Picture Planes: An Interview with Charlie Rubin

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When you look at Charlie Rubin’s new book, Strange Paradise, you realize that the title is really perfect. While the images are striking and lush, full of interesting and beautiful visual flora and fauna, they have a sense of weirdness and unease. It’s the kind of imagery that requires time and pondering to notice all the nuances and cleverness going on behind the scenes. Charlie creates photographs and then takes them back to his studio, altering them in sometimes conspicuous, sometime subtle ways, giving the images an exciting and confounding physicality and confusing our assumptions about what a photograph is. The launching of Strange Paradise, which is out now on Conveyor Editions, will be celebrated tomorrow (4/10) at Printed Matter (complete with a custom window display by Charlie), and everyone should come.
 
Christian: Do you see yourself as a pure photographer in the classic sense, or something else? Your work, while very rooted in photography as a base, has obvious elements and layers of sculpture and painting.
 
Charlie Rubin: I guess I always start with a classic photograph and then build off of it if it feels right, so it’s a mixture of pure and something else. Recently though, I’ve been leaning toward the something else. Even though my work uses painting, collage and sculpture, I still see the final image as a photograph. I also include straight, unaltered, photographs in series and have side documentary or portrait projects. The medium is transforming fast, and it’s made me transform as an artist- a reaction to the utilitarian nature of it and how anyone can take a beautiful photograph these days. It happened naturally for me; I got bored with a lot of my own imagery because I didn’t find anything unique about it anymore, so I needed to find out how to bring meaning back in to my images.

My little sister showed me this app on her phone the other day where you can add light leaks and dust particles to your iPhone photos and I’m like, “Whoa, someone is turning in their grave.” My work is a reaction to these things, to the yearning for physicality, for something real and non-screen.
  
Tell me about how you came upon your process of moving the digital back into a physical realm. Did you have an “A Ha!” moment when you discovered a way to make something new with your photographs?
 
Like I said, it was a response to the feeling that my pictures were losing meaning. I could take the most awesome picture of a sunset with five rainbows and plants and beautiful people in front of it, but it just didn’t matter because I could open up my laptop and find five images just like it. I had to work with the medium and figure out how to convey my frustration and conceptualize this change in the visual cultural landscape surrounding me. It’s also a fantasy or escape from the monotony of imagery I was seeing and making.
 
At first I experimented with ink on my photos, influenced by graffiti and other mark-making techniques, and highlighting what I found important in the photo. I made a breakthrough some years later when I used inkjet ink on an inkjet print and everything came together.

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Pud Season: An Interview with Jason Nocito

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If you’re an idiot, you might look at Jason Nocito’s beautiful new book, designed by Ari Marcopolous and Camilla Venturini and premiering sixteen new photographs, and say, “It’s a bunch of pictures of puddles.” And you wouldn’t be totally wrong. Aptly titled PUD, Jason’s new book does heavily feature stunning large format images of iridescent pools filled with cigarettes and leaves, but it a lot more than that. It’s an ode to Charlie Brown, death, and American street photography, for starters. I called up Jason while he was working in Los Angeles so he could explain it to all the idiots.
 
CHRISTIAN: I got a look at the book. It’s beautiful. It’s shorter than what I’m used to but I think that really works well.

JASON: I guess it’s shorter but I don’t really see it as a one-off, done deal. I don’t think of it as a conscious project, it’s just a body of pictures that I put together.After making I Heart Transylvania, which was a larger body of work, this is like the beginning of something else for me. I Heart Transylvania was very personal, and so is this work, but in a different way. It’s personal without showing any humans, which is really different than I Heart, which showed a lot of close people in my life.
 
You shot the whole thing on an 8×10 view camera, correct?

Yeah, it started a few years ago when I as talking to a friend about Ten Swimming Pools and a Broken Glass, the Ed Ruscha book. I guess it started before that actually, when I moved back to New York from Vancouver. Every place I am, I want to make photographs. I’ve never been the person who says I’m going to go to this place and do this project and do it and be done. I’ve always kind of hated that, it’s not what I’m about. I was living in New York and I was burnt out professionally and emotionally. I would walk around the city all the time with my head down, like a lot of people do, and I would see all these things. That’s what I was looking at, so that’s what I photographed. A lot of that stuff is made right in my neighborhood in Chinatown. I tried it a few different ways with different kinds of cameras but at one point I met with my friend and photographer, Danny Gordon, and we talked about 8×10 large format camera. Its a different process and a different microscope to look at things. I started playing around with it.

