John Waiblinger: Male Beauty and Romanticism

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John Waiblinger creates lushly tender images of male beauty, often in a romantic setting. His digital images are carefully manipulated to position the men in his works in an intimate way, combining the men with images of nature.

That intimacy is not always sexual or even overtly romantic, although many images do touch upon these themes. In “Mustang,” Waiblinger’s subject leans against the hood of the titular vehicle, for example. However, many of the male images are re-envisioned erotic models, collected from porn sites. “I’ve re-positioned them, re-imagined them in a different context, merging them with my own photographs as the basis for this re-visioning. So, each work is a layering and recombination of two very different images,” Waiblinger says.

Each piece is, the artist says, driven by emotion. The subjects grabbed his attention, touching his eye and his heart with their vulnerability, openness, and beauty.

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“Each of these men or couples has touched me on both an emotional and aesthetic level …from a perspective other than raw sexuality, and I strive to communicate that vision in each piece.”

These men, who rely on their bodies for their work, are humanized in Waiblinger’s work, with their spirit and essence the refining factor. The artist notes that after all, each of these men live a life outside of any pornographic performance, and his poignant acknowledgement of their personal existence infuses the artist’s work.

“My engagement with these images encompasses many hours of re-thinking and re-imagining who these men might be and my own sense of relationship with them. Ultimately, I consider it an act of romance…” Waiblinger explains. In recognizing and accepting his own capability of objectifying these subjects, he has thoroughly engaged with them, viewing as total beings, rather than in a highly sexualized and commoditized world.

The Los Angeles-based artist discovered his digital art making and photographic tools fairly recently, sharing his dreamlike visions of love and contemplation.

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In “Holding Your Flower,” a kiss is discretely shadowed by red flowers and leaves, creating a lush blanket enfolding two lovers; while in the spare “J’Accuse,” a man looks out longingly from behind a thicket of branches – arms clasped behind his back, he appears as a prisoner of his own thoughts and heart, or held in place by his own, perhaps unacknowledged, sexuality.

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“Kiss,” like “Holding Your Flower,” and the morning glories in “Morning Glory,” overlays the features of two men, here in close-up, about to kiss, with delicate, mosaic-like images of flora and fauna.

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The colors evoke stained glass, the patterns elaborate tile or beadwork, embroidering something eternal and universally recognizable as it weaves across the central image of the two lovers.

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In “Movement,” multiple, overlapping images of a nude man are caught in motion, as if he were dancing or about to dance; “Rockstar” distresses its central image of a young, Mick Jagger-like man in profile with scratches that look like fireworks, stage-light glitter, or a dazzling rain. The scratches also evoke marks on a worn LP, or graffiti, creating a perfect urban image.

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“Rooted” obscures this black and white image of a nude man, back turned to the viewer, with the branches of pale trees, almost fusing his spine to the branches.

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“Bad Boys #1” offers two young men, fully clothed, looking as if they had stepped out of a 70s era Tom Petty video, the back drop a fiery red that is aflame with life, youth, and possibility.waiblinger bad boys 1

There is a mystical and mythical quality to these works, they are both fantasies and dreamy guides to an intrinsic truth: that human beauty is a part of life, abloom, growing, as wild, un-contained, and innocent as that.

Waiblinger, along with artist Sean Yang, will be presenting a one-week installation, “Journey,” in the display window vitrine at Cerritos College Art Gallery beginning March 19th, with a reception from 4 -6 p.m. The work here narrates the “coming out” process from both artists’ personal experience, and focuses on their longing for tender connections and the journey of fully-realized sexual identity.

 

Memory Magic at the LA Art Show with Susan Lizotte

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Above, Susan Lizotte’s “Beginnings,” aerosol and oil on canvas, offers vibrant color contrasts with human figures literally popping out of a serene, floral background.

With the LA Art Show rapidly approaching, the time has come to preview the show itself and several specific artists.  Lizotte’s works will be included for the second year at BG Gallery’s booth.

The six works she’s exhibiting are all related pieces, she says “They deal with issues of memory, loss and obfuscation. They deal with loss as a means to celebrate the past, present, and future simultaneously,” she says, adding that love, loss, pain and rebirth and regeneration of hope for the future are specifically the thematic meaning behind her three newest Untitled paintings.

