Earlier this month in the city of Valencia, Spain, the annual five-day Falles Festival hosted the construction and burning of some 400 sculptures in neighborhoods across the city amidst fireworks, parades, and enormous bubbling skillets of paella. The festival is so large it requires year-round preparation. Neighborhoods raise money to hire artisans to build each falla, and plans are made for eardrum shattering pyrotechnic displays called Mascletà that occur daily at 2pm.
For 2018, the Falles Festival invited Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel (previously) to build the Falla Mayor, the largest and last falla to be burnt during the celebration. With the help of renowned falla designers Pepe Latorre and Gabriel Sanz, as well as a monumental effort from his team at Ink and Movement, the team submitted a winning design that incorporates the artist’s trademark colorful geometric style. Okuda says the 25 meter (82 foot) piece loosely addresses the relationship between people and animals, while incorporating various symbols the local community might find familiar.
“I’m inspired most by surrealist Salvador Dali and by Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights,” Okuda shared with Colossal. “I mostly describe my work as surrealism.” In an interesting twist, Dali designed and built a falla during the festival in 1954. Instead of indulging in surrealism’s darker side, Okuda’s work seems to shine a bright, happy light on the creatures and figures who populate his multicolor murals and canvases.
The festival may date back to as far as the Middle Ages when carpenters and woodworkers burnt wood scraps at the end of winter to celebrate the spring equinox, though it is now generally known as a celebration of Saint Joseph. In its present day form, the trash heaps have morphed into elaborate artworks that feature celebrities, various current events, and even abstract conceptual sculptures. Caricatures of political figures like Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Kim Jong-un appeared frequently this year. Two years ago the event was designated as a world heritage site by UNESCO.
During the festival Okuda also opened a large retrospective of work titled “The Multicolored Equilibrium Between Humans and Animals” at the Centre de El Carme in Valencia. The expansive exhibition gathers paintings, sculptures, photos, and video works from the last 20 years. The show is free, open to the public, and runs through May 27, 2018. You can follow Okuda on Instagram, and pickup some of his original works in the Ink and Movement Shop. Video courtesy Chop Em Down Films.
The annual Las Fallas Festival ends with a grand display of fireworks and the burning of hundreds of elaborate sculptures in neighborhoods all over Valencia. Okuda’s Falla in front of city hall was the last to go up in flames after midnight to the cheers of a huge crowd that had waited in the street for hours. Swipe for fire photo. Thanx to @diegobarrachina16 and crew for the best balcony view! @okudart @inkandmovement #streetart #fallas2018 @instagrafite #lacrema
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Toronto-based textile artist Amanda McCavour uses thread and a sewing machine to construct sculptural installations that dance between two and three dimensions. McCavour stitches on a special fabric that dissolves in water to create the surfaces of thread. Through renderings of objects like sofas, kitchen tables, and backpacks, as well as arms and hands engaged in work, she explores connections to home and the fibers of the body. In an artist statement McCavor states she is interested “in thread’s assumed vulnerability, its ability to unravel, and its strength when it is sewn together.”
McCavour holds an MFA from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, and she exhibits widely. Currently, her Floating Garden installation is on display at the Cornell Art Museum in Florida as part of their Flora exhibition, which opens today, March 30th, and is on view through September 9, 2018. Flora also includes Tiffanie Turner (previously), and Miya Ando (previously). You can see more of McCavour’s work on her Facebook page and via Instagram.
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Belgian artist Hans Op de Beeck creates life-size figural sculptures and immersive environments from materials such as coated wood, polyester, and pigmented plaster. These chosen materials turn his constructed figures and installations into a uniform shade of matte gray, which makes the viewer feel as if the world around them has been zapped of color.
In his 2016 work The Collector’s House, Op de Beeck produced a 2,600-square-foot monochrome space in which visitors served as the only element of color. The museum-like installation contained several life-size sculpted figures in addition to a library, grand piano, furniture, scattered still lifes, and a lily pool positioned squarely at the work’s center. This work, like many in his practice aimed to stimulate the viewer’s senses and to “create a form of visual fiction that delivers a moment of wonder, silence and introspection,” he explained in an artist statement.
