Rozette Rago is a visual journalist based in Los Angeles.
Produced by Raillan Brooks, Alicia DeSantis, Gabriel Gianordoli, Jolie Ruben and Josephine Sedgwick.
Surfacing is a weekly column that explores the intersection of art and life.
Actors: Ann Pastor as Leslie Hayman as Therese Lisbon, Ericke Tan as Kirsten Dunst as Lux Lisbon, Jessica Wu as A.J. Cook as Mary Lisbon and Lhiyanne Reyes as Chelse Swain as Bonnie Lisbon in “The Virgin Suicides”; Brandon Tan as Steve Zahn as Sammy Gray, Rozette Rago as Winona Ryder as Lelaina Pierce, Tracy Nguyen as Janeane Garofalo as Vickie Miner and Myrrh Raguro as Ethan Hawke as Troy Dyer in “Reality Bites”; Neil Reyes as Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore Twombly and Ericke Tan as Amy Adams as Amy in “Her”; Angela Guo as Mickey Sumner as Sophie Levee and Sabrina Imbler as Greta Gerwig as Frances Halladay in “Frances Ha”; Tracy Nguyen as Kate Winslet as Clementine Kruczynski in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”; Howin Wong as Armie Hammer as Oliver and Abe Kim as Timothée Chalamet as Elio Perlman in “Call Me by Your Name”; Heather Sten as Julie Delpy as Céline and Daniel Varghese as Ethan Hawke as Jesse in “Before Sunrise”; Jonny Sun as Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tom Hansen and Saera Hur as Zooey Deschanel as Summer Finn in “500 Days of Summer”; Ria Misra as Ellen Page as Juno MacGuff in “Juno.”
Film still credits: Paramount Classics (“The Virgin Suicides”); Universal Pictures (“Reality Bites”); Warner Bros. (“Her”); IFC Films (“Frances Ha”); Focus Features (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”); Sony Pictures Classics (“Call Me by Your Name”); Castle Rock Entertainment (“Before Sunrise”); Fox Searchlight Pictures (“500 Days of Summer”); Fox Searchlight Pictures (“Juno”).
Morimura as Michael Jackson and Madonna, in the same image.
Morimura as Marylin Monroe, re-enacting advertisements for the Seven Year Itch.
Yasumasa Morimura (born 1951, Osaka, Japan) has been working as a conceptual photographer and filmmaker for more than three decades. Through extensive use of props, costumes, makeup, and digital manipulation, the artist masterfully transforms himself into recognizable subjects, often from the Western cultural canon. Morimura has based works on seminal paintings by Frida Kahlo, Vincent Van Gogh, and Diego Velázquez, as well as images culled from historical materials, mass media, and popular culture. The artist’s reinvention of iconic photographs and art historical masterpieces challenges the associations the viewer has with the subjects, while also commenting on Japan’s complex absorption of Western culture. Through his depiction of female stars and characters, Morimura subverts the concept of the “male gaze”; within each image he both challenges the authority of identity and overturns the traditional scope of self-portraiture.- http://www.luhringaugustine.com/artists/yasumasa-morimura/bio
Cindy Sherman is a contemporary master of socially critical photography. She is a key figure of the “Pictures Generation,” a loose circle of American artists who came to artistic maturity and critical recognition during the early 1980s, a period notable for the rapid and widespread proliferation of mass media imagery.
Sherman turned to photography toward the end of the 1970s in order to explore a wide range of common female social roles, or personas. Sherman sought to call into question the seductive and often oppressive influence of mass-media over our individual and collective identities. Turning the camera on herself in a game of extended role playing of fantasy Hollywood, fashion, mass advertising, and “girl-next-door” roles and poses, Sherman ultimately called her audience’s attention to the powerful machinery and make-up that lay behind the countless images circulating in an incessantly public, “plugged in” culture. – http://www.theartstory.org/artist-sherman-cindy.htm
Adi Nes, a photographer working in Israel, makes meticulously crafted images that are both autobiographical and attest to living in a country in conflict. Nes’s photographs are reminiscent of Renaissance or Baroque paintings, often based on parables and collective cultural memory. Sexual tension is ever-present in Nes’ work, as he delves into complex explorations of homoeroticism. His goal is to reveal a universal humanism in his dramatic portraits.
