Meet Joe Black and His Pixelated Portraits
Ellen Yoshi Tani
The title of this piece comes from Man Ray’s iconic sculpture of the same name, a household iron from the 1920s with a row of tacks glued to the bottom. In this pure piece of Surrealism, Man Ray transformed an everyday object into something more disturbing and symbolic. Many of his surreal objects that carry his double-edged humour have been lost and it is his photography that he is mainly known for. This profile portrait of model and photographer Lee Miller, who worked with Man Ray, is an example of solarisation – an effect used in surrealist photography. Joe Black hence pays homage to the tacks in Man Ray’s “The Gift” and to the idea of the found object in art.
Joe Black’s work is the vanguard of the current Pop Art movement. He describes his works as “revealing the unexpected” as they are viewed both from a distance and up close to make the ordinary extraordinary. Black combines his natural craft skills with a love of materials - many of which are recognizable everyday objects - to create portraits and abstract works. Using a laborious technique of hand painting and altering each tiny object to give gentle lines and shading to his subjects, Black has pioneered an elaborate new form of pixilation that he uses to hide subtle implications within each of his images. This is perhaps best illustrated by his use of 5,500 plastic toy soldiers in his depiction of Robert Capa’s iconic boy soldier piece Made in China (2011).
British, b. 1973