The Wound: JR's New Anamorphic Artwork Appears to Carve Out the Facade of Florence's Palazzo Strozzi
French artist JR unveiled an imposing artwork at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence last week that mimics a massive gash in the institution’s Renaissance-era facade. Spanning 28 x 33 meters, “La Ferita,” or “The Wound,” is an anamorphic collage that appears to reveal the iconic artworks housed inside the building, in addition to a stately courtyard colonnade, exhibition hall, and library. Exposing different parts of the interior as the viewer shifts position, the artwork is in response to the lack of accessibility at cultural institutions since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Completed alongside a team of 11 in two months, the site-specific piece was constructed 30 centimeters in front of the 15th Century ashlar facade with a metal structure and 80 panels of Dibond aluminum. It features JR’s signature photographic style—similar projects were installed at Williamsburg’s Domino Park, the Louvre, and the U.S./Mexico border—and includes a mix of real and imagined elements, including black-and-white renderings of Botticelli’s “Primavera” and “Birth of Venus” and Giambologna’s “The Rape of the Sabine Women,” in addition to prominent spaces like the Istituto Nazionale di Studi sul Rinascimento.
“The Wound” is layered further with references to art history, from its use of the trompe l’oeil technique that grew in popularity in the 1500s to its evocation of ruinism, an 18th Century style that portrayed ancient architecture “as testimonials to a glorious past in a dramatic reflection on the fate of mankind,” a release says, noting that Palazzo Strozzi will not be preserving the piece beyond its initial construction.
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Saigon-based artist Mai Ta veils the subjects of her nuanced paintings with leaves, long locks of hair, splayed hands, and dim lighting. Utilizing muted tones and saturation, she works primarily in gouache to render lone women in domestic settings, creating introspective scenes that question what’s visible. “Obscurity in my work represents my own inability to be confident about who I am,” the artist tells Colossal. “It’s easier to hide behind my hair (shadows, plants, anything) than to honestly express how I really feel.”
Many of the pieces stem from Ta’s background, although she strives to connect her experiences and the viewers’. I Set the Moon on Fire Because She Wouldn’t Wake Up, a series comprised of many of the paintings shown here, was transformative in helping her realize that “exploring my own personal narrative and emotions can be both therapeutic and visually exciting,” she says. “I made work about how my friends’ and (my) rooftop moon-watching sessions moved me. I made work about my own heartbreak. I made work about missing and loving Vietnam.”
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From hunks of beechwood or maple, artist Ariele Alasko carves sculptural works that take the shape of smooth curves, ruffles, and squiggled lines. The elegant pieces play with contrast and negative space and are assembled into abstract compositions, whether as a smaller wall object or expansive mobile-style suspension. In a note to Colossal, Alasko shares that she strives to sustainably source all of her materials, whether from local lumber yards or her own property in Washington State. The artist holds a BFA in sculpture from Pratt Institute, and you can follow her carvings on Instagram.
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Disembodied faces and fingers encircle the surreal vessels created by Canopic Studio, a Los Angeles-based practice helmed by Claire and Curran Wedner. Known for their ceramics that display human anatomy in a repetitious pattern, the husband and wife recently diverged from the black-and-white works previously mentioned on Colossal to create a series entirely in celadon, a jade color with a rich history.
The translucent glaze originated in China and was prominent throughout the country for centuries before being replaced by blue-and-white porcelain. It’s traditionally made with a bit of iron oxide—too little creates a blue color, while too much produces a darker olive or black—and then fired in a reducing kiln at a high temperature.
Curran says he first experimented with the glaze in 2004 as part of a ceramics class and returned to it now after researching cone 10 gas firing and reduction, or the process of decreasing oxygen in the kiln. The resulting pieces shift in color with the light, a trait that dovetails with the studio’s interest in mutable identities and idiosyncrasies that shows up in the shape of their works.
