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Royal frogs, masquerading lemurs, and florals with human faces are just some of the eccentric characters in acclaimed illustrator Bill Mayer’s (previously) gouache paintings. The traditional aesthetic of European still-life, aristocratic portraiture, and romantic landscape paintings set the scene for uncanny, chimerical subjects who engage in dreamlike encounters or gaze haughtily at the viewer. Gouache, which is water-soluble and more vividly opaque than watercolor, allows the artist to mimic the incredible detail of oil paint.
Mayer continues to work on commissioned projects for recognizable publications such as The New York Times Magazine, Smithsonian, Mother Jones, and Scientific American. He often shares his varied assignments on his blog, including a collaboration earlier this year with the producers of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver to submit a painting to the Federal Duck Stamp Contest. “Duck Judges”—although disqualified from winning the stamp design for technical reasons—raised $25,000 in funds to support the conservation efforts of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
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A new series of paintings by New Hampshire-based artist Shawn Huckins (previously) proposes thinking about how we wear clothing and textiles in a fresh light. Dirty Laundry continues the artist’s interest in re-interpreting 18th- and 19th-Century European portraiture, an artistic tradition steeped in symbolism and subtle commentary about wealth and class. The garments donned by the subjects of painters like John Singleton Copley or Adriaen van der Werff reflected their status and sense of self through apparel and accessories. Jean-Léon Gérôme’s depiction of a Bashi-Bazouk, a soldier of the Ottoman Empire, is a prescient comment on the nature of clothes and uniform, as those enlisted were often unpaid and dressed in a haphazard mix of pieces they acquired while on the march.
Huckins puts a playful, contemporary twist on the notion of expressing one’s identity through fabric by obscuring his subjects’ faces almost entirely, prompting the viewer to consider what it means to be cloaked or exposed. The artist recreated the compositions in the studio by draping a model with a variety of garments, mimicking the direction and temperature of the light in the original works in acrylic paint.
With their faces covered completely, the sitters are identified only through objects such as a string of pearls, a beloved dog, or a handful of fruit. Huckins says in a statement that “anything more that might be known about these people remains hidden beneath piles of cloth and clothing so ubiquitous it could be our own.” Utilizing modern fabrics like buffalo plaid or gingham, the artist considers how we all dress to convey information about ourselves.
Dirty Laundry is also the title of the artist’s upcoming solo exhibition with Duran Mashaal Gallery in Montréal, which opens on June 2. You can find more of his work on his website and Instagram. (via Creative Boom)
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Kehinde Wiley Addresses Vulnerability and Resilience in a New Series of Monumental Portraits and Bronze Figures
In 2008, artist Kehinde Wiley (previously) exposed the violence against Black bodies in a series of majestic portraits titled DOWN. Holbein’s painting “The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb,” which depicts an emaciated Jesus outstretched on white cloth, inspired Wiley’s collection that reimagined the 16th Century piece and other art historical works in the same vein with contemporary metaphors of pain and ecstasy. Centering on Black men lying on their sides with twisted limbs or supine against the artist’s signature floral backdrops, DOWN positioned the subjects as saints and heroes as they confronted death.
Now more than a decade later, Wiley returns to this series for a new body of work that expands on its themes and indictment of the continued brutality against Black people. An Archaeology of Silence, hosted by Fondazione Giorgio Cini for the Venice Biennale, exhibits new bronze figures and large-scale portraits featuring subjects in unguarded positions, their eyes closed, arms splaying outward, and bodies resting.
Monumental in scale— “Femme Piquée Par Un Serpent (Mamadou Gueye),” or “Woman Stung By A Snake (Mamadou Gueye),” is 25-feet wide, for example—the works portray Black men and women as icons, and while vulnerable, the figures exude a sense of resilience and perseverance, having endured exceptional pain and cruelty. Both sculptures and portraits speak to the ways technology has allowed more people to witness injustices that have been occurring for centuries. “That is the archaeology I am unearthing: The spectre of police violence and state control over the bodies of young Black and Brown people all over the world,” Wiley says, explaining further:
While this work is not specifically about tomb effigies, it does relate to death, mortality, powerlessness, and the downcast figure—the juxtaposition of death and decay in the midst of a narrative of youth and redemption. It is an expression of my desire to depict the struggles of Black and Brown youth globally, through the rubric of violence and power.
