Though their work can be described as digital art, Ransom & Mitchell are very hands-on with their process. To create the fanciful worlds that they photograph, the San Francisco-based duo sews original costumes, makes props and builds sets. Experts in studio lighting, they imbue their works with a magical ambiance, only adding digitally-painted details to render that which can’t be done in real life. For the upcoming group show “Rough & Ready Sideshow” at Bash Contemporary in San Francisco, Ransom & Mitchell will be exhibiting a new series of photo-illustrations that hearken back to circus freak shows. While there are obvious ethical issues with sideshows themselves, the artists’s vintage-inspired new works are loaded with nostalgic humor, kitsch and illusions. Aunia Kahn, Stefanie Vega and Alexandra Manukyan will also be participating in the exhibition. The opening reception will be held on October 11 and the show will be on view through November 8.
Though they’re created digitally, Can Pekdemir’s portraits mimic the high-contrast values of daguerreotypes. Pekdemir conjures up strange, furry creatures using 3D modeling software, giving them hefty forms and believable textures. The results look as if these characters walked into the artist’s studio and posed for the camera. Presented as framed, archival prints, his pieces could pass for photographs. Pekdemir seems to be testing the boundaries between two and three dimensions, virtual and physical. We often take photography to be a truth-telling medium, but Pekdemir exploits this assumption to engage his viewers with these fictional personalities. Take a look at some of his recent work below.
All that should look solid melts right off in the compositions of Alessandro Ripane. Many of his characters have a mass of dripping liquid with plants protruding in all directions in lieu of real faces. Other figures sprout plants from their limbs while their gleaming white bones peek through. Yet these morbid compositions manage to keep a whimsical twist; in some, giant pink ice cream cones drip heavily. Genoa-born Ripane remembers collecting comic books and volumes on wild animals, a habit that definitely informs his strange imagery. Each vignette gives the sensation that the viewer is walking in on the strange characters. A couple cuddling becomes a strange mass of plants, melting parts and mangled flesh. But not all is lost: Ripane makes sure to let one of the figures keep his socks and shoes on. Part Surrealism, part satire and all visceral, Ripane’s works leave few parts intact but offer plenty of visual gems.
Eric Petersen is a methodical, calculated artist. He opts to work digitally to remove any personalized evidence of the human touch. He chooses the colors of his works like a scientist dropping carefully-measured chemicals into a vile: The intended effect of these contrasting, bright shades, says Petersen, is one of unsettlement. He sets up compositions that are at once harmonious and jarring. Geometric shapes appear to slice through his planes with razor sharp precision of placement. Yet their rhythmic arrangements give his work a sense of harmony, even while the electric blue, neon yellow and sunset orange hues simultaneously vie for viewers’ attention.
Mark Gmehling’s 3D-rendered creations are instantly recognizable for their playful textures: rubbery legs that weave and stretch; gummy bodies that bounce off the floor; goo that drips and metal that glimmers. The artist (see our extensive interview in our current issue, Hi-Fructose Vol. 32) began as an analog illustrator and even cites graffiti as an early influence. These days, his digital illustrations lay the groundwork for prints, murals and sculptures. Gmehling has an exhibition titled “Plastic” opening tonight at RWE in his hometown of Dortmund, Germany filled with satirical, off-kilter pieces.
French illustrator and designer Nicolas Obery works with deep contrasts and haunting imagery for his monochromatic digital art series, “Fantasmagorik.” The finely textured, elaborate pieces are sometimes pure imagination and sometimes incorporate photography, but Obery leaves nothing untouched by his digital brush. Even the photographic parts of his work are manipulated and stylized in such a way that they bear great similarity to the expressionistic possibilities of painting. Influenced by the H.R. Geiger, Obery weaves the elements of his work together with a sinewy, tissue-like texture that evokes the biomorphic qualities of the late Swiss artist’s work.