“ME: An Exhibition of Contemporary Self-Portraiture” asks 22 contemporary artists to explore who they are and how they present themselves. Curated by Sugarlift and Juxtapoz contributing editor and Colossal contributor Sasha Bogojev, the exhibition presents each artists’ understanding of themselves and of the history of self-portraiture. Cesar Piette’s abstract blue face resembles dripping paint partially masked by glasses, while Prudence Flint portrays a woman napping on a pink bed next to a guitar. Many of the artists created their first self-portraits in years, if not ever, specifically for the show, which includes work from Aleah Chapin, Cesar Piette, and Christian Rex van Minnen, among others.
In a conversation with Colossal, Bogojov answered a few questions about contemporary culture and self-awareness, how they influence self-portraiture, and the ways current conceptions of identity show up in ME.
Colossal: How have perceptions of the self changed since the creation of such a selfie-obsessed culture?
Bogojev: Oh, that is a tough one and I’m certain there are papers if not books written on that subject. But I do feel that a selfie-obsessed culture created more self-awareness on different levels. For this show, in particular, I feel like lots of artists wanted to fight against the popular idea of “self” or what we know now as selfie, by presenting themselves imperfect, flawed, caricatured, even grotesque in some cases.
Colossal: Could you talk a little more about the intersections between psyche, mirror, and others that you see in contemporary self-portraiture?
Bogojev: Modern-day takes are rarely realistic renderings of one’s mirror image and are often including elements that suggest qualities beyond that. Whether playing with light, formatting, color scheme, or simply going away from realism completely, they often focus on the author’s character, emotions, and such. I like to believe that this show encompasses that really well with the variety of approaches and visual languages presented.
Colossal: So many conversations about identity center ideas of multiplicity, of people not having a singular self. How do you see that relating to the face and to self-portraits?
Bogojev: Exactly! I think this is what most artists nowadays are fully aware of and that is why they struggle to find the “right way” to create self-portraits or they create multiple versions of it. Again, I feel it’s the superficiality of selfie-culture that made them extra wary of how they present themselves without jeopardizing their integrity and practice. With their artwork being the most direct and honest way of communicating with the world, it is not easy for an artist to pick one image, or even concept, as a single representation of oneself. I think this is why the artists in ME built their self-portraits by layering different visuals (Van Minnen), assembling a variety of elements (Shiqing), creating an atmosphere they connect to (Flint, Toscani, Chapin), captured an intimate moment that describes them best (Erheriene-Essi, O’Brien).
ME is on view from January 16 to 30 at High Line Nine in New York. If you’re in the city on January 21, stop by for “The Self-Portrait: Antiquity to #Selfie,” a talk by art and culture critic and author Carlo McCormick, historian and Sotheby’s VP of Old Masters Painting Calvine Harvey, and contemporary painter Jenny Morgan.
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Artist Daniel Arsham (previously) re-envisions some of the most well-recognized sculptures of classical antiquity in Paris, 3020, his recent series of replications marred with lightly pigmented crystals. Both “Vénus de Milo” and Michelangelo’s “Moses” find their heads, arms, and torsos eroded in patches by blue calcite.
The New York-based artist spent a year inside the Réunion des Musées Nationaux – Grand Palais, a 200-year-old French studio known for reproducing iconic European works, where he gathered molds and scans of busts, sculptures, and friezes from the collections of the Musée du Louvre in Paris, Acropolis Museum in Athens, the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, and the San Pietro in Vincoli. Arsham cast each recreated work in hydrostone—similar to wax casting—in order to produce the nearly exact replicas. The artist then chiseled the pieces, adding in his signature crystallization with volcanic ash, blue calcite, selenite, quartz, and rose quartz.
Paris, 3020 portrays Arsham’s exploration of the relationship between time and historically significant artifacts. “Making use of classical and ancient objects, this new body of work experiments with the timelessness of certain symbols,” said a release from Perrotin, where the exhibition will be on view from January 11 to March 21, 2020. Each sculpture is surrounded by series of graphite drawings depicting Ashram’s process in order order to “compress time, at once referencing the past, informing the present, and reaching towards a crystallized future.” Find more of Arsham’s time-warping projects on Instagram.
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Iranian mixed-media artist Golsa Golchini combines impasto and digital painting techniques to create miniature worlds of water and ice. Textured mounds of acrylic paint form three-dimensional waves and slopes. Digital paintings of tiny figures are added to the abstract landscapes via ink transfers, with additional details applied by hand. The paintings are simple by design because that is what the artist says the world needs right now.