Op de Beeck currently works in both Brussels and Gooik, Belgium. Over the last decade, Op de Beeck has mounted institution-based solo exhibitions at museums across the US and Europe, including the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (2010), MOCA Cleveland (2014), and Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg (2017). You can view more of his lifelike figures and installations on his website.
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Spanish sculptor David Moreno (previously) continues to blur the lines between two and three dimensions with his architectural artworks. Created using hundreds of steel rods and lengths of piano wire, Moreno’s sculptures take the shape of buildings, and his more recent works have ventured indoors, highlighting interior details like doorways and staircases. In 2017, the artist also created a large, immersive installation in the United Arab Emirates titled “Connecting Doors.” Moreno shares his work on Instagram and Behance.
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Beijing-based artist Gao Rong sews life-size replicas of everyday objects from Chinese urban and domestic infrastructure. The embroidered sculptures imitate the routine items our eyes often skip over—graffiti-covered bus signs, broken pay phones, and stacks of dirty dishes. Although her works look commonplace, many directly reference scenes or time periods from her life. Level 1/2, Unit 8, Building 5, Hua Jiadi, North Village (2010) is Gao’s imitation of the entrance to a basement apartment she rented while a student in Beijing, and 2012 her installation, The Static Eternity, is a recreation of her grandparent’s tiny rural home.
To create her sewn sculptures Gao first stitches the details of rust and other detritus onto fabric. She then wraps the material around sponges or wooden board, and stiffens the work with metal frames. Adding embroidery to her work is a way for Gao to preserve the traditional skills taught to her as a child, while taking them in a more contemporary direction. “My mother and grandmother made beautiful embroidery,” she explains. “It was their hobby. Unfortunately this skill is no longer valued, so it is being lost.”
Gao was born in 1986 in Hang Jin Hou Qi, Inner Mongolia. She received her BA from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, China. You can see more of her work, including these new woven hoop frames, on Klein Sun Gallery’s website. (via Lustik)
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For the last twenty years Australia-based artist Shona Wilson has intimately collaborated with nature by building sculptural assemblages that incorporate a myriad of found organic specimens. In her 2016 body of work, Offering, she formed mandala-like pieces from objects such as seedpods, twigs, and bones that were intended as gestures of gratitude to her practice’s source—nature.
“I hope these Offerings resonate as healing or therapeutic objects in their own right,” Wilson explained in the press release for her solo exhibition at Arthouse Gallery in New South Wales, Australia. “They are embedded with the vibrational patterns and tones of the natural world, of the very materials they are made from, and thus they emit the frequencies of the materials within them.”
Wilson hosts a series of Ephemeral Art Workshops that invite participants to engage with the natural environment in creative and playful ways. You can learn more about her collaborations with nature, and sign up for a class on her website.
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Sculptor Johnson Tsang (previously) continues to push realism’s boundaries in his sculptures of faces that are stretched and opened up in surreal ways. In his latest series, Open Mind, Tsang incorporates hand gestures and metaphorical materials like growing leaves and rippling water to convey a sense of open-mindedness in his sculptures.
The artist shares with Colossal that he has always been creative, but due to an impoverished upbringing and poor grades in school, he initially focused on trade work, including as an air conditioning assistant and a potato chip fryer.
Tsang first took a clay modeling class in 1991, during his thirteen-year career as a policeman. He describes his first experience with the material to Colossal: “The clay seemed so friendly to me, it listened to every single word in my mind and did exactly I was expecting. Every touch was so soothing. I feel like I was touching human skin. I found peace and joy in it. I’ve felt in love with it ever since.”
Tsang, now 58, is a prolific creator, and reports that he completes about a sculpture a week. He shares new work on his website as well as on Instagram and Facebook, where he also chronicles works in progress.
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Editor's Picks: Murals
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