At the Direktorenhaus Museum in Berlin this past week, a solo exhibition of detailed architectural drawings by Virginia-based artist Benjamin Sack (previously) opened to the public. Titled Labyrinths, the collection of new works features vast cityscapes comprised of impossible inner-geometries. The maze-like urban maps reference musical compositions and various symbols found in cosmology.
Often creating based on what he calls a “fear of blank spaces,” Sack tells Colossal that his starting point for each drawing is different. Finding inspiration in history, cartography, and his own travels, the artist starts with a general concept and builds his intricate worlds intuitively as he goes. Star-shaped buildings and pathways meet with rows of houses that spiral out from clusters of skyscrapers. The pieces in Labyrinths range from 11 inches by 14 inches (a standard photo print size) up to 90 inches wide and 69 inches tall. A work titled Library of Babel is drawn on the surface of a globe measuring 16 inches in diameter. “Generally, a large piece is begun with a few very broad and simple demarkations in pencil,” Sack explains. The rest of the lines and spaces are filled in with pen.
“Over many years my interest in architecture and cityscapes has evolved,” Sack tells Colossal. He adds that drawing such intricate pieces has “become a way and means of expressing the infinite, playing with perspective and exploring a range of histories, cultures, places.”
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Sci-Fi Inspired Cardboard Sculptures by Greg Olijnyk Feature Fully Articulated Limbs and Working Motors
To balance out his working life as a graphic designer focused on 2-D digital projects, Greg Olijnyk creates cardboard sculptures in his free time. The remarkably refined artworks are made with packaging-grade cardboard and tracing paper, and finishing touches added with LED lighting and glass accessories.
Cardboard’s affordability and malleability, as well as its surprisingly pleasing surface texture and color, have made it the medium of choice for Olijnyk. The designer tells Colossal that each piece comes together organically, and he draws inspiration from sci-fi books and things he finds on Pinterest as he evolves each concept. “Every piece has the limitations and advantages of the cardboard material in mind, how it bends, how strong it will be, etc.,” Olijnyk explains. “The sailing boat sculpture started with the desire to use a pleated, folding effect to simulate water and the rest of the form evolved over the course of a few months.”
As part of his engineering efforts, Olijnyk incorporates movement and articulation. His robot limbs are movable, and wheels rotate. In some of his works, the designer even incorporates solar panels and small motors to activate various components. “Even if, once behind glass, they remain frozen in a pose, I like to know that the capacity is there to bring them to life,” Olijnyk tells Colossal.
Olijnyk notes that he admires fellow Melbourne-based sculptor Daniel Agdag, who creates similarly fanciful worlds using precisely manipulated cardboard. See more from Olijnyk’s studio as he starts new projects and shares the process on Instagram.
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Li Songsong uses dramatic textural repetition to create portraiture and landscapes in his large-scale oil paintings. The Chinese artist often centers visual narratives around historical events of the 20th century, working from found photographs and news images. In some instances, the story becomes more personal, as in “Civil Rather Than Military”, which depicts Songsong’s grandfather. In a statement about the work provided by Pace Gallery, Songsong shared:
I started this painting a month after my grandfather passed away. It’s from a photograph of him that I think was taken in the early1960s, when he was about my current age. I know what kind of person he was, but not until this year was I really willing to think deeply about him. I used a technique in which it is nearly impossible to paint delicate details, but in the end, the work still ended up with lots of expressive detail and an almost idealized quality, as if from a fairy-tale.
In both his intimate and anonymous paintings, Songsong balances content with process, employing tactile techniques that obscure the subject and emphasize the painting as an object or artifact in and of itself. Take a closer look at Songsong’s work in his solo show “One of My Ancestors”, on view through December 21, 2019 at Pace Gallery in New York City. You can also explore more of the artist’s work on the gallery’s website.
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In celebration of Día de Muertos on November 1, Raymundo Medina built a massive skeleton that appears to be lurching out of the pavement on a street in Santa Cecilia Tláhuac, Mexico. Piles of crumbled concrete at the places where the skeleton is connected to the street create the illusion that it is bursting through the asphalt. Medina created the sculpture in the traditional aesthetic of the important Mexican holiday that celebrates deceased loved ones and ancestors. According to Mexican news site Miguel Ángel Luna, Medina is a member of the Jaén Cartonería collective and collaborates with Yaocalli Indians in his work. Built with papier-mâché and painted with starkly delineated black and white areas, the skeleton seems to be almost smiling; Día de Muertos is more celebratory than mournful. (via @losalananaya)
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Over 100 Stitchers are Collaborating Across the U.S. to Complete an Unfinished Embroidered Quilt by Late Crafter Rita Smith
Chicago-based fiber artist and activist Shannon Downey has a particular affinity for unfinished projects. She seeks them out at estate sales, helping women who’ve passed complete their work. Although this has long been an area of interest for Downey, one recent discovery has catapulted to the front page of news sites around the world.
On a visit this September to a Chicagoland estate sale sale, Downey happened upon a framed embroidery (pictured above) that maps out the United States and illustrates all fifty state flowers. A casual conversation with the cashier at the sale led to Downey finding a large-scale project related to the framed work. An unfinished queen-sized quilt was meant to incorporate another U.S. map along with hexagons featuring each state’s bird and flower along with the year they entered the union.
Rita Smith of Mount Prospect, Illinois, had begun the project a few decades ago, according to her son, whom Downey subsequently connected with. Smith, who was a nurse, passed away recently at the age of 99. “I have an annoying habit of having to purchase and finish unfinished projects if I think that the person has passed on … but usually I’m just buying a half-done pillow that needs half an hour’s worth of stitching and then it’s done,” Downey told Block Club Chicago. “But this one was massive and it just felt really significant for some reason. And so I bought it.”
Downey has a substantial following thanks to her work as a community organizer and resource for people looking for an alternative to digital distractions. The self-described ‘craftivist’ tells Colossal that after running a digital marketing company for a decade, she was burned out and needed a break from technology.
I started stitching to find some digital/analog balance. I was hooked. I am an activist and I quickly fused the two. At first, it was about creating space for myself to think substantively and reflect on various issues and topics. As I started to share my work and thoughts, I found a community of folks on Instagram who were engaged and engaging. I have found ways to move those communities offline and into real life communities through my stitch-ups. Those communities are what inspire me to keep going, level up, find new ways of building and connecting, having hard conversations and tackling challenging topics.
Once Downey shared her unexpected find on Twitter, inquiries from potential collaborators began flooding in. Now she is coordinating between dozens of stitchers across the country who are volunteering their time to complete Rita’s masterpiece. Downey describes the effort as a strongly feminist project. “It is an opportunity for folks to consider how we define and assign value and meaning to craft,” she tells Colossal. “So many of the stories that people are sharing with me on twitter after reading about #RitasQuilt are about memories and connections that they have to the women in their lives who are/were makers and the significance that their art has come to have for them.”
The National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky will be displaying the completed quilt, and Downey hopes that it will be able to come with her for a planned 2020 craftivist tour around the U.S. Keep up with Downey on Twitter and Instagram to see how you can get involved in craftivism in your community, and follow along with the #RitasQuilt hashtag.
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A tram stop at Dabrowskiego Square in Łódź, Poland is blossoming with dried flowers, giving pedestrians and commuters a fresh view on the intersection of their natural and built environments. The project, titled “Nostalgia”, was designed by local art student Dominika Cebula, and pays homage to the long tradition of flower selling at Dabrowskiego Square. To create the floating floral installation, the shelter’s walls were replaced by resin-covered flowers embedded in 36 different clear panels.
“The idea of flowery bus stop came from willingness to be closer to nature and to juxtapose the colors of flowers with the grayness seeping out of concrete city,” Cebula explained. She notes that many of the flowers used in the project were from bouquets received by her friends and family. Installed this summer, Cebula’s project was selected as part of an initiative by Łódźkie Centrum Wydarzen and will be on view at least until the end of October, 2019. (via I Support Street Art)
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In his series Chronicle: Passing (6,393 Per Hour), artist Greg Sand creates analog super-edits of the repeated patterns found in old photographs. Drapery, flowers, shoes, shadows, hands, and faces are homed in on and grouped into enormous grids, representing the simultaneous enormity and specificity of human death. As the series’ title notes, approximately 6,393 people around the world die every hour. Each small black-and-white or sepia-toned image is from an ambiguous past era, though hairstyles and clothing offer clues to every individual’s specific moment in time.
Sand tells Colossal that the biggest challenge was collecting all the images he needed; he relied on eBay and local antique stores to source the thousands of old photographs. Using a half inch or one inch punch, Sand framed each visual element in a small square, and arranged them manually. “I was intrigued by the interactions of the various textures, values, and colors that developed,” Sand explains. “I found my eye bouncing around from light to dark, from matte to glossy, from bright to dull, from textured to smooth. The pieces became like pixelated masses from a distance that required getting very close to discover each image individually.”
Sand explains that he hopes the series sparks a reflection in the viewer on how memories fragment. Childhood recollections may focus on specific details like the clothing or gestures of a loved one. “Photographs function in a similar manner. They do not show a whole person or an entire life, but instead capture a single moment,” Sand says. “These keepsakes help determine some of the pieces of memory that stick with us.”
See the artist’s work in person at Momentum Gallery in Asheville, North Carolina in the exhibition Small Works | Big Impact, which opens November 14, 2019.
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