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.
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Suspended Orbs, Webs, and Air Plants Imagine an Alternative Ecological Future by Artist Tomás Saraceno
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)
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Conceptual Photographs by Can Dagarslani and Sophie Bogdan Fall at the Intersection of Joy and Absurdity
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.
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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.
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An Enormous Red Sun Will Shine Above the Streets of New York in Thanksgiving Parade Balloon by Yayoi Kusama
If you haven’t had a chance to experience a Yayoi Kusama piece in person, the iconic Japanese artist will be debuting a sun-themed balloon in this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Kusama (previously), whose wide-ranging work across a long career includes her wildly popular infinity rooms and large-scale polka dotted objects, has designed “Love Flies Up to the Sky” to be floated along the streets of Manhattan. The red balloon, hand-painted with white and yellow dots and a blue face, joins “more than 1,500 dancers and cheerleaders, close to 1,000 clowns, almost 30 parade floats, and a dozen marching bands,” according to NYCTourist.com. Kusama is the first female artist to be commissioned by the parade to create a ballon as part of their Blue Sky Gallery program, joining a roster that has included KAWS, Jeff Koons, Tim Burton, and FriendsWithYou, among others. (via Hyperallergic)
Update: The Kusama balloon was grounded because of weather.
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Photographer May Parlar punctuates open landscapes with colorful elements like masses of balloons and accessories separated from human wearers. Her work reflects on themes of belonging and alienation, Parlar tells Colossal, and she seeks to “explore the human condition through a feminist perspective.”
To build her fanciful scenes, Parlar explains that she layers frames to build composite images rather than manipulating the content itself. “I work across different mediums such as photography, film, performance art, sculpture, installation, and landscape art; and all of which gets merged in the end and put together with a glue that for me is the camera”. The artist first was first drawn to photography and filmmaking during her architecture and design schooling in the U.K.
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Editor's Picks: Photography
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