There is nothing better than a leisurely morning before starting work. Treat yourself to something sweet, find a bench and soak up some sun before heading inside. It makes all the difference.
We rounded up some of our favorite spring pieces for a morning in the sun. Click here to shop or visit us in the Mission. (Don’t forget to buy yourself a pastry while you’re at it.)
Critical Essay by Heather Harmon
“Is it not first through the voice that one becomes animal?”
-Giles Deleuze, Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia
The surreal and powerful works of Luísa Matsushita have the ability to come to life. Paintings and drawings are extensions of dream like worlds, as animals emerge from abstractions, lifting from the confines of the four corners, leaping into the viewer’s field of vision. Vibrant with energy and color, one can feel their sheer force and strength when looking at and losing the self within the bellies of her creations. In an exquisite mix of fantasy and reality, the beholder can become animal. Matsushita’s images are as distinct and incomparable as her voice, for which she is widely known, but she remains an artist whose stylistic dynamism extends beyond this and deep into the visual realm of her recent pictorial forays.
Matsushita’s style is one that is inherently all her own; a mixture of traditional abstraction, gestural and physical combined with graphic and very cartoon like depictions of her subject matter. This mixing of styles generates the necessary tension in which these works truly come alive. Exotic, not unlike Matsushita herself, the works are hard to pin down or contain. They are not one spirit, but rather ever changing chameleons that surprise the viewer with their stunning capacity for visual melody. One can sense their wildness, their inability to be domesticated. Their sheer defiance to inhabit the space in which she has created for them is mesmerizing. They are to be feared, loved, and lived with in all their capacities.
Neither present nor primitive, her works live in the heavens that have been created to and for them. It is neither a place of the past nor of the future, but a place imagined. In this mixture of representation and abstraction, an energy and voracity is translated to the spectator who is encouraged to be an explorer, making an expedition into this sublime universe, embarking on an adventure. Emerging from a flat space her abstractions play with form where landscapes are jungles of color and pattern, and the picture plane is collapsed, referencing the language of traditional Japanese woodblock prints in their use of black outlines, bright colors, asymmetry and flat space. Her use of color is liberal and rooted in the natural world, drawing influence from both the non-urban, maritime and animal environments. Flesh tones, blues, reds and splashes of tertiary hues intermingle with their parameters, pushing up against edges, challenging and complementing one another. Here color is fearless, mischievous and delightful.
Floating in space, her compositions act as figurative landscapes. The rich palettes often read as dense, floral visual cacophonies whose titles allow the viewer to read beyond the picture plane to the natural realm from which they emerge. Works like of corals, snakes, and warm ocean create not a depiction of the beautiful worlds they describe, but rather a powerful feeling of being there, as if the viewer is a part of these untamed lands where the wild things live, breathe and thrive. Reminiscent of Matisse’s cut outs, this series of Matsushita’s paintings combine pattern and gesture, color and vitality in collaged space that brings the interior outside. Their soft edges represent a departure from the cartoon like graphic style that has marked previous bodies of work. Shapes and forms collide, and are composed of a variety of elements from delicate washes to anamorphic forms that seem to be a cast of characters dancing within the songstresses visual drama, unfolding before the viewer’s very eyes.
The artist’s recent paintings are marked by a shift not only in style but also in spatial orientation. Forming overall compositions, she has introduced concentrated moments of action and reflection, vacillations between space and subject. In the work helleyes, the canvas stretches beyond the frame, extending the parameters of narrative. From this same series, Prismacolor superdream is a work that incorporates the palette into the figure, turning its function into a personification where the spectrum metamorphoses as a dynamic figure resting on a landscape, having climbed atop a great mountain that is rising forth from an eccentric wilderness. The jagged edges reference previous bodies of and bring the viewer full circle through a microscopic glimpse into Matsushita’s imagined macrocosms.
