In The Boatman and Other Stories, Belgian artist Hans Op de Beeck (previously) reflects on the fleeting stages of life through an evocative series of vignettes in uniform gray. The vast exhibition, which is on view through January 6, 2022, at Galleria Continua in San Gimignano, Italy, features imagined subjects amidst their typical environments: A shirtless man steers his small rowing boat carrying a dog, chicken, and baskets of food through lily pads, a Brazilian dancer with feathered headdress rests on a tufted chair, and two hand-holding teenagers silently sit on a rocky cliff. Although the lifelike figures have vastly different identities and backgrounds, a universal theme of transition and impending change runs through each narrative.
Alongside the larger scenes, Op de Beeck presents still lifes comprised of disparate and anachronistic items, like the coral and candle-laden “Vanitas Table” and the oversized skull, fruit, and bottles tableau in “Vanitas XL.” Most of his works are entirely monochromatic, although minuscule cherry blossoms in “Wunderkammer (12)” disrupt the strict color palette with small, pink petals. Despite portraying seemingly banal moments, the artist’s sculptures and installations are imbued with a sense of wonder and mystery, serving as an entry point into the unknown histories behind the pieces.
In addition to The Boatman and Other Stories, Op de Beeck’s life-sized carousel “Danse Macabre” will sit in front of the Saint Walburga Church in Bruges until October 24 as part of the Bruges Triennial 2021. See more of his works spanning installation, sculpture, and watercolor portraits on his site and Instagram. (via ArtNet)
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Human progress and the insurmountable force of nature converge in Camille Kachani’s overgrown sculptures. The Lebanese-Brazilian artist (previously) is known for his furniture, tools, and other practical objects that are overrun with new plant growths and gnarly roots, rendering the seemingly functional items like stools, hammers, and books humorously impractical.
Whether a text bursting with vegetation or dresser drawers housing young sprigs, Kachani’s works highlight the futile attempts humans undertake to control the environment. This relationship has been central to his practice in recent years, and his goal is to showcase the conflicts that arise from their intersections especially in relation to life in Brazil—the South American country is more frequently experiencing the effects of the climate crisis like the worst drought its seen in decades and rampant deforestation that’s only intensifying the ongoing devastation—which he explains:
When we speak human and nature, we mean culture and nature, an (un)stable and unpredictable relation. We depend on nature but also see it as a major obstacle to our complete mastery of the planet. But in fact, it is impossible to talk about nature and culture as two distinct subjects, as they are so intertwined and contaminated from each other that I come to believe that everything is nature and culture at the same time.
Kachani is based in São Paulo and is preparing for a forthcoming book chronicling 20 years of his practice, which will be published in 2022. You can follow his work on Instagram.
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Interview: The Sketchbook Project Needs Help After Its Brooklyn Collection Grows to 55,000 Globally Submitted Books
Fifteen years ago, Steven Peterman launched The Sketchbook Project, an ongoing initiative he discusses in a new interview with Colossal editor-in-chief Christopher Jobson. The project, which gathers sketchbooks filled with artwork and stories from people around the globe, has since grown into the Brooklyn Art Library, and today, that collection boasts approximately 55,000 submissions.
The physical collection is an incredible creative resource. There is so much artwork from varying skill levels and artists of all ages, but there are also stories, secrets, hopes, and fears that create a magical exchange between the participant who created the book and the reader who is viewing it in person.
In the conversation supported by Colossal Members, Peterman talks about the challenges of maintaining the collection and its robust community during the COVID-19 pandemic and what’s on the horizon for the project as it changes its funding model.
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Thousands of Fresh and Artificial Flowers Overrun an Abandoned Convenience Store in a Small Michigan Town
Port Austin, Michigan, is a picturesque village on the Lake Huron shoreline lauded for its beaches, water sports, and vegetable-shaped rock formations. With a population in the hundreds, the small community relies heavily on tourism to fund its economy, a reality Detroit-based botanical artist Lisa Waud contended with in a recent pop-up installation in one of the town’s abandoned convenience stores.
