assemblage

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Art

In vanessa german’s New Exhibition, Freedom, Value, and Time Coalesce Through Elaborate Assemblages

October 20, 2022

Gabrielle Lawrence

“THE FATHER SHOES” (2022), mixed-media assemblage, 25 x 22 x 13.25 inches. All images by Laura Shea, courtesy of Kasmin, New York, shared with permission

vanessa german knows how to translate experiences. In her latest project with the Skinner Museum—Mount Holyoke’s early 20th-century cabinet of curiosities—she explores what decolonization means by interacting with the institution’s 7,000 precious historical objects. german finds past, present, and future in everything from Native American baskets to Samurai swords to pieces of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

By touching these great American valuables, the artist explores ideas of rarity and protection amongst the context of this country’s sordid history with distorting people, objects, and the inherent value of every living thing.

On an episode of The Green Dreamer, Gavin Van Horn from the Center for Humans and Nature talks about flipping our perspective from being head over heels to heels over head, instead privileging touch. “That involves us not just venturing out into the world in a way that we are just grasping what we need but being open. Think of our own porosity…Our skin is just a membrane…it keeps us bound together enough so we can think of ourselves as individuals, but it’s also a constant exchange of information between ourselves and the world around us,” Van Horn says.

german’s solo exhibition, THE RAREST BLACK WOMAN ON PLANET EARTH, began as a quest to own the story of the Skinner Museum by doing what no one else on Earth can do to these precious items: touch them. She found that she was not only grasping for something but that she was moved and found connection through the tactile interactions.  While reaching for objects society deems valuable and in a reality where fat, Black, queer women are not, she was not granted value but instead recognized it already within herself.

 

“WALK IN BEAUTY” (2022), mixed-media assemblage, 18.75 x 6 x 11 inches each

german translates that revelation into a mixed-media installation and healing site so deeply rooted in place that it captures the concurrence of time. The installation, “MUSEUM OF EMANCIPATORY OBJECTS,” is made up of artifacts and words collected from the Mount Holyoke community related to questions of emancipation.

There is also a sense of freedom and groundedness across the show. In “THE FATHER SHOES,” one shoe has nails that evoke the feeling of digging into the earth, while the other sole features shimmery thread. In the pair, there is “one for leaving and one for coming back,” the artist says. Similarly, “WALK IN BEAUTY” is a sculptural rendition of knee-high boots made of rose quartz. This evokes the physicality of our surroundings (a path, movement, stone) and the emotionality of what such concepts represent in our everyday lives (the journey, the heart). No one story, element, or gift is valued above another. All are woven throughout time.

THE RAREST BLACK WOMAN ON PLANET EARTH is on view at the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum through May 28, 2023. german recently was awarded the prestigious Heinz Award, and you can find more of her work on Instagram.

 

“FREEDOM IN THE SOUL” (2022), mixed-media assemblage, 31.5 x 21.5 in x 13 inches

Left: Detail of “GRACE” (2022), mixed-media installation. Right: Detail of “INNER FIRE AND JUBILANCE” (2022), mixed-media installation

“INNER AND THE WASHERWOMAN IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN” (2022), mixed-media assemblage, 39 x 26 x 15.25 inches

“WE HONOR THE CYCLE OF CYCLE” (2022), mixed-media assemblage, 27 x 21 x 13.5 inches

Left: “TECHNOLOGY TO TRANSMUTE DEEP SORROW AND DEPRESSION” (2022), mixed-media assemblage, 29.5 x 22 x 11.75 inches. Right: “TECHNOLOGY TO TRANSMUTE RAGE” (2022), mixed-media assemblage, 28.25 x 15.25 x 15.5 inches

Detail of “FUN IS ITS OWN TECHNOLOGY” (2022), mixed-media installation

 

 

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Art Craft

Realistic Bird Busts and Portraits Slot Pieces of Wood into Jigsaw-Like Sculptures

July 18, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images © T.A.G. Smith, shared with permission

Similar to the decorative art of marquetry, intarsia involves compressing cut pieces of wood into a tight, solid structure. Because of the size of the components, the latter technique produces more three-dimensional forms that tend to be fastened with dabs of glue.

British artist T.A.G. Smith employs this assemblage method when sculpting his small bird busts, portraits, and single feathers encased in boxes. Each piece begins with a digital rendering, followed by Smith carving shapes from myriad types of wood, allowing the color and grain of the materials to determine its placement in the final form. The resulting sculptures, which Smith likens to a jigsaw puzzle, combine anywhere from six to more than 600 individual pieces into sleek, realistic depictions of eagles, hawfinches, and puffins.

