Tom Friedman is a conceptual artist whose works are typically made from everyday materials such as toothpicks, chewing gum, hair, styrofoam, etc. His work has a minimalist feel that emphasizes his creative process. Friedman challenges the definition of art and what can be art through his often labor intensive process. He has created works such as a starburst of more than 1,000 toothpicks, two sheets of paper crumpled up exactly in the same manner, and a self portrait out of construction paper made to look like he was mangled in a motorcycle accident.
Andy Goldsworthy explores nature and materials through his works. He uses the products of nature (leaves, rocks, icicles, etc.) as his medium. He is concerned with creating works that feel at home outdoors, but still show evidence of a human hand in their formation. Goldsworthy's works are impermanent like Smithson's, in that once completed they are left to the environment to act upon them
Cai Guo-Qang is a contemporary artist who works in non-traditional materials, most famously gunpowder. By seeding and igniting large expanses of paper with explosive powder he draws unique images as the burning trails left behind. His work also includes site specific sculptures (cars suspended from the ceiling and streams of animals that fly above viewers' heads) that seem to defy defy space, time, and gravity.
Anish Kapoor is a sculptor who explores shape, space, scale, texture, color and material through his sculptures. He is most well known for Cloud Gate in Chicago's Millennium Park. Other work also includes large blocks of red wax that get taxied through their exhibition space and crammed through small portals, both changing the size and shape of the wax blocks, but also leaving accumulated color scraped onto the portals themselves. His stainless steel sculptures are highly reflective, and have the effect of distorting the reflections of space around them.
Crystal Schenk is a sculptor who's work is the product of an enormous amount of time spent in the planning process and in the execution. She explores mysticism and mythology through in her sculptures; particularly Raven and Owl, both totemistic animals in many cultures. Schenk also draws upon and expresses memories of her childhood. Her "Crystalized" series includes animal statues and hunting trophies overgrown with crystals, symbolic of the rock hunting trips she took with her family in her youth.
Robert Smithson challenged the definition of art with his 'earthworks' projects; using natural materials to transform the landscape; essentially making art out of the landscape. He is most well known for his earthwork "Spiral Jetty," a huge construct of mud and stone that extends out into the Great Salt Lake. This idea of the landscape as art also includes a sense of the passage of time and impermanence, as once the works are complete they are left to the elements to break down.
Monstrum is a playground design company focused on smart and imaginative design, founded in 2003 by Ole B. Nielsen and Christian Jensen. In creating a play space, they emphasize the potential for fantasy and the possibilities of the imaginations of children – past projects include everything from whales to castles to rocket ships. Monstrum also focuses on challenging the motor functions and problem solving capabilities of children at specific ages, and of course the safety of all children on the playground.
These playgrounds are not only irresistibly charming and a joy for the eyes, but also emphasize the importance of play. Rather than secure children in a safe, predictable bubble, Monstrum’s designs dare kids to take small risks, to imagine bigger challenges, and to play freely. This kind of development is invaluable; plus, it looks crazy fun.
Jason deCaires Taylor
Taylor’s work explores themes of environmentalism, reclamation, and loss. From an environmental perspective, he recreates marine habitats that may otherwise have been lost to damage and decay, while simultaneously drawing harmful tourists away from the naturally-existing examples of these vital sites. The metaphorical content of his work comments on man’s relationship with nature and ourselves – the way parts of us are lost to the advance of modern technology, and the way we as a whole are ultimately reclaimed by the natural world.
Underwater sculpture presents a fascinating alternative to the traditional gallery, primarily because it must relinquish control over virtually every variable of how that work will appear to viewers. The light conditions, as well as the sculptures themselves, are constantly changing. The notion of using these installations as an environmental initiative is also interesting, and may be able to do a great deal of good in the world of marine conservation.
Sculptures by Nao Matsumoto are often bright, toy-like, and punchy. But under that saturated plastic exterior lies a clever treatment of subject matter that is often as irreverent and sardonic as it is playful. Mistakes, sex toys, and cheese are all equally likely to appear as elements of Matsumoto’s work, all treated with the same kind of pop-art approach and sarcastic attitude.
The absurdity of Matsumoto’s work holds immense appeal; though the viewer is confronted with pieces that appear silly and upbeat, there is the pervasive sense that something mildly sinister is at work as well. This kind of contradiction makes the viewer mildly uncomfortable, which itself often lends to the subject matter being portrayed.
Walpoth’s human sculptures, made of either wood or lead, focus on the character of silence and wisdom. His figures are simultaneously confrontational and evasive; they stand quite plainly before the viewer, artifacts of a silent, tense inner world. Their lifelike rendering is sentimental, and their often-averted gazes give the work a sense of self-awareness.
Though these sculptures seem to be simple figures at first glance, their emotional presence and eerie softness lend them a greater meaning that is difficult to articulate. They force the viewer to be at once aware of the sculpture and of themselves, and to reflect on each in turn.
Some of Hove’s best-known work is his “Cakeland” series, which plays with the combination of the beautiful, the indulgent, and the dangerous. Hove crafts decadent-looking cake replicas, sometimes even entire forts seemingly built of sweets. These treats, however, are each equipped with their own dangerous sort of vice (usually in the form of switchblades, taxidermy jaws, and the like). Hove aims to play with feelings of desire and repulsion, while also emphasizing the absurdity of those emotions.
The “Cakeland” series is wonderfully bizarre, as is Hove’s way of treating his underlying subject matter. Desire personified as desserts is an uncommon metaphor, but an enjoyable and relatable one nonetheless. I also find his work with knots to be intriguing, both from a functional and aesthetic perspective.
Much of Konrads’ work is in the form of outdoor installations, which tend to explore themes of nature, culture, and the perception of reality versus the conception of simulation. Her play with gravity attempts to create a view of a reality that defies it, just as cultures attempt to rationalize and explain away the reality of the natural world.
The use of natural installations to comment on culture and philosophy is fascinating, and in many ways feels like a step toward integrating them. Konrads’ installations interact with nature rather than separating from it, making her message that much more poignant.