporary issues. Directly speaking to the rampant voter suppression of the 2020 elections, the blue post office box stands atop legs that are unreasonably tall, making it impossible to drop a ballot.

Currently, Mero is working on a sculpture that will be included in the next show at Shit Art Club opening later this month. She’s also planning a series of works with the Fashion District’s business improvement organization and plans to transform the battered concrete spheres lining a traffic median into a new piece each month. “It’s the first time I’ve worked in collaboration with the city or property owners. I think it’s a cool story considering they were the ones who removed most my artwork when I first started,” she says.

Find more of Mero’s satirically minded works on Instagram.

 

 

 

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Art

Sculptural Portraits Revive Used Paintbrushes with Social Commentary and Historical Details

May 4, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Caroline,” oil on carved wood, plastic, metal, plaster, and epoxy. All images © Rebecca Szeto, shared with permission

San Francisco-based artist Rebecca Szeto (previously) applies a heavy dose of social commentary to her ongoing Paintbrush Portraits. Through whittled busts and oil-based figurative renderings, Szeto alludes to a wide array of historical moments, significant figures, and issues that continue to impact the world today.

She transforms the used tools with hard bristles and stained ferrules—she’s committed to an ecologically-conscious practice that repurposes materials already available—into poetic works that are subversive and metaphorical. The optic handle of “Tapada Americana,” for example, references the Peruvian tradition of women wearing a skirt and mantel that fully covered their bodies, “leaving visible a single cycloptic eye,” the artist writes. “Differing from its cousins the burka and the hijab, it signified a level of discreet domestic freedom and sexual intrigue for women.”

Questions about modesty and dignity continue to influence Szeto’s practice, and she shares with Colossal:

I find myself circling this notion of grace, as the innate virtues and values we possess as humans. For me, grace signals our ability to keep an emotional distance that allows us the fortitude and creative agency to transform and re-imagine the world around us. My interest lies in how we transcend challenging times, linguistic labels and offer up teaching moments for serious play and energetic renewal.

For more of Szeto’s works that span painting, installation, and other mediums, visit her site and Instagram.

 

“Model Minority”

“Princess/Priceless (of Broglie. Ode to Ingres),” oil on carved paintbrush, 8 x 3 x .5 inches

“Princess/Priceless (of Broglie. Ode to Ingres),” oil on carved paintbrush, 8 x 3 x .5 inches

“Tapada Americana”

“Reflections on Beauty”

“Threading the Needle”

“Green (Immigrant)”

 

 



Art

Oil Paintings by Paco Pomet Brighten Vintage Scenes with Satirical Elements in Color

February 10, 2022

Grace Ebert

“A Prequel” (2021), oil on canvas, 100 x 150 centimeters. All images © Paco Pomet

Succeeding his series of paintings titled Beginnings, Paco Pomet’s Endings applies a similarly satirical veil to his provocative and outlandish scenarios: a cleaved camper reveals red steak marbled with fat, businessmen shake hands through an elongated finger trap, and a woman walks a hand-standing friend on a leash. The Spanish artist (previously) is known for his keen sense of wit and humor and distinct visual commentary on contemporary issues like capitalism, the degradation of the environment, and moments in American history that have global impacts. He shares in an interview:

I am very interested in current affairs, but in order to fully understand today’s world, it is necessary to look back and examine historical events. The past is full of hints that can unveil the present, so in some ways, we could paraphrase that statement which says that there’s nothing new under the sun. I have always thought that subjects and themes remain the same over centuries, and that human pursuits, aspirations, and chimeras are cyclical. Nowadays, we might have different tools and ways of approaching those issues, but the important questions remain the same, even though the way they show up changes throughout the years.

Often working with anachronistic scenes and symbols, Pomet depicts children of a past era sparring with glowing lightsabers in “A Prequel” and a vintage car blurring into a trail of greens and yellows in “Trip.” Each oil painting is rendered largely in neutral tones with bright, colorful elements supplying the artist’s signature dose of irony.

You can explore an archive of Pomet’s surreal works and follow his latest compositions on Instagram.

 

“Prime” (2021), oil on canvas, 38 x 46 centimeters

“Rearguard” (2021), oil on canvas, 38 x 46 centimeters

“The Restrainers” (2021), oil on canvas, 60 x 73 centimeters

“The Last Executive Committee Meeting” (2021), oil on canvas, 130 x 150 centimeters

“Amblers” (2021), oil on canvas, 73 x 60 centimeters

“Apart” (2021), oil on canvas, 130 x 170 centimeters

“Trip” (2021), oil on canvas, 100 x 150 centimeters

“Dissident” (2021), oil on canvas, 130 x 170 centimeters

 

 



Animation

Blip: A Minimal Animation about Screen Addictions Unleashes a Barrage of Pings and Notifications

December 17, 2021

Grace Ebert

We’ve all been there: spending the entire day scrolling through social, responding to texts and DMs and email, descending into internet rabbit holes, and just generally escaping the world through our devices. A quirky, 2D animation titled “Blip” by Hannah Sun weighs in on this unending screen addiction as it plunges into a visual soundscape of incessant pings, bells, and other tones. Watch the colorful commentary above, and find more of the New York City-based designer’s projects on Vimeo and Instagram.

