In Pat Perry’s Sensemaking, there’s no rubric for telling a story. In quiet scenes framed through roadside vantage points and performances of costumed figures and contemporary symbols, the Detroit-based artist (previously) considers the deeply American tendency to configure the world with single, flat narratives. Perry takes an opposing approach, though, and instead layers his pieces with contradiction, complexity, and unusual details that reflect the current moment.
Rendered in subtle color palettes, his drawings and paintings pull from the visual lexicon of Midwestern life (i.e. children playing on pipe abandoned in a field or a lone figure sitting at a card table on the sidewalk), although they contain imaginative twists and nuanced social commentary: swimming pools sit below an underpass, banners display Craigslist ads, and fleeting social media trends are printed on large posters. “These paintings and drawings offer a joyful glimpse into an invented world; one that’s closely related to the one right in front of us; one that we so often struggle to see clearly and make sense of,” a statement about the series says.
In a lengthy essay published by Juxtapoz back in August, Perry elaborates on the impetus for his latest works, which center around a broad theme of flawed logic. He revists his attempts to understand the world through the lens of his religious childhood in Michigan and later, the anarchic ideologies that guided his early adult years, and the two conflicting narratives profoundly impact the artist’s approach today. “Chapter Three of my life so far has had something to do with recognizing that truly lessening suffering maybe has less to do with understanding the world, or playing an oversized role in it. It may not be about constantly ‘using my voice,'” he writes.
Sensemaking, which features dozens of new paintings, charcoal drawings, and works in acrylic and pen, is on view from October 6 through November 16 at Hashimoto Contemporary in New York, and you can follow Perry’s work on Instagram.
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Artist Lee Me Kyeoung (previously) continues her decades-long project of painting the dwindling number of Korean corner stores, rendering quaint shops in Yangsan, Gyeongju, Gunwi, Sangju, and Cheorwon as part of her ongoing A Small Store series. The delicate artworks capture the idiosyncrasies and tiny details of each locale, like a plastic washbasket left out front or signage hanging from the eaves, and the vast collection includes shops in both remote and bustling neighborhoods across South Korea. Encapsulating the unique qualities of the quickly shuttering stores, Me Keyoung’s paintings preserve their cultural legacies in detailed acrylic.
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Using scraps of vibrant Ankara fabric, Lagos-based artist Marcellina Oseghale Akpojotor fashions intimate portraits that consider the fragmented and varied inner lives of her subjects. The intricately composed depictions rely on a cacophony of patterns arranged in loose ripples and tufts, creating a patchwork of color and texture. Although the textiles are Dutch in origin—they’re colloquially known as “African print fabrics”—they have a strong cultural significance, and by piecing together the assorted motifs, Akpojotor establishes a shared visual memory.
Set against uncluttered, domestic backdrops rendered in acrylic, the fiber-based figures are often disrupted with small spots of paint as a way to “speak to the influence our environment has in shaping us as individuals,” Akpojotor shares. “They represent the connections we have with our background and immediate society and how these often ignored elements form a part of our being.” Navigating the links between subjects and their surroundings is an ongoing concern for the artist, whose work delves into the effects of the current moment, in addition to the ways personal histories and the actions of previous generations have lasting impacts.
Akpojotor is represented by Rele Gallery, where her work will be on view later this month, and she’s currently working on pieces that explore how education affects women’s empowerment, which you can follow on Instagram. (via Women’s Art)
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In her vibrant, neon-lit paintings, artist Gigi Chen intertwines ornate jewelry, graffiti, and glowing signs emblematic of urban life with foliage, feathers, and wide expanses of sky. Her acrylic pieces center on birds and other small animals in their natural environments with surreal, manufactured additions: a heron cradles a bright pink house on its back, two rabbits peer over a bush at an illuminated parking sign, and an owl carries an old payphone across a glacial landscape.
A lifelong New Yorker, Chen tells Colossal that once her family immigrated to the U.S. from Guangdong, China, when she was eight months old, they didn’t often venture beyond the city’s confines. “The fear of not being able to communicate clearly with strangers was very prevalent growing up, and it really restrained us from doing too much traveling during my early childhood even though my parents could drive,” she says, noting that it wasn’t until an artist residency in Vermont when she was 18 that she found herself interacting with nature. “I realized how small the Big City really is. I was terrified of the pitch blackness, the dense forest, and the dirt and the bugs. But I was totally in love and overwhelmed by how sublime and random nature is.”
