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Viruses and Microorganisms Emerge from Agnes Hansella’s Macramé Installations and Sculptures
In a Time Magazine article published during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientist Elizabeth Fischer describes viruses and their aptness for destruction. She refers to their “beautiful symmetry,” adding, “they’re not malicious in and of themselves. They’re just doing what they do.” This straightforward statement contrasts much public sentiment centered on the overwhelming fear and grief and is the basis for a new body of work by Jakarta-based artist Agnes Hansella (previously).
Recently on view alongside pieces by Mulyana (previously) at NA Arthouse, Hansella’s macramé installation and sculptures magnify the tiny world of microorganisms through fiber. The nearly six-meter “Under Our Skin” hung at the entrance of the show, creating an intricate curtain of knotted and looped rope mimicking the epidermis. A large hoop evoking a microscope lens stood nearby, with Mulyana’s crocheted bacteria clinging to the loose net of threads.
Inside the gallery were several sculptures of phages, a tall navicula, and the infamous coronavirus. Two wall pieces spill out from their white frames, creating textured topographies of organic forms that appear to grow outward. “I want to explore microorganisms and viruses in (their) beauty to remind myself that we are part of a complex world, and getting close to these small unseen things helps me value simple everyday actions more, as simple as breathing,” Hansella shares.
For more of the artist’s elaborate rope-based works, visit her site and Instagram.
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Kongkee Resurrects an Ancient Chinese Poet in an Energetic Cyberpunk Vision of Asian Futurism
The story of the legendary Chinese poet Qu Yuan ends in tragedy. Living during the destructive Warring States period that ran from 481 to 221 BCE, Qu Yuan was an influential writer and politician who was banished by King Huai of Chu and subsequently spent much of his time traveling the country and working on verse. The life of exile didn’t suit the poet, though, leading him into a deep depression and toward his eventual suicide in the Miluo River. Created as a hunt to retrieve Qu Yuan’s body, the annual Dragon Boat Festival continues to this day in celebration of his legacy.
A forthcoming exhibition at Chicago’s Wrightwood 659 imagines the poet’s afterlife “as his soul journeys from the ancient Chu Kingdom to a retro-futuristic Asia where he is reborn as an android in a psychedelic cyberpunk landscape.” Melding history with a distinctive sci-fi vision, Kongkee: Warring States of Cyberpunk features works in several mediums by the London-based Chinese animator and artist Kong Khong-chang, known as Kongkee. Using videos, projections, installations, ancient objects, and graphic pieces, the artist explores Asian Futurism through the energetic and luminously rendered narrative of a Chinese icon.
An extension of a comic series Kongkee created back in 2013, the show considers existential questions of immortality, how the body and soul interact, and the tenuous relationship between humanity and machine. Bold, saturated colors emphasize the role of the digital in the visionary realm, while mountain ranges, clouds, and vast starry skies incorporate more natural and classical motifs that have existed for millennia. Rippled waves and water feature prominently, referencing Qu Yuan’s drowning in 278 BCE.
Although based on a life of immense suffering, Kongkee’s works are optimistic as he envisions a universe where redemption and reconciliation are possible. The artist shares in a statement:
I asked myself, what happens when a soul emerges after 2,000 years from underwater—does it seek out something new? Does it return to familiar places? Qu Yuan’s poetry has a psychedelic, wandering quality that I tried to reflect in my art, but I also wanted him to reflect the disorientation, as well as the hope, of our era.
Following its U.S. debut at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, Kongkee: Warring States of Cyberpunk opens in Chicago on April 14 and will be on view until July 15. Find more from the artist on Instagram.
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Rooted in the American South, ‘Souls Grown Deep Like the Rivers’ Recognizes Remarkable Artistic Traditions of Black Artists
The last line of a 1921 poem by Langston Hughes reads, “My soul has grown deep like the rivers.” From the sun rising over the Euphrates to the muddy banks of the Mississippi, his words evoke the universality and timelessness of flowing water mirrored by the coursing of blood through our veins. Taking inspiration from Hughes’s reflections, Souls Grown Deep Like the Rivers at the Royal Academy of Arts in London shines a light on the creative traditions of Black artists in the American South whose artistic pursuits reflect pervasive issues of economic inequality, oppression, and marginalization and examine themes like identity, sexuality, the influence of place, and ancestral memory.
Encompassing more than 60 quilts, sculptures, installations, paintings, drawings, and assemblages by 34 artists from the mid-20th-century to the present, the exhibition is drawn largely from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, the organization stewards a collection of around 1,000 works by more than 160 Southern Black artists—two-thirds of whom are women—to advocate for their inclusion in the art historical canon. While many are now well-known in the U.S., most of their works have never before been exhibited in Europe.
