Texas Mud Pie, Hands and Feet (self-portrait), 2012 C-print
Are the Internet and social media making us more, or less social? Smarter or dumber? Are you going to make it through this review before clicking over to check your email, Twitter account, Facebook page, or blog site? How many people “liked” your status update today?
Artist Rachel Lee Hovnavian is fascinated by the social transformations wrought by the virtual world. Mud Pie, her new show at the Leila Heller Gallery, is all about how we seem increasingly happy to forgo real experience in favor of the virtual and artificial. This could be a dry, heavy-handed message, but Hovnavian delivers it with such sly humor and visual panache that even the most committed technophiles might have to admit she’s on to something.
Take the show’s centerpiece, a supposedly romantic dinner for two. A long dining table is elegantly set with all the expected signifiers: flowers, candles, wineglasses. But the couple itself is virtual, represented by two LCD screens. The man and woman on the screens don’t speak to each other. Instead, each seems perfectly satisfied to interact with a mobile device while beeps, trills and the Angry Birds soundtrack punctuate the silence. Oh, and those flowers? They’re artificial. Naturally.
Holton Rower at The Hole 312 Bowery New York, NY
After five years in seclusion, Holton Rower is emerging with a solo show in New York City. His pour paintings, on display at The Hole through May 26th, are vibrant displays of acrylic paint left mostly to its own devices. Standing above large planks, Rower pours paint down thick wooden protrusions, allowing the paint to grow, or not, as wood blocks and other obstacles permit. Though at first the method seems simple, Rower has refined the process and his technical skills to an extent that intention and spontaneity are evident in equal measure in the work.
Upon entering The Hole, visitors are welcomed by the simplest of Rower’s works. The paintings in this room consist of fewer colors, layered in rings up to an inch wide. The paint retains its separateness from the surrounding rings, resulting in smoother lines and more definition. The works in the second room employ more colors applied in thin rings, with colors mixing and forming intricate designs, begetting a comparison to a topographical map of mountainous lands. The third room contains five titanic works, some with protrusions, cut-outs, and seemingly several points from which paint was applied, creating contiguous, vaguely defined abstract rings of color. This room feels a bit like the grand finale on the Fourth of July; the biggest, brightest and most complex work of the show is here, though these are not necessarily the most thoughtful or compelling pieces.
Arhuaco Man, Colombia 2011 © Robert Presutti
Robert Presutti is one of this year’s Global Travel photo contest winners. He has been working and living in New York City for the past 18 years. A large part of his work is dedicated to travel. Assignments have taking him to countries like Italy, France, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Georgia, Japan, Mexico, Colombia etc… In the past two years he has been working on two major projects, one in Colombia, in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta with the Kogi and Arhuaco indians for a future exhibit at the Smithsonian and the other project in Georgia with the nuns of the Phoka monastery. Robert also contributes to the New York Times regularly.
Four boys running down Dirt Road, Omo Valley, Ethiopia. © Andrew Geiger
Andrew Geiger placed second in the portrait category of this year’s Global Travel Photo Contest with an image from his ongoing work documenting the many vanishing cultures of the world. Geiger recently returned from the Rajasthan region of India, where he witnessed the inevitable disappearance of its traditional dress and ancient customs. “I have realized from my travels that documenting these places and people will be the only way for my children to experience the native customs the younger generation from these places are shunning,” he tells PLANET. Although he travels extensively, Geiger still has yet to find a place as beautiful and special as his home state of Montana, where he lives with his family.
THIRD PLACE © Lung Liu Lung
Lung Liu won fourth place in the portrait category of our 4th Annual Global Travel Photo Contest. Liu is a photographer working out of Vancouver, Canada who’s produced in-depth studies of Thailand, Vietnam, and Haiti after the earthquake. He was born in Vietnam between two conflicts, and spent time in a refugee camp as a child before being sponsored by a church to live in Canada. A road trip down the majestic US west coast inspired him to travel internationally for photography.
THIRD PLACE © Juliette Charvet
Juliette Charvet placed third in the general category of our 4th annual Global Travel Photo Contest. Juliette is a French photographer based in New York City, specializing in street and travel photography. After graduating from the Paris School of Journalism, she spent over a year in Vietnam and Lebanon, perfecting her photographic skills at the news agency AFP. She now travels extensively with her camera, always trying to capture the world in its most comprehensive authenticity. “To me, travel photography is about seeing our surroundings with wonderment,” she says.
THIRD PLACE © Ian Spanier
Ian Spanier placed third in the portrait category of our 3rd Annual Global Travel Photo Contest. Ian Spanier, a NY based photograper, began taking photographs at six years old when his parents gave him his first point and shoot camera. Ian’s first full book of published work, Playboy, a Guide to Cigars
arrived in cigar shops November 2009 and the public version hit retail stores Spring 2010. The book is a collection of his photographs made in six countries spanning two and a half years. His newest book project, Local Heroes: America’s Volunteer Fire Fighters
, a collection of portraits made across the US is due out Fall 2012. Ian credits much of his inspiration to the original masters of photography as they shot what they saw. For him, there is no “one” subject that he photographs; he also chooses to shoot what he sees.
Courtesy of Salvage Memory Project
March 11th, 2011 was an unforgettable day for those who witnessed their homes, their schools, and their neighborhoods get swallowed by a massive tsunami. All things familiar disappeared in just a few minutes, leaving people in utter shock. In the town of Yamamoto in Miyagi prefecture, 50% of its surface area was flooded, damaging more than 4,000 buildings. Lying in the mountains of debris were years and years of personal photographs, physical archives of memories that were once taken for granted.
Two months after the quake, research students of the Japan Society for Socio-Information Studies. traveled to Yamamoto and began to collect these photographs and albums. The “Salvage Memory Project” quickly caught the attention of professional archivists and photographers through Twitter and other social media sites, and they offered to help. The task was extremely cumbersome and tedious. The volunteers discovered 750,000 photographs, which were cleaned and put into Google’s image archive service Picasa. With Picasa’s technology, the Salvage Memory Project was able to create a system in which photographs could be searched by either facial recognition or keyword. As a result, out of 750,000 photographs recovered, 19,200 were returned to their owners.
GRAND PRIZE Abyssinian Angel, Ethiopia, William Palank
William J Palank is an environmental portrait photographer based out of San Francisco. His love for international travel and little-known places started after his birth on a US Air Force Base in France, when he was given a free ride in the cargo hold of a military transport airplane at the age of two weeks. Palank is also a fine art printer and a teacher for Leica Akademie North America.
© Anja Hitzenberger
Opening this week is the first solo show of photographer Anja Hitzenberger, an Austrian photographer, filmmaker and video artist who divides her time between New York and Vienna.
The exhibition is the culmination of a two month residency that Anja took in the fall of 2011 in Beijing. Wandering around the site of Beijing’s Olympic Park, she stumbled across a huge tent that housed an immense food court. Inside she found stall after stall of fast food that had been created to appeal to the masses of impending visitors to the area.
Struck by the contrast of the saturated visual displays of food and the seeming apathy and disinterest of the respective employers Anja felt compelled to record it and the project “Take Out” was created.
Hitzenberger is an artist whose work is primarily based on the relationship of the body and its relationship to architecture and space. Her projects have taken her throughout the world, and she often depicts the local populace as part of her work. The “Take Out” project continues this theme, and offers a visual insight into a culture that is full of flux and complexity. Take Out is on view at Underline Gallery, 238 West 14th Street, New York, through May 13.