In previous abstractions, the artist has favored a traditional all over composition, but her most recent works exhibit such a skilled restraint, where she combines her interest in abstraction with the sophistication of line and detail. These sparse compositions are so elegant in their treatment of space that they elude at once conventional definitions, hovering between worlds, just as the shapes and colors hover and float across their picture planes. Deeply connected to her own trajectory, the new paintings stem and grow from previous investigations into space, while constantly seeking and searching for new territories. Matsushita herself is an adventurer and a seeker. Her investigation, as shown throughout her oeuvre, is one of curiosity and discovery.
Although supremely elegant, her works are imbued with the most playful sense of humor, one that is generative and gentle, nudging the viewer without pretence, encouraging the making of fun, as opposed to the making fun of. Humor is one of the many ways in which her paintings and works on paper create access and an entry point. An invitation to frolic in the bright and whimsical land, her work, like her attitude, is inclusive and lighthearted while remaining incredibly ambitious. It is this ambition that continues to drive the work into unfamiliar territory in which the artist dives into without inhibition. In the larger scope of her work, it is a thread of humor and positivity that one could read and connect the body as a whole.
The stylistic dexterity with which she approaches very different ways of working is emblematic of the experimental spirit she has explored through music, performance and visual art. Her unique background itself is a cultural collision being of German, Portuguese and Japanese descent, she fluidly pulls influence from each of these reference points, constantly reimaging new and uncharted territories. Matsushita remains a pioneer, leading the way for new and dazzling stars yet to come.
Luísa Matsushita is a visual artist born in Campinas, Brazil, 1984.
She currently lives and works in New York and is also know as the musician Lovefoxxx, lead singer of the band CSS.
To see more from Luísa Matsushita click here.
Maria Schumacher was born in Bukarest, Romania in 1983. She studied at the National College of Arts in Dublin, Ireland, the Academy of Visual Arts in Leipzig, Germany and the San Francisco Arts Institute, where she pursued an MFA in fine arts and painting in 2011/2012. She is currently based in Leipzig, Germany.
To see more of Schumacher’s work, please visit her website.
A pile of my own used incidentals––including bras, lingerie, designer shoes, Hanukkah decorations, used paintbrushes, souvenirs, memorabilia, and concrete blocks––that I once used to hold up my paintings has magnetically migrated to the center of my studio. These articles reflect my personal connection to femininity, Judaism, romance, and notions of painting, and have become specimens, icons, and relics that are poked, prodded, stroked, rubbed, then pulled, torn, and broken apart. They become the supports for new work, connecting my past practice of painting on canvas to the more open and broadly defined notion of “painting” that interests me now.
A laborious process of making grips me, entrances me, brings me to the devotional. I get lost in the repetition of the act of making. As an intermediate step, variable elements are stained, glazed, sprayed, painted, or dipped, then at times rubbed, scraped, sanded, drilled, or cracked open. All surfaces are covered, decorated, and obliterated, with many being re-exposed to varying degrees. Methodically, meditatively, obsessively, carefully, at times carelessly but always vehemently, I make and remake. -Rachel Klinghoffer
To see more from Rachel Klinghoffer click here.
The performances by LA based Emily Mast. These are two of her most recent works, but I highly recommend checking out all of her performances on her website.
The Stage Is A Cage, 2015, performance, 45 minutes
To watch the video: The Stage Is A Cage, 2015, performance
ENDE (Like a New Beginning) Again, 2014, performance, 1 hour
To watch the video: ENDE (Like a New Beginning) Again
**All videos are from emilymast.com
Hanan Sharifa is a painter and weaver living in Oakland, CA. To see more of her work, click here.
Hallberg uses variety in media and shape as a way to break new ground, discover new objects, and explore space existing beyond the physical. The forms uncovered in her work hint at familiar and/or recognizable things – constellations, prisms, matrices, portals – yet elude us in the end. Hallberg’s latest body of work, a series of circular paintings, is inspired by the Nebra sky disc, an object associated with the Bronze Age that is said to be the oldest concrete depiction of the cosmos in the world. -Oracle
To see more from Charlotte Hallberg click here.