Currently, the artist is adding to his series of bird portraits, and you can follow his progress on Instagram, where he also shares information about works available for purchase on Etsy.

 

 

 



Art

Vintage Typewriters Are Reassembled into Amazing Metallic Bird Sculptures by Jeremy Mayer

June 9, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images © Jeremy Mayer, shared with permission

Jeremy Mayer challenges the notion that typewriters’ creative output is confined to the written word. The artist scours shops and trash bins near his Bay Area studio for analog processors in disrepair that he then disassembles, sorts, and reconstructs into metallic sculptures. His previous works include symmetrical assemblages, anatomical recreations, and an ongoing series of birds, the most recent of which are shown here. Mayer builds every piece solely from original parts rather than soldering or gluing, and some sculptures, including the black crow with a Corona-brand typewriter logo on its back, feature spring-like components that allow the creatures to bob their heads.

Mayer is currently at work on a few large-scale reliefs, a kinetic lotus, skull, and additional birds, and you can follow updates and news about purchasing pieces on his Instagram. For more about his practice, check out the 2016 film California Typewriter, which documents his work alongside other enthusiasts.

 

 

 



Art

Nature and Nostalgia Merge in Assemblages Made from Vintage Boxes by David Cass

June 1, 2022

Kate Mothes

All images © David Cass, shared with permission

In the multi-media works of Athens-based artist David Cass, memories and tokens of bygone eras are assembled into compositions that evoke both nostalgia for the past and serve as a reminder of fluctuations in nature due to a changing climate. Cass collects a variety of items like old letters from flea markets, matchboxes, and tins, especially those associated with safekeeping. In some pieces, he accumulates small boxes into larger vessels like cabinet drawers, while in others, the item itself serves as the canvas for original paintings responding to the surface.

An ongoing theme in Cass’ practice is the way attitudes toward nature have shifted in recent generations, describing in a profile about his creative process that “ours is the first epoch in which the natural world has been seen as a problem, as itself in danger.” A recent exhibition called Where Once the Waters, which comprised dozens of tiny painted tins and was shown during the Venice Biennale, focused on a shifting horizon line. Water plays a central role in the connections he draws between past and present, highlighting the changeable nature of the sea and how oceans are rising around the world. A motif of flowing lines signifying the movement of the liquid appears in many of his works, responding to the texture, scale, and patina of each unique object.

You can find more of Cass’ work on his website and on Instagram. (via This Isn’t Happiness)

 

 

 



Art

A Tyrannical Tabby Rules an Opulent Assemblage of Densely Layered Scenes by Artist Kris Kuksi

January 15, 2021

Grace Ebert

“Tabby Tyrant” (2021), mixed-media assemblage, 31 x 31 x 9 inches. All images courtesy of the artist and Joshua Liner Gallery, shared with permission

A bejeweled tabby presides over Kris Kuksi’s sprawling new landscape teeming with retro figures, ornate baubles, and mass-produced trinkets all blanketed with a thick coat of metallic paint. The Lawrence, Kansas-based artist (previously) melds found objects into complex, frieze-style assemblages that are infused with themes of “historical narratives, biblical subjects, animal worship, architecture, symbolic views on commerce and development, as well as human psychology and behavior.”

Titled “Tabby Tyrant,” the fantastical work is replete with juxtapositions: the individual and the collective, peace and war, industrial and classical architecture, and historic and modern. Minuscule soldiers wrangle a winged figure, a mouse swallows a human whole, and a team of warriors is outfitted with anachronistic weapons, although every action is in service of the feline ruler. Depicting disquieting and eerie actions, each scene is presented through opulent, gilded tableaus.

For more of Kuksi’s densely layered artworks, pick up a copy of his book Conquest and follow him on Instagram.

 

 

 



Photography

Crates Stacked in Beverage Yard Form Color-Coded Rows in Aerial Photographs by Bernhard Lang

December 19, 2019

Grace Ebert

All images © Bernhard Lang, shared with permission

Munich-based photographer Bernhard Lang (previously) is known for his aerial shots that capture the inexact repetition and geometry of everyday life. His latest project, “Crate Stacks,” focuses in on a German beverage production yard, a facet of an industry that employs about 60,000 people in more than 500 companies in the country. Captured in November 2019 while Lang was flying in a small plane over the area, the series shows thousands of crates sorted by color and assembled in long lines. Tiny squares and circles comprise the lengthy rectangular rows, highlighting the height differences of each stack. The artist says the shots remind him of “the computer game Tetris or graphic bar diagrams.” More of Lang’s prized work can be found on his Instagram and Behance, and some pieces are available by request on his site.