In Laurent Grasso’s Future Herbarium, small bunches of flowers evolve into bizarre forms with doubled pistils and petals sprouting in thick layers and tufts. Painted in distemper or oil, the transformed blooms are depicted as typical studies of specimens common in the 18th century. The mutations bring together historical aesthetics and transformations from an imagined future, provoking “an impression of strangeness where beauty and anxiety are mixed,” the Paris-based artist says.
Grasso works in multiple mediums, from painting to sculpture to film, and the themes of time and transformation permeate many of his projects. Future Herbarium stems from “ARTIFICIALIS,” a film slated for screening at the Musée d’Orsay, that considers the liminal spaces between nature and culture in relation to images. In its presentation at Hong Kong’s Perrotin (which is up through April 24) and the Jeonnam Museum of Art in Gwangyang (which is on view virtually and in-person through June 30), the series is paired with another project dealing with the impacts of solar wind on the earth. “The Future Herbarium’s flowers are thus subjected to an imaginary catastrophe, which would have produced mutations but also to these solar winds,” the artist says.
In addition to the two exhibitions in Hong Kong and Gwangyang, Grasso’s work will be on view at Aranya Art Center in Qinhuangdao, China, through May 16, at Artspace in Sydney from April 28 to July 11, at Pompidou Shanghai from May 1 to October 10, and at Musée de l’Armée in Paris from May 7, 2021, to January 30, 2022. Explore more of his multi-disciplinary practice on Instagram. (via This Isn’t Happiness)
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Whether folded into a box, bound by cords, or fragmented and stacked, the nondescript figures that Paris-based artist Khaled DAWWA sculpts experience some form of confinement. Their bodies are contorted into cages or squeezed into each other’s arms, and each looks down or away, a position that makes them appear to lack the power and agency to be free. Cast in dense blocks, the introspective sculptures reflect the artist’s preference for terracotta and bronze. “All that we received from the old history is by these two materials,” he says.
Most of the pieces shown here are part of the Compressed series, which were born out of the artist’s own experiences. He tells Colossal:
This project was inspired by my having lived in different places during a short period: detention and compulsory military service in Damascus for four months, then Lebanon for one year and finally arriving to France. Upon arrival in France, at first, I felt liberated from it all. Then I realized that the French live their lives in a complex system that turns them into “compressed people” and that we had this in common. This is the first series in which I look at people beyond Syria.
If you’re in Paris, you can see Khaled DAWWA’s artwork at numerous spots around the city: his piece titled “Les Passants” will be installed in a public spot in Clamart in May 2021, and he’s also participating in Beautify Paris in June of this year. Currently, he is part of Répare, Reprise at the International City of Arts, a group show that’s up through July 10, and is in the process of making a film about the artworks on display. Explore more of the artist’s compacted sculptures on Instagram.
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For Valérie Hadida, the deep, protective partnerships fostered between women provide the foundation for her practice. The French artist casts bronze sculptures that are poetic and nuanced, depicting female figures wearing contemplative and composed expressions. “Coming from a large family where women reign supreme and play a key role, they have established a bond of serenity, trust, and complicity with me,” she tells Colossal. “The heroines of my works are always women because I am deeply convinced that it is they who will change and save the world.”
Hadida begins with a sketch before building the figures that eventually are covered with green patina. In recent years, the size of the sculptures has grown from smaller works into those that stand more than a meter high, an expansion that brings the scale of the works closer to a human body. “I prefer to work on the curves, the flesh more than the muscles. These seem to me disabling because they are hard and violent,” she says. Most of the sculptures depict teenage years or middle age, a time that’s marked with transition and change.
Generally seated, the figures’ poses and gestures appear temporary as if the woman has just shifted or is precariously settled on a stone. Although the bodies are still, their curls often swell upward to imply movement and sometimes are embedded with smaller silhouettes like in “Nocturna.” Their locks “typify each woman in her origins, in her age… The hair moves like the branches of a tree,” the artist says, noting that the plumed strands both accentuate and stabilize the figures’ supple curves, elongated fingers, and overall shape. “These women are marked by life. I do not represent perfect or idealized figures. These silhouettes are on the contrary very marked, very cut out. But their imperfections highlight their femininity,” she says.
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At the center of Coderch & Malavia’s artistic practice is the beauty of the human figure and its various expressions. The Valencia-based duo works collaboratively to cast bronze sculptures that explore the nuances of the body through dance-like movements and distinct gestures. Natural details like golden branches and feathered wings embellish many of the heavily patinaed works, Coderch & Malavia share, to evoke themes from classic literature, theater, photography, cinema, and ballet. “The human being is three-dimensional,” they say. “Probably that is the main reason why we are attracted to sculpture. It is the closest artistic representation of ourselves.”
After a discussion on intentions for a new project, the pair generally works with a live model to help the sculpture take shape. “The complicated part is organizing and sharing the physical creation of the work itself because you need double discipline,” they say. “You must learn to trust your partner and be able to share your ideas and your work with him, and, above all, you must put your ego aside in order to stay equal to commit to the final result.”
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The bronze sculptures of Spanish artist Jesús Curiá are intentionally ambiguous. Evoking ancient relics, the patina-covered works denote no explicit gender or ethnicity. Instead, the sculptures center on nondescript figures severed by an abstract element or negative space. Whether signaling to another, marching downstairs, or grasping a skirted gown, the slim personas are often in motion. These decontextualized movements offer a glimpse into the modern condition as they fuse the most surreal aspects of experience with the real.
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New York-based visual artist Kehinde Wiley (previously) recently unveiled a bronze sculpture of an African American man riding a horse in the center of Times Square at Broadway Plaza between 46th and 47th streets. Titled “Rumors of War,” the statue references controversial Confederate War monuments that still stand in Richmond, Virginia over a century after they were erected.
Commissioned by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Wiley’s first public artwork will be relocated to a spot near the museum’s entrance. Just over a mile away is the statue of General J.E.B. Stuart that inspired “Rumors of War”. The artist first saw the monument during a trip to Virginia in 2016. He said in an interview with the Washington Post that he chose it as a reference because of the “gestural feel of the horse.” Standing over 27 feet tall, Wiley’s sculpture mimics Stuart’s half-turned pose and the stride of the horse, but his figure is a Black man with locked hair and contemporary apparel, including a hoodie, jeans, and sneakers.
“Today we say yes to something that looks like us,” Wiley said at the unveiling event last month. “We say yes to inclusivity. We say yes to broader notions of what it means to be an American.” For a closer look at more of Kehinde Wiley’s important work, follow the artist on Instagram.
Update: The sculpture is now permanently in front of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
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Highlights below. For the full collection click here.