Titled “Party Store”—this colloquialism refers to a small shop selling snacks, alcohol, lottery tickets, and other cheap staples—the immersive project transforms a dilapidated space into a lush garden of fresh-cut flowers grown in Michigan and artificial replicas sourced from resale shops around the state. A water-damaged drop ceiling, stained carpeting, and wood paneling peek through the colorful botanicals, which envelop a commercial coffee machine, crawl across shelving, and bulge out of dimly lit coolers.
Similar to her other site-specific works like her 2015 transformation of a condemned duplex in Detroit, Waud describes “Party Store” as a “cleansing reset,” one that uses the tension between life and decay as a prompt to consider cultural understandings of permanence and disposability. She references pieces like Robin Frohardt’s grocery store stocked with plastic food and Prada Marfa as influences, two large-scale projects that criticize consumerism through their satirical imitations of common and luxury goods. “In spending time in Port Austin, I recognized a similarity between its tourism culture and that of my hometown of Petoskey,” Waud writes in a statement. “The local economy relies on the tourists, but often the folks who come can have a ‘disposable’ quality to their visit, exemplified in the increase of consuming convenient items—often packaged in single-use plastic.”
“Party Store” was dismantled after its July 16-18 run, when many of the materials were recycled or reused. “By installing flowers that will ultimately be composted into a space that historically sells items that cannot be biodegraded, I hoped to bridge a connection for responsible choice-making in its visitors’ future,” the artist says.
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Temporarily seen hovering above small European towns or balancing on a river in floating canoes are elaborate bridges designed to be constructed and demolished in a matter of days. The ongoing work of Olivier Grossetête, the cardboard-and-tape pieces are entirely hand-built by the French artist and local residents. Each ephemeral installation, which Grossetête refers to as “utopian building(s), temporary and useless,” appears for only a day or two before it’s taken down and the public is asked to stomp on and destroy the cardboard. “This is an integral part of the project,” the artist says in a statement. “This symbolic moment is fun.” While they’re on display, the architectural works are often tethered between hot air balloons and existing buildings, which makes them appear dream-like as they float above the urban landscape.
Grossetête has been utilizing the cheap, flexible material for more than ten years because it’s easy to manipulate, allowing the installations to spring up and be removed relatively quickly. “Despite its appearance, it has quite extraordinary capacities and is very light. It doesn’t scare anyone, and it allows me to open my practice to the greatest number of people,” he says, explaining that it’s also emblematic of cultural signifiers. “It is the symbol of the false and of the appearance! I like to make this parallel between architecture, an instrument of power, and the false, the appearance.”
Currently living in Jausiers in the Alpes de Hautes Provences, Grossetête is headed to 23 Milhas in , Portugal for his next installation, which will be up from July 31 to August 1. You can explore more than a decade of his works on his site.
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Chicago-based artist Jacqueline Surdell sutures lengths of rope, fabric, and silky ribbons into sprawling abstract tapestries that hang from walls and standalone armatures in textured, colorful masses. Swelling clusters of knots and ties, loose weaves, braided tunnels, and dangling strands compose her three-dimensional compositions that are disrupted by sporadically used items like steel chains, volleyballs, and polyester shower curtains. Because of the scale of the pieces and the hefty materials, the artist often uses her body as a shuttle to weave the brightly colored fibers together on massive hand-built looms.
Surdell embeds parts of her Chicago upbringing in her wall sculptures, especially childhood memories of her grandmother’s landscape paintings and her grandfather’s job in South Side steel mills. These two experiences converge in her textured works by evoking vast terrains and the city’s industrial history through her use of commercial materials. Each piece offers further reflections on today’s world, with energetic and chaotic pieces like “We Will Win: Our Banner in the Sky” (shown above) responding to the fraught political landscape in the U.S. and destructive events like wildfires and loss of coral reefs sparked by the climate crisis.
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