Summer Reading List at Arch Enemy Arts

[Lauren reminisces about summer assignments and classic literature–the playful topic of this group show. Artists chose the media they preferred to bring their favorite books to life. — the Artblog editors]

Arch Enemy Arts, famous for representing illustrative, street-influenced artwork, has assigned a sentimental project to its artists. Summer Reading List invites 20 artists to recreate their favorite book in the medium of their choice, each piece a faint reminder of summers past–lying in thick, hot air with sticky Popsicle fingers turning the pages of our school-assigned summer reading. Arch Enemy presents us with an exhibition rich in character and narrative. The chosen artists tell us their dearest tales through painstakingly detailed drawings, psychedelic colors, and cheeky sculptures.

From humor to high drama

Valency Genis' Moby Dick in Summer Reading List at Arch Enemy Arts.
Valency Genis’ “Moby Dick” in Summer Reading List at Arch Enemy Arts.

Valency Genis’ sculptural representation of Moby Dick is the unofficial, proverbial mascot of Summer Reading List–and undeniably the most charming. The concoction of materials–wood, wire, epoxy, clay, rope, metal, acrylic and oil paints–all combine in the shape of a Tim Burton-esque claymation whale that looks dangerously close to human. Genis, playing off the bizarre tradition of mounting trophy catches of fish, has made her whale sculpture appear as if he swam into the frame by accident, and he’s looking around to see if any of his friends are at the party. By the look in his little eyes, it looks like Captain Ahab just walked in (so awkward).

Hail, Horror, Hail by Robert Kraiza in Summer Reading List at Arch Enemy Arts.
“Hail, Horror, Hail” by Robert Kraiza in Summer Reading List at Arch Enemy Arts.

Hail, Horror, Hail” by Robert Kraiza depicts the epic poem Paradise Lost by John Milton. Paradise Lost is a two-part poem that chronicles the fall of man through Adam and Eve and Lucifer. Kraiza’s incredibly detailed graphite illustration shows Adam and Eve standing in the garden of Eden, a snake seductively extending toward Eve while Adam stands holding what we can assume is the forbidden fruit. The grimacing sun and moon sit in the sky while the animals of the Garden crowd around Adam and Eve, each of their faces seeming to urge them to stop what they are doing. Meanwhile, above them a cadre of angels fight and wrestle; below in the Garden sits a dripping, miserable-looking hell, featuring Lucifer with a pained expression on his face. Everything in the drawing around Adam and Eve is pulsing and booming in chaos and protest while they blindly proceed to their fate. Twisting ribbons with lines from the poem flank the fastidious illustration.

Lavish touches and lost pieces

Rodrigo Borges’ Milady in Summer Reading List at Arch Enemy Arts.
Rodrigo Borges’ “Milady” in Summer Reading List at Arch Enemy Arts.

There’s a quote in The Picture of Dorian Gray wherein Lord Henry describes women as “a decorative sex”. The female characters within Dorian Gray do play up to that sad standard–Lady Henry almost exclusively speaks of her husband’s opinions and parties and simultaneously fears admitting she has a passion for art and music, while Sibyl Vane is a living Shakespearean heroine, naive and dramatic and oozing in girlish fervor. Rodrigo Borges’ “Milady,” a powerful graphic drawing, uses graphite and gold leaf to bring a regal, beautiful woman to life. She exudes power and sexuality and, while most certainly decorative, she is enticing and fearful. “Milady” is exuberant and opulent and the climax of hedonism in which Dorian Gray wishes to live his life. She is the antithesis of the women in the novel, and we can even venture to dream that she is the female form of Dorian–a sinful symbol of excess and chaos without any regard for what is to come.

Summer Reading List at Arch Enemy Arts.
Summer Reading List at Arch Enemy Arts.

Other standouts from Summer Reading List included Kisung Koh’s subtle painting, “Follow Napoleon”; a cyborg-esque digital painting by David Seidman portraying “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”; and sweet, cheerful acrylic paintings by 64 Colors (“To Grow Alone”) and Joe Hengst (“Uriel (the third planet from the Star Malek in the Spiral Nebula Messier 101)”). With exception of the previously mentioned works by Kraiza, Borges, and Koh, the remaining black-and-white works did not pack as much punch as the works featuring color–and while quiet and subtle was never a problem, a few pieces seemed to get lost. From macabre to nostalgic undertones and throughout the ranges of black and white pencil to vibrant, otherworldly color palettes, one thing was for sure–the works of Summer Reading List pulse with color, vibrate with energy, and may just take you for a trip down memory lane to summers past.

Summer Reading List is on view June 19- August 2, 2015 at Arch Enemy Arts.