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Art Colossal Photography
Interview: Lorna Simpson On Perspective, the Complexity of Layering, and Doing What She Wants
Though Lorna Simpson is known primarily as a photographer, she doesn’t limit herself to one particular medium, working across photography, painting, collage, and sculpture in an intuitive process she discusses in a new interview.
I think in terms of making art or working, it’s not always comfortable. It’s not always assured…A lot of times, there’s maybe a lot of questions, or it can have that thing where I’m not quite sure if I’m pulling it off. I’m not quite sure if it’s a good idea or how it works. Time and again, I’ve come to respect being uncomfortable and leaning more into the process of figuring things out as a way of proceeding.
In this conversation with Colossal contributor Paulette Beete, Simpson describes how her perspective and gaze changes over time, why she needs to forestall the analytical when creating, and what it’s meant, as a Black woman artist, to always be loyal to herself and her work.
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Immersive Architectural Installations by Sarah Zapata Expand Rich Textile Traditions
Sarah Zapata is interested in the presence of textiles. Her large-scale, immersive installations are architectural, with feet-high columns looming over interiors, ladders holding stitched works on their rungs, and structural forms arranged like walls or distant skylines. Expanding the realm of textiles beyond physical touch and practical use, Zapata considers how fibers occupy space and the way traditions and notions of community continue to evolve. “What I’m always thinking about in installation, and why I find it to be so important, is the viewer is literally part of the work,” she says, noting that she tends to use space as a material itself. Enveloping and robust, Zapata’s pieces plunge viewers into a world of bold, exuberant fiber.
This past March, Zapata closed a solo exhibition at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, which transformed the gallery into an immersive chamber of dichotomies: palettes of tan and gray jutted up against red and lavender, the sleek lines of painted stripes contrasted with the textured fringe of fiber, and calm, neutral tones were met with the regal, riotous energy of vivid color.
Titled a resilience of things not seen, the exhibition referenced the Book of Revelation, the apocalyptic Christian text that Zapata encountered frequently as a child in an Evangelical home. The installation drew on her adolescent experiences with religious fear, alongside the alarm produced by the early days of the pandemic when everything was uncertain. Color played an important role in confronting these worries, and the inclusion of black, white, and grays became the artist’s opportunity to consider her own predilections. “I’m always very scared of it being too beautiful,” Zapata says. “Beauty is a very important entry point, and I’m always thinking about how the work can be accessible… but (I) have to challenge myself to be using things that are so ugly. And I hate neutrals.”
Centered around hope and the possibilities of the future, the exhibition also hearkened back to textile heritage and was, in part, an homage to Lenore Tawney. The pioneering fiber artist’s delicate “Cloud Labyrinth” was suspended in that same gallery during a 2019 retrospective. While Zapata for many years focused on the ground and its humble nature, she expanded her work in this exhibition to the ceiling, again enforcing the polarity of the space while positioning her textiles in the middle. “I’m always thinking about how to occupy opposites and how to really be both and neither,” she tells Colossal. “I’m always trying to lean into this in-between space, not only physically but thinking about that in terms of time and accessing past, futurity, existing in the present, always this amorphous sense of time.”
This nebulous state figures prominently in Zapata’s practice, which filters longstanding cultural customs through her distinctly contemporary lens. She often refers to her works as ruins and draws on pre-colonial weaving practices in Peru, her father’s native country and a region with a robust legacy of women working collectively with fibers. Whereas textiles today tend to be infused with plastic and are part of a massively wasteful fast-fashion ecosystem, they’re historically linked to longevity and respect for the material itself.
“Textiles are very indicative of time and of course commerce, but I think they’re just such a beautiful indicator of one’s existence,” Zapata says, noting that she frequently returns to the rituals of the Paracas peninsula. The Andean peoples are known for their elaborate embroideries and use of cloth to celebrate life milestones. Much of the artist’s work references these ancient practices, along with Biblical narratives, queer history, and of course, the technical aspects of such an ancient craft.
Currently, Zapata works on three looms in her Red Hook studio, one of which she recently acquired from her alma mater, the University of North Texas, Denton, after the institution shuttered its fiber program. Weaving in the last few years has become a “way to reset, a way to enter into this new paradigm of the world really,” and what’s emerged is an exploration into variety and potential. Some of her recent pieces, which were on view last year at Deli Gallery in New York, include tall plinths cloaked in patches of shag, tightly intertwined stripes, and conical pockets that stick out from the sides. Rich in color, pattern, and texture, the works continue the artist’s interest in contrast and juxtaposition.
Zapata will have a new installation on view this August at The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri, which alludes to the revolutionary lesbian community Womontown that emerged in the city in the 1980s. She’ll also open a solo show in September at Galleria Poggiali in Milan. Find more of her work on her site and Instagram.
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78 Miles of Multicolored Twine Flows Through Downtown Columbus in Janet Echelman’s ‘Current’
Extending nearly 230 feet from end to end, the billowing panels of Janet Echelman’s newest installation capture the sun as it wafts above an intersection in downtown Columbus, Ohio. The first of the sculptor’s works (previously) to be installed over a street, “Current” is composed of 78 miles of blue and red twine tied into more than half a million knots. Alluding to currents of electricity—central to the city’s industrial heritage along the Scioto River—and the currents of the river itself, the artwork visualizes the flow of energy and nods to the area’s iconic illuminated arches, which were among the first to adopt gas lighting in the early 19th century.
