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Art

Balloons, Plants, and Bubble Wrap Become Powerful Subversive Symbols in Alicia Brown's Portraits

January 31, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Love notes from my father in a foreign land when the apple trees blossom” (2021), oil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches. All photos by Daniel Perales Studio, © Alicia Brown, shared with permission

In her new body of work What About the Men?, Jamaica-born, Sarasota-based artist Alicia Brown extracts and reenvisions elements of traditional portraiture. She recasts objects of cultural and social status, like the elaborate gowns and thick ruffled collars worn by wealthy aristocrats throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, by instead rendering her subjects in casual clothing like shorts and rubber flipflops with colorful latex balloons, plants, and plastic bubble wrap coiled around their necks.

Contemporary and subversive, Brown’s oil paintings are rooted in history and a reinvented use of symbols interpreted as power, control, celebration, adaptation, and survival. She explains:

As an artist from the Caribbean, Jamaica, which was colonized by Europe, presently there is still that system of classism that has its origin during slavery and colonialism in Jamaica that the natives have to navigate in order to fit into society. I have referenced the collar as an object that is European and replaced it with objects such as spoons, cotton swaps, shells, balloons, bubble wrap, and recently elements of nature. These collars adorned the neck of the models who are regular people and who are constantly going through a performance of creating an identity to gain acceptance.

Derived from a photograph of a friend, family member, or neighbor, each intimate portrait is set against a lush backdrop of foliage or in domestic scenes with encroaching plant and animal life. “Through my work, I hope to convey to the viewer to look beyond their eyes and to see themselves as the person represented in the painting, to share their world, and to come to the awareness that we share so much in common, we are all connected as beings,” the artist shares.

If you’re in Rochester, you can see What About the Men? through March 6 at UUU Art Collective. Otherwise, visit Brown’s site and Instagram.

 

“The Duke of Portmore-dad’s legacy” (2022), 48 x 36 inches

“The queen’s coronation” (2020), oil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches

“Male bird of paradise” (2021), oil on canvas, 64 x 42 inches

“You look just like your father” (2021), oil on canvas

“There is a race of men who do not fit in” (2021), oil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches

“Portrait of lady Cameal from Alva” (2020), oil on canvas, 28 x 36 inches

 

 

 



Art Photography

Clusters of Bright Balloons Envelop Photographer Fares Micue in Her Expressive Self-Portraits

July 26, 2021

Grace Ebert

“Contagious energy.” All images © Fares Micue, shared with permission

In her ongoing series of self-portraits, Spain-based photographer and artist Fares Micue (previously) trades her usual monarchs and lush, leafy botanicals for bright airborne balloons. The perfectly round vessels appear suspended in motion as they encircle Micue’s torso, conceal her face, or lead her up a painted stairway. The amorphous clusters follow the artist’s distinct use of color, adding either a stark contrast to her clothing and the backdrop or blending with the existing architectural palette.

In a note to Colossal, Micue shares that while she brings in organic elements like flowers and leaves to evoke the earth’s seasonal patterns, the ballons are derived from the universe’s more foundational and constant elements, like the sun, the moon, and the planets. She explains:

For me, the round shape represents perfection, feelings, energy, and the natural flowing of things…(It) has the ability to move easily like a ball and helps us to move forward like a wheel. They are delicate and soft. Nothing can be hidden around a circle cause it has no edges or pointy corners, and that’s what they represent in my work: the pureness and naturality of our feelings and how they help us to move forward, the energy we share with the world, and how they are always surrounding us shaping our everyday life

Limited-edition prints of many of the pieces shown here are available from Saatchi Art, and you can explore an extensive archive of Micue’s exquisitely composed portraits on Instagram.

 

“Chasing illusions”

“Endless options,” in collaboration with Artstar

“Winter blues,” in collaboration with Artstar

“Too many expectations”

“The happiness source”

“Revive your curiosity”

“I choose you”

 

 



Art

Limp Balloons Slump Over Each Other in Pastel Sculptures by Artist Joe Davidson

September 3, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Untitled” (2020), cast tinted hydrocal, 9 x 9 x 4 inches. All images © Joe Davidson, shared with permission

In varying states of deflation, Joe Davidson’s pastel balloons sag, slump, and flop in every direction. The limp, elongated forms are stacked on top of one another in seemingly precarious piles and resemble latex tubes filled with days-old air. While the sculptures are playful in both color and form, the Los Angeles-based artist notes that they also hold earnest themes of masculinity and aging, two concepts he’s thinking about often.

Davidson prefers to explore new materials and those beyond the bronze, stone, and wood typically used in this medium. “I was in a period about ten years ago where I was working exclusively in Scotch tape,” he shares. His more recent interest has been in plaster, which he uses to make the balloons. “There’s something about the malleability, chalkiness, and its history that is always appealing,” he says.

Adding color has been a recent evolution and one Davidson is adjusting to still. “My work historically tends to be monochromatic, as I have usually decided to let the nature of the materials speak for themselves. However, there’s something tantalizing about the color pastel scheme (I hate pastel!). It’s awkward and pretty, enticing to touch and sarcastic at the same time,” he says.

For this particular series, the artist cites myriad references, including Jeff Koons’s balloon animals and Louise Bourgeois’s use of anthropomorphism. Overall, though, he often returns to the Dadaists and Italian Arte Povera, who “were always welcoming chance and randomness in their work,” he says.

They came from totally different viewpoints (Dada embracing the absurdity of existence post WWI and Arte Povera looking for the poetic in the mundane), but their processes really resonate with me. A critical part of the process is setting up certain parameters and letting the art fix and finish itself.  I exercise a lot of control in creating the framework for a work, but I always listen to what the material is telling me it wants to do.

