Gil Batle is an ex-forger who spent 20 years in prison. At some point in his life, he decided to depart from this craft and switch to art. Yet, a convict's grim routine remained his main obsession and inspiration. As his canvas he used ostrich eggs; they became a stage bursting with dark prison symbolism. I found these pieces at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.
His work is described as street art or conceptual art, but it could pass as contemporary photography, environmental design, or even charity advertising. JR's art is visually appealing, and at the same time easy to understand. The lack of deep, hidden meanings accessible only to an initiated minority doesn't make his messages trivial, however. Quite the opposite: His work’s simplicity conveys powerful emotions to the spectator.
One of my favourite JR projects is his unauthorized outdoor exhibition Face2Face where his intention was to break down prejudice among ordinary people on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through silliness and laughter.
He pasted giant portraits of Israelis and Palestinians from all walks of life side by side on the West Bank separation wall, asking his 'models' to make funny face expressions. They were school kids, teachers, grocers, security guards, rabbis, or sheiks, for example – and they all took their assignment to be silly very seriously. Whoever saw these portraits couldn't help but burst into laughter. Suddenly, the difference between enemy and friend did not seem that essential: They were all just hilarious faces.
The exhibition did not end the conflict, of course, but for a moment it made hatred a bit more absurd.
To learn more about J.R.: http://www.jr-art.net
This is a small tribute to a fellow freelancer who achieved amazing results in a harsh Soviet dystopia where any kind of individualism was denounced and persecuted.
Yakov Chernikhov was an almost forgotten member of the Russian avant-garde. His Architectural Fantasies are impressive creations which blur the boundaries between art, architecture, and design. His own art studio, Research Pilot Laboratory for Architectural Forms and Graphical Studies, founded in the late 1920s, managed not only to survive the post-revolutionary days, but also to produce some of the most original multidisciplinary artwork in 20th century.
More about Yakov Chernikhov: icif.ru