Using the surrounding buildings as both literal and figurative anchors, Echelman expresses her fascination with how Columbus has evolved over time. The red fiber references the bricks of early buildings, and the blue suggests the color of water. In a statement about the project, the artist shares that she hopes the work “captures that idea of interconnectedness and creates a space where people feel a sense of community and sanctuary.” The municipal setting for the work is also significant, tying together privately-owned spaces with public thoroughfares. “I love that this artwork literally laces into the fabric of the city over the public street because it’s a place that everyone feels entitled to be present,” she says.
If you’re in Columbus, join the community celebration of the artwork at the intersection of Gay and High streets on June 9. You can also explore an archive of the artist’s work on her website.
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Mystical Forests Meet Cavernous Classical Interiors in Eva Jospin’s Cardboard Sculptures
In the hands of Eva Jospin, humble cardboard transforms into atmospheric forests, architectural wonders, and mysterious monuments. For more than a decade, the Paris-based artist has explored the possibilities of the corrugated material, layering it to create solid pieces that can be carved to reveal detailed landscapes and interiors. In her solo exhibition Folies at Mariane Ibhrahim, an immersive, site-specific installation challenges notions of scale, while a range of drawings and three-dimensional pieces expand on the possibilities of paper with the addition of bronze and silk tapestries.
At nearly 20 feet long, “Galleria” creates a portal or a gateway with an ornate, coffered ceiling, lined with niches—or perhaps windows—that reveal wooded scenes, woven textiles, and small drawings. The entrance, flanked by trees and textures redolent of rough marble, invites viewers in through a mystical archway. And in “Grotte,” a roughly hewn architectural niche or apse punctuated by trinkets like seashells and string suggests a grotto, a cavern that is often associated with religious devotion and a place to collect sacred items.
Jospin invokes the classical style often associated with historical significance and influence, from ancient ruins to cultural institutions to cathedrals, questioning notions of power and importance. The title, French for “follies,” references the 18th-century European tradition of building extravagant structures purely for decoration, often inspired by crumbling Roman temples or Medieval castles. (Marie Antoinette famously commissioned an entire rural village in the Trianon gardens of Versailles.)
Jospin explores the intersections of nature and the handmade through meticulously carved tree limbs, stone outcrops, and refined surfaces. By using industrial, everyday materials like cardboard, which is often employed temporarily and then discarded, she examines relationships between the quotidian and the sacred, fragility and resilience, and ephemerality and permanence.
Folies continues through September 9 in Mexico City. Find more on Mariane Ibhrahim’s website.
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It Takes Two to Tango: Florentijn Hofman’s ‘Double Ducks’ Set Sail in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour
Vying to be the world’s largest bathtub toy is a game that two can play. Ten years after his enormous rubber duck sailed through Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman marks the occasion with Double Ducks. The identical inflatable artworks sit side-by-side in the waterway, designed to be hitched to tugboats and escorted in all of their sunny splendor, foregrounding the famous panoramic views of the city’s skyline.
Known for his playful, monumental installations, Hofman approached the project as a celebration of friendship and joy. The pair represent unity and togetherness, drawing on the symbolism of the symmetrical Chinese characters “囍” (happiness) and “朋” (friends). “Due to COVID we learned that spending time together is so valuable,” Hofman says in a statement. “Making moments and memories for real, living in the here and now, are things to cling on to… ‘Double Ducks’ is not about looking into the past but enjoying the moment together!”
Hofman collaborated with with creative brand AllRightsReserved to facilitate the floating sculptures in addition to dozens of installations and interactive activities throughout the city. Admiralty MTR station in the central business district sports a giant yellow face peering from its half-moon shaped window—the largest of 18 train station installations—and 24 images of the playful pair accompany iconic locations, like the Clock Tower on the shore of Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, The Hong Kong Space Museum, and the historic Lan Kwai Fong neighborhood. The more, the merrier!
The floating sculptures are stationed near Tamar Park and the Central and Western District Promenade, and will embark for the first time on June 10, sailing for approximately two weeks. Find more on the Double Ducks website, and follow Hofman’s Instagram for updates.
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A Grove of Petal-Like Sculptures by Snøhetta Shade the New Grounds of Blanton Art Museum
The home of Ellsworth Kelly’s iconic modernist chapel titled “Austin,” the Blanton Museum of Art has expanded its outdoor art environment with a sculptural installation by Snøhetta. The architecture and design firm (previously) began the project in 2018 with the ambitious task of reinterpreting an area of 200,000 square feet, containing two large buildings that are part of The University of Texas at Austin’s campus. Its downtown location provided an incredible opportunity to revitalize the space for public gatherings, civic events, and art installations, linking the university campus and city center and creating an architectural dialogue between interior and exterior.
A copse of Snøhetta’s “Petals” rise from the Blanton’s Moody Patio, which forms a gateway connecting Congress Avenue to the pedestrian spine of the university campus. The sculptures create an elegant arch, providing shade and dappling the pavement and surrounding buildings with specks of light that filter through perforated patterns. On not-so-sunny days, rain that falls into the petals is funneled into an underground collection system. The firm sought a design that “unifies the museum campus with the city’s prominent avenue through a choreography of planting, geometry, and art.”
The museum hosts an outdoor party in the courtyard patio every second Saturday of the month. Find more on Snøhetta’s website.
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