A Landmark Retrospective and Book Delve into Two Decades of Artist Theaster Gates’ Career
The first major retrospective of its kind, Young Lords and Their Traces unveils the aesthetic and intellectual lineage that’s guided artist Theaster Gates for the past two decades. Accompanied by a forthcoming monograph, the landmark exhibition encompasses a broad swath of Gates’ work and life and shows how his understandings of preservation, memory, and collective knowledge have continually evolved and manifested. In addition to vast archives, small ceramic sculptures, and his sweeping, multi-panel tar paintings, the Chicago-based artist also brings new site-specific installations to the New Museum to create communal spaces for gathering and reflection.
For the past two decades, much of Gates’ practice has revolved around shared knowledge and the idea that archiving is an act of devotion, a sentiment echoed in his transformation of a dilapidated South Side bank into a renowned art center and also throughout the exhibition. Its title pays homage to the radical, revolutionary thinkers who profoundly impacted American culture, and an entire floor is filled with references to the artist’s aesthetic and intellectual influences, including curator Okwui Enwezor and writer bell hooks. Objects like the library of the late Russian film and literature scholar Robert Bird and a tar kettle gifted by the artist’s father highlight Gates’ desire for care, conservation, and interpreting the everyday. He describes the latter as a “memorial to the history of labor and the ways in which labor is a beautiful, spiritual way of transmitting energy.”
Young Lords and Their Traces is on view through February 2, 2023, and you can pre-order the monograph on Bookshop.
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Dive into Van Gogh Worldwide, a Digital Archive of More Than 1,000 Works by the Renowned Dutch Artist
A point of levity during the temporary shutdowns of museums and cultural institutions during the last few months has been the plethora of digital archives making artworks and historical objects available for perusing from the comfort and safety of our couches. A recent addition is Van Gogh Worldwide, a massive collection of the post-impressionist artist’s paintings, sketches, and drawings.
From landscapes to self-portraits to classic still lifes, the archive boasts more than 1,000 artworks, which are sorted by medium, period, and participating institution—those include the Van Gogh Museum, Kröller-Müller Museum, the Rijksmuseum, the Netherlands Institute for Art History, and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Each digital piece is supported by details about the work, any restorations, and additional images.
In his short lifetime that spanned just 37 years, the prolific Dutch artist created thousands of works, many of which he finished in his final months. His thick brushstrokes are widely recognized today, particularly in masterpieces like “The Starry Night,” although his sketches, drawings, and prints offer a nuanced look at his entire oeuvre. (via My Modern Met)
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Download Hundreds of Frames from Studio Ghibli Animations for Video-Chat Backgrounds for Free
Thanks to Studio Ghibli, you can hide piles of laundry and errant messes while videoconferencing from home with one of 400 stills from classic animations. The renowned Japanese animation studio recently released an online archive of images— which boasts iconic frames from films like Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo and Spirited Away and Isao Takahata’s The Tale of the Princess Kaguya available—for free download. Each month, Studio Ghibli will add an additional eight images, mostly derived from new works.
This recent collection appears to be an extension of the studio’s release of video-conferencing backgrounds earlier this year. Explore the entire archive and watch for upcoming projects, which include a new Miyazaki-directed film, on the studio’s site. (via Hyperallergic)
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Nearly 100,000 Images by Harlem Photographer Shawn Walker Acquired by Library of Congress
Working alongside the Photography Collections Preservation Project, the Library of Congress recently announced that it has acquired nearly 100,000 photographs, negatives, and transparencies by Harlem-based African American photographer Shawn Walker. Depicting the rich culture of the New York City neighborhood, the collection spans nearly six decades from the 1960s to the present and is the first comprehensive archive of an African American photographer to join the national library.
Walker also donated a 2,500-piece collection of audio recordings, images, and ephemera representing the Kamoinge Workshop, a collective of Black photographers established in 1963. Self-identifying as a “fine arts photographer with a documentary foundation,” Walker was born and raised in Harlem and has worked to capture the neighborhood as he sees it.
“I look for the truth within the image, the multi-layers of existence and the ironies in our everyday lives,” he said in a statement to PCPP. “Working from a Black Aesthetic, my work tries to speak to everyone. For more than 50 years, I have tried to reflect on the positive aspects of my community and to see the relationships between various communities of color.”
“We are very pleased to celebrate the addition of these two important collections to the Library’s extensive representation of African American life in the United States, from photography’s earliest formats to the present day,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said in a statement. The New York Times reports that once organized, Walker’s archive will be made available to view via appointment. Some of his photography along with works by 14 other Kamoinge Workshop members will also be exhibited this summer (July-October 2020) at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
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History Illustration Science
150,000 Botanical and Animal Illustrations Available for Free Download from Biodiversity Heritage Library
Billed as the world’s largest open access digital archive dedicated to life on Earth, the Biodiversity Heritage Library is comprised of animal sketches, historical diagrams, botanical studies, and various scientific research collected from hundreds of thousands of journals and libraries around the globe. In an effort to share information and promote collaboration to combat the ongoing climate crisis, the site boasts a collection of more than 55 million pages of literature, some of which dates back to the 15th century. At least 150,000 illustrations are available for free download in high-resolution files.
Among the collections is a digital copy of Joseph Wolf’s The Zoological Sketches, two volumes containing about 100 lithographs depicting wild animals housed in London’s Regent’s Park. Wolf originally sketched and painted the vignettes in the mid-19th century. Other diverse works range from a watercolor project detailing flowers indigenous to the Hawaiian islands, to a guide for do-it-yourself taxidermy replete with illustrated instructions published in 1833.
The library also offers a variety of tools, including search features to find species by taxonomy and another option to monitor online conversations related to books and articles in the archive. Consistently adding collections to the public domain, the organization currently is working on a project to promote awareness of the field notes available from the Smithsonian Institution Archives, the Smithsonian Libraries, and the National Museum of Natural History.
For those who don’t want to dig through pages of archives, head to Flickr and Instagram for a more streamlined visual experience. (via This Isn’t Happiness)
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A Quirky Collection of Cat Whiskers Diligently Cataloged in a Handbound Book from the 1940s
This recent discovery in the Collingwood Archive of the Cardiff University Special Collections purrfectly catalogs a young girl’s childhood quirks. A handmade book by Janet Gnosspelius contains every one of her cats’ whiskers found in her home from 1940 to 1942. Gnosspelius wove the whiskers into the pages, dated, and noted how each was discovered, whether “while playing darts,” “under edge of lino in pantry,” on the “dining room hearthrug,” or “under back door draught protector.”
Gnosspelius was the daughter of artist and sculptor Barbara Collingwood and the granddaughter of W.G. Collingwood, John Ruskin’s secretary, and was one of the first women to attend the Liverpool School of Architecture. Archivists say the meticulous nature Gnosspelius exhibited in creating her book remained throughout her life as she worked in “local history and building conservation, regularly posting samples of masonry to Liverpool City Planning Office, neatly labelled with their provenance and date, demanding their restoration.”
At age 40, Gnosspelius channeled her creative energy once again into creating a special diary documenting the lives of her feline friends. “The diary is no ordinary one,” a note to Colossal from archivists reads. “It is written from the perspective of her beloved ginger cat Butterball, recording the dates of his fights, illnesses, and stays with friends: ‘9 March 1965: wrapped my mouse in the mat outside kitchen door.'” More information about Gnosspelius’s family history is available in this online exhibition.
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Highlights below. For the full collection click here.