Many of the pieces are made from materials like clay, driftwood, roots, discarded objects, and recycled cloth. Because access to formal exhibition spaces was often curtailed for Black artists, many presented their works on their own property in a disappearing yet deeply Southern tradition known as “yard shows.” One of the best known and last remaining is Joe Minter’s “African Village in America,” in Birmingham, Alabama. In 1819, enslaved people accounted for more than a third of the state’s population, and the DIY shows evolved from a tradition in which yards were the only space for many to enjoy music and express creativity. Minter’s work is represented at the Royal Academy in a sculpture made of welded found metal poignantly titled “And He Hung His Head and Died.”
The legacy of Gee’s Bend, which continues today as a collective, is represented through numerous bold quilts, including Marlene Bennett Jones’s “Triangles,” in which she repurposes corduroy and denim jeans into a geometric composition. Raised on a farm in the community that was formerly a cotton plantation owned by Joseph Gee, Jones and other residents are direct descendants of the enslaved people who worked the fields, then remained there following the Civil War to work as sharecroppers. During the Depression, the U.S. government purchased ten-thousand acres of the former plantation and provided loans that enabled residents to acquire the land. Unlike many others who were evicted or forced to move due to economic circumstances, families were able to remain in Gee’s Bend, and “cultural traditions like quiltmaking were nourished by these continuities.”
The majority of the artists featured in this exhibition learned artistic skills that were passed down through the generations or from friends and mentors. Many respond to dark and painful parts of U.S. history like the era of slavery and subsequent racial segregationist policies that continue to profoundly influence life today. Artist and musician Lonnie Holley assembles pieces of metal from an old phonograph into “Keeping a Record of It (Harmful Music),” an abstract, rusted turntable topped with an animal skull. The work visualizes passing time, decay, and the idiomatic phrase “sound like a broken record”—repeating the same thing over and over again.
Souls Grown Deep Like the Rivers continues at the Royal Academy of Arts in London through June 18.
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Crochet Your Next Big Catch with Free Patterns from the National Park Service
If angling isn’t your strong suit, the National Park Service has a solution to reeling in your next big catch. Swap your fishing line for yarn and crochet a halibut or walleye with simple patterns courtesy of ranger Hailey Burley. Referencing the aquatic inhabitants of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve and Voyageurs National Park, the DIY projects to offer a playful way to engage with the environment and the creatures living in these regions.
The two freshwater fish are part of a growing collection of patterns designed by rangers, including a round, ridged pillow to mimic the lava flow of El Malpais National Monument and another to stitch the crustacean known as Triops.
Burley tells Colossal that she’s working in Glacier Bay National Park this summer and hopes to release additional patterns reflective of the Alaskan environment. Keep an eye on the service’s site for updates.
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Saype’s Monumental New Land Art Looks Toward the Future of Sustainable Energy Production
One of the largest solar energy plants in the scorching deserts of Ibri is also the site of burgeoning childhood curiosity thanks to the French-Swiss artist known as Saype (previously). A commission from the Swiss Embassy in Oman to celebrate the countries’ 50-year partnership, the massive piece of land art spreads across 11,250 square meters of sand. Created with eco-friendly paint in shades of gray, the public work titled “Towards Good Ideas?” depicts a child kneeling at a lightbulb, connecting two switches to rows of solar panels.
Best viewed aerially, the piece took about one year of planning and five days to execute. Saype shares that given the increasingly urgent calls to divest in fossil fuels and find alternatives, he wanted to highlight one area offering a potential solution. He said:
Energy management is certainly one of the major challenges of our overaccelerating world…Being aware that the solution centers around a complex energy mix and in a form of sobriety, I chose to paint this child playing with the magic of solar energy. Looking towards the horizon, he symbolizes the renewal of a civilization that must now reinvent itself without destroying the planet.
At the end of March, Saype will show some of his smaller works with Magda Danysz Gallery at Art Paris. Find more of his monumental projects on his site and Instagram. (via Street Art News)
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Rugged Rocks Anchor Delicate Glass Coral in Elena Fleury-Rojo’s Sculptures
Exquisite aquatic specimens sprout from craggy stones in Elena Fleury-Rojo’s Reef Formations sculptures. The British artist interprets the spindly shoots, scalloped-edge growths, and grooved tentacles of coral in clear or green borosilicate glass, which she fastens to rugged hunks of rock or marble. Melding land and sea and delicate and durable materials, the works draw parallels between the rapid death of the marine creatures and the disappearance of traditional flame-working techniques, both of which Fleury-Rojo sees as having potential for a “hopeful regeneration into full bloom.”
The sculptures shown here are part of the first volume of Reef Formations, some of which will be on view at Essex’s The Sentinel Galley for a dual exhibition opening on April 4. Fleury-Rojo currently has a few works available on Etsy and frequently shares glimpses into her studio and process on Instagram.
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Editor's Picks: Animation
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.