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Art

Kehinde Wiley Addresses Vulnerability and Resilience in a New Series of Monumental Portraits and Bronze Figures

April 27, 2022

Grace Ebert

“The Wounded Achilles (Fillipo Albacini)” (2022), oil on canvas, 70 1/8 × 107 7/8 inches. All images © Templon, Paris –Brussels, shared with permission

In 2008, artist Kehinde Wiley (previously) exposed the violence against Black bodies in a series of majestic portraits titled DOWN. Holbein’s painting “The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb,” which depicts an emaciated Jesus outstretched on white cloth, inspired Wiley’s collection that reimagined the 16th Century piece and other art historical works in the same vein with contemporary metaphors of pain and ecstasy. Centering on Black men lying on their sides with twisted limbs or supine against the artist’s signature floral backdrops, DOWN positioned the subjects as saints and heroes as they confronted death.

Now more than a decade later, Wiley returns to this series for a new body of work that expands on its themes and indictment of the continued brutality against Black people. An Archaeology of Silence, hosted by Fondazione Giorgio Cini for the Venice Biennale, exhibits new bronze figures and large-scale portraits featuring subjects in unguarded positions, their eyes closed, arms splaying outward, and bodies resting.

 

Front: “The Virgin Martyr Cecilia” (2022), bronze, 251 × 152 3/4 × 70 1/8 inches. Back: “Young Tarentine II (Ndeye Fatou Mbaye)” (2022), oil on canvas, 131 7/8 × 300 inches

Monumental in scale— “Femme Piquée Par Un Serpent (Mamadou Gueye),”  or “Woman Stung By A Snake (Mamadou Gueye),” is 25-feet wide, for example—the works portray Black men and women as icons, and while vulnerable, the figures exude a sense of resilience and perseverance, having endured exceptional pain and cruelty. Both sculptures and portraits speak to the ways technology has allowed more people to witness injustices that have been occurring for centuries. “That is the archaeology I am unearthing: The spectre of police violence and state control over the bodies of young Black and Brown people all over the world,” Wiley says, explaining further:

While this work is not specifically about tomb effigies, it does relate to death, mortality, powerlessness, and the downcast figure—the juxtaposition of death and decay in the midst of a narrative of youth and redemption. It is an expression of my desire to depict the struggles of Black and Brown youth globally, through the rubric of violence and power.

An Archaeology of Silence will be on view through July 24. You can explore more of Wiley’s practice on Instagram, and visit his shop for goods and prints that support Black Rock Senegal, the residency the artist established in 2019 in Dakar.

 

“Morpheus” (2022), bronze, 26 3/4 × 59 × 29 1/2 inches

Detail of “Morpheus” (2022), bronze, 26 3/4 × 59 × 29 1/2 inches

“Femme Piquée Par Un Serpent (Mamadou Gueye),”  or “Woman Stung By A Snake (Mamadou Gueye),” (2022), oil on canvas, 131 7/8 x 300 inches

“Dying Gaul (Roman 1st Century)” (2022), bronze, 21 1/8 × 18 7/8 × 47 inches

Detail of “Dying Gaul (Roman 1st Century)” (2022), bronze, 21 1/8 × 18 7/8 × 47 inches

“The Virgin Martyr St. Cecelia (Ndey Buri)” (2022), oil on canvas, 77 1/8 × 143 6/8 inches

“Sleep (Mamadou Gueye)” (2022), bronze, 11 4/5 × 51 1/6 × 21 1/4 inches

 

 

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Art

Through Bronze Mushrooms and Gilded Cicadas, Xiaojing Yan Links Chinese Legend and Nature

March 2, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Tiger’s Embrace” (2021), painted wood. All images © Xiaojing Yan, shared with permission

The wide, reddish-brown fungi known as lingzhi, or reishi, has long been revered as the mushroom of immortality, said to grant eternal life to anyone who consumes one of its spores. This ancient belief founds some Chinese legends and is also a mainstay of Xiaojing Yan’s practice. Based in Toronto, the artist has created a body of work that’s broad in medium and subject matter, ranging from small sculptures installed in circular formations to bulbous paper lanterns with rotating parts. Each piece, though, hearkens back to Yan’s experience as a first-generation Chinese-Canadian and her interest in the way the formidable power of nature continually intersects with culture, art, and lore.

Displayed in precise patterns, both Yan’s 2014 work “Lingzhi” and 2020 installation “Fairy Ring” are comprised of bronze mushrooms finished with a turquoise patina. The texture is enhanced, the artist shares, to mimic concentric tree rings and prompt questions of aging and time. “I arranged them onto the wall in the way that bracket mushrooms would grow in steps in nature,” she writes.Against the white wall, these hoary objects appear to float in space. Bronze is often associated with monuments, images of power, or eternity and creates tension with lingzhi’s delicate nature and mythology.” In conjunction with immortalizing the fungi in alloy, Yan also uses the actual spongy spores in other pieces, including in coating busts and sculptures with the fleshy growths.