I’m also really interested in the 8×10 process and the way that, in five or ten years, the process will probably be gone. It’s sort of a slowly-dying way to make images and the film will probably be impossible to get in the near future. I was really interested in using it as of an extension of thinking about death.

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Creativity in Revolutionary Times: An Interview with Sasha Kurmaz

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When I first met Sasha Kurmaz, I had never thought of his home base of Kiev, Ukraine, as a hotbed for civil unrest and upheaval. His photographs certainly didn’t change my mind. Sure, there was a certain air of Eastern European military industrial sadness, but the colors were too bright and the kids were too naked and drunk to be in any real danger. Sasha’s work is simultaneously funny and confusing, sexy and weird. He works with ideas of youth, sexuality, and how those things exist outside of our western world. When I heard about the turmoil in Kiev, I immediately thought of Sasha, my friend who signs every email with “Hugs!” and who is always eager to share his specific brand of oddness with the world. I emailed him to find out how he was coping and what it’s like to be an artist in the midst of a revolution.
 
Christian: First off, how are you? Are you safe?

Sasha: The situation in Ukraine is really tense. Kiev is calm right now, no shots fired or people dying, but the situation in Crimea and eastern Ukraine is very complicated. I find it difficult to talk about the “regime change,” mostly because the regime has not really changed. One gangster regime is gone, but this new one we have has gotten their hands dirty too.
 
Do you see yourself as more of a European or a Russian, or are those divides not as important as the news media makes them seem?

In my ideal view, I see a world without borders and states, where there is no distinction of race and nation.
 
What’s it like to be an artist in Kiev right now?

Being an artist is very difficult in Ukraine. No artist, myself included, can think about art when people are dying. But you have no choice; you either stand by and watch, or act in the protest. I’ve shifted my focus. I’ve painted political graffiti on the walls of the city and glued posters. At the same time, I’m trying to create a photo archive of the conflict. The situation here has a direct impact on everything. I think art acts as a mirror for what is happening in society. In Ukraine, after what’s happening in the Maidan, art will be more political and radical.
 
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UNIQLO SPRZ NY

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On March 28th, UNIQLO will celebrate the grand opening of #SPRZNY on the 2nd floor of its 5th Avenue location. In addition to its stylish, affordable and high-quality basics, the 2nd floor of the store will be dedicated to a “fashion meets art” concept, which will carry uniquely designed tees, outwear and other surprises. While you wait for the unveiling of #SPRZNY, you can sign up for UNIQLO’s Lucky Line, an online platform that allows you to win prizes by simply “standing” in a virtual queue. The prizes include a $200 shopping spree from UNIQLO, a Starbucks Verismo Beverage Machine, among many others. To sign up, go to UNIQLO’s website and join using your Facebook or Twitter account. Then, pick an avatar and its UNIQLO wardrobe (a kangaroo in a scarf, for example), and get in line. We’re already in line, and can’t wait to see the store and surprise on March 28!

Absolut Collaboration: Rafael Grampá’s Dark Noir

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On Friday, March 14th, premium vodka brand Absolut hosted a private screening of Dark Noir, the first 3-D animated film by Brazilian graphic novelist Rafael Grampá. The film was the culmination of #NextFrame, a collaborative project between the brand, the artist and online users from around the world.
 

 
Grampá’s goal was to inspire creativity in others through his own characters and writing, and by using social media, Absolut invited its nearly 5-million Facebook fans to participate in the project. The brand asked fans to submit suggestions at key points in the film’s script, and over the course of 3 weeks, Grampá reviewed thousands of submissions from more than 20 countries. The best suggestion was sketched by Grampá and made a part of his animated film.
 
“Through #NextFrame… I’m making the transition from cartoonist to director,” Grampá says. “A translation of my art from 2D to 3D. I already explore my style through image, sequence and space. Now I’m experiencing telling my stories with image, movement, time and sound.” Working alongside animation studio Red Knuckles, the film—a detective story set around a search for stolen ideas—was brought to life.
 

 
Dark Noir premiered during a private screening in Berlin at MADE, a creative space by Absolut, to an audience of international journalists. The next night, there was a public screening hosted by Grampá with more than 300 guests in attendance.

Who Gets What? A Hypothetical Situation Involving Rappers at Ben Eine’s Art Show

 
Not sure why I am considered one of the preeminent scholars for hypothetical rapper scenarios, but I seem to get paid a decent amount of money to write about what I think rappers would and wouldn’t do within certain hypothetical situations.

