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Art History

Evoking Historical Struggles, Hank Willis Thomas Examines the Intersection of Art and Activism

October 29, 2020

Grace Ebert

“If the Leader Only Knew” (2014). All images © Hank Willis Thomas, shared with permission

Through his bronze sculptures and public installations, Hank Willis Thomas (previously) examines history’s repetitions. The Brooklyn-based artist critically considers identity, social justice, and pop culture by visually weaving together the remains of the past that surface in present day. “Art is a platform where histories meet,” he tells Colossal.

Thomas’s sculptural pieces include a series of hands clenching a barbed wire fence, an oversized hair pick lodged into concrete, and a gleaming basketball balancing on players’ fingertips. No matter the medium, the interdisciplinary artist begins by examining advertisements and archival images and the messages those contain. “The transfer of a photograph into a three-dimensional expression allows the viewer to delve within a photograph and form an intimate understanding of the ideas it represents. That relationship inspires critical thought about the viewer themselves and the world around them,” he says.

Many of Thomas’s artworks reflect on historical moments, like the Holocaust and South African apartheid, and explicitly connect them to contemporary struggles. Photographs of mid-century Germany inspire sculptures, like “If the Leader Only Knew,” that evoke images of migrants detained at the United States-Mexico border. He ties a glimpse of mining workers to “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” a cry to end state-sanctioned police violence, which informs the outstretched arms in “Raise Up.” “History repeats itself, and art is one cultural framework through which we engage with these profound moments, hopefully awakening our consciousness,” the Brooklyn-based artist says.

 

“Raise Up” (2014)

For Thomas, art and activism are inextricable. In recent months, he’s been considering their critical intersections particularly in relation to creative movements like Wide Awakes and For Freedoms, an organization he co-founded that has been spearheading public projects prior to the 2020 election. “Art is not unaffected in this moment; it is the context that unifies our experiences of joy and even those of growth and pain. Art is the human experience. I am also curious about how people and society will change, and I think of my existence within this change as a man, as a Black man,” he says.

Thomas’s work will be part of the group exhibition Barring Freedom at the San José Museum of Art, which runs from October 31, 2020, to April 25, 2021. A book surveying his decades-long practice, titled Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal, is available on Bookshop, and you can stay updated with his latest projects on Twitter and Instagram.

 

“All Power to All People” (2017). Photo by Steve Weinik

“Die dompas moet brand! / The Dompas must burn!” (2013)

Left: “Globetrotter” (2016), fiberglass, chameleon auto paint finish, 32 1/2 × 11 × 20 inches. Right: “Tip Off” (2014), polyester resin and chameleon paint, 43 × 13 × 11 inches

“History of the Conquest” (2017), bronze. Installation view at Jazz Museum for Prospect.4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp. Photo by Mike Smith

 

 



Art Design History

Artists Explore Self-Expression Through Bizarre and Whimsical Masks at Denver's Vicki Myhren Gallery

October 26, 2020

Christopher Jobson

Felicia Murray, “Our Dying Reefs,” felted COVID mask, 2020. All photos shared with permission.

There is perhaps no symbol more representative of contemporary life than the humble face mask. A simple health device crucial to saving millions of lives around the world from a deadly COVID-19 pandemic spread by invisible airborne pathogens, and yet an object that’s been quixotically politicized at the callous expense of humanity for the gain of an elite few. A new exhibition at the University of Denver’s Vicki Myhren Gallery approaches the lighter side of face coverings: the ancient tradition of masks as self-expression.

Arranged on mannequins lining the gallery space, more than 40 artists present interpretations of protective face wear in MASK, currently on view by appointment through December 1, 2020. The collection of whimsical, grotesque, quirky, and beautiful masks are medically non-functional but guaranteed to provoke a reaction through their novel construction. Several designs mimic natural filtration systems like foliage or a coral reef, while others use repurposed objects like zippers or pipes to create wholly unusual face sculptures.

“Through this project, we hope to call attention to the significance and signification of masking as an issue of public health and demonstration of civic responsibility,” the gallery shares in a statement. “As the selected artists show, masking is also a mode of outward self-expression and opportunity for creativity. In turns utilitarian and fantastical, the wearable artworks shown demonstrate how makers and thinkers are engaging with the pandemic and applying their skills and individual styles to a newly important medium.”

As part of the exhibition, Vicki Myhren Gallery has partnered with Denver’s RedLine Contemporary Art Center to fabricate free masks for distribution for those in need. (via Hyperallergic)

 

Scottie Burgess, “Mask for Our Unseen Smiles” (2020)

Serge Clottey, “Mask for Our Times” (2020) (photo by Nii Odzenma)

Elizabeth Morisette, “Beak” (2020)

Liz Sexton, Porcupinefish, 2020.