In one of his most well known images, Nes recreates Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper but replaces the central figures with Israeli solders. This photograph appeared on the front page of the New York Times in 2008 and helped establish Nes as one of Israel’s most acclaimed photographers. “My staged photographs are oversized and often recall well-known scenes from Art History and Western Civilization combined with personal experiences based on my life as a gay youth growing up in a small town on the periphery of Israeli society.” says Nes in an interview at the Israeli Center in San Francisco.- http://www.jackshainman.com/artists/adi-nes/
Wall photographed actors in a landscape located outside his home town, Vancouver, at times when similar weather conditions prevailed over a period of five months. He then collaged elements of the photograph digitally in order to achieve the desired composition. The result is a tableau which appears staged in the manner of a classicalpainting…In Hokusai’s image the landscape is a curving path through a reed-filled area next to a lake, leading towards Mount Fuji in the far distance. In Wall’s version, flat brown fields abut onto a canal. Small shacks, a row of telegraph poles and concrete pillars and piping evoke industrial farming. The unromantic nature of the landscape is reinforced by a small structure made of corrugated iron in the foreground. The pathway on which the figures stand is a dirt track extending along the front of the photograph from one side to the other. There is no sense of connection between the characters, whose position in the landscape appears incongruous. Two wear smart city clothes, adding to the sense of displacement. -Tate Britain, http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/wall-a-sudden-gust-of-wind-after-hokusai-t06951/text-summaryJeff Wall,
Picture for Women, 1979
Édouard Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1882
“Picture for Women, made in 1979 and taking Édouard Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère as a reference point. Earlier paintings by Manet are often seen as the starting points for modern art and the painting is in the Courtauld collection, making it both an appropriate source for Wall and one he knew well. In Manet’s painting, the woman behind the bar takes centre stage – Wall describes her as being ‘in an everyday working situation which was also a situation of specularity’ – and the mirror behind her means we see her twice within the picture. The mirror is playing tricks through; the reflection seems odd, wrong even. In Wall’s reworking, the woman is clearly the main subject but Wall himself is also present, along with his camera which makes the use of the mirror – and thus our role as spectator – all the more apparent. We are seeing only the reflection rather than the scene.”
“There are obvious differences between Manet’s painting and Wall’s photograph, to the extent that one would be forgiven for not getting the reference – it’s certainly nothing like as close a reworking as A Sudden Gust of Wind (After Hokusai) but then the directness of that reference extends to the title – but the similarities are evident in the expressions on the faces of both the woman in the foreground and the man in the background. In both, the mirror plays an important role as a layer of confusion; it raises questions of spectatorship and of the gaze. And in both works the power dynamic between the sexes is being explored but in each in a way that is particular to the politics of the day.” From https://imageobjecttext.com/2012/07/01/remaking-history/
“Hu Jieming is one of the pioneering artists of digital media and video installation art in today’s China. One of his main focuses is the simultaneity of the old and the new: A theme he constantly comments upon and questions in a variety of media ranging from photography, video works, digital interactive technology, and architectural juxtapositions with musical comments.”
“In Raft of the Medusa (2002) he references to Theodore’s Gericault’s seminal and allegorical image, the Raft of the Medusa (1819). The historical painting serves as a mytho-poetic memorial of the 150 lost souls onboard the raft after a fatal shipwreck, from which only 15 survived. The painting very elegantly undermines the traditional heroic 19th century historical painting, and, instead, conveys a society in sinking collapse. Hu Jieming parallels this historic occurrence to the regime of the Cultural Revolution with all its sinister cruelty. His Raft of the Medusa, thus, is more than just a reference to the past: The photos are composed of today’s excessive amount of consumer goods and advertisement imagery. Additionally, Hu Jieming juxtaposes pictures of today’s youth in gestures of self-indulgent hedonism with monochrome grey pictures of the suppressed people in traditional mao-uniforms. These compositions made of images appropriated from different socio-political realities signify a strong critical engagement with both history and the present – it is a concern ranging beyond pure private considerations.- http://www.shanghartgallery.com/galleryimage/image/10109/pdfview
“Yinka Shonibare MBE was born in 1962 in London and moved to Lagos, Nigeria at the age of three. Shonibare’s work explores issues of race and class through the media of painting, sculpture, photography and film. Shonibare questions the meaning of cultural and national definitions.- http://www.yinkashonibarembe.com/biography/
Shonibare’s ambitious photographic suite Diary of a Victorian Dandy has frequently been considered in relation to the satirical art of the 18th-century painter and caricaturist William Hogarth. Shonibare’s photographs resonate with Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress (1735), which chronicled the dissipation and ruin of its protagonist, but they avoid its moralizing tenor. Instead, Shonibare’s work celebrates excess and decadence, while inverting the stereotype of otherness through the figure of the black dandy (played by Shonibare himself) with his fawning white servants and acolytes.