To follow Davidson’s playful sculptures and get a peek into his studio, head to Instagram. (via swissmiss)

 

“Pig Pile” (2020), cast tinted hydrocal, 20 x 20 x 20 inches

“Pile On” (2020), cast tinted hydrocal, 17 x 8 x 9 inches

“Pretender” (2017), cast tinted hydrocal, rope, screws, 77 x 42 x 10 inches

Left: “Untitled” (2020), cast tinted hydrocal, 8 x 8 x 6 inches. Right: “Untitled” (2020), cast tinted hydrocal, 7 x 6 x 6 inches

“Pile On” (2020), cast tinted hydrocal, 17 x 8 x 9 inches

Left: “Untitled” (2020), cast tinted hydrocal, 7 x 6 x 5 inches. Right: “Untitled (Poufs)” (2020), cast tinted hydrocal, 14 x 8 x 8 inches

“Pretender” (2017), cast tinted hydrocal, rope, screws, 77 x 42 x 10 inches

 

 



Art

Suspended Orbs, Webs, and Air Plants Imagine an Alternative Ecological Future by Artist Tomás Saraceno

September 1, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Thermodynamic Constellation.” All images © Tomás Saraceno, courtesy of Palazzo Strozzi by Ela Bialkowska, OKNO Studio, shared with permission

Three reflective spheres hover above the courtyard of Florence’s Palazzo Strozzi in Tomás Saraceno’s immersive installation.  The metallic orbs mirror the historic Renaissance architecture in addition to visitors who pass by, while marking the entrance to the imagined space that explores life beyond anthropocentrism. As its name suggests, Aria is concerned with air, encompassing human travel, its ability to foster growth, and how it’s entwined with every living organism.

The Argentinian artist (previously) is known for his large-scale works that fall at the intersection of science and art and consider the human toll on the natural world. Throughout Aria are various experiences dealing with contemporary environmental issues: Glass forms hang from the ceiling and house Tillandsia plants, which need only air to survive, while “A Thermodynamic Imaginary” considers the immensity of the sun and its unused potential.

Each of the works also references one of Saraceno’s 33 arachnomancy cards that explore ecological interconnectivity. References to arachnids manifest in the complex systems that hold Weaire–Phelan structures in “Connectome” or in the stark “Aerographies,” a series of clear balloons and framed networks that explore how “the movements of people, heat, animals, and spider/webs affect and are affected by the air,” a statement from Saraceno says.

Ecosystems have to be thought of as webs of interactions, within which each living being’s ecology co‐evolves, together with those of others. By focusing less on individuals and more on reciprocal relationships, we might think beyond what means are necessary to control our environments and more on the shared formation of our quotidian.

If you’re in Florence, stop by the Palazzo Strozzi to see Saraceno’s work before it closes on November 1, 2020. Otherwise, find out more about what he has planned for the rest of the year, which includes a new solar-powered balloon, on his site and Instagram. (via This Isn’t Happiness)

 

“Thermodynamic Constellation”

“Flying Gardens,” (2020), Tillandsia plants and hand-blown glass

“Thermodynamic Constellation”

“Thermodynamic Constellation”

“Aerographies,” by Studio Tomás Saraceno

“Connectome”

“A Thermodynamic Imaginary”

 

 



Photography

Conceptual Photographs by Can Dagarslani and Sophie Bogdan Fall at the Intersection of Joy and Absurdity

July 10, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Can Dagarslani, shared with permission

A Berlin-based creative duo, photographer Can Dagarslani and model Sophie Bogdan consider the curvature and adaptability of the human body in a series of quirky, spirited photographs. Generally shot outdoors with only natural light, each image employs heavily composed elements of color, space, perspective, and texture, whether captured through a trail of black balloons, a playful shadow figure, or a rigid Bogdan resting on a mossy terrain. The conceptual photographs explore the intersections of social dynamics, relationships, identity, and love.

In a note to Colossal, Dagarslani says his background in architecture influences how he frames the spatial aspects of his works, often considering symmetry, perspective, and the subject’s posture and placement. The photographer derives inspiration for his vivid colors and textural elements from more subtle sources, like attention to the mundane objects and moments of his daily life.

Follow both Dagarslani’s and Bogdan’s work on Instagram, and flip through a larger catalog of Dagarslani’s photographs, which have culminated in a book. (via Ignant)

 

 

 



Art

Floating Black Balloons Explore Contradictions in Artist Tadao Cern's Installations

June 24, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Tadao Cern, shared with permission

Artist Tadao Cern often considers dualities and contradictions—lightness and heaviness, minimal and intricate, inanimate and lively. He channels these relational tensions into “BB,” installations featuring black balloons that float in parallel planes and incline in rows. “These boundaries are a result of our own mental rule-making, and at the end, we surround ourselves with many limitations,” the artist shared with Colossal. “(The) notion of contradictions is nothing more but a man-made concept…A feeling of nothingness and absence of all the ideas became the objective for me.”

Based in Lithuania, Cern has brought the ephemeral project to Tokyo, Beijing, New York, Paris, Venice, and Cologne in recent years. At each site, the artist revives and replaces the balloons as they lose helium and shrink. Each time, he’s reminded of the same concept that he explains on Behance:

They represent nothing, a true emptiness. Which is felt every single time looking at the cloud of these black floating objects, eagerly waiting to be forced to react to our presence…react with no message, no notion. It’s just a dialog between us and them; here and now. Which will develop into a reminiscence of an idea once balloons will deflate and the work will become nonexistent again.

Cern releases prints of his work on Patreon, and you can dive further into his spatial projects on Instagram and Behance. (via This Isn’t Happiness)