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Above, thick paint and rich brush strokes and paint application define her visual motif in her 8 x 6 “Untitled” work above.

Previously, Lizotte had exhibited works in her map series. These works are an outgrowth of and a change from that series, in which maps of the world followed both symbolic and literal interpretations in an unique way. “My adopted father fell ill and passed away last fall. Watching him slowly leave his body was an intense experience, I felt as though I was moving from life to death and back to life again,” she explains. “The introspective period I went through inspired these paintings, especially the newest ones. I’ve used flowers as symbols of loss and also as emblems of regeneration and rebirth. I feel it’s a new level for me.”

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Above,  “Untitled,” 32 x 20″.

Each of these works, in a different way, has an inner glow. Her careful working and reworking of each piece has led to that visual power.

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Above, Lizotte’s “Untitled” work depicting flowers.

She says that with this chance to exhibit she “wanted to have a field of color seen altogether so each piece was worked to complement the others, so that when seen together they all glow. It’s kind of trial and error, happy mistakes, too. The aerosol backgrounds are sprayed until I feel happy with that, especially if it’s hard to take a photo of it, then I know what I paint on top will stand out. Focusing on the colors and hand-mixing each color gives them a unique look. ”

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Above “Lost Crown,”  a haunting dream of the past, perhaps.

Lizotte wants viewers to know that these paintings are very personal. “They are about life and death, mortality, like love and loss, the tentative balance between opposites – color vs no color, light vs dark,  implied narrative versus complete abstraction. I hope the viewer can read-in their own stories and desires.”

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  • Genie Davis; photos courtesy of the artist

The Godfather of Politics: Tony Puryear’s Gankstas! Pops Up

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Who doesn’t like The Godfather. Or The Sopranos? Now the Trumps, these mooks might be a different story.

In Tony Puryear’s gankstas! Know Your Thug, an online-series of political portraits skewers what may be America’s least-loved crime family, the Trump syndicate – a.k.a. government administration. Here, images of the Trump “crime family” are the subject. Along with the portraits come all-too-trenchant amusing dossiers that list each member’s crimes. Limited edition prints of select images from this series take center stage at Jason Vass this weekend, in a pop-up that opens Saturday and runs through Sunday.

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Also included: Puryear’s 2008 Hillary Clinton campaign poster, an iconic image inducted into the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery; protest and political art from Vass’ personal collection, a painting of Trump from Italian artist Stefano Panichi, and a bold Trump-themed work from Los Angeles-based Israeli artist Tslil Tsemet.

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With Steve Bannon’s words searing Trump’s tattered soul in the release of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, Puryear’s depiction of Bannon couldn’t be more timely.

However, Tony Puryear has been creating his series of satiric political portraits and their accompanying commentary in a lively spirit of resistance since the election. But now, just days prior to the one-year anniversary of Donald “Don Fugazy” Trump’s inauguration, the works are collected in one, in-person, space.

“This art is my hammer, my bell, my song. It’s my march and my sit-in, and in the days since Trump and his cohort of thugs and pickpockets came to power, it’s the work I’m compelled to do,”  Puryear attests.

As both an artist and a writer, Puryear has long created political art, and the Trump family, he felt, cried out for “naming and shaming… In this series, I mean to show their true faces and tell their true stories…” he relates.

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Each of more than 20 prints and paintings are signed and numbered limited editions. Subjects include former and present members of the Trump regime, including Michael “Tovarich” Flynn, Paul “Paulie No-Nuts Ryan,” Steve “Big Pussy” Bannon, Sara “The Huckster” Huckabee Sanders, Ryan “The Other White Meat” Zinke, General John “Blue Falcon” Kelly, and Ivanka “Shorty Bang Bang” Trump – as well as figures of the resistance such as Sally “Maverick” Yates and Robert “Bobby Three Sticks” Mueller.

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As pointed as they are witty, with beautifully detailed, modernist imaging, Puryear’s work here is as epic as a Scorsese classic, and just as intense and visually compelling.

Born and raised in New York, Puryear has received acclaim as an innovative chef, award-winning advertising writer,  and as the co-creator and artist for the graphic novel series Concrete Park from Dark Horse Comics, on which he partnered with writer and political commentator Erika Alexander. Puryear is also a screenwriter, notably of the film Eraser, and currently helming episodes of USA’s Queen of the South. 

