“ME: An Exhibition of Contemporary Self-Portraiture” asks 22 contemporary artists to explore who they are and how they present themselves. Curated by Sugarlift and Juxtapoz contributing editor and Colossal contributor Sasha Bogojev, the exhibition presents each artists’ understanding of themselves and of the history of self-portraiture. Cesar Piette’s abstract blue face resembles dripping paint partially masked by glasses, while Prudence Flint portrays a woman napping on a pink bed next to a guitar. Many of the artists created their first self-portraits in years, if not ever, specifically for the show, which includes work from Aleah Chapin, Cesar Piette, and Christian Rex van Minnen, among others.
In a conversation with Colossal, Bogojov answered a few questions about contemporary culture and self-awareness, how they influence self-portraiture, and the ways current conceptions of identity show up in ME.
Colossal: How have perceptions of the self changed since the creation of such a selfie-obsessed culture?
Bogojev: Oh, that is a tough one and I’m certain there are papers if not books written on that subject. But I do feel that a selfie-obsessed culture created more self-awareness on different levels. For this show, in particular, I feel like lots of artists wanted to fight against the popular idea of “self” or what we know now as selfie, by presenting themselves imperfect, flawed, caricatured, even grotesque in some cases.
Colossal: Could you talk a little more about the intersections between psyche, mirror, and others that you see in contemporary self-portraiture?
Bogojev: Modern-day takes are rarely realistic renderings of one’s mirror image and are often including elements that suggest qualities beyond that. Whether playing with light, formatting, color scheme, or simply going away from realism completely, they often focus on the author’s character, emotions, and such. I like to believe that this show encompasses that really well with the variety of approaches and visual languages presented.
Colossal: So many conversations about identity center ideas of multiplicity, of people not having a singular self. How do you see that relating to the face and to self-portraits?
Bogojev: Exactly! I think this is what most artists nowadays are fully aware of and that is why they struggle to find the “right way” to create self-portraits or they create multiple versions of it. Again, I feel it’s the superficiality of selfie-culture that made them extra wary of how they present themselves without jeopardizing their integrity and practice. With their artwork being the most direct and honest way of communicating with the world, it is not easy for an artist to pick one image, or even concept, as a single representation of oneself. I think this is why the artists in ME built their self-portraits by layering different visuals (Van Minnen), assembling a variety of elements (Shiqing), creating an atmosphere they connect to (Flint, Toscani, Chapin), captured an intimate moment that describes them best (Erheriene-Essi, O’Brien).
ME is on view from January 16 to 30 at High Line Nine in New York. If you’re in the city on January 21, stop by for “The Self-Portrait: Antiquity to #Selfie,” a talk by art and culture critic and author Carlo McCormick, historian and Sotheby’s VP of Old Masters Painting Calvine Harvey, and contemporary painter Jenny Morgan.
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Illustrator James R. Eads (previously) incorporates elements of Impressionism and fantasy in his colorful landscapes. The Los Angeles-based artist builds imagined worlds with vibrant, short brush strokes, often featuring exotic birds, half-sunken boats, and swirling star-filled skies. Eads shares with Colossal that he is deeply connected to music, which consistently influences his work. His personal passion translates to client commissions, as he has created imagery for dozens of bands ranging from The Black Keys and Leon Bridges to Jerry Garcia and Iggy Pop.
“I’ve been really inspired by a lot of different things lately, including many worlds theory—the idea of multiple universes and timelines existing simultaneously,” Eads tells Colossal. “I’ve been working on a series of pastel paintings called Many, Many Paths that explores this idea through meandering paths in otherworldly gardens.” The artist shares that his most recent undertaking is a series called Cosma Visions, “which explores the idea of past lives and reincarnation reimagined on the traditional tarot. It takes the reader through the journey of the soul in the spirit plane after death.”
Eads also experiments with Virtual Reality artwork, an example of which you can see below, and runs a screen-printing studio in Los Angeles. He produces a range of limited edition prints and other buyable items that incorporate his colorful illustrations. The artist also recently successfully crowdfunded a Lenormand deck called Green Glyphs. Shop Eads’s online store and follow along with new work on Instagram and Facebook.
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At the Direktorenhaus Museum in Berlin this past week, a solo exhibition of detailed architectural drawings by Virginia-based artist Benjamin Sack (previously) opened to the public. Titled Labyrinths, the collection of new works features vast cityscapes comprised of impossible inner-geometries. The maze-like urban maps reference musical compositions and various symbols found in cosmology.
Often creating based on what he calls a “fear of blank spaces,” Sack tells Colossal that his starting point for each drawing is different. Finding inspiration in history, cartography, and his own travels, the artist starts with a general concept and builds his intricate worlds intuitively as he goes. Star-shaped buildings and pathways meet with rows of houses that spiral out from clusters of skyscrapers. The pieces in Labyrinths range from 11 inches by 14 inches (a standard photo print size) up to 90 inches wide and 69 inches tall. A work titled Library of Babel is drawn on the surface of a globe measuring 16 inches in diameter. “Generally, a large piece is begun with a few very broad and simple demarkations in pencil,” Sack explains. The rest of the lines and spaces are filled in with pen.
“Over many years my interest in architecture and cityscapes has evolved,” Sack tells Colossal. He adds that drawing such intricate pieces has “become a way and means of expressing the infinite, playing with perspective and exploring a range of histories, cultures, places.”
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Pastel artist Zaria Forman’s subject of choice is the glacier. The natural phenomenon that occurs around the globe is a critical element of cold-weather ecosystems, as well as a barometer of global climate health. The Brooklyn-based artist travels worldwide, often accompanying scientific expeditions, to experience and document glaciers firsthand, taking thousands of reference photographs to inform her enormous pastel drawings.
In translating her real-world travels on to paper, Forman shares that she draws from memory as well as from her reference photographs. “Occasionally I will re-shape the ice a little, or simplify a busy background to create a balanced composition, but 90% of the time I