ARTPICKS | Cosmopolite Style
“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, & not giving a damn.” – Gore Vidal
I am 100% with Mr. Vidal on style – declare yours with gusto. As everything you own tells a story, make it about what you love + value. As a kaleidoscope thinker, I am intellectually curious about many, many topics, but my visual focus is very specific. I call my signature look - COSMOPOLITE STYLE - a mixing and remixing of cultural history, contemporary subjects with a dash of the unexpected. I have a huge passion for stories and global culture, while drawn to an element of visual surprise. The truth is that originality is hard to come by after at least 5,000 years of art making. It is in combining old ideas in a new way that FRESH ART is created.
Here are six global artists who embody the hybridity that is the essence of COSMOPOLITE STYLE, and help me see the world through a larger lens.
My interest in geo-politics naturally extends to my curatorial POV. I enjoy artists who dive into global affairs because they offer a fresh perspective on clichéd news headlines. Iranian born Shiva Ahmadi’s interest in the power dynamics of oil production, and its role in destabilizing societies, is heady material. Her stunning jewel-toned works, a modern interpretation of Persian miniature painting, do not scream politics, yet a sharp critique of international conflicts is alive in them. In an exceptionally potent series, Shiva painted on oil barrels mixing traditional decorative patterns, Swarovski crystals with symbols of violence and conflict. I see these works as visual manifestos of contemporary oil politics.
I am mesmerized by the works of Shay Bredimus, a renowned tattoo artist and figurative painter. Shay skillfully mixes his training in classic portraiture with aesthetic influences from Japanese tattoo and Ukiyo-e prints. After surviving a traumatic brain injury at age 10, visual language became Shay’s first language. His ink-based paintings are elegant and slightly melancholic. I was immediately drawn to Shay’s series Kotomi, “the beauty of cities” in Japanese, in which he creates female personifications of Los Angeles’s 25 Sister Cities. From Athens, to Mumbai, to Yerevan, Shay modernizes allegorical female representations in art first popularized in Ancient Rome.
Gert + Uwe Tobias
I am willing to bet that a cultural theorist would likely never combine socialist realism, European folklore, Transylvanian craft with modernist color abstraction sprinkled with a dark twist. Such alchemy did spring from the minds of Romanian born twins, Gert and Uwe Tobias. Their large-scale carnivalesque panels beautifully merge traditional technique with subversive content. Working together since 2001, the twins have created a fantastical world all their own by dissolving boundaries between craft and fine art, abstract art and unconscious fantasy, modernity and tradition. I am particularly drawn to their giant woodcuts that blend modernist geometric abstraction with the narrative quality of folk art. At first glance, all seems playful and light until you look closer and shades of violence grab you. Lets not forget that folktales are ultimately morality tales…
The ancient wisdom of sacred geometry links the works of Tehran born, Oxford educated, Los Angeles based artist Yassi Mazandi to the present. Using repetitive geometric patterns, or mandalas, Yassi creates ceramic vessels that seem to sway in a meditative chant. Yassi’s vessels honor the symmetry and repetition of natural forms—petals, crystals, snowflakes and skeletons. Her sculptures contain both ancient and mechanical mysteries. The balance of masculine and feminine, inherent in the elegance of mathematical equations, soothes the mind and expands the eye. As part of her recent residency at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Yassi experimented with translating her 3D vessels into stunning mix-media prints, which she calls sculptographs. These colorful and intricate works on paper are currently a steal and would look fantastic in a grouping.
You can read heaps of books on the effects of global capitalism, or you can enjoy Hassan Hajjaj’s synopsis. A modern portraitist, deeply influenced by the African master photographer Malick Sidibe, he frames the pulse of global pop culture with pizzazz. Hassan usually photographs friends and fellow artists, often dressing them in his eclectic designs, lending a casual-chic mood to the works. Born in Morocco and raised in London, Hassan’s work comes alive with various influences from hip-hop, reggae, luxury brands, fashion photography, North African traditions and even trash. An award winning and self-taught artist, Hassan works includes portraiture, installation, performance, fashion and even furniture design made out of up-cycled Coca-Cola crates. His work presents a globalized society that blurs cultural boundaries.
Kira Nam Greene
Carving out a clear-cut personal identity in the land of remixed culture is an art into itself. One-note labels don’t apply to many of us. Korean born Kira Nam Greene assembles the diverse elements of her identity in mosaic-like works on paper (including wallpaper). Mixing various Eastern and Western cultural icons and patterns, Kira’s works navigate the duality and ironies of her identity. Food plays a starring role in the sensual and intellectual landscape of her world. Big bowls of kimchi, mounds of Jell-O and luscious cherries replace the traditional use of naked women’s bodies to depict desire and lust. Visually the works are active yet reflect various dualities of modern life with artistic balance. In Kira’s world, the foreground and background blend to create a feel of cosmopolitan tapestry.
I think by now you get a sense of what COSMOPOLITE STYLE means to me. I love traveling and have never met a culture I didn't like. Sorting through my discoveries and curating a top-notch art collection thrills me - although, I certainly need a larger home....
Would love to hear about you and your signature style. What catches your eye most? What describes your personality? Leave me a note below and share your story.