It’s generally understood that terrestrial plant life evolved from algae, one key to its successful adaptation being roots that sprawled underground to absorb important nutrients and water. Billions of years later, the fibrous networks are essential to life across the planet as they ensure the growth and health of individual specimens, help prevent erosion, and capture carbon from the air.
A collaborative project of the late botanists Erwin Lichtenegger and Lore Kutschera celebrates the power and beauty of these otherwise hidden systems through detailed drawings of agricultural crops, shrubs, trees, and weeds. Digitized by the Wageningen University & Research, the extensive archive is the culmination of 40 years of research in Austria that involved cultivating and carefully retrieving developed plant life from the soil for study. It now boasts more than 1,000 renderings of the winding, spindly roots, some of which branch multiple feet wide.
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Between September 1998 and January 2001, Andrew Moore traveled around Cuba meeting residents and photographing them among their built environments. He snapped more than 700 8 x 10 color negatives during that period, producing a staggering visual record of a particular moment in the country’s history primarily shown through its architecture.
Through Moore’s lens, Cuba’s palatial residences and generally lavish interiors with marble and gilded details are shown tinged with decay: Paint peels from a ceiling to reveal structural wooden slats, broken windows are left in disrepair, and mismatched outdoor seating and modern appliances become out-of-place furnishings in once opulent rooms.
Shot mostly in urban metropolises, the alluring images are evidence of architecture’s power to both respond to and produce a community’s way of life. Havana, Moore shares with Colossal, is built vertically, with tile roofs, high ceilings, and tall windows that encircle central courtyards and offer relief from the fierce heat and sun. “The daylight is generally hard and creates deep shadows, while by night, which falls quickly, the city is quite dark with little by way of street lighting,” he says. Outdoor walls bleach over time from the sun, and verdant foliage and plant life grow in lush tufts from window boxes and landscaped villas.
Many of the buildings Moore photographed were constructed before air-conditioning was ubiquitous and at the time, hadn’t undergone significant updates. During his visit—Cuba and its residents were notably experiencing the effects of U.S. embargos between 1998 and 2001—this resulted in dozens of residents living together in a structure designed for single families. He explains:
These domestic clusters are known as solars. Given these crowded living conditions, and the tropical climate, Havana can seem like a city inside out: in their extraordinary activity, the overflowing streets remind one of a vast living room. Thus it became of particular importance to me to depict the architectural fabric of this unique city and country within the context of its people.
Residents, while often seen in the distance of the frame, add intimacy and humanity to the series. Along with assistants Ondrej Kubicek, Laurence Dutton, Kevin Fletcher, and Bart Michels, Moore interacted with locals and heard stories about their lives, which were translated by his friend Paquito Vives, while producing the collection. “All of us learned about the city by walking its streets, by knocking on doors, and through talking with the residents about the history of their city,” he shares. “People would frequently complain about the condition of their houses, but they were always friendly and most freely invited us into their homes for a small coffee and long conversations.”
Professionally for Moore, this staggering body of work was his first chance to gather “color harmony, natural light, deep and shallow space, narrative detail, cultural history, and the human figure” within a single image. It was inspired by Julius Schulman’s photos of Mid-Century Modern architecture and the way people configure within a space, a concern that’s visible throughout his extensive archive of locales in Russia and Ukraine, New York, and Detroit.
Currently based in Kingston, New York, Moore has published six volumes of his photos, and you can find two of the most recent, Blue Alabama and Dirt Meridian, on Bookshop. He’s currently preparing for a solo show featuring Hudson Valley landscapes, which will be on view in 2023 at Yancey Richardson. Until then, see more of his work on his site and Instagram. (via swissmiss)
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Whether it’s to advance your career or try something new, the Division of Continuing Education at the School of Visual Arts offers more than 230 courses to choose from. Visit sva.edu/ce to view free events and all online and on-campus offerings. Courses begin on January 24.
Online courses are available in:
- Art & Activism
- Fine Arts
- Global Arts
- Illustration and Cartooning
- Interior Design
- Photography and Video
- Professional Development
- Visual and Critical Studies
- Visible Futures Lab
- Visual Narrative
If you need advice or have questions please email [email protected] to connect with one of
our course advisors.
About the School of Visual Arts
School of Visual Arts has been a leader in the education of artists, designers, and
creative professionals for seven decades. With a faculty of distinguished working
professionals, a dynamic curriculum, and an emphasis on critical thinking, SVA is a
catalyst for innovation and social responsibility. Comprising 6,000 students at its
Manhattan campus and 35,000 alumni in 100 countries, SVA also represents one of the
most influential artistic communities in the world. For information about the College
please visit sva.edu.
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Evoking the spread wings of a bird in flight or a dancer’s graceful bends, the paper sculptures created by Richard Sweeney (previously) convey movement through an intricate display of folds and pleats. The monochromatic works, which the West Yorkshire, England-based artist manipulates into their final shapes with small cuts, wet creases, and dabs of adhesive, are abstract and asymmetrical in form, inspiring a range of associations. “People see different things—animal skulls and a spinal column being a few of my favorites mentioned so far,” he tells Colossal.
Sweeney’s process has remained largely the same during the last few years, and he still crafts a variety of malleable, modular forms like the pliable helix shown below, although he now gravitates toward more organic shapes that appear to flow from one end to the other. “I like to go out walking in the countryside, so there is plenty to see there that influences me—birds in flight, streams, and rivers, cloud formations—so I’ll make sketches and take photographs and let that guide my sculptural work. I don’t usually work with a particular form in mind,” he says, noting that each sculpture often takes multiple weeks to complete.
Pick up a copy of Sweeney’s Fluid Forms for a deeper look at his practice, and if you’re in London, stop by Deirdre Dyson before January 14 to see his pieces in person. You can also follow his latest works on Instagram.
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In a towering, totem-style sculpture titled “The Garden,” Canadian artist Maskull Lasserre (previously) compresses a collection of 18th-century botanical texts between two parallel planks of Douglas Fir. Metal vices bore through the wooden beams, securing the first four volumes of William Withering’s An Arrangement of British Plants, although both the natural and manufactured components are eroded with Lasserre’s intricately carved snake that winds around the perimeter and appears to bind the individual components together. “The Garden” is one of the artist’s most recent works that metaphorically and physically considers the concept of tension, and you can see more in his portfolio.
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LEGO are the (literal) building blocks behind an array of creative endeavors—we’ve featured dozens on Colossal over the years from Ekow Nimako’s elaborate world-building series to Jumpei Mitsui’s sculptural recreation of Hokusai’s “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”—and are put to another inventive use in Craig Ward’s ongoing Brik Font project.
While playing with his children last fall, the New York-based designer realized the plastic pieces could be an interesting analog complement to the brand identities he spends his days working on. “I’ve always enjoyed the restrictions of modular type design, and I’m surprised it took me this long to put the two things together,” he tells Colossal. He then began shaping the bricks into ubiquitous typefaces like Helvetica and Garamond and physical renditions of digital relics.
This sparked a full-scale project involving dozens of typographic studies: a scroll through the Brik Font Instagram reveals single letters, throwback video game logos, and references to anti-aliased words like the pixelated “ok” shown above. The project already has led to collaborations with Apple and a knitwear brand, and Ward is in the process of preparing a book on the idea. He’s also released printables on Etsy and prints on Society6. (via Kottke)
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Editor's Picks: Art
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.