Themes of leisure, frivolity, self-invention and social mobility are played out through the figure of the dandy, whose circulation in upper-class English social circles was often linked to his style and wit. Shonibare has described his attraction to the dandy as an “outsider [who] upsets the social order of things.” As their titles indicate, Shonibare’s photographs depict a day in the life of his fictional dandy–from his late morning rise, to his afternoon business and social activities, to a decadent sexual adventure at 3 a.m.”- https://africa.si.edu/exhibits/shonibare/dandy.html
“Thomas Demand studied with the sculptor Fritz Schwegler, who encouraged him to explore the expressive possibilities of architectural models.
Demand makes mural-scale photographs, but instead of finding his subject matter in landscapes, buildings, and crowds, he uses paper and cardboard to reconstruct scenes he finds in images taken from various media sources. Once he has photographed his re-created environments—always devoid of figures but often displaying evidence of recent human activity—Demand destroys his models, further complicating the relationship between reproduction and original that his photography investigates.”- http://www.matthewmarks.com/new-york/artists/thomas-demand/
Uwe Barschel at the Hotel Beau-Rivage, Geneva, 11th of October, 1987.
“One of the most iconic photographs of post-war Germany: the politician Uwe Barschel found dead in a bathtub in a hotel in Geneva. It is a highly voyeuristic image and one can only assume that the journalists decided to pull back the shower curtain in order to get a better view of Barschel. The strong flashlight of the camera captures every little detail: Barschel lies fully clothed in a bathtub, his body submerged in water, his head leaning towards the side. A few details of the photograph are intriguing: his collar button is opened and his tie is loosened, his hair is wet despite being above water and his wristwatch peaks out from his sleeve. The non-water proof wristwatch would later give an indication of Barschel’s time of death. All these elements further raised the intrigue of what happened to Barschel.
Until this day, the circumstances of Barschel’s death have not been resolved. (…)
The German photographer Thomas Demand who is well-known for his reconstructions of iconographic images, rebuilt the bathtub in room 317 of the Hotel Beau-Rivage in paper and cardboard. There is no trace of Barschel himself in Demand’s reconstruction, yet the vantage point of the camera, the bathroom tiles, even the water level in the bathtub remain strikingly similar to the original photograph published by Stern magazine. As if to grant the deceased subject more privacy, Demand drew the curtain slightly closed. Demand’s image is a comment on the role of photography in the production and consumption of memory.” http://visualcultureblog.com/2010/10/death-in-a-bathtub/
Kristan Horton uses a variety of media—including but not limited to photography—to elaborate on the ways in which movement is represented, and the ways in which things are generated and regenerated. Horton studied at Ontario College of Art and Design and the University of Guelph, where he received his MFA in 2007. Preoccupations since the 1990s include the consumption of texts and mass media, the representation of simultaneous and rotated scenes, and the visualization of power generation. Horton is well known for his photographic series Dr. Strangelove Dr. Strangelove (2003–6), for which he recreated scenes of a Kubrick film using items from his studio.- http://canadianart.ca/artists/kristan-horton/
Adad Hannah is known for staged tableaux vivant videos that often revisit or re-enact famed paintings and artworks. Hannah received his BFA from Vancouver’s Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in 1998 and his MFA from Montreal’s Concordia University in 2004. Hannah has completed projects in diverse locales, with casts that often challenge and update the meanings of the works he’s referencing.- Canadian Art, http://canadianart.ca/artists/adad-hannah/
Blackwater Ophelia is inspired by the 1852 painting Ophelia by John Everett Millais, and by a visit Hannah made to the Aamjiwnaang First Nation community in Lambton County, in 2010.
