Surrounding Black children with jumbled masses of cartoon characters, doodles, and explosions of color, Chicago-based artist Kayla Mahaffey (previously) imagines adolescent daydreams and an array of playtime inventions. She infuses her acrylic paintings with a longing for carefree summer days, mornings spent watching the foibles of favorite animated characters, and hours left open for adventure, capturing feelings of joy and curiosity. Vividly rendered and layered with squiggles and globs of color, the large-scale works find “value in the sugar-coated nostalgia,” which Mahaffey explains:
There have been numerous occasions where we omit the truths of our past to only be met with the disappointments of the future, a never-ending cycle that has influenced our current era for the best and the worst. Even though we’re currently going through a very troubling era, let’s take a moment to remember those times where we felt the most safe or where we felt the happiest. Many of us wish to go back to that life, but not to change anything, but to feel a few cherished things, once again.
If you’re near Culver City, you can see the pieces shown here as part of Remember the Time at Thinkspace Projects from September 18 to October 9. Otherwise, find Mahaffey on Instagram to see where she’s headed next.
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From New York City to Azerbaijan to Kristianstad, Sweden, artist Lula Goce transforms blank walls into ethereal artworks that illustrate childlike wonder and growth. Her murals merge photorealistic renderings of adolescent subjects with otherworldly surroundings: plumes of flowers and vines wind around the figures, serpentine creatures emerge from the plants, and shrunken landscapes rest in the children’s hands. Serene and dreamy, the works often center on children painted in subtle tones who peer into the distance or are deep in sleep.
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From fallen trees, planks, and old furniture, Efraïm Rodríguez carves vivid sculptures that evoke the imaginative and playful daydreams of childhood. The Barcelona-based artist highlights the texture of the organic material, creating life-sized figures donning garments of veneered wood or whose bodies mimic the toys they stack. Many depict toddlers or younger children in the midst of play, and even the older characters are infused with elements of sport and recreation, like “Anna” (shown below) who wears a dress studded with tees and holds a golf ball.
Although the precisely sculpted figures often are based on his nieces, nephews, and other family members, Rodríguez tells Colossal that themes of childhood only recently emerged. He explains:
The children appeared in my work almost from the beginning, but they were only a reference, a motive. The theme was not childhood. In the early works, they were self-aware children, representing adults in the form of children. The children were a good support to work emotions and question the viewer. In 2007, my sister had two children. I began to use them as a model in my sculptures. From here the theme of childhood was appearing. I began to represent beyond their forms their actions and attitudes.
Rodríguez was raised in an artistic family in which his father and grandfather were both painters. Despite being exposed to that medium, he shares that he’s always been drawn to representing the world in three-dimensions. “For me, sculpture is a reconstruction of the world. I always build my sculptures in real size the referent, the sculpture, and the spectator live in the same place, breath(ing) the same air,” he says.
Wood, in particular, has been conducive to the artist’s process, which begins with an image in his head rather than a two-dimensional sketch. The malleable material also brings its own history to the works, and Rodríguez chooses the specific type based on its technical and narrative qualities. “Wood has always a past, a biography. A piece of wood has been always something else before, furniture or whatever, at least a tree,” the artist says.
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Memories often are described colloquially as being woven into our brains, threaded through our minds in ways that affect our every day. For Cécile Davidovici, though, memories and lengthy stitches hold a different relationship, and weaving her thread paintings is a process of remembering rather than the state of the memory itself. The Paris-based artist sources the content of her series <<1988 from home videos taken by her parents throughout her upbringing. “When my mother died, I started watching VHS tapes from my childhood,” she tells 60 Second Docs about her current projects. “I use primarily cotton and linen. I find it evokes the same warmth I feel when I think of my childhood.”