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Don’t miss the opening reception this Saturday from 5 to 9, or check out the show from 12-5 Saturday and 12-4 on Sunday.

Jason Vass gallery is located at 1452 E. 6th St., LA, 90021.

A portion of proceeds from sales will be donated to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

J.Fredric May: Seeing Things

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Vision is a curious thing. What we see may be empirically there, in front of us, or it may be something more shadowy, an outgrowth of how we feel, what we think we see, what some might call an inner vision. Experimental artist and photographer J. Fredric May embraces that inner view. The former photojournalist, commercial photographer, and filmmaker is legally blind, having lost 46% of his vision after surviving a major stroke during open heart surgery in 2012. The stroke also subjected him to vivid visual hallucinations.

One could view this as a tragic set of circumstances, but that is not May’s way. Instead, he was challenged to alter his artistic expression, and find new ways to express visual images. He incorporated the hallucinatory episodes he was experiencing, and is shaping beautifully haunting works that challenge viewers to see the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Using computer imaging software to corrupt and disrupt visual information, the artist essentially began to replicate what was occurring for him. Fragmentary, poetic, and ghostly, they are familiar images turned inside out, puzzle pieces that are mysterious yet recognizable, life through a strange prism.

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With his series Apparition: Postcards From Eye See You, recently awarded Critical mass Top 50 for 2017, May invites viewers to see through his artistic “looking glass,” and view the world as he does.

May says “Seeing is not a solitary or isolated act. We create and store a ceaseless visual loop of information hat continuously feeds our perception.” And that perception feeds the way we look at what see, May notes “Sight involves rapid-fire motor activity; electrons are fired, synapses jumped…all within milliseconds.”

And during that immediate process, one not only takes in and records visual information, one also absorbs the meaning of that visual information, or creates one’s own meaning from it.

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We are given a fresh take on the human form in May’s images. Take “Author’s Hallucination No. 31,” above, a portrait of a man, yes, likely wearing sunglasses, features rearranged into a recognizable yet alien form.

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Or “Author’s Hallucination No. 7,” in which a female portrait is dominated by a centered, larger-than-scale mouth.

May The Griffin Fifteen No. 10In The Griffin Fifteen Series, “Griffin Fifteen No. 10” collapses a man’s face into a nearly-cylindrical shape, featureless, yet innately recognizable as a human image.

May, who grew up in a family that he describes as “collectors, inventors, and engineers” has always been an innovator, encouraged to “regenerate.” As a photojournalist and commercial photographer, he developed a reputation of capturing what a newspaper editor called the “A-one shot,” a standout image, a cover photo. His vivid, natural image style was forever altered with his stroke, but the artist continues to succeed – in a different form – at creating a resonant single image. May has viewed his stroke as a challenge, a condition to be explored with the assistance of his iPad and his inspirational desire to create images that depict what he himself sees. Along with limited sight, May’s hallucinatory episodes are a result of Charles Bonnet syndrome, in which the brain regenerates visual imagery, attempting to refine and fill in the blur of limited vision.

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Depicting these episodes, May creates archival pigment prints that combine both analog and digital photographic process, scanning vintage portraits, subjecting the images to data corruption software, creating layered image composites which he prints as cyanotypes. His next step is to bleach and alter the tone of these images with a mix of tea and photo chemicals, which contributes to an ethereal feel to this work. Then, he digitizes the altered cyanotypes to create a print. The result is a distorted yet oddly beautiful composite, ephemeral and fleeting, the glance you always remember, the nearly-dissolving face glimpsed through a rain drenched window you can’t help but forget.

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May’s capture of these “visionary” moments has also gone beyond his works themselves, with his art-making process accelerating his own recovery and inspiring researchers to study the use of his techniques as an alternative treatment for stroke patients.

Whether in a recent group exhibit at the Los Angeles Center of Photography or in a solo show, Gray Matters, at the Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester, Mass., May proves that what you see may be just a part of what you “get.” In May’s process of comprehension, what we observe in the blink of an eye is rendered into a potent, depth-filled image that both questions and embraces the vision of life itself.

  • Genie Davis; photos courtesy of the artist