Vibrant Patterns Envelop Dozens of Mythical Animal Sculptures That Explore the Folk Art Traditions of Mexico
In Guardians, artists María del Carmen Mendoza Méndez and Jacobo Ángeles Ojeda, of Jacobo and Maria Ángeles Workshop, pay homage to the mythical creatures of their Oaxacan childhoods. The husband-wife duo carves the soft wood of the copal tree into fantastical creatures that reference Mesoamerican spirituality and Mexican folk art, including the sculptures known as alebrijes. They refer to the unearthly characters as Tonas and Nahuales and cloak the birds, butterflies, and beasts in vibrant patterns and Zapotec symbols. The artists describe the protective works:
Guardians are brave creatures who safeguard their tribe. These mythical characters from the tale ‘Nomads’ hold their heads high by accepting the responsibility of caring for, transporting, and defending everyone. (Theirs) is a story of resistance, persecution, and migration into a dystopian future, where science is blended with ancestral cosmovisions.
On view through January 12, 2023, Guardians is the inaugural show at the newly opened Mano Gallery in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. The gallery is devoted to art and design from Mexico and to creating a space for artists interested in preserving mythology and the country’s heritage. Find more from Jacobo and Maria Ángeles Workshop on their site and Instagram.
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Artists Paul Ressencourt and Simon Roche, a.k.a. Murmure (previously), have worked collaboratively for the past twelve years to synthesize a studio-based practice with large-scale street art. In high-contrast acrylic paintings, the duo reference the climate crisis and enduring problems of overconsumption, especially regarding the immense impact that humans have on marine life and rising sea levels. The artists’ new exhibition Jusqu’ici tout va bien, which translates to “So far so good,” approaches environmental catastrophes like thawing glaciers and overfishing from a characteristically sardonic perspective.
Ressencourt and Roche focus on the absurdity of capitalist systems in the face of destruction. Paradoxes abound as surveyors plot developments on a melting ice sheet, supine whales are served up as giant sushi rolls, and oblivious holiday-makers dive from icebergs and wade around shorelines devoid of flora and fauna. “In spite of everything, Murmure favors in their art a form of beauty which contrasts with the cruelty, the stupidity, and the urgency of the situations depicted in their works,” the exhibition statement explains.
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Since 2018, German photographer Tom Hegen (previously) has been soaring above regions from western Australia and Senegal to France and Spain as he documents the vivid landscapes of salt production. His mesmerizing aerial images peer down at evaporation ponds that carve the earth into a patchwork of vibrant hues. “What attracted me was the graphic and abstract appearance of these landscapes, which almost has a painterly quality. This is also the core feature that aerial photography has to offer: an unfamiliar few at ordinary things that surround us,” Hegen shares about the project.
Spanning nearly 300 pages, a forthcoming book titled Salt Works compiles more than 160 images from the series. Although their footprints vary widely, many of the areas spotlighted approach extraction in a similar manner: Harvesters often route seawater into these fields or small pockets of land, and the sun and wind help evaporate the liquid, leaving the crystalline minerals behind. Micro bacteria tint the salt into striking pastures of rose, aqua, and ochre, transforming the areas into rich tapestries of color.
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At the heart of Garden of Eve, Harmonia Rosales’ comprehensive exhibition at UTA Artist Space in Beverly Hills, is the power of narrative. The show spans years of Rosales’ career, featuring dozens of portraits in oil and perhaps the grandest work she’s produced thus far: encircled with lights, an upturned ship towers over the gallery, allowing viewers to pass underneath and peer upwards at the frescoed expanse.
Referencing the vessels utilized in the transatlantic slave trade, the lofty structure re-envisions the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and uses Michaelangelo’s Renaissance works as a blueprint to recast Genesis through the lens of female empowerment and Orishas, deities in religions of the African diaspora. Dozens of Rosales’ paintings, like “Birth of Eve” and her 2017 “Creation of God” that garnered viral attention, cloak the ship with a narrative that’s both widely recognizable and subversive in its telling, with Black and Latinx subjects at the center. “I didn’t want it to be a chapel ceiling because then that’s against everything I’m trying to convey, especially with this Yoruba religion,” Rosales shares with Colossal. “So why not put it on the undercarriage of a slave ship, the very thing that brought these stories to us?”
Now based in Los Angeles, Rosales has roots in Chicago, the city where she began pursuing her art practice full-time and where she first conceived of the installation. Five years in the making, the project is a testament to the artist’s dedication to long-term thinking. Her process is relatively slow and requires as much research as hours at the easel, meaning she generally produces less than ten works each year. Back then, Rosales says, “I was trying to hide behind my paintings. I was thinking that, okay, if I just paint, people will understand that, but I knew I had to really speak on the paintings myself. This time allowed me to feel comfortable and to curate my message better in a way where all can understand.”