These early experiences continue to impact Chen’s work as she confronts lush, forest ecosystems and cloudy sunsets through the lens of city life. “The dichotomy of the neon onto natural subjects like leaves and birds and trees makes for beautiful metaphors about how people relate to the flora and fauna,” she says. “Adding artificial light sources to a natural environment helped me to reimagine and expand the kinds of stories I could tell and broaden how I could convey personal messages.”
Many of the animal protagonists embody the artist’s experiences particularly those in her new series Light My Way Home, which is on view through October 24 at Antler Gallery in Portland. The metaphorical works are ruminations on home, family, and the security those two provide, and the pieces often portray the artist and her sisters as red-winged blackbirds with her late mother as the blue heron. “Home Away From Home Away From Home,” which depicts the three smaller birds encircling the other as she flies away, “represents what happened after the death of my mother,” Chen says. “Here, we are seeking the sense of safety and stability that my mother once represented to us and endlessly chasing the Ideal of Home.”
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Metaphorical Paintings by Calida Garcia Rawles Obscure Black Subjects with Gleaming Ripples of Water
Artist Calida Garcia Rawles continues her explorations into the myriad possibilities of water with paintings distorted by bubbles, pockets of air, and ripples reflecting the light above. She suspends Black figures in otherwise imperceptible moments, like the pause that immediately follows a fully-clothed plunge into a pool, conveying a vulnerable and fleeting interaction between her subjects and their surroundings. With submerged profiles or mirrored features, many are unidentifiable. “You really can’t see a face. They become almost forms and a part of their environment,” she tells Colossal. “I think there’s a spiritual element to water… They’re formless, and we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves.”
Many of the poetic renderings depict figures in billowing gowns or collared shirts in white for the color’s association with virtue and purity, a symbolic choice that’s connected to the artist’s interest in broader questions of race and its implications. “A lot of times innocence is not associated with the Black body. I thought it was a place to start,” she says. In an exploration of Rawles’s work, writer Roxane Gay further connects these questions to the water itself, sharing that the ripples in the artist’s paintings reference “the topographical maps of cities where Black lives have been tragically lost.”
Each painting is based on photographs the artist takes herself—read more about her lengthy research process previously on Colossal—and captures water’s incredible power and meditative qualities. For Rawles, the fluid spaces are metaphorical and tied broadly to Water-Memory Theory, or the idea that the vital liquid can preserve all of its interactions. “(I’m) remembering what water does, that it holds history in a way,” she says. “Water has everything that’s been through it, and that’s fascinating to me.”
Her practice is circular, and she’s likely to return to a thought or broader theme after setting it aside. The ethereal, abstract paintings that comprise the new series On the Other Side of Everything, for example, are extensions of those in A Dream For My Lillith, six paintings featuring clothed figures who are obscured by lustrous ripples of water rendered in acrylic. “It’s not a departure,” Rawles says of her new work. “It’s just showing more range of what I can do.”
On the Other Side of Everything is on view at Lehmann Maupin in New York through October 23, and the artist is currently working on her first mural at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. You can follow her progress on that large-scale work and see more of her process on Instagram.
Update: This article was updated for context on October 13, 2021.
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Surrounding Black children with jumbled masses of cartoon characters, doodles, and explosions of color, Chicago-based artist Kayla Mahaffey (previously) imagines adolescent daydreams and an array of playtime inventions. She infuses her acrylic paintings with a longing for carefree summer days, mornings spent watching the foibles of favorite animated characters, and hours left open for adventure, capturing feelings of joy and curiosity. Vividly rendered and layered with squiggles and globs of color, the large-scale works find “value in the sugar-coated nostalgia,” which Mahaffey explains:
There have been numerous occasions where we omit the truths of our past to only be met with the disappointments of the future, a never-ending cycle that has influenced our current era for the best and the worst. Even though we’re currently going through a very troubling era, let’s take a moment to remember those times where we felt the most safe or where we felt the happiest. Many of us wish to go back to that life, but not to change anything, but to feel a few cherished things, once again.
If you’re near Culver City, you can see the pieces shown here as part of Remember the Time at Thinkspace Projects from September 18 to October 9. Otherwise, find Mahaffey on Instagram to see where she’s headed next.
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