So when I was asked to guess which rapper/singer would buy which of these amazing pieces of hand painted typography I found it was a lot harder than I thought. Since the artist didn’t do one that said “YOU DONT GOT THE ANSWERS SWAY” I had to actually use my own brain power to figure out this turnt up typographical conundrum in a timely manner.
 
Skip Class / @Skip_Class
 
Ben Eine’s “Heartfelt” is on view at Judith Charles Gallery in NYC through March 16th

Graphic Reality: Rafael Grampá’s Art Comes to Life in His Collaboration with Absolut

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For #NEXTFRAME, Absolut Vodka collaborated with Brazilian graphic novelist Rafael Grampá on an innovative, interactive project that transformed select ideas from the brand’s online community and translated them into film. From 2D concept to 3D completion, Grampá worked closely with Absolut, and Red Knuckles—the UK animation studio that brought the Gorillaz to life back in 2005—to realize the project. Now complete, the film and an accompanying exhibition of drawn works from the graphic novel will be on view this month (March 2014) at the MADE space in the heart of Berlin. Here, we speak with the artist about his background and the process of turning dreams into reality.
 

With Absolut’s Next Frame project, you’ll essentially be co-writing a story with online users, then turning it into an animated film. How did this collaboration come about?

Absolut invited me to take part in the global campaign, and during our first conversations they already told me that they had the idea of doing collaborations with artists on special projects. Next Frame emerged after a lot of meetings, and during that whole time Absolut always stressed that this project would be completely my own, as author.
 

 
How has working with a large brand like Absolut helped push your work forward?

When you do a project of this scale with a lot of talented people involved from many different places, an artist can’t help growing in his craft.
 
Can you explain the process of your work? How do you come up with the ideas for your characters and their appearance?

That’s exactly what this short animation is about: where ideas come from. I think people are the instruments of their ideas, that we’re the servants of those ideas in this world. Just as the purpose of a spade is to dig holes, ours is to bring our ideas to life in this world. But a spade doesn’t dig a hole on its own; it needs a strong arm to use it.

This film asks the question: Are the ideas that we have really our own or are we merely instruments in the hands of unknown forces? The name of the film, DARK NOIR, makes reference to Plato’s Theory of Forms, which says that our reality is merely a dark shadow of an intangible reality made up of ideas. From that starting-point, I created Vincent Black, a mysterious guy who has the gift – or the curse – of seeing the beings that live in this other reality, the World of Ideas. These beings are the Daimons, who plant ideas in humans’ minds, using us to carry out their whims in the material world. And in the end, the film ends up being a metaphor about the creative process and each character represents an element of that process.
 

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Introducing Jennette

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Photographed by Jonathan Leder for our semi-recurring Introductions column.

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The Empty Quarter

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For “Driven Challenges,” a series that is one part Gumball Rally and one part Indiana Jones, Land Rover has been pushing its all-new Range Rover Sport to new limits.

The series began this year at the world-famous Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb, at which the Sport set the world record for a production vehicle on that course, and has now set the record for the fastest ever crossing of the Empty Quarter by a production vehicle. To capture this epic, one-of-a-kind crossing, a documentary film team was embedded with the crew, and that feat is the focus of Land Rover’s latest documentary “The Empty Quarter,” above.

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“It almost doesn‘t matter where you go. It’s just important to go.”

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Polina Soloveichik is a mural painter in the “cold paradise” of Berlin. In this video from Lufthansa’s #inspiredby series, Polina talks about how travel helps to refresh her creativity, and explains her process of painting walls, noting that it’s not always necessary to “Banksy the streets up” in order to create art in your surrounding environment.

Click here to see more inspirational videos from Lufthansa

Sound + Rhythm

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To celebrate the launch of the fragrance Burberry Brit Rhythm, Burberry and NOISEY have joined together to create Sound + Rhythm, a unique editorial space focusing on the experience of performance from the perspective of modern emerging British artists. Utilizing tumblr, Sound + Rhythm is a destination for artist profiles, energetic photography, new music, sharp writing, and a 6 episode short film series capturing the pulse of British music. In one episode below, British rippers Drenge talk about their preference for small venues, moments before they take to the stage to perform.