Pieces are created using the same mold to produce similar, but not identical, body parts. When attached in rows on the mug or bowl, the single face or finger becomes one of many, each defined by its slight difference. “I’m interested in identity and how it shifts when we go from being alone to being a part of a crowd,” Curran says. He explains:
I like prodding that space in between, where identity feels almost pliable or molten, then hardens, then shifts again, and so on. When the face I’m using is pulled from a single mold, it has a surreal quality—so identical it’s almost eerie, and all the tiny flaws and differences come forward when they otherwise wouldn’t.
Right now, Canopic Studio is in the process of creating a line of face medallions finished with 22 karat gold. The duo list new pieces bi-monthly on Etsy, and you can keep an eye out for shop updates and see works-in-progress on Instagram.
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Absolut Art is making artworks by some of the world’s most prominent artists more accessible through a collection of limited-edition prints. Ever since The Absolut Company collaborated with Andy Warhol on an iconic ad campaign in 1986, the company has been closely connected with creative voices around the globe and continuously strives to bring diverse voices to the fore.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, Absolut Art is putting a spotlight on five artists: Zoë Buckman, Mona Chalabi, Shantell Martin, Tiff Massey, and Malin Gabriella Nordin are amongst the leading creators of our time, showing their work in museums, galleries, and a variety of publications.
- New York-based Zoë Buckman has presented her sculptures, installations, and photography from Los Angeles to South Africa and delves into themes of feminism, mortality, and equality. “The artworks that most successfully unpack the status quo,” she says, “are the pieces that invite people in and create a space for dialogue.”
- Detroit-based artist Tiff Massey has exhibited her work globally from New York to the Netherlands and creates sculptures and wearable artworks that draw on extravagant adornment in hip-hop culture. Referencing a series of brass jewelry, she once said, “It’s all about that moment when you’re really feeling yourself.”
- In her practice, Shantell Martin explores her own identity as a queer woman of color, while offering affirming messages like “You are you.” The talented and prolific artist has partnered with the global sensation Lizzo, Grammy-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar, the American Ballet, and Google, as well as had solo museum shows around the world.
- London-born writer and artist Mona Chalabi is all about quality data journalism, and her work often illuminates statistics through illustrations. “The ultimate goal,” she says, “is to make information accessible in as joyous a way as possible.” She’s contributed data drawings to publications like The New York Times, The Guardian, and the Emmy-nominated series The Vagina Dispatches.
- Exhibiting her paintings and collages in China, the U.S., and Mexico, Stockholm-based artist Malin Gabriella Nordin works across multiple mediums, ranging from painting to illustration and sculpture to installation. She has compared her intuitive creative process to a game of telephone, in which the work-in-progress shifts in form and meaning during its creation.
To learn more about these artists and explore a larger collection of works in celebration of Women’s History Month, visit Absolut Art’s site.
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A Monumental Bas-Relief Sculpture by Nick Cave Connects Senegalese and U.S. Cultures in a Web of Beadwork
Innumerable pony beads, pipe cleaners, sequins, and objects gathered from two continents overlay a web of rainbow mesh that’s suspended in the U.S. Embassy atrium in Dakar. Installed in 2012, the expansive work by Chicago-based artist Nick Cave (previously) is composed of amorphous swells and circular patches of multicolor netting that stretch 20 x 25 feet. Physically connecting pieces of both U.S. and Senegalese culture, the webbed, bas-relief sculpture symbolically stands as “a unifier that brings people together,” Cave says in an interview.
Virginia Shore and Robert Soppelsa curated the project for Art in Embassies, a program led by the U.S. Department of State that fosters cross-cultural exchange through visual arts and spans more than 200 venues in 189 countries. “When you think about Art in Embassies and cultural diplomacy, what is interesting for me, as an artist, is, how can I facilitate that within the work that is developed? Yes, I will create the piece for the embassy, but I was also interested in ways to integrate the artists that live and work here,” he says.
Cave developed the structural portion of the work in his Chicago studio, and after meeting Sengalese artists, scholars, and students, he utilized pieces from three locals—Seni M’Baye, Loman Pawlitschek, and Daouda N’Diaye—once on site. The resulting installation, which weighs nearly 500 pounds, took Cave and ten assistants more than three months to complete.
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