Despite having a background film, Davidovici said in a statement that she was drawn to textile arts after her mother’s death because it was tangible and allowed her to “anchor herself in the moment.” Although her preferred medium has changed, the artist said “the stories of innocence and illusions remained, now tinted with irrepressible nostalgia, and with a desire to capture memories and to immortalize past moments.” Some of Davidovici’s dense embroideries, which can take as many as five weeks to complete, are available in her shop. Find more of her reflective work on Instagram. (via Colossal Submissions)
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Japanese photographer Shin Noguchi’s series One Two Three follows the daily explorations, amusements, and tantrums of his three daughters, nine-year-old Yumeji, four-year-old Kotoyo, and two-year-old Hikono. The unplanned snapshots capture split-second moments of beauty such as a bubble floating perfectly in frame to surround his daughters’ faces in one image, or a photograph of his toddler at the table fast asleep behind a large cheese pizza.
“I just click the shutter when the moment is right during the life of my family,” explains Noguchi to Colossal. “I definitely hear a kind of music while clicking the shutter—the unposed, unstaged moments that exist. It’s like improvisations in Jazz. Like Eric Dolphy said, If I missed it, it’s gone in the air, I can never capture it again.”
Noguchi was inspired to start documenting his children after losing his father to stage four lung cancer in 2017. When packing up his father’s things he found previously unseen pictures of his own childhood taken by his mother which inspired him to engage in a more comprehensive documentation of his own family’s life. “If someone asks me, ‘Are these photos then art, or life?’ I want to say that ‘life is art,'” he explains. “I never called my photography ‘art,’ but definitely they show me what I feel art to be.”
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French artist Julien Malland aka Seth Globepainter (previously) continues to create childhood-inspired interventions around Paris and the world. Earlier this year he had a major museum solo show at MoCA Shanghai which included elaborate sculptures and site-specific installations. He also painted one of his largest pieces to date on the banks of the Seine in Paris, and took part in a creation associated with the upcoming museum of street art at the Mausa Vauban. Malland’s poetic murals resonate with audiences of all ages.
“Sweetness and innocence from childhood regularly contrasts with the chaotic environments I choose to put them in,” the artist tells Colossal. He often places the children in environments with books as a reference to their imagination and creativity. After intensively traveling to over fifty countries during the last two decades, Malland is very much aware of the way globalization and modernization are influencing local traditions. “We read less and less with the proliferation of screen habits,” he explains. “While reading we create our own images suggested by words. The screen makes us lazy and spoils our imagination.”
Eight years after his first visit to Shanghai, Malland went back to the city this March to introduce a large project which took place both inside MoCA Shanghai and in its old alleys. Focused on the idea of childhood memories, the outdoor interventions were cleverly created on crumbling buildings and in deserted side streets. The works depicted children playing emblematic games of the ’70s and ’80s, and evoked the atmosphere of the once lively neighborhood. “The vanishing traditional way of life is being replaced by a more common consumer society,” he explains. “This kind of transformation is worldwide, but it’s faster and more sudden in China. Painting those emptied neighborhoods gives me the opportunity to highlight this metamorphosis and continue to explore the traditional Chinese habits that still intrigue me.”
A few months later he took part in a project initiated by Itinerrance Gallery and the Paris City Hall, painting the banks of Seine along with 1010, Momies, and Nebay. The four artists created a long stream of colorful artwork that following the riverbed for a little bit over a mile. Along with 1010’s trompe l’oeil abstraction of an abyss, Momies’ graphic composition in the colors of the French flag, and Nebay’s calligraphy, Malland painted an anamorphic piece visible exclusively from the Pont de la Concorde. The work depicted a child sailing on a paper boat through a rainbow vortex—another incarnation of his imagery that speaks about the purity and boundlessness of children’s imagination and spirit.
Finally, back in June this year he created two pieces inside of Mausa Vauban, an upcoming museum of street art in Neuf-Brisach, France. Once again he explored the idea of children at play. One work is a compelling installation of a little boy breaking a wall and leaving a pile of colorful bricks stacked around the room and an open passageway. Malland is currently preparing for solo shows in London (November 2018), and Shaghai (January 2019), as well as an outdoor project in a pediatric hospital in the US, and is also working on several new books. You can follow his travels throughout the globe on Instagram.
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