Head over to the Sound + Rhythm Tumblr to experience more

The Parting Glass

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In Tullamore D.E.W.’s new short film, “The Parting Glass,” four friends meander through the rolling green hills of Ireland. Dressed in dapper suits with details—a flower on a front pocket, tattoos peeking out of a sleeve—the friends pour glasses of Tullamore D.E.W. Whiskey, reflect on life, and quote poet James Joyce. The friends stop at a graveyard and, surrounded by headstones, sing the 1770 ballad, “The Parting Glass.” They toast to Jerry, a friend who we assume has passed—but the end has a smart and surprising twist.

The film was produced by New York agency Opperman Weiss, as part of Tullamore D.E.W’s “Irish True” campaign, and AdAge wrote that the “short should be envy of other booze ads.” We agree: The film tells a simple and beautiful story, which captures the true spirit of Ireland—just like Tullamore D.E.W. Whiskey.

View “The Parting Glass” and other short films on Tullamore D.E.W’s YouTube channel, and friend them on Facebook for updates.

 

Anti-Flare: An Interview with Keith Underwood

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In recent years, tattoos have rapidly grown in popularity, so much so that over 45million Americans now have at least one tattoo. Just as fashions come and go, the trends in tattooing walk a similar trajectory that has been seen through a recent resurgence in the popularity of traditional tattooing. Here on behalf of Sailor Jerry, we speak with traditional tattoo artist Keith Underwood about such things, and the path one follows as 3rd in line along the Sailor Jerry legacy.
 
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Introducing Kathleen Sorbara

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Photographed by Jonathan Leder for our new Introductions column.

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Emrata Unseen

By now you’ve seen her everywhere, but in June of 2012, we only knew Emily Ratajkowski as Tasha from iCarly. Looking back, we can all thank the talented lenswork of photographer Jonathan Leder for introducing EMRATA and her generous assets to the world. Here for the first time, we share exclusive outtakes from Leder’s photo shoot for Darius Magazine in June 2012.

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Jonathan Leder is a New York based filmmaker and photographer known for his portraits of women, which capture the innate elegance of the female form. He has shot recent commercials for Adidas and Louis Vuitton, among other campaigns, and helmed the music video for Is Tropical’s “Lies.” He is the former publisher and Creative Director of Jacques Magazine.  Mr. Leder is currently working on his first feature-length directorial debut, American Ecstasy.

Openings & Parties: 2013 Whitney Gala & Studio Party

Last night, the Whitney Museum of American Art hosted its annual Gala and Studio Party with this year’s honoree, Ed Ruscha. Featuring a surprise performance by David Byrne, nude models on top of piles of Louis Vuitton luggage, and an endless flow of Chandon, it was the place to be in the city that never sleeps.

Photos by Kristy Leibowitz

Amy Hood

New polaroids by Jonathan Leder

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Ignorance Was Bliss

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News from outside the comfort zone
 

Bubonic Plague is still doing it’s thing

Where have the prisoners gone?  North Korea accused of a Srebrenica-Esque Massacre

How Prisons Change the Balance of Power in America

Who’s behind Burma’s Anti-Muslim violence?

Crackdown in Dagestan

Wall Street stories keep coming and corrupting

Tibetans under fire

You Can Still See Their Blood – Crimes from the opposition in Syria

Migrants continue to die trying to cross the Mediterranean into Europe

Hundreds of thousands of Haitian’s are now stateless in Dominican Republic

Iraq continues to burn  AND Al Qaeda’s roaring back

 

KC Ortiz / @kcortizphoto

KC Ortiz is a photojournalist based in Bangkok

Game Changers

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We recently introduced you to The SIMPLE Mobile Game Changer Series that follows host Levi Maestro as he travels the country in search of talented people who want to up their game. This got us thinking about our own game and what we’ve achieved in recent times to push The World’s Best Ever to the next level.

You may remember that we curated an exhibition of Nudes this past March to celebrate Guerrero Gallery’s 3rd Anniversary. This was the first art show that we had the pleasure of producing, and it felt like a natural progression from the art content we have displayed over the years. Nudes gave us an opportunity to showcase and thank some of our favorite artists, whilst focusing on one of our favorite topics, nudity.

Nudes was a great success—despite the inevitable last minute hiccups such as missing pieces due to a blizzard in New York—and the experience of curating an art show was definitely a game changer. It was something that challenged and inspired us to take The World’s Best Ever into a new arena, paving the way for future artistic collaborations that we’re excited to bring you in the coming months.

If you’re looking for inspiration and to change your game, head over to www.changeyourgame.com and check out some of the video submissions. And simply by entering your own 30-second video, you could win a new smartphone or tablet each week all thanks to SIMPLE Mobile.

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