Amber Stucke is an artist, writer and naturalist who recently moved to Cincinnati, OH from Berkeley, CA, where she lived for ten years. Stucke received her MFA from the California College of the Arts in San Francisco and continued her studies at Goldsmith’s University of London and The School of the Arts Institute of Chicago. Her thesis, Embodying Symbiosis: A Philosophy of Mind in Drawing, is published in the scholarly journal Consciousness, Literature and the Arts. Amber’s work is represented at Electric Works Gallery in San Francisco. She is also a participating artist in the Based On Drawing Center, Satellite Berlin in Berlin, Germany.
I had the privilege of visiting Amber in her Berkeley studio, filled with sunlight and objects she has collected over time: driftwood, moss, shells, and antlers. After her black cat greeted me, I got to see her drawings on Symbiosis State up close. They depict very detailed arrangements of complicated organisms, done with graphite and touches of gouache and ink.
Following are some questions and answers about Amber’s artwork, relationship to nature and upcoming projects (we communicated via email):
Maxine Schoefer-Wulf: You’ve completed a series around Symbiosis State - which include drawings, two interactive installations, a limited edition artist book and thesis. What sparked your interest in visually exploring natural organisms and, more specifically, symbiotic relationships?
Amber Stucke: Growing up where the border line meets Illinois and Indiana forty minutes south of Chicago, my neighborhood was on the outskirts, touching parts of farm land, forests, and fields. I would go for many walks in the neighborhood and sit for hours in a field with hay stacks watching the sun set, red-tailed hawks fly above, black-tailed deer roam on the edge of the forests, lightning bugs and mosquitoes scan the air during dusk, and observe the different colors in the field altered by the changing light.
The first time I ever saw the word symbiosis was when I was doing research for an earlier project called Twinship: Unity in Difference. I was reading non-fiction material on behavioral traits related to both fraternal and identical twin relationships. This project stemmed from my own curiosity of being a fraternal twin myself. The word symbiosis is used to describe the strongest bond between two human beings: that of an identical twin relationship.
The word came up again but in a more indirect way through personal experiences and encounters with Lakota Sioux and Ojibwa people in the Midwest. In biology, symbiosis is understood as the interactions between two organisms and their long-term interrelationship. The Lakota Sioux have a phrase in their language called mitakuye oyasin, which translates as “all my relatives”. This phrase encapsulates the worldview of interconnectedness held by the Lakota people. It is this interconnectedness between nature and culture that forms my curiosity about symbiotic relationships.
MSW: Your drawings explore and create parasitic, mutualistic, and commensalistic relationships between and among natural organisms: fungus, moss, algae and lichen. Looking at your work, it becomes clear that you’ve studied scientific illustrations and that your drawings are guided by biology and your own observations of nature. How does this scientific knowledge inform your creation of new forms? What else comes into play in your creative process?
AS: Scientific knowledge read from academic textbooks and discussed with bioscientists, mycologists, or ethnobotanists is one aspect of the process in how I make and research for my work before I even begin to use and think about the materials connected to my project. However, I do not learn about scientific knowledge to enforce the definitions, terms or information given; meaning, I do not utilize the knowledge in a traditional academic way, which is usually taken as facts acquired through the scientific method and accepted by the scientific community. Knowledge from science informs my thinking process into my work, but the research is shown more literally in how I appropriate from visual scientific illustrations to allow for my work to sustain a constant dialogue between art and science, and between systems of knowledge and belief.
I appropriate from these visual taxonomies to create conversations between local knowledge systems of the human body and scientific classification structures. Both the rational and experiential come together within the “diagramatic realism” to further an open-ended critique of what a knowledge structure is and what it can become. I also utilize imagination within this format as an agency, which challenges the scientific framework.
