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Art Dance History Photography

Dances and Branches: Colossal's Most-Read Stories of 2021

December 29, 2021

Colossal

We spent the last year collaborating with creatives from every corner of the planet to publish nearly 700 articles and interviews that range from art, design, and photography to science and history. As we plan our coverage for 2022, we’re looking back at some of the stories you read most (thank you!). And in case you missed it, make sure you check out Colossal’s favorite short films and books from 2021, too.

 

Nine Massive Waves of Deadwood Surge Across a Forest Floor Near Hamburg

Between November 2020 and March 2021, Jörg Gläscher gathered deadwood and constructed nine massive crests that overwhelm the forest floor in undulating layers of branches and twigs.

 

Mammoth Straw Creatures Populate Japanese Farmland in the Annual Wara Art Festival

Enormous tarantulas, eagles, and dinosaur-like creatures occupy Japan’s Niigata Prefecture as part of the Wara Art Festival, a summertime event that displays massive animals and mythical creations fashioned from the rice crop’s leftover straw.

 

An Intimate Photographic Series Glimpses the Lives of the Children Who Fish in Ghana’s Lake Volta

Photographer Jeremy Snell unveils the more sinister side of Ghana’s Lake Volta through an intimate and profound series documenting the lives of the children working in the region.

 

‘Beneath the Bird Feeder’ Documents the Spectacular Wildlife Visiting a Wintertime Food Source

During the winter months of late 2020 into early 2021, Carla Rhodes photographed a diverse cast of cold-weather adventurers, including a brilliant northern cardinal, numerous pairs of mourning doves, and furry little field mice, that visited her birdfeeder.

 

Impasto Marks and Thick Dabs of Paint Render Dreamy Landscapes in Rich Layers of Color

Russian artist Anastasia Trusova works in a style she terms “textured graphic impressionism” that involves deftly layering acrylic paints into lush foliage, clouds, and fields of wildflowers.

 

A Restored Vermeer Painting Reveals a Hidden Cupid Artwork Hanging in the Background

2021 changed the way we understand a 17th-century painting by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. What was once thought to be a somewhat glum depiction of a young girl was revealed to be an amorous portrayal complete with a naked Cupid in the background.

 

Cheeky Busts by Gerard Mas Are Sculpted with a Contemporary Twist

The women artist Gerard Mas sculpts are spirited and unconventional as they blow a wad of bubblegum, sport visible tan lines, or unabashedly dig in their noses. Each corset-clad figure is steeped in humor and wit as it casts a contemporary light on the traditional form.

 

Herds of Life-Sized Elephants Roam Through London’s Parks for a Global Conservation Project

Sixty migrating elephants passed between Piccadilly and Buckingham Palace in London’s Green Park earlier this year as one of nine herds roaming throughout the city. The lumbering creatures are part of a collaboration that explores how humans can better live alongside animals.

 

Ceramic Mosaics Mend Cracked Sidewalks, Potholes, and Buildings in Vibrant Interventions by Ememem

Throughout his home city of Lyon, Ememem is known as “the pavement surgeon” because he repairs gouged sidewalks with colorful mosaics.

 

A Mesmerizing Dance Performance for the Paralympics Hand-Off Ceremony Choreographed by Sadeck Waff

As part of a closing hand-off ceremony for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games, choreographer Sadeck Waff worked with 128 performers in a dizzying performance focused on arms and hands.

 

Chicago’s Manual Cinema Reveals How Its Shadow Puppets Became a Defining Feature of the New ‘Candyman’

Nia DaCosta’s Candyman is deeply rooted in Chicago’s history and draws in local artists, like the talented team at Manual Cinema. Colossal editor-in-chief Christopher Jobson interviewed co-artistic director Drew Dir when the film was released to discuss the unprecedented process of using shadow puppets in a blockbuster live-action film, experimenting with the technical limits of the medium, and conveying a story of racism and trauma.

 

 



History

Explore the Vast Archive of the Museum of African American History and Culture Through Its New Digital Platform

November 23, 2021

Grace Ebert

Tintype of a young girl, 1870s. Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Oprah Winfrey

The latest in a slew of institutions launching virtual counterparts, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture released a new platform that makes its archive accessible to those outside of its Washington, D.C. home. Displaying its lauded collection of Black history, the Searchable Museum is a digital trove of multimedia projects, videos, podcasts, and more than 40,000 3D renderings of its archive.