Rosales has long been concerned with communication and comprehension, particularly as she brings lesser-known deities into the mainstream and elevates such religious figures to the status of those within ancient Greco-Roman myth and the Christian iconography that have dominated much of art history. “All along, with all of these exhibitions, I was creating puzzle pieces, pieces to the Sistine Chapel,” she says about the smaller paintings. “Now people can go back and really understand it.”
Many of the works collapse time periods and blend references, like “Forbidden Fruit,” which centers on a woman encircled in a gold halo eating a slice of the pink melon. “Ever wonder why watermelon became a cruel stereotype?” Rosales asks. “It was the one fruit that symbolized Black self-sufficiency after emancipation.” Similarly, the titular work, “Garden of Eve,” centers on Yemaya, the mother of all Orishas in the Yoruba faith. Shielding her face from the chaos of children and florals, the spirit witnesses “the disruption of her perfect garden, (which) intentionally parallels the disruption of the African continent.”
Ultimately, Rosales wants to question dominant Eurocentric narratives and to expose that the Orishas and religions she’s referencing are as old, enduring, and relevant as others. “What came first? Why have these gods been hidden? Why haven’t they been mainstreamed?” she posits. “To hide these gods, thus our identity, it’s keeping us in check. The more that they get out, the more that we are realizing that this is old. It strengthens us as a whole.”
Garden of Eve is up through November 30 in Beverly Hills. Rosales will continue working within stories of creation as she prepares for her solo show opening in March at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. Until then, find more from her on Instagram.
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Ful/mine is a collaborative network of underground artists from all over the world: a digital melting pot that’s becoming the home of unconventional performative art, music, illustration, poetry, literature, and cutting-edge artistic practices.
The idea was born from a commitment at the hands of Guidi—the iconic Italian shoe and bag designer known worldwide for its exceptional leather, stylistic flair, and avant-garde references—to showcase their deep bonds with experimental art. They are putting this need into practice by effectively supporting emerging artists through this patronage of the arts project, as in the Italian lineage of “Mecenate” (just like Lorenzo De Medici, who by coincidence was born in Tuscany, same as Guidi).
Each piece of art displayed on Ful/mine is commissioned by a curatorial board (visual artist and editor Ruben Spini, art curator Vittoria De Franchis, and Art Director Enrico Manganaro under the guidance of Editorial and Artistic Director Virginia W. Ricci), and then displayed in what we can define as a freaky digital artspace pushing the boundaries of the ordinary.
With Ful/mine (follow on Instagram at @fulmine.art), Guidi wants to put people at the center, especially the artists who are already involved in @GUIDI_community on Instagram, which counts more than 80,000 followers from around the world. By immersing visitors in underground art in all of its manifestations, Ful/mine acts as a container of multisensory experiences, prompting audiences to change their perspectives and get constantly inspired.
“Ful/mine is a chamber of wonders where those uncanny sparks that enlighten and strike us are showcased and connected. Impulsive, impetuous, bold, and electric. Just like a lightning bolt.” —Virginia W. Ricci, Editorial and Artistic Director of Ful/mine
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One way to approach the cinematic sketchbook drawings by Katherine Akmulun is to think about literature. “When we read a book, not only do we look at the characters, but the characters are looking at us,” she says. “And they see much more than we think.” This awareness forms the basis of the artist’s ongoing series of drawings that capture intimate interactions, bold gestures, and momentary expressions. From a young age, a fascination with human anatomy and love of reading inspired a wish to become “a kind of writer,” she explains, and “since I feel insecure about words, the only way out for me was to keep a kind of personal diary with sketches instead of words.”
In ballpoint pen and colored pencil, Akmulun explores the duality of two facing pages by creating images that are distinctive from each other yet empathetic to one another. A close-up of hands grasping lightly at the fingertips complements a joyful scene of two women dancing, or a young child clasps her mother’s hand while gazing across the binding at a man who walks briskly across an open plane. Part story and part snapshot, the mysterious narratives reference historic images and are open to interpretation. “The funny thing is that different people can see different scenes in the same picture,” she says. “And this is incredibly cool, because we all have different life experiences, different environments, and different interests.”
Akmulun travels often and is influenced by the nuances of everyday experiences, which she captures using a minimal palette. She aims to collect and record feelings and memories in the books, but she’s not precious about keeping them intact. “I love to rip out pages,” she says. “I like to realize that the pages of my personal diary can travel the world, and can find their home not only in my sketchbook. I am pleased that people want to have a piece of my personal world in their home.”
Akmulun occasionally makes pages available for sale, and you can follow more of her work on Instagram.
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