Shadows added beneath the flat transfers, as well as the natural shadows on the raised paint, give the illusion that the swimmers and skiers physically are entering Golchini’s isolated environments. The limited color palette and similar character poses give the body of work a fun, unifying theme. “My artworks are my way of communicating with the observer about the things of everyday life that we all have in common,” Golchini said in a statement. “Although the artworks are simple, they are usually expressing challenging situations.”
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Athens-based photographer Elias Chasiotis was visiting Qatar in late December 2019 when he captured a photo of an annular eclipse that has since gone viral. Taken at sunrise as a part of a series, the image shows the moon covering the center of a red sun. The timing of the photograph turns the crimson star into curved horns emerging from the horizon.
A self-identified astrophotographer and amateur astronomer, Chasiotis tells Colossal that the conditions were hazy on the morning of December 26 when the photographs were taken. The haze gave the sun its red glow, but as NASA astronomer explained on the Astronomy Picture of the Day blog, the Earth’s atmosphere helped create the full image: “The dark circle near the top of the atmospherically-reddened Sun is the Moon — but so is the dark peak just below it. This is because along the way, the Earth’s atmosphere had an inversion layer of unusually warm air which acted like a gigantic lens and created a second image.”
Chasiotis continued to photograph the eclipse as the sun rose, writing on Facebook that the “annular phase was blocked by clouds, but the red crescent sunrise was the most awesome sunrise I’ve ever seen!”
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With an affinity for bold colors, Willian Santiago documents what he sees around Londrina, the city in southern Brazil where he lives. He utilizes bright blues, greens, and reds to create his illustrations of wild animals and posed female figures that often resemble the geometric shapes and lines of woodblock prints frequently seen in Brazilian art.
“I love exploring,” Santiago said in an interview with WePresent. “It may be the step I spend most of my time on when creating an illustration. Color arouses different feelings in people. I ultimately want my work to create feelings of joy.” With a background in textile and pattern design, the artist says “old Vogue magazine covers, Art Deco and overly posed figures” often serve as inspiration, in addition to being “surrounded by strong women” as a child. Follow Santiago’s striking digital illustrations on Instagram, and check out his available prints on Society6. (via Tu Recepcja)
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A new book by Charlotte Vannier considers how embroidery has evolved from a domestic task mostly done by women into an art. Comprised of the work of 84 contemporary artists from around the world—including Elisabeth Bucht, Rossana Taormina, Diane Meyer, and Aline Brant—From Thread to Needle: Contemporary Embroidery Art features full-page illustrations of embroidered pieces utilizing cotton canvas, photographs, plastic, and wire mesh. The 368-page book highlights work that is particularly distant from the decorative needlework of previous generations and ranges from fully embroidered cloth to sparingly stitched images to threaded toast. Often, the artists reinvent the craft by altering the methods and materials they use and rejecting the outdated notion that embroidery is only a feminine past time.
In an interview with VC Projects, Vannier described her obsession with thread and embroidery. “I am fascinated by the idea that a simple thread becomes a piece of art completely, and how many artists use it. Thread is like a pencil,” the writer says.
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This recent discovery in the Collingwood Archive of the Cardiff University Special Collections purrfectly catalogs a young girl’s childhood quirks. A handmade book by Janet Gnosspelius contains every one of her cats’ whiskers found in her home from 1940 to 1942. Gnosspelius wove the whiskers into the pages, dated, and noted how each was discovered, whether “while playing darts,” “under edge of lino in pantry,” on the “dining room hearthrug,” or “under back door draught protector.”
Gnosspelius was the daughter of artist and sculptor Barbara Collingwood and the granddaughter of W.G. Collingwood, John Ruskin’s secretary, and was one of the first women to attend the Liverpool School of Architecture. Archivists say the meticulous nature Gnosspelius exhibited in creating her book remained throughout her life as she worked in “local history and building conservation, regularly posting samples of masonry to Liverpool City Planning Office, neatly labelled with their provenance and date, demanding their restoration.”
At age 40, Gnosspelius channeled her creative energy once again into creating a special diary documenting the lives of her feline friends. “The diary is no ordinary one,” a note to Colossal from archivists reads. “It is written from the perspective of her beloved ginger cat Butterball, recording the dates of his fights, illnesses, and stays with friends: ‘9 March 1965: wrapped my mouse in the mat outside kitchen door.'” More information about Gnosspelius’s family history is available in this online exhibition.
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Highlights below. For the full collection click here.