Its first exhibition, titled Slavery and Freedom, opens in 1400, an era before people were seen as goods to be bought and sold. “By the 1600s, an unanticipated shift took place. The primary commodity became enslaved African people. This is their story,” a statement says. The exhibition follows slavery’s trajectory—it speaks to the ways Black people shaped colonial North America and the hypocrisy inherent in the U.S.’s vows for freedom before culminating in an exploration of the Civil War and Reconstruction—through photos, banknotes, maps, illustrations, and a variety of other artifacts.

As its name suggests, the Searchable Museum offers multiple ways to peruse its archive, including an explore section with objects like Harriet Tubman’s shawl and the Point of Pines Slave Cabin, a relic from the plantation on Edisto Island, South Carolina, that was occupied from 1850 to the 1980s and is only viewable online. Other segments include glimpses into the stories of people who aren’t widely known but have profound impacts and the way history continues to shape life today. (via Hyperallergic)

 

Classroom, 1870. Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations

Anti-AIDS mural in New York City

Henrietta Lacks (HeLa): The Mother of Modern Medicine by Kadir Nelson, 2017. Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and National Portrait Gallery, Gift from Kadir Nelson and the JKBN Group, LLC

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 1963. Library of Congress

 

 



Art History Illustration Photography

A New Book Flies Through the Vast World of Birds from Art and Design to History and Ornithology

November 9, 2021

Grace Ebert

Ernst Haeckel, Trochilidae – Kolibris, from Kunstformen der Natur, 1904. Chromolithograph, 36 × 26 cm / 14 × 10 ¼ in. Picture credit: Kunstformen der Natur

Bird: Exploring the Winged World is an extensive celebration of feathered creatures across thousands of years of art, science, and popular culture. Published by Phaidon, the stunning, 352-page volume compiles works from hundreds of artists, illustrators, photographers, and designers—including Lorna Simpson (previously), Nick Cave (previously), Ernst Haeckel (previously), and Florentijn Hofman (previously)—who choose ostriches, flamingos, and other avians as their central motifs. Each spread connects two distinct works from different periods, pairing anatomical renderings with James Audubon’s illustrations and striking contemporary portraits with vintage advertisements.

In addition to hundreds of images, the forthcoming tome features an introduction by Katrina van Grouw and information about urban birding experiences and taxonomies. Copies are available from Bookshop on November 10.

 

Allen & Ginter, Birds of the Tropics, 1889. Chromolithograph, 7.3 × 8.3 cm / 2 7/8 × 3 ¼ in, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Picture credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Jefferson R.Burdick Collection, Gift of Jefferson R. Burdick

Elizabeth Butterworth, Lear’s Macaw, 2005. Gouache, ink, and pencil on paper, 25 × 34 cm / 9 ¼ × 13 3/8 in, Private collection. Picture credit: © Elizabeth Butterworth

Florentijn Hofman, Rubber Duck, 2013. PVC, H. 16.5 m / 21 ft, temporary installation, Hong Kong. Picture credit: All Rights Reserved, courtesy Studio Florentijn Hofman

Matt Stuart, Trafalgar Square, 2004. Photograph, dimensions variable. Picture credit: © Matt Stuart

John James Audubon (engraved by Robert Havell), American Flamingo, from The Birds of America, double elephant folio edition, 1838. Hand-coloured etching and aquatint, 97 × 65 cm / 38 ¼ × 25 5/8 in. Picture credit: National Gallery of Art, Washington DC: Gift of Mrs. Walter B. James

Oiva Toikka, Birds by Toikka, 1972–present. Mouth-blown glass, dimensions variable, Iittala collection. Picture credit: All rights reserved by Fiskars Finland Oy Ab/Photographer Timo Junttila, Designer Oiva Toikka

Andy Holden and Peter Holden, Natural Selection, 2018. Mixed media, Temporary installation at Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne, UK. Picture credit: Andy Holden/Photograph by Alison Bettles

 

 



History

They're Baaaack: Meet the Creepy Dolls from the History Center of Olmsted County Collection

October 22, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © History Center of Olmsted County

We’re sorry to introduce you to the cursed cast of the History Center of Olmsted County’s notorious Creepy Doll Contest: there’s the demonic “Miss Abyss” and her glowing portal-like eyes, the conniving criminal mastermind “Professor Moriarty” that will likely convince you to commit some unspeakable atrocity, and “Lizzie Bordon” that, like the infamous ax murderer herself, is sure to chop you to bits.