If art has the power to transform experience and perception in the minds of other people, then I believe this is where drawing can be a type of scientific method within artistic research. Drawings can be based solely on aesthetic formal qualities present in the image, but it is the intention that can reveal layers of intensity and move beyond just the image present on the surface. Research is connected to this intensity in art making. It emphasizes the development of a method or system to explore or interpret information. This process of drawing for hours to achieve a state of mind of symbiosis–to become the behaviors of living organisms in the environment–is a systematic investigation to gain knowledge. The drawing process becomes a creative methodology to learn interconnection, to create new forms, and to learn new systems. Without a specific scientific method, it does not hold up against empirical research, but it can communicate aspects of unknown territory in the mind-body connection. It can open pathways for new understandings in consciousness studies and also allow for renewal of ideas in reflection and contemplation in human experience. My drawing method includes:
Formal layout appropriations
Mutualistic, parasitic, & commensalistic relationships
Detailed, descriptive observations
MSW: You arrange several organisms engaged in symbiosis on your page. In your thesis, I like what you write about the cabinets of curiosities of Renaissance Europe: collections of seemingly random artifacts arranged within a space or on a wall. Although perhaps not scientifically logical, these arrangements of artifacts invited the observer to look closely and draw independent connections between objects. As such, the viewer was invited to fill in gaps. Would you like viewers to engage with your compositions similarly to how they might have interacted with a cabinet of curiosities?
AS: I have no specific intentions in how I would like for the viewer to engage with my drawings, but if it makes a person stand in front of it for more than a few minutes and then that person starts to question or feel something that they are seeing but cannot fully explain it – something is working.
The cabinets of curiosities, also known as Wunderkammers, originated out of The Age of Enlightenment and became organized and systemized into Linnaean classification systems within the field of taxonomy. I use the visual format of a taxonomy as a tool for a local knowledge system. In taxonomy, the separation of parts to a whole and the displacement of form out of context all lead to visual engagement of learning and understanding of life around us.
MSW: In your thesis you write “when I create a drawing, I also create a synergy between my consciousness (mind and body), the paper, and matter that exist around me.” Is this synergy the manifestation of symbiosis state within your own experience and creative process?
AS: As an artist, I am drawn to investigate how my body experiences and learns from the world around me through drawing. It is curiosity that begins my journey of mind and body (mind-body). This curiosity also leads me to a journey of how my consciousness and drawing have grown together to create an internal state of mind that I call symbiosis state. Symbiosis state is a state of mind of becoming symbiotic relationships.
Under symbiosis, I imagine my own interrelationship by creating an open-ended idea of a vessel form. I do not imagine it as an inanimate object, but a living organism–a body of nature. I not only want to become the organisms that I create, but I want to make them come alive–to have energy and electricity to communicate this unknown territory without words.
MSW: Now that you’re settling into your new home in Cincinnati, what will you work on?
AS: I am at the very beginning stages of starting a new project that will connect Native Americans of the Eastern Woodlands and their plant relationships, the study of ethnobotany, and local knowledge systems. Some materials to come out of this project could include: books made out of plants, drawings, prints, and a temporary library installation.
To see more of Amber Stucke’s work, please visit her website.
Valentin Dommanget is a London based artist. To see more from Valentin Dommanget click here.
Chloe Wise (b. 1990, Montreal, Canada) is known for her humorous and often irreverent works which are inspired by popular culture and explore issues of the female body and sexuality, consumerism, Jewish identity, luxury, desire, and internet culture, amongst others. She graduated in 2013 from Concordia University. Wise’s practice spans an array of media, such as painting, sculpture, video and installation. Wise is interested in the intersections between politics of identity and social media and the intersection between “real” life and online life. She has shown at the New York Brucennial, and Frieze London, and has upcoming solo shows in Montreal, Canada, and Geneva, Switzerland. Wise lives and works in New York.
As a Jewish girl and a lover of all things bread-y, Wise’s work speaks to me in a major way. To see more of her work, click here.