Freyja Sewell, “Food” from Key Worker Series (2020)

Matt Harris, “Hope” (2020); Cristina Rodo, “Covidus,” wet and needle-felted wool, 2020. Photo courtesy Emma Hunt.

Kate Marling, “Classical Sculpture Mask” (2020)

 

 

 



Design History

A Glass Floor in a New Dublin Grocery Opens a Window to Medieval Viking History

October 23, 2020

Grace Ebert

Embedded in the architecture of a new Lidl store in Dublin is a glass floor that allows shoppers to peer down into medieval history. During the supermarket’s construction, archaeologists discovered a 1,000-year-old home of Hiberno-Norse Dubliners, who were ancestors to the Vikings, in addition to a 13th-century wine jug and the below-stage trap of the former Aungier Street Theatre. Rather than excavate the items and build on top of the site, covering the ruins, the store installed glass flooring that provides shoppers with a literal window into local history. (via Twisted Sifter)

 

 

 



History Photography

No Memory Is Ever Alone: A Photographer Reimagines Family Moments Using Her Dad's Old Slides

October 21, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Catherine Panebianco, shared with permission

Jamestown, New York-based photographer Catherine Panebianco compresses the space between family memories and her life at present through her series, No Memory Is Ever Alone. The moving collection features vast landscapes and unoccupied rooms with Panebianco’s continued intervention: in each shot, she holds up a photographic slide of her family in a similar location, juxtaposing the decades-old visual against a current-day backdrop.

Beyond capturing loved ones in moments of joy—many feature her mother, who died in recent years—the film reminds Panebianco of a holiday tradition. Her dad “used to bring out a box of slides that he photographed in his late teens and early 20s every Christmas and made us view them on an old projector on our living room wall telling the same stories every year,” she writes in a statement. “It was a consistent memory from a childhood where we moved a lot and I never felt like I had a steady “place” to live and create memories.” Imbued with nostalgia, the new images bind the threads of family memory and tradition with the histories of her parent’s lives and now, her own.

Panebianco chose to recreate each shot manually rather than using Photoshop to place one on top of the other. “Part of the process that was necessary for me was to find the right location and feel my dad’s slides united with how I live today—a place within a place, a memory within a memory,” she says.

See more of the shots in No Memory Is Ever Alone on Panebianco’s site and Instagram. (via This Isn’t Happiness)

 

 

 



Art History

Archaeologists Unearth a Nearly 2,000-Year-Old Cat Geoglyph Lounging on a Peruvian Hillside

October 20, 2020

Grace Ebert

A new discovery on the side of the Mirador Natural Hill in Peru reveals that common feline activities—namely sprawling out in the most comfortable position—have remained relatively stable throughout the last 2,000 years. This week, archaeologists unearthed a 120-foot-wide etching of a cat at the Nazca Lines site in Peru, which is home to a series of geoglyphs depicting a spider, monkey, hummingbird, whale, and fish. The feline rendering dates back to the Late Paracas period between 200-100 BC, making it the oldest in the area.

With bulbous eyes and a striped tail, the now-faded creature was created by stripping the top layers of soil to reveal the lighter-colored bedrock beneath, with lines ranging from 12 to 16 inches thick. “The figure was barely visible and was about to disappear due to its location on a fairly steep slope and the effects of natural erosion,” the Peruvian Ministry of Culture said in a release.

The area is located in the Nazca Desert, which is about 250 miles south of Lima, and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Although the cat predates Nazca culture—according to the ministry, feline renderings were common in Paracus society and found on textiles, ceramics, and other iconographic objects—similar prehistoric drawings influenced many of the geoglyphs found at the Nazca Lines site. (via Gizmodo)

 

 



Documentary Food History

Immerse Yourself in the Luxurious Process of Artisan Butter Making at a French Shop

October 9, 2020

Grace Ebert

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better pairing for the flood of sourdough loaves baked in recent months than a pat of butter, and perhaps a tour of Le Beurre Bordier will inspire the next craze for ambitious home cooks. Claudia Romeo, a journalist with Food Insider, meets with artisan Jean-Yves Bordier to document the processes of French butter making at the Bordeaux shop, revealing the slow and luxurious methods of manufacturing the milky staple.

Le Beurre Bordier is dedicated to 19th-century practices, including using a wooden malaxage, a large grooved wheel, to churn the substance and extract excess water. Workers knead the butter by hand, constantly slicing it with their fingers and turning it over and over, before shaping it into miniature cones and stamped cylinders. The entire process is measured and manual, similar to the laborious nature of baking bread from scratch.

For more of Food Insider’s deep dives into global food culture, head to YouTube.