Friday, March 2, 2012

JK Russ Artist Talk

Preview Thursday and it was my turn to be giving an Artist Talk at the opening of my 'Desert of Earthly Delights' show at Sin City Gallery where all the works are online. Photo at left thanks to gallery manager Lou Lou Roxy.
Here is a summary of the talk I gave on 'Photo Collage/Altered Imagery and the Sexualized Female Form':

I began working with photo collage ten years ago when majoring in photography at Manukau School of Visual Arts in Auckland, New Zealand. I was interested in surrealism, so I recorded my nightmares and created black and white prints of scenes. I then added color elements from found magazine images.

During my research I encountered the work of German artist Hannah Höch, who created works in the 1920s and 30s which challenged the traditional art historical depiction of the female nude. I also discovered the subversive work of contemporary New Zealand artist Ava Seymour who was placing rubber fetish figures into retro interior design scenes.

More recently I have found other collage/altered image artists working with the sexualized female form. Kenyan-born artist Wangechi Mutu has addressed issues of sex and cultural identity in her collage and mixed media works. Los Angeles artist Gordon Magnin has altered found pornographic images and added geometric forms and art references. Las Vegas artist Anthony Bondi features seductive women in his collages and installation photography and UNLV graduate Aaron Sheppard incorporates seductive advertising images in his mixed media works.

In New Zealand I was collaging figures onto found landscape prints that often featured river and ocean scenes. Since moving to Las Vegas, I have found these type of prints harder to source, but have found that retro record albums are plentiful so I have been using these as my base material and have created desert scenes around the central figures which are often models in seductive poses.

Living in a desert environment is very different from living in New Zealand where it rains frequently. I am fascinated with the rock formations of the American South West and these have featured prominently in my recent works. I am also interested in how creatures adapt to living in a harsh desert environment, negotiating cacti barbs and predators. The women in my collages could be interpreted as either protectors or predators. Some of the female figures are sourced directly from porn magazines and are then merged into the landscape itself.

I see the city of Las Vegas itself as being potentially a dangerous environment with a seductive façade based on illusion. I love the perfect blue sky and white clouds painted across the ceilings of some of the casinos, but when you look closely you can see the utility fittings and the joins. I see my collages operating in much the same way. I prefer to work with old-school cut and paste techniques, creating an illusion that can be deconstructed through close inspection of the segmented forms.

As well as working on record sleeves, I have painted in neon colors on the records themselves, using an old-style record player to create ‘spin art’, then collaging onto these.

I see Las Vegas as having a very strong music and performance scene, ranging from the big shows on the Strip with the high production values, to the small bars and venues featuring great local bands, burlesque shows and other performances.

There is a surreal aspect to this city that makes it a very interesting place to live. I’ll finish with my Artist Statement - a quote from Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream:

“I agreed. By this time the drink was beginning to cut the acid and my hallucinations were down to a tolerable level. The room service waiter had a vaguely reptilian cast to his features, but I was no longer seeing huge pterodactyls lumbering around the corridors in pools of fresh blood. The only problem now was a gigantic neon sign outside the window, blocking our view of the mountains -- millions of colored balls running around a very complicated track, strange symbols & filigree, giving off a loud hum....

"Look outside," I said.


"There's a big ... machine in the sky, ... some kind of electric snake ... coming straight at us."

"Shoot it," said my attorney.

"Not yet," I said. "I want to study its habits."


Anonymous said...

You were awesome! And I love your nylons, by the way. I will write a blog post about your show soon, too. Have fun in LA!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for updating with a recap of your talk. Love it!

JK Russ said...

cool, thank u :)

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