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April 25, 2014

Jo Ratcliffe: M. Zoe Trope

Digital Duplicates March to the Beat in the Pop Creative's Animated Artwork

A vampish troupe of doppelgängers marches in militant cycles in an animated reconstruction of London artist Jo Ratcliffe’s 3D installation, M. Zoe Trope. Reimagined by Klaas-Harm de Boer of Amsterdam-based animators Watermelon, the video artwork’s ethereal soundtrack comes courtesy of Icelandic trio Samaris’ track “Tíbrá.” “There was a photo in Vogue Italia which I constantly referred to,” says Ratcliffe of the inspiration behind her characters’ hyper-stylized look. “Also Tilda Swinton in the Wes Anderson film Grand Budapest Hotel, and the aliens from Mars Attacks.” The film is a playful take on the zoetrope, the optical device that was popular in Victorian England, and is based on a physical work premiered at contemporary graphic art fair Pick Me Up that starts today at at London’s Somerset House. “It was an unusual process for everyone—you can't call up a zoetrope maker. Well, we tried, but they were busy,” says the multi-talented London-based artist, whose kaleidoscopic animations include creative reinterpretations of Kate Moss and Lily Cole, and who recently lent her expertly scrawled handwriting to Lady Gaga’s video for “Applause.”

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Suriname Dreams

Kenya-Raised Photographer Viviane Sassen’s Colorful Study of a South American Village

Renowned fashion photographer and artist Viviane Sassen turns her lens to the remote Surinamese jungle village of Pikin Slee. Taken from a new series of work which will debut at Amsterdam's Unseen Photo Fair from September 26 and is set to be published in a new Prestel-published book slated for spring 2014, this meditative yet spontaneous series of black-and-white and color images explores the uncanny and unknowable side to her subjects—and indeed herself. Sassen is famed for reinvigorating the realm of fashion photography with her work for Purple, Dazed & Confused and Acne Paper. Born in Amsterdam, she spent much of her childhood in Kenya; the experience is reflected in her lauded 2011 body of work, Parasomnia, a surreal trip through unidentified African locales that reflects her memories of growing up. Pikin Slee is located on the Upper Suriname River, deep within the rainforest. Its 4,000 inhabitants are mostly members of the Saramacca tribe, ancestors of the Maroons who escaped slavery on the Dutch plantations in the 18th century. Sassen first visited Pikin Slee in the summer of 2012. “You can actually speak Dutch with people who descend from African slaves in the middle of the jungle in South America which is such a weird thing to look at in terms of history,” she says.  “What caught my eye was the very traditional way of living, the beauty of overwhelming nature, and the notion of the strange lines of faith which tied together my own history and theirs, in the form of our mutual connections to Africa and the Netherlands.”

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Sturtevant: Leaps Jumps and Bumps

Capturing Four Decades of Groundbreaking and Provocative Work from the Artists’ Artist

An unsettling line of inflatable dolls sits at the window of the Serpentine Gallery in London’s Hyde Park this summer. It comes as part of the Ohio-born, Paris-based artist Sturtevant’s first exhibition at a public institution in the UK, almost half a century after she began “repeating” the works of such New York art-world giants as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. For Sturtevant, the repetition for which she became so notorious is a way of shedding light on art’s inner workings: “It seems so simplistic,” she says, “but it’s oftentimes true that when something is simple, it’s powerful.” Ever rigorous, Sturtevant made a point of learning the techniques used to create the work of art she was repeating, normally choosing iconic pieces––like Warhols, which “work better” because they are recognizable––and executing them again, looking to find out what made them tick. In one famous anecdote, when Andy Warhol was asked about his screen-printing technique he is said to have replied: “Ask Elaine Sturtevant.” Having repeated Joseph Beuys, Paul McCarthy and other significant figures in 20th-century art, Sturtevant has now taken on the 21st century by making work that deals with the culture of repetition in the digital age, some of which can be seen in the video installation in today’s film. “Don’t call it a retrospective,” she says of the exhibition. “When you’re in a certain space, you try to create tension—via tonality, or rhythm—in order to trigger thinking. This shows a certain dynamic, and that’s very good.”

Sturtevant: Leaps Jumps and Bumps will be on view until August 26 at the Serpentine Gallery, London. 

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