An Archaeology of Silence will be on view through July 24. You can explore more of Wiley’s practice on Instagram, and visit his shop for goods and prints that support Black Rock Senegal, the residency the artist established in 2019 in Dakar.
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A Mammoth Three-Volume Book Collection Presents Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in Stunning 1:1 Detail
Millions of tourists stream through the hallowed halls of Vatican City to see one of Western art history’s most treasured artworks: Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Gazing up 44 feet from the floor, visitors witness dramatic biblical scenes unfold throughout the monumental painting as it sprawls across the expansive architecture. The only drawback of looking up at such a height is that it’s difficult to discern smaller features and subtleties. The Sistine Chapel, a massive three-volume tome published by Callaway Arts and Entertainment and Italy’s Scripta Maneant, is dedicated to the details and presents up-close 1:1 scale images of the artist’s seminal painting in a limited-edition book.
Reminiscent of the way Michelangelo erected scaffolding to paint the scenes over 500 years ago, over the course of 65 nights, two photographers ascended a 33-foot scaffolding to access close views of the ceiling. The structure was assembled and disassembled every evening to allow tourists to visit during the day. Approximately 270,000 high-resolution images captured the incredible characteristics of movement, contrast, and expression that cannot be seen from ground level.
Printed in Italian and English and limited to 1999 copies by the Vatican—which also stipulated there will be no reprints—only a few English language copies remain, although the price tag is an eye-watering $22,000. The 20-pound set includes additional masterpieces by Michelangelo, Botticelli, and other Renaissance artists. (via Kottke)
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An expansive exhibition sprawling through the Starrett-Lehigh Building in Chelsea offers an intimate and holistic glimpse at the life that inspired Jean-Michel Basquiat’s body of work. Opened Saturday, King Pleasure is curated by the artist’s two younger sisters,
David Adjaye. The immersive reproductions provide insight into the places where Basquiat spent much of his time and developed his distinct aesthetic, including his childhood dining room in Boerum Hill, his 57 Great Jones Street studio, and the Michael Todd VIP Room of the Palladium, a beloved night club that commissioned two monumental works.It
Comprised almost entirely of Basquiat works except for Andy Warhol’s silkscreen family portraits, King Pleasure showcases a variety of paintings, early drawings, cartoon sketches, and newsletters the artist made during high school in Brooklyn.
As Robin Pogrebin writes for The New York Times, King Pleasure augments Basquiat’s legacy with objects, videos, and ephemera that create a fuller picture of his short life, which ended with a 1988 overdose at the age of 27. “We wanted people to come in and get the experience of Jean-Michel—the human being, the son, the brother, the cousin,” Heriveaux said in an interview. “To walk people through that in a way that felt right and good to us.” The exhibition also coincides with other U.S.-based shows of his works, including two at The Broad in Los Angeles and the Orlando Museum of Art.
Tickets for King Pleasure are on sale now, and an accompanying monograph featuring interviews with family members and an in-depth consideration of his life is also available this week from Rizzoli Electa.
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Lined with gilt edges and secured with a gold clasp, a bracelet by the Amsterdam-based duo of Lyske Gais and Lia Duinker packs a vast art historical collection within the span of a wrist. The pair created a wearable catalog back in 2015 that binds 1,400 pages into a thick book. Its contents contain black-and-white hand illustrations from 303 of Rembrandt’s etchings and drawings, subject matter inspired by its availability in Rijksmuseum’s digital archive. “We liked that it would be something you could wear, have your own collection with you,” they tell Colossal.
Titled “Rembrandt’s Hands and a Lion’s Paw,” the book bracelet uses brocheersteek, a method of traditional cross-stitching, and each page is titled and numbered. An additional index helps navigate the hundreds of illustrations held within the leather covers.
Cooper Hewitt acquired the original work, which also won the Rijksmuseum’s 2015 Rijksstudio Award, and Gais and Duinker followed the design with a necklace in a similar style that features Rembrandt’s dogs. There are a few of the original 10 limited-edition bracelets available on the pair’s site. (via Women’s Art)
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Editor's Picks: Art
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.