Rendered in sparse, sweeping lines and textured shapes, the women of Luciano Cian’s Tête portraits embody proximity and escape from formality. The digital series, short for tête-a-tête, is the latest in the Rio de Janeiro-based artist’s geometric body of work, which utilizes bright color palettes and minimal markings to define the contours of a cheek or shoulder. Each piece is an invitation, Cian shares, offering an intimate interaction with the anonymous subject.
The artist (previously) recently finished ten digital drawings and one acrylic painting (shown below) for Vozes Negras, A Força do Canto Feminino, or Black Voices, The Power of Feminine Singing, a musical theater production at Teatro Prudential on view through June 26. Originals and prints are available from Saatchi Art, and Cian shares an extensive archive of portraits and other works on Behance and Instagram.
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San Antonio-based artist Jason Limon (previously) conjures paper sculptures of 18th Century-style gowns, organs, and hollowed skulls with acrylic paint. The uncanny structures trap his recurring skeletal characters in cramped boxes and funhouse-esque constructions, where they attempt to disentangle themselves from their surroundings. Rendered in muted pigments, or what the artist calls “repressed tones,” the paintings utilize the anonymity and ubiquity of the bony figures to invoke emotional narratives. Limon explains:
Paper allows us to know the stories of the past, and I’ve always been drawn to that notion… I use paper to build the shapes to tell my thoughts. In most instances, I will use box-like or folded paper shapes, but more recently I want to explore the insides of these containers to see what complexities I might find.
The pieces shown here are part of Limon’s ongoing Fragments series and are part of Stripped Down on view through June 5 at Haven Gallery in Long Island. Limon also has another solo show slated for November at San Antonio’s BLK WHT GRY, and until then, you can browse originals and prints in his shop and follow his works on Instagram.
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Whether working in acrylic on panel or illustrating a scene for one of his children’s books, artist Oliver Jeffers is fascinated by positioning. He returns to questions about perspective and finding a place in the world amidst chaotic politics and an overwhelmingly vast universe.
In The Night in Bloom, a series of ten works soon to be on view at Praise Shadows Art Gallery in Brookline, Massachusetts, Jeffers imagines explosive astronomical scenes and impeccably aligned constellations. One work shrouds an abandoned picnic in deep blues and purples before erupting into a bright nebula, cradling stars between the soft glow of city skylines. Another piece, which the artist will replicate at a massive scale on a facade at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, depicts a figure at home underneath a colorful expanse of galaxies and celestial bodies.
Each of the stellar works, which are the artist’s first rendered in acrylic, celebrates the possibilities of the unknown. He explains:
The worlds beyond our world, whose clues only reveal themselves when the light of our day grows low enough to view the dramatic and brilliantly colorful heavens after dusk, suggest a vastness we cannot possibly comprehend above our heads. These are the same heads that grow bored of looking for what to play on the radio, wonder when our internet purchase will arrive, or what activity we will use to pass the time this weekend. Perhaps there is more to this business of being alive than we give ourselves time (and perspective) to enjoy.
Jeffers, who splits his time between Belfast and Brooklyn, recently unveiled Our Place in Space, a series of sculptures that bring the solar system to Northern Ireland and Cambridge. This immersive experience complements The Night in Bloom, which will run from June 3 to July 10. Explore more of the artist’s dreamy paintings, sculptures, and illustrations on his site and Instagram.
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How do we get from where we are to where we want to be with all of these constructs in the way? How do we move forward if we are constantly having to fight back? The past rolls in like a fog and clogs conversations about tomorrow with despair.
April Bey, a Black, queer, mixed-media artist, reminds us that sometimes, in order to get free, we must transcend. Positioning herself within the Afro-futurist tradition, she works with a fictional universe called Atlantica. Atlantica is inspired by the alien stories her father used to tell her as a child to explain racial oppression in the Bahamas and the U.S. Now, based in Los Angeles, Bey uses Atlantica to construct the aesthetics of the future—a reality where Black people are free from the confines of white supremacy, capitalism, and colonialism.
As a Nassau, Bahamas native, Bey also incorporates the region’s tropical flora in her work. She positions the futurity of Black people in direct relationship to the environment, which can manifest as a physical landscape buzzing with harmonious texture, and draws on the legacy of Black art and literature that demonstrates how the natural world has always been part of Black liberation.
Her intricate stitching of Black people in grandeur also adds a layer of decadence to these stories that is reminiscent of African diasporic cuisine. Food seasoned over long periods of time or slow-cooked absorbs the depths of those flavors, and when tasted, envelops the palette. The process and attention to detail, alongside the historical and cultural knowledge, are the foundation.
This work, like the environment and cuisine, is immersive. Sequins, eco-fur frames, wax fabric woven into large-scale blankets, and colorful patterns are enticing in their pleasure and vitality. The sense-heavy appeal helps transport the viewer beyond the visual and into the spirit of the body, connecting generations across space and time and planting the seeds of the future. Alexis Pauline Gumbs demonstrates this connection in an essay on combat breathing, which our ancestors used to claim their freedom in a world that would not acknowledge it, and Bey conjures this through-line in stirring pieces such as “Don’t Think We’re Soft Because We’re Gracious.”
Bey’s work adds to the long and transformative history of Black and queer people who have subverted power structures through futurity, love, and hybridity. And how fitting? For she knows that to be queer is to live in the future anyway.
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In Looks, artist Derrick Adams references the immense potential of a wig to alter an appearance and construct a persona. The exhibition, which is on view at the Cleveland Museum of Art through May 29 alongside a survey of art and fashion photography titled The New Black Vanguard (opens May 8), shows nine of Adam’s portraits rendered in the artist’s distinct geometric style evocative of “Benin heads, Kwele masks, Kota reliquary figures,” and other West African masks and sculptures, he says in a statement.
Standing more than eight feet tall, the acrylic-and-graphite works center on busts with direct gazes, their faces mapped with different skin tones and makeup lining rounded eyelids and lips. The elaborate wigs in rainbow stripes and faded ombre are inspired by the salons and shops in Adams’ Brooklyn neighborhood. He reinterprets these functional wearables as bold, two-dimensional portraits that speak to the importance of hair in Black culture and the power of defining oneself through spectacular, joyful adornments. He explains about the works:
I feel more than ever that it is essential for artists to make work that celebrates Black culture. As a Black man, I am aware of my vulnerability and susceptibility to trauma and oppression on a daily basis. I personally don’t need to be reminded of it in art and choose to instead highlight Black normalcy. Those who participate in Black culture understand there are images that are less important for us to see than images of joy.
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Armed with polyurethane foam, epoxy resin, and acrylic, artist Dan Lam (previously) sculpts technicolor forms that ooze, bubble, and trickle in long drips. She layers materials into masses of neon color progressions and textured blobs, forming amorphous puddles and mounds with cavernous insides.
Lam’s solo show Personal Legend expands the artist’s repertoire to include perfectly round reliefs with concentric gradients. Created by pouring and spreading resin over the foundational shape—head to Lam’s Instagram to dive into the process—the wall-based works are coated in droplets that bead on the surface. Mesmerizing in dimension and vibrant color palette, the resulting sculptures are displayed as single circles or large, sprawling clusters.
Personal Legend is on view through May 7 at Stephanie Chefas Projects in Portland.
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Editor's Picks: Illustration
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.