The basis of life for many species, seeds hold immense power for reproduction and population. Whether a descendent of the first specimens that appeared approximately 400 million years ago or a modern hybrid cultivated to increase food production, the generative forms are often visually striking in their own right with otherworldly colors, textures, and shapes.
Photographer Thierry Ardouin showcases these marvelous, strange qualities through hundreds of striking macro shots now compiled in a forthcoming book and exhibition. Positioned against stark black or white backdrops, the specimens are primarily derived from the carpological archives of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, although some come from the International Agricultural Research Centre for Development and the Straw Cereal Biological Resource Centre. This wide-ranging collection includes the veiny, coiled moon trefoil, snake-like scorpion vetch, and small-bur marigold with its prickly body and horns.
The idea for the project germinated more than a decade ago when Ardouin was working on a documentary about French agriculture and discovered that large corporations own the patents to many seed varieties. He explains:
In 2009, in a very particular political context regarding undocumented immigrants, I noticed that there were ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ seeds. The question arose : does a “legal” seed look like an “illegal” seed? But seeds are tiny and, to see them, I had to get close to them and make portraits of them, as I would do for human beings.
He’s documented approximately 500 specimens since, half of which appear in the pages of Seed Stories to be released this month from Atelier EXB. Spanning 336 pages, the volume is a testament to the incredible diversity and resilience of the natural world. Many of the photos are also included in a group exhibition opening on June 18 at the CentQuatre Paris, which will pair the images with seeds from the National Museum of Natural History collection that visitors can touch and even taste.
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Six times stronger than steel and using an estimated 50 times less energy to produce, bamboo is at the forefront of sustainable architecture. The durable material is central to recent projects like a latticed welcome center in Vietnam and this swelling canopy offering respite from the elements of the Karst Mountains, two constructions that accentuate the plant’s organic shape and sturdy qualities.
A new book published by Princeton Architectural Press highlights fourteen homes around the world built with the perennial grass. Written by author and architectural historian William Richards, Bamboo Contemporary explores a vast array of styles and techniques, ranging from sleek remodels with the material to the lavish home in Bali fabricated by the firm behind this spiraling school. “In design circles, bamboo has been heralded as the material of the future—a pliable solution for architects seeking sustainable methods and materials. For many architects and builders along the equatorial band, bamboo’s past is just as rich. It’s both new and nothing new at the same time,” Richards writes in the introduction.
Containing structural renderings and photos for each project, the 256-page volume is an insightful and forward-looking consideration of the architects working toward a more environmentally conscious future. Explore more by picking up a copy of Bamboo Contemporary from Princeton Architectural Press.
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The enchanting, imaginative narratives usually bound between the covers of a book burst from the page in the sculptures of Su Blackwell. Often sourcing materials from secondhand shops, flea markets, and library sales, the British artist, who’s based in Hastings, constructs lush gardens of birds and wildflowers and quiet cottages in the midst of evergreens that appear to emerge from vintage volumes.
Imbued with movement in the form of wind or waves, the whimisical works tend to revolve around the fleeting and finding refuge during times of loneliness and mundanity. Blackwell shares with Colossal:
I take my inspiration from fairytales and folklore and use these well-known tales as conduits for modern-day experiences. I often search for stories that relate to my life, whether that be Little Red Riding Hood meeting the big bad wolf or a princess given an impossible task of spinning straw (or in my case ‘words’) into gold, as in the Brother Grimm’s story “Rumplestiltskin. “The themes I explore have a universal appeal, and overall, there is a sense of hope pervading the works.
Blackwell is participating in a group show opening this August at Gustav Lübcke Museum in Hamm, Germany, and has solo exhibitions scheduled for 2023 and 2024 at The Last Tuesday Society and Long and Ryle in London. You can shop prints, cards, and her illustrated book of fairytales in her shop, and follow her practice on Instagram. (via Women’s Art)
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It’s easy to recognize the quirky, joyful characters of French artist Jean Jullien. Whether looming over a park or gracing a deck of cards, his dodgy dogs, smirking fish, and mischievous tree-climbers are cartoonish in style and emotionally conspicuous with their anxious expressions and good-natured gestures. A forthcoming monograph published by Phaidon celebrates Jullien’s broad body of work, which spans public sculpture, illustration, and design. In addition to his most lauded projects, the 256-page volume also contains early sketches and never-before-seen pieces. Jean Jullien ships on May 25 from Bookshop.
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Books have beguiled us since they first emerged in the form of ancient scrolls and codices around the world. The way we access, utilize, and enjoy reading material has seen technological transformation over the centuries, from Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in the 15th century, to the first dictionary produced in 1532, to the advent of affordable pocket paperbacks in the early 20th century. Paper tomes have had an immeasurable impact on society and our ability to relay knowledge, and even in an age of digital e-readers, the physical volume still embodies an appeal as timeless as literature itself. In a new exhibition in London, the world of reading provides a starting point for the seven artists to explore a wide range of themes and materials, highlighting our perennial fascination with the printed and bound medium.
Cheri Smith, Russell Webb, Guy Laramée (previously), Aron Wiesenfeld, Guillermo Martin Bermejo, El Gato Chimney, and Claire Partington (previously) work across a wide range of styles including sculpture, illustration, painting, and printmaking. In Bookworks, Laramée’s deconstructed reference volumes are transformed into miniature topographical landscapes that challenge our sense of scale. Cheri Smith’s paintings, sometimes painted onto book covers, reference the eccentricity of animals and how they are categorized in natural history catalogues. El Gato Chimney constructs elaborate narrative illustrations in accordion-style publications that follow an eccentric band of characters as they confront giant creatures.
Bookworks is on view at James Freeman Gallery through June 4.
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Laetitia Ky exercises art activism by braiding African identity into hair sculpture. Born from the lack of representation she experienced growing up on the Ivory Coast, her practice started by cutting the silky straight strands off of her Barbie doll heads and meticulously re-stitching curly extensions as a child. In Love and Justice, Ky’s towering sculptures are embedded into aspects of everyday life. She draws on the strength and durability of Black hair texture to weave traditional instruments, regional wildlife, and bodies in motion into interactive portraits that capture the beauty in common aspects of culture across the continent.
Each image in this 200-page collection published by Princeton Architectural Press makes a statement. Ky explores the roots of this work through the creative shape and design of traditional African hairstyles pre-colonialism. She uses symbols in her sculptures to respond to current struggles like a justice scale balancing gender icons on either side, a uterus with fallopian tubes that transform into middle fingers, or stretch marks on a woman’s body. In her self-love chapter, Ky’s images explore the joys of self-knowledge with acts such as playing a guitar made of hair, toasting a braided wine glass, or wrapping her neck with a life-sized hand that offers the scent of a flower.
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Editor's Picks: Craft
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.