 

 

 



Art Craft

An Exhibition of 50 Piñatas Explores the Cultural Significance of the Festive Object

October 14, 2021

Grace Ebert

Installation view of Roberto Benavidez’s sculptures (front) and Isaias Rodriguez, “resilience” (2021) (back). Photo by Madison Metro, Craft in America. All images courtesy of Craft in America, shared with permission

A ubiquitous decoration at birthdays and family celebrations, piñatas are conventionally associated with fun, festivity, and of course, their potential to split open and release candy and other treats. Now on view at Craft in America, a group exhibition re-envisions the party staple by connecting it with contemporary practices that extend the playful artform’s capacity for social and political commentary.

Piñatas: The High Art of Celebration features approximately 50 works from Mexico- and U.S.-based artists and collectives, who explore the evolution of traditional construction techniques and the object’s broad cultural significance that reaches beyond its Mexican heritage. The fantastical creatures of Roberto Benavidez’s illuminated manuscript series, for example, encapsulate questions about race and sin, while Justin Favela (previously) translates the confrontation between American pop culture and Latinx experiences into fringed, abstract landscapes. Other works include a massive COVID-19 vaccine bottle by Lisbeth Palacios, Diana Benavidez’s motorized cars that speak to issues at the San Diego/Tijuana border, and a swarm of tiny suspended monarchs by Isaias Rodriguez.

If you’re in Los Angeles, stop by Craft in America before December 4 to see the exhibition in person or take a virtual tour on the nonprofit’s site.  (via Hyperallergic)

 

Roberto Benavidez, “Illuminated Hybrid No. 3” (2019). Photo by the artist

Detail of Isaias Rodriguez, “resilience” (2021). Photo by Matthew Hermosillo

Justin Favela, “Baño de los Pescaditos (after José María Velasco)” (2019). Photo courtesy of the artist

Left: Lorena Robletto (Amazing Piñatas), “Alebrije Installation” (2021). Photo by Madison Metro, Craft in America. Right: Lorena Robletto (Amazing Piñatas), “Seven Point Star Installation” (2021). Photo by Madison Metro, Craft in America

Roberto Benavidez, “Illuminated Hybrid No. 5” (2018). Photo by Madison Metro, Craft in America

Left: Giovanni Valderas, “No Hay Pedo (Canary)”  (2016). Photo by Giovanni Valderas. Right: Lisbeth Palacios (All Party Art), “COVID Vaccine” (2021). Photo by Madison Metro, Craft in America

Diana Benavidez, installation view of “Border Crosser” and “La Pinche Migra” (from Vehículos Transfronterizos series) (2021). Photo by Madison Metro, Craft in America

 

 



Art

Ironic Compositions Juxtapose Outlandish Scenarios in Paco Pomet’s New Paintings

April 8, 2021

Grace Ebert

“The Lesson” (2020), oil on canvas, 130 x 170 centimeters. All images © Paco Pomet, shared with permission

In Beginnings, Spanish artist Paco Pomet (previously) visualizes a series of jarring and absurd scenarios born out of an equally concerning event. He juxtaposes disparate elements—a mushroom cloud erupting in a classroom, women cavalierly poking at a tabletop sunrise, a mountain range lying on an operating table—in a series of satirical commentaries infused with pop culture references and nods to art history.

Generally contrasting a black-and-white scene with a recurring, full-color sunrise or sunset, Pomet’s compositions merge time periods and situations to mark the start of a new reality, a broad theme tied to the current moment. “Romanticism with a twist of irony is a very powerful visual engine,” he says about the series.

If you’re in Santa Monica, Beginnings is on view through May 8 at Richard Heller Gallery. Otherwise, find more of Pomet’s humorous and bizarre compositions on Artsy and Instagram.

 

“Little Big Grief” (2020), oil on canvas, 51 1/5 × 66 9/10 inches

“Hesperides” (2020), oil on canvas, 51 1/5 × 66 9/10 inches

“Melancholy School” (2020), oil on canvas, 51 1/5 × 59 1/10 inches

“The Art of Scaling” (2020), oil on canvas, 51 1/5 × 59 1/10 inches

“Headstrong” (2020), oil on canvas, 23 3/5 × 28 7/10 inches

“Classicism” (2021), oil on canvas, 60 × 73 inches

“Das Erhabene Büro (diptych)” (2020), oil on canvas, 59 1/10 × 102 2/5 inches