A Street Artist and a Photographer Remix the Female Body

Bursting color and writhing sexuality define the works in “Emerging Alchemy,” a collaboration between Mikael B. and Thomas Fryd at Santa Monica’s Project Gallery.

Fryd, a well-known fashion photographer and cinematographer, and Mikael B., a street artist also known as KETS, are both Danish and live and work in Los Angeles. They have partnered to bring Fryd’s “Homorphology” series (of female bodies in various positions manipulated in Photoshop) to a new level, overlaying the black and white images with bright digital and physical paint, in abstract or cloud-like forms.

The transformation yields visions of lithe, mutant bodies swept and dotted with painterly color. Each bright sweep of color enhances the active stance of the female figures that serve as their manipulated subjects. Two of the 15 images created in the exhibition will also be manifested in sculptural form, manufactured by a local toymaker and fabrication studio and hand-painted by Mikael B.

The type of “alchemy” practiced here erases the specific identity of its subject, instead using the body to represent a pure female form. PAAFUU (all works 2015) shows only a splayed hand and a rooted foot; ZOUL replaces the head and face with swaths of digital paint. Some explicitly sexualize the body, such as SWOO, in which the image is cropped to a long horizontal plane, collaging together a many limbed, featureless creature of legs and buttocks, revisited again in MIIST and QUATER.

Others seem more sympathetic on an emotional level, as with NEOON, which leaves the body basically intact (except for switching feet for hands), as the subject turns dramatically away from the camera. Drawing upon their shared Danish design sensibility, the artists create works erupting with color and movement, effectively pulling together a group that reflects the worlds of each of its contributors in a medium neither has worked in before.


—K. Sundberg

Emerging Alchemy” is on view at Project Gallery, Santa Monica, May 16–Jun. 11, 2015.

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