“I have liked this painting for a long time; it is so lush and melancholic. It also depicts nature, but nature as seen in the middle of the nineteenth century, a nature laying itself out for the photographic—which is really a nature constructed by and for photography. To restage this scene for photography, in a painstaking manner using silk flowers and a built set draws attention to the artifice of photographic images, while still seducing with the same techniques Millais used 150 years ago. This double reading/double presence is interesting for me, and hopefully for viewers as well.”- Adad Hannah, http://adadhannah.com/projects/show/blackwater_ophelia/
“Jo-Anne Balcaen makes work in installation, video, and print media. Over the past 10 years, her practice has largely focused on the mythical nature of rock music and its attendant phenomena of adulation and delusion.
“In the spirit of collaboration and a “no-pressure” work ethic, Donna Akrey and I produced a series of 13 portraits that re-stage vinyl record covers of famous rock, pop, folk and country music duos from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s.
Three basic rules were set. First, we could only work with albums we either owned, or could purchase at Death of Vinyl / La Fin du Vinyle, our neighbourhood vinyl record shop for which the project was originally conceived and exhibited in April-May 2012. Second, we could only use clothing we either already owned, or which could be found at our local thrift store in a single shopping trip. Finally, any props such as facial hair, backgrounds, etc., could only be fashioned from materials readily found in my studio. Working within this self-imposed limit of equipment and skills, we cast ourselves as Hall and Oates, WHAM!, Simon and Garfunkel, and more, all in an effort to capture the emotional – if not physical – essence of their image.” – Jo- Anne Balcaen, http://www.joannebalcaen.ca/portfolio/re-duo/
Ai Weiwei 艾未未 is a Chinese contemporary artist and activist who is highly and publicly critical of the Chinese government’s stance on human rights.
Having spent his formative years as an artist in New York in the 1980s, when… conceptual and performance art were dominant, he knows how to combine his life and art into a daring and politically charged performance that helps define how we see modern China. He’ll use any medium or genre—sculpture, ready-mades, photography, performance, architecture, tweets and blogs—to deliver his pungent message.
Ai’s persona—which, as with Warhol’s, is inseparable from his art—draws power from the contradictory roles that artists perform in modern culture. The loftiest are those of martyr, preacher and conscience. Not only has Ai been harassed and jailed, he has also continually called the Chinese regime to account.- Mark Stevens, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/is-ai-weiwei-chinas-most-dangerous-man-17989316/?no-ist
Study ofPerspective (1995 to 2003)is one of Ai Weiwei’s most controversial series, where he photographs himself flipping off important monuments around the world. He describes it as his personal form of rebellion against any government authority who blatantly or covertly disregard the freedoms of its citizens.
There can be a powerful assertion behind a single gesture when used in the proper context. With a raise of his middle finger, Ai champions the social responsibility and individualism of the generation, and shows just how fragile the powerful can truly be.
“There are no outdoor sports as graceful as throwing stones at a dictatorship.” says Ai Weiwei in an interview with BBC Radio 1 – http://www.theplaidzebra.com/that-time-ai-weiwei-flipped-off-the-worlds-most-important-monuments-to-prove-a-point-photos/
Ai Weiwei’sSunflower Seeds is made up of millions of small works, each apparently identical, but actually unique. However realistic they may seem, these life-sized sunflower seed husks are in fact intricately hand-crafted in porcelain.
Each seed has been individually sculpted and painted by specialists working in small-scale workshops in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen. Far from being industrially produced, they are the effort of hundreds of skilled hands. Poured into the interior of the Turbine Hall’s vast industrial space, the 100 million seeds form a seemingly infinite landscape.
Porcelain is almost synonymous with China and, to make this work, Ai Weiwei has manipulated traditional methods of crafting what has historically been one of China’s most prized exports. Sunflower Seeds invites us to look more closely at the ‘Made in China’ phenomenon and the geo-politics of cultural and economic exchange today.
A short documentary about the process of making Sunflower Seeds can be found here.