Monday, October 9, 2017

Anna Brown reviews Lars Tunbjörk

Swedish photographer Lars Tunbjörk (1956-2015) is noteworthy for his deadpan snapshots of everyday suburban life in his home country. His early work as a photojournalist during the 1970s paved the way for his later career as a photographer. Lars said, 

“I always try to be very visible as a photographer.”

“I don’t know how much I influence a situation, just by having a camera.” 

Tunbjörk’s quirky take on the banalities of existence in the post-industrial age lead him to document life’s often overlooked moments with a sense of humor and wit. An exemplary photograph, Oland, 1991, depicts a comfortable-looking middle-aged couple relaxing in lounge chairs in the grass of a suburban Scandinavian development, accompanied by two small, yellow umbrellas. It is evident in his documentary-style work that Tunbjörk had an acute sense of what it means to live and work as a Swede.

Lars Tunbjörk’s awareness and exploration of color and composition are initially what caught my eye. However, as I continued to view and analyze his work, I began to find myself more attached to his narratives and the individuals he observed in his work. He certainly had a way of capturing each of his characters in a manner that allows them to speak for themselves. Even in his photographs that exclude the human form, his oeuvre is indicative of a pieced together portrait of Sweden’s contented and lively nature.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Anna Brown reviews Martha Wilson

Martha Wilson was born in 1947 in Newtown, Pennsylvania. Martha, who has lived in New York since 1974, has also worked and exhibited widely both nationally and internationally since 1974. Currently she is a part of the Fall 2017 International Artist in Residency program at Artpace.

This pioneering feminist artist is known for her self-portrait style works, which incorporate performance, photography, and even video. Her early body of work includes documentary photographs accompanied by text, which serve as guides to further understanding the imagery. This can be observed in her 1974 piece My Authentic Self, and even more so in her more contemporary efforts such as The Legs Are the Last To Go. Martha is a master of subtle humors and bringing to light topics which are otherwise viewed as uncomfortable, unpopular, or controversial. She seamlessly fuses her simple compositions with a concise statement or descriptive passage, which acts as a sort of documentation of each concept she sheds light on. 

I have had the unique opportunity of speaking to this artist about her work both past and present. While her photography and performance based work arguably paved the way for later contemporary artists such as Cindy Sherman (see Captivating a Man, 1972), Martha relayed to me that her current body of work is about her age and her feelings about the topic. Martha’s photographs speak to me because they are so honest and casually hilarious, and they are without a doubt an accurate reflection of the shameless, authentic woman she is. If you get the chance, I highly recommend seeing her exhibition this coming November at Artpace.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Hannah Rosales Reviews Marina Abramovic

Marina Abramovic was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia in 1946. She predominantly uses the body in her performance art. She has thoroughly explored the body mentally and physically. In this particular work, Abramovic eats an onion while looking up at the sky complaining about her life. This onion is a whole onion with the skin on. She complains about her everyday life, ranging from herself criticizing her body, to falling in love with the wrong man, to waiting at airports, train stations, etc.

My first thought is, what does the onion represent? And why a whole onion with the skin on? My speculation is that she chose an onion because onions produce tears in many people. She is most likely trying to convey her emotions through eating this onion. Thinking about how bad her life is makes her emotional. In many of the stills from the video, she looks like she is in agony. She could be trying to convey the idea that even though the things she is complaining about seem small, they heavily affect her. Many people undermine the things she’s complaining about so she might be trying to convey that she really struggles with these things. It would have had a different meaning if she’d used a different food such as a tomato. She possibly also chose an onion not only because they produce tears in people, but also because of the skin. Onions have layers, so metaphorically, she is revealing the layers of her day to day life. And that could be painful because being vulnerable is not always easy, even if what you’re revealing may be on “the surface.” In the two images she depicts two different emotions. In the image at the top, she looks as if she is in agony. However, in the image at the bottom, anger looks to be the emotion displayed here.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Anna Brown reviews Mária Švarbová

Maria Svarbova was born in 1988 and currently resides in Slovakia. Inspiration for her fresh, dream-like scenes comes from her interest in Socialist era architecture and public spaces. Svarbova often captures simple, routine behaviors, but she does so with a cool sense of detachment and elegance that demands a response. Her aloof characters embody a sense of mystery, isolation and the human experience. This highly decorated contemporary photographer’s work has secured myriad publications worldwide including features in Vogue, Forbes, and The Guardian.

Of her In the Swimming Pool series Svarbova says, "People fascinate meSpace has no meaning without humans. The same also goes the other way around. Humans have no meaning without spaceThe main focus of my series was to harmonize the humans and space." The series, which began in 2014 is currently still being developed. Despite the retro feel of the images, they also evoke a futuristic quality that feels sterile and almost alien. Each person exists expressionless within the frame, but at the same time activates the space in a way that offers life to an otherwise lifeless, cold place. I was particularly drawn to Svarbova’s work because of my preexisting interest in other Soviet-influenced artists such as Ilya Kabakov, but this series spoke to me through its color palette and the minimal yet poignant moments she is able to capture.