The center launched the project in 2019 as an innocuous way to explore its collection, although it’s since created an annual event of unleashing the horrors you see here. If you’re in Minnesota, you can attend the creepy doll cocktail party on October 23 (at your own risk, of course), and otherwise, cast your vote for the demonic character most likely to haunt your dreams on Instagram. (via Hyperallergic)

 

“Miss Abyss”

“T-Rex”

“Lady Corn Husk”

“Professor Moriarty”

“Princess Aouda”

“Cloudy Eye”

“Miss Havisham”

“Lizzie Bordon”

“Gagool”

 

 



Art History Science

Anatomy and History Collide in Borosilicate Glass Sculptures by Kit Paulson

October 19, 2021

Christopher Jobson

Lungs, 2020. Flame-worked borosilicate glass. All photos © Kit Paulson, shared with permission

In a lovely clash of anatomy and antiquity, artist Kit Paulson (previously) forms impossibly fragile objects entirely from glass. By referencing historical artworks through lace patterns, or traversing the structures of blood veins and bones found in the human body, she externalizes the internal and reveals hidden visceral structures all around us. She pushes the idea further still by creating wearable sculptures like masks and gloves.

Paulson works primarily with slender tubes of borosilicate glass heated with a torch through a method called flameworking. “Even with its sterility and stability, glass must be manipulated by hand, relying on very the physical, muscle memory of the hands which is invisibly powered by blood and bone,” she shares with Colossal.

The artist just arrived at Bild-Werk Frauenau in Germany, an international forum for glass and visual arts where she’ll teach for the next 6 months. You can explore more of her work on Instagram and see dozens of her small glass objects available on Etsy.

 

 

 



Art History Photography

An Immense New Book Surveys the Work of More Than 300 African Artists

October 15, 2021

Grace Ebert

Zanele Muholi, Bhekezakhe, Parktown (2016), gelatin silver print, 50 × 35.9 centimeters. Photo © Zanele Muholi. Stevenson, Amsterdam, Cape Town and Johannesburg, and Yancey Richardson, New York

One of the most expansive volumes of its kind, African Artists: From 1882 to Now compiles a broad sampling of works from more than 300 modern and contemporary artists born or living on the continent. Within its 350-plus pages, the massive text spans a range of mediums and aesthetics, from Mary Sibande’s sprawling postcolonial installations and Wangechi Mutu’s fantastical watercolor collages to the cotton-embroidered photographs by Joana Choumali. The forthcoming volume follows the publisher’s 2019 book Great Women Artists, which gathers works from 400 artists from 54 countries across 500 years, and it’s available for pre-order from Phaidon and Bookshop.

 

Papa Ibra Tall, “La semeuse d’étoiles (‘The Star Sower’)” (undated), tapestry, 201 × 298 centimeters. Photo © the artist

Kwesi Botchway, “Green Fluffy Coat” (2020), acrylic on canvas, 78.7 × 78.7 centimeters. Photo © the artist, courtesy of Gallery 1957, Accra

Mary Sibande, “A Reversed Retrogress: Scene 1” (2013), lifesize fiberglass mannequins and cotton textile, 180 × 120 × 120 centimeters. Photo © the artist, courtesy of the artist

Michele Mathison, “Breaking Ground” (2014), steel and enamel, 203 × 104 × 40 centimeters. Photo © the artist, courtesy Michele Mathison and WHATIFTHEWORLD

Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga, “Fragile 5” (2018), acrylic and oil on canvas, 187 × 196 centimeters. Photo © the artist, courtesy of the artist and October Gallery, London

John Akomfrah. “Vertigo Sea” (2015). Photo © the artist and Smoking Dogs Films, courtesy of Smoking Dogs Films and Lisson Gallery