 

Detail of “Fairy Ring” (2020), bronze with patina

Similarly focused on symbols from nature, Yan’s more animalistic works involve gilded cicada exoskeletons suspended as a winding staircase and an animated series of cocoon-like sculptures that twirl in a circular motion. “Tiger’s Embrace,” a recently carved wooden sculpture, nests alternating depictions of the cat and a human figure in diminishing forms. Commissioned by the Royal Ontario Museum where it’s on display through January 2023, the piece celebrates the Year of the Tiger and is the first in a series of all twelve signs in the Chinese zodiac. The hybrid work, which blurs the distinction between people and animals, “is also based on the Chinese custom of dressing children in tiger hats for good luck and protection,” she says. “The warrior’s lion skin hat turning into a cute baby’s tiger hat can’t stop me from pondering over self-transformation and adaptation.”

Yan has exhibitions slated for Paris, Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Nevada in the coming months, and she is currently working on a project supported by the Canada Council for the Arts. Explore a larger portfolio of folklore-infused pieces on her site and Instagram.

 

Detail of “Song of the Cicada” (2017), cicadae exuviate, filament, gold paint, 7.2 x 9 x 13.5 feet

“Song of the Cicada” (2017), cicadae exuviate, filament, gold paint, 7.2 x 9 x 13.5 feet

“Tiger’s Embrace” (2021), painted wood

“Fairy Ring” (2020), bronze with patina

“In The Shells” (2019), paper, reed, uv coating

“Lingzhi” (2014), cast bronze

 

 



Design

A Chunky Bronze Logo Wraps Around the Corner of a Prague Art Museum

December 1, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images by Vojtěch Veškrna, Kunsthalle Praha

A column of metallic type scales the former Zenger Transformer Substation in Prague, melding the historic venue with the visual identity of the new art institution housed in its space. Conceived by the Czech Republic-based Studio Najbrt, the uniquely positioned logo wraps vertically around the corner of the Kunsthalle Praha building and is based on a typeface by German designer Jan Tschichold, who created it in the 1930s around the time the station was built. Construction involved modeling the hinged letters in paper and modifying the forms to account for the central bend, a lengthy process you can see more of Studio Najbrt’s Instagram.

 

 

 



Art

Momentary Movements Are Cast in Bronze in Isabel Miramontes’s Segmented Sculptures

September 30, 2021

Grace Ebert

“Rock my Heart” (2018), bronze, 23 3/4 × 11 × 7 3/4 inches

Bisecting torsos with spirals or extending fringed ribbons from a figure’s side, Spanish artist Isabel Miramontes (previously) embeds motion within the bodies of her anonymous subjects. She casts fleeting gestures and poses in bronze, appearing to capture the twirl of a child’s dress or a deep forward bend. Each work, most of which stand between 20 and 30 inches high, contrasts the full, supple bodies of the figures with the emptiness created by the artist’s coiled interventions.

Miramontes is currently represented by Canfin Gallery in New York, where she currently has multiple pieces available, and you can find a larger collection of works on Artsy.

 

“Tango” (2021), bronze, 30 7/10 × 23 3/5 × 7 1/10 inches

“Edge of the World-Standing” (2017), bronze, 27 1/2 × 9 7/8 × 5 7/8 inches

“Amor” (2017), bronze, 24 3/8 × 15 3/4 × 4 3/4 inches

“Glissade,” 20 x 20 x 6 inches

 

 



Art

Flowers Mutate into Peculiar Blossoms in 18th-Century-Style Paintings by Laurent Grasso

April 13, 2021

Grace Ebert

“Future Herbarium,” distemper on wood, 33.5 x 24 x 4.2 centimeters. Photo by Claire Dorn, courtesy of Perrotin. All images © Laurent Grasso/ADAGP, Paris, 2021, shared with permission

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)

 

“Future Herbarium,” distemper on wood, 34 x 24 x 4.5 centimeters. Photo by Claire Dorn, courtesy of Perrotin

“Future Herbarium,” oil on wood, 33.6 x 24 x 4.8 centimeters. Photo by Claire Dorn, courtesy of Perrotin

“Future Herbarium,” distemper on wood, 34 x 24 x 4.5 centimeters. Photo by Claire Dorn, courtesy of Perrotin

“Future Herbarium,” distemper on wood, 34 x 24 x 4.5 centimeters. Courtesy of Perrotin

“Future Herbarium” (2020), white bronze, 135 x 20 x 20 centimeters. Photo by Ringo Cheung, courtesy of Perrotin

“Future Herbarium” (2020), white bronze, 135 x 20 x 20 centimeters. Photo by Claire Dorn, courtesy of Courtesy Perrotin

 

 



Art

Figures Experience Constraint and Confinement in Bronze Sculptures by Khaled DAWWA

April 12, 2021

Grace Ebert

“Sans titre” (2020), bronze, 35 x 14 x 13 centimeters. All images © Khaled DAWWA, shared with permission

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.

 

“Compressé” (2016), bronze, 13 x 11 x 8 centimeters

“Liberté” (2019), terracotta, 35 x 16 x 13 centimeters

“Siége” (2019), bronze, 35 x 14 x 13 centimeters

Left: “Les mille et une nuit” (2016), terracotta and wood, 20 x 30 centimeters. Right: “Et nous resterons amis pour toujours …,” bronze, 110 x 59 x 36 centimeters

“Une cellule individuelle” (2016), terracotta and wood, 15 x 15 x 5 centimeters

 

 

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