Growing up in my household, I was the one member of the family who never really developed a passion for the visual arts, at least not in a traditional sense (though as a spectator of it, I am a massive devote. Growing up, one of the best ways I learned how to write was to edit the essays my mom would write, and still does, describing the different shows she would put on during the school year at the College of Wooster. Simply put, growing up as a writer living around artists was what drew me into philosophy and other theoretical tangents. After all, I just want do understand the seemingly meaningless sculptures and paintings and mixed media art I (very fortunately) encountered as a youth.
Fast forward fifteen years and having befriended a number of artists, I would never cease to hear about them endlessly procrastinating on their statements, often turning in a half-backed summation stuffed to the gills with theoretical buzzwords. While I had been thinking that writing artist statements for other artists would be a fulfilling job, I truly had no ideas what I was getting myself into.
Jason Akira Somma
Having met through a mutually close friend, I soon found something of a confidante in Jason, someone able to indulge some of my more out-there ideas and and really explore them to their limits. "To the limits''could be the catchphrase for Jason's career as his multidisciplinary work eschews easy categorization, incorporating performance art, analog to digital distortions, and so much more. Just in the 4 above images, clockwise from left, we see the artist in a performance piece--his lithe dancer's body on full display--one of his trademark digital glitches, a digital painting of our mutual friend, and Jason where I tend to see him the most, behind a panel of screens.
For his residency at the Park Avenue Armory, Jason put together a spectacular show that seamlessly brought together the disparate explorations that bind his work together. At the forefront were the Brooklyn Flex Dancers, a troupe of awe-inspiring dancers Jason has helped make inroads to the art world. As you can see in the below video, this was truly a show like no other.
Text for Jason Akira Somma's
NYC-based multimedia/interdisciplinary artist Jason Akira Somma employs an unorthodox and novel practice that is situated between the exacting precision of classical renaissance painters, modern technological engineers, and the aleatoric/improvisational methods of today’s most radical avant-garde innovators. Experimental, kinesthetic, and deliberate, his work walks a delicate balance between engineering, technology, medical science, choreography, and the visual arts to fluidly and playfully merge these disciplines into a new and autonomous medium.
Somma’s collaboration with the FLEX dance community of East New York has been the artist’s catalyst for upending preconceived notions of “urban” dance aesthetics. With a shared vision revolving around a new understanding of how technological and digital mediums influence our experiences and surroundings, Somma utilizes idiosyncratic hacking/glitch techniques symbiotically with FLEX in a search for authentic expression and poetic aesthetic-kinetic experimentation through an embracing of both the possibilities and limitations inherent in technology.
Through beating the algorithms inherent across disparate technological and performative mediums to produce an organic network of controlled hacks, Somma enacts a methodical performance of trial and error that runs throughout his imagery, video installations, and choreography. It is in this newly productive space where the audience is invited to observe and participate in the process of artistic creation through a series of studies that dissolve the boundaries between the static and the dynamic, production and presentation.
As the first American to receive the Rolex Arts Initiative for Dance in 2008, he has worked under the mentorship of renowned Czech choreographer Jiri Kylian with whom he continues to collaborate on several projects. His solo show “Phosphene Variations” debuted in New York at Location 1 Gallery in SoHo and featured the first ever free-floating-interactive-holograph-film installation, which allowed spectators to manipulate images of infamous dance/art legends such as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Robert Wilson, and Carmen DeLavallade among others.
Whereas Jason is a friend and thus I was not worried about engaging him in an intense session to help him to better understand his own art, while doing the same for myself, Abel Macias was a friend of a friend. One night while enjoying Dark & Stormy's, I mentioned my desire to help more artists who struggle with their statements and Abel jumped at the opportunity. A few weeks later, I was sitting in the basement of his Bushwick home as the above Prosthetic Tree loomed over our intense discussions. After two productive 1-2 hour discussions, I went off to write the statement and while we had agreed on four drafts, we were both happy with it by the third draft.
Abel Macias Artist Statement
Abel Macias’ art is a mixed media exploration of the accidental connections we both consciously and unconsciously make when processing our environs. Macias operates from the vantage point where simple modifications to natural elements result in a powerful transformation and potentiation of wholly new possibilities, or portals, into territories unknown.
Stretching the traditional definitions of painting and sculpture, Macias’ work occupies a playful and visceral middle ground that is formally undefined, and where meaning is located in the viewer. Color is an essential and vivid element for the artist as he coopts vivid hues that pulsate with a sense of familiarity to set the mood for his audience.
Intuitive and holistic in practice, Macias embraces the mundane—from unique tree branches to the most mundane rock—to make concrete and salient the infinite connectivity of the material and immaterial worlds. He accomplishes this through his emphasis on using found materials—items whose imprinted essence are not erased, but rather modified and combined to manifest synchronicity and individuality.
Abel Macias is a mixed media artist and painter currently living and working in Brooklyn, NY. He is a first generation Mexican-American, born and raised in Atlanta, GA and he spent many summers of his youth in his parents’ native Mexico. His individual experiences in the small towns of Mexico helped develop an early and long-lasting affinity for vibrant colors and handcrafted artistry. Major brands and companies have used his art for commercial campaigns worldwide. He has had multiple solo shows and been featured in myriad group shows, most recently at the National Arts Club in New York City and The Williamsburg Art and Historical Center in Brooklyn. He was also invited to be part of an artist panel discussion about Identity and Non Conformity with Mana Contemporary during this year’s Miami Art Basel and was selected as one of ten emerging artists by SURFACE Design Magazine. He studied Communication Art at Pratt Institute and then graduated with his BFA from Savannah College of Art & Design in 2002.