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A.E. Kieren

10 Artists Who Tackle the Social Issues of Today

From Minister Akins' techno-Baptist video art, to Zolloc's otherworldly GIFs, these are artists who defy the times by digging into the moment.

by Presented By Espolón
15 December 2015, 9:50pm

Jungle NYC. Noctural / Diurnal patterns for Brooklyn based Garden and Landscaping co., Jungle NYC.com. Images courtesy the artist

Jungle NYC. Noctural / Diurnal patterns for Brooklyn based Garden and Landscaping co., Jungle NYC.com. Images courtesy the artist

Using satire and social engagement, the iconic Mexican printmaker Jose Guadalupe Posada created an artistic legacy through his sketches of skeletons and skulls, one he honed to remark on the national politicians of his time.

Posada’s creations became part of folk legend, personifying living people to comment on social strife in Mexican newspapers in the late 1880s. Many of his humorous and political works inspired artists like Diego Rivera and muralist José Clemente Orozco. His real legacy is in satirising the news of the time with his artworks, making those large themes more tangible to a greater audience. His constant use of skeletons or calaveras were a means to democratise his subjects, stating, “In death we are all equal.”

Espolon's very own bottle design is inspired by the artful legacy of Posada. So when Espolón partnered with The Creators Project on the Psst Zine, we decided to curate a selection of artists who use their work to observe and comment on the culture and society they witness. The 10 illustrators and GIF artists selected individually draw from a spectrum of important contemporary causes from the environment, death, and equality to privacy, and technology. These dynamic artists not only create mind-blowing and inquisitive art, they seem to also draw a parallel to the legacy of Posada’s satirical and subversive works.

The artists presented here continue to make art that comments on our everyday realities using new forms and platforms from flashing GIFS (Peekasso) to hand-painted sketches (Anthony Kieren). Their works are a clear indication of the social issues of our time.  

Kidmograph

Argentinan artist Kidmograph, a.k.a., Gustavo Torres, makes GIFs and music videos that exist in between the digital world and reality, refusing to commit to either. Influenced by the political films of his home country and the sci-fi classics of his youth, he makes artwork that envisions a better. more advanced world.

Laura Callaghan

London-based illustrator Laura Callaghan's colorful female characters pop to life in layers of personalised details. Ladies in power, ladies in repose, and ladies painted in everyday settings reinforce the humanity of a human beings who are all to often objectified. Underneath the purple bobs and in the privacy of their own apartments, Callaghan’s illustrated ladies make examples of themselves through their earnestness.

Peekasso

German-born, US-based artist Peekasso's GIFs and collages range from blatantly political to surreal and and off-putting. Channelling classic propogranda, internet memes, and pop culture, his work bursts with harsh flashing and clashing colors. Sometimes his work is a rebellion against the very rules of aesthetics. With glee, he spews ridiculous remixes of everyone from Donald Trump to Caitlyn Jenner, guaranteed to make somebody mad. Nevertheless, he stays true to his goal of offering "a different perspective on life."

Tyler Spangler

Everyday objects become hallowed symbols of celebration, humor, or emotion in the hands of California artist Tyler Spangler. With a degree in psychology and a lifetime marinating in surf culture, it's his mission to recontextualise even the most familiar images with a bang. "I just want to make people smile, laugh and have feelings," he says. "I dont want to be scrolled past."

CUR3ES

Anthony Kieron, a.k.a., CUR3ES, has been fascinated by the ethereal worlds of album artwork since he was a kid. Now he creates surreal worlds that would be at home on any Led Zeppelin or Flying Lotus cover. By remixing and collaging imagery from books and magazines, he turns the established rules about space, time, and physics on their head.

Zolloc

With uncompromising minimalism, Zolloc, a.k.a., Hayden Zezula, has spent the last few years cultivating an unmistakable style. A constant daydreamer, the very qualities that earned scorn from teachers and bosses has fuels his creative engine and drives him to create a satisfying brand of perfect loops. He makes art for himself, and is happy when others enjoy his work, but not dependent on it.

Dan Funderburgh

Taking on a medium pioneered by the ancient Egyptians takes guts, but pattern artist Dan Funderburgh does just that. He's the kind of hybrid artist/designer who keeps tradition thriving while pushing its eternal effects into the future. There's something revolutionary about turning the mundane objects of today into timepieces charting a course towards tomorrow.

Kelly Richardson

Kelly Richardson's videos speak of our imaginative past glorification of space and science and justly critique our futuristic obsessions with an apocalypse. They beckon the viewer into a digital future façade through large-scale landscapes made up of science fiction collages, climate change catastrophes, and mesmerising otherworldliness. When you have to stare the future in the face, it's harder to pollute oceans, defund space agencies, and put off planning out your own life.

Minister Akins

A living embodiment of the changing of the times, Minister Akins hails from the a deeply religious area of North Carolina, and forges forth into the world of experimental video art. His great-grandmother and grandfather were both pastors, whose grandmother was a preacher and first lady, mother, an evangelist, and father, a deacon. It's impossible to deny the influences of that passion, or, as Akins himself puts it, "how emotionally heavy the environment was." Sent through the fabulous food processor that is New York City in 2015, Minister Akins' videos and GIFs should be seen as parables for the centuries-old stories he grew up on: proof, viscerally, narratively, and aesthetically, that you'll never truly know Heaven without a taste of Hell first.

A.E. Kieren

NYC-based artist A.E. Kieren practices a particularly humanising brand of "sketch journalism," live sketching the human moments happening around him, on the train, in bars and restautants, or on the street. He draws quickly, operating on instinct to catch "you-had-to-be-there" moments of his subjects doing everything from chatting to waking to staring into space. In 5,000 years, if future civilisations knew nothing of the width and breadth of modern human emotion but his work, we'd be lucky.

Related:

The Psychotropic Internet GIFs of Peekasso

The Yearbook-on-Acid Digital Collages of Tyler Spangler

The Ballroom Pentecostal Video Art Church of Minister Akins

The Perfectly Looping Mini-Trips of Hayden Zezula

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