Interview: Kevin Peterson Shares His Fascination with Graffiti and How Optimism Informs His Paintings
Known for his scenes of urban decay, artist Kevin Peterson (previously) is profoundly optimistic, a vision he shares in a recent interview with managing editor Grace Ebert. The Houston-based artist often positions lone children alongside wild animals, an inter-species mix that offers an escape from the destruction and hope for the imagined future.
I suppose the kids in my paintings are a reflection of a hope that I have that people will learn from past mistakes and face the future with a sense of calm reason. Part of that is re-prioritizing what we value. The work is a vision of a new generation of kids that will not rule the world like tyrants but will respect nature, other people, and the world we have.
In this conversation, Peterson explores the effects the current moment is having on his artistic practice, how his fascination with graffiti has evolved, and his understanding of change. Thanks to the generous support of Colossal Members, this interview is available to all readers.
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Meticulously cutting each piece by hand, Katsumi Hayakawa crafts dense cityscapes and urban districts from white paper. The Japanese artist assembles towers and various cube-like structures that are positioned in lengthy rows, resembling congested streets. Dotted with primary colors and metallic elements, the sculptures evoke electronic equipment like microchips and motherboards, which references the relationship between modern cities and technology. Hayakawa’s use of an ephemeral, organic material further contrasts the manufactured nature of both urban areas and technological inventions.
To explore more of the artist’s projects that are concerned with the complexity of modern life, head to Artsy.
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A decade ago, Catherine Nelson compiled hundreds of photographs of barren, snow-covered landscapes and autumnal forests for her project Future Memories 2010. The Australian artist, who lives and works between Ghent and Amsterdam, recently revisited that series to create a new body of work with similar world-building techniques. “With the tumultuous events of 2020 still unfolding and the undeniable links to the destruction of the natural world by mankind, it felt timely to return to the themes from that series, which talk about our planet and the importance of protecting what we have,” she says.
Composed of photographs captured during three years and across four continents, Future Memories 2020 spans “from the lush, tropical flora of Costa Rica and Far North Queensland and the fertile, volcanic mountains of the Azores, to the rolling hills of the Greenland tundra,” Nelson writes. Many of the orb-like digital assemblages feature thick brush and foliage around the outside, while the less-populated centers appear to bulge out. The organic spheres hover effortlessly against a cloudy backdrop, highlighting the rich colors and incredible diversity of every environment. Each piece serves as a reminder that “it is in the flourishing variety of the local that the fate of the world resides,” the artist says.
Nelson’s work is on view through September 22 at Michael Reid in Sydney and will head to Gallerysmith in Melbourne early next year. Those unable to experience the complexly assembled worlds in person can see more on her site.
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In London Fieldworks’ delicate creations, architecture meets nature. Its installations feature pine-colored clusters of minuscule wooden forms that appear to grow upon vast tree trunks. Founded by artists Bruce Gilchrist and Jo Joelson, London Fieldworks is a collaborative and multidisciplinary arts practice with projects at the intersection of architecture, sculpture, installation, and film.
Each of the homes has rounded windows and doors, while those on large evergreen trees resemble natural objects, such as wasp and hornet nests or even fungi and mushrooms. From reflecting Clerkenwell’s urban renewal to offering new habitats for animals, the sprawling birdhouses fuse architectural ideas with nature and art, resulting in sculptures that integrate effortlessly in both natural and urban spaces. Through its installations, the practice explores its concern with the climate crisis through the lens of history, the environment, and culture.
One work, “Spontaneous City in the Tree of Heaven,” references opposite sides of London: Duncan Terrace Gardens in the east and Cremorne Gardens in the west. The installation is constructed from hundreds of bespoke bird boxes reflecting the forms of the local architecture—a combination of Modernist 60’s social housing and Georgian townhouses.
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To create the brightly colored textile that cloaks a three-level staircase on the Appalachian State University campus, artists Jessie Unterhalter and Katey Truhn (previously) imagined the concrete steps as a massive loom. They drew grids on the outdoor structure to map out where each individual strip would start, end, and intersect with the larger geometric forms. “There was a lot of math involved, getting the angles and perspective right was a challenge but eventually everything locked into place,” the Baltimore-based duo, who are known as Jessie and Katey, shares with Colossal.
Evoking the quilts and other textiles that are traditional to Appalachia, the large-scale artwork is composed of vivid gradients layered into a complex web of stripes and woven patches. Neutral-toned tassels line the angled edge at the bottom of the staircase, giving the flat mural the appearance of a rug.
This public artwork is just one Jessie and Katey have undertaken in recent months. Many of their projects that were postponed due to COVID-19 are reconvening, bringing the pair to Las Vegas, Washington D.C., and a few spots in North Carolina. Although the actual painting process is solitary, Jessie and Katey say they’ve enjoyed seeing how people are experiencing outdoor art since the onset of the pandemic. “It’s really rewarding watching the work get embraced by the public. People get really creative with it, and murals end up becoming a part of the community,” they say.
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Through a series of brightly hued paintings titled Lost & Found, Max Sansing examines the human desire for happiness and peace through a distinct sense of place. Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, the artist is known for vibrant murals, which you can explore on Instagram, and smaller-scale artworks (shown here) that are rooted in the culture that’s unique to the city.
Each of Sansing’s paintings focus on a single subject who is overlayed with a thick brushstroke or whispy feather. The artist tells Colossal that the central characters are in the midst of a revelation, having just experienced or realized a needed adjustment. “I think at some point in most Chicagoans’ lives, you come to a point where you need a change. Either Chicago does that for you, or you do it for yourself. Finding that and unlocking those new pathways is a huge part of life,” Sansing says.
Many of the works that are part of Lost & Found hearken back to the artist’s upbringing. “Rapture,” in particular, features Anita Baker in the background, a gesture toward the R&B singer’s tunes that would reverberate throughout the neighborhood Sansing grew up in during the 1980s. In the same piece, though, a bullet propels toward a young boy’s head. “The threat of gang violence in the early 90s was kind (of) like a wake-up call out of adolescence,” the artist says, and a reality for many Black boys and men in the United States.
Sansing isn’t without hope, though. The artist writes, “I think we all want that moment in life to finally have clarity, peace, happiness, and in the end, that’s what a lot of civil unrest is about. Folks just wanna live and be. And some want that for others who can’t have it due to hate and systemic roadblocks.” As a whole, Lost & Found embodies the revelations necessary to bring justice and allow communities to thrive. “To quote the show title,” Sansing says, “these things are lost for some, and we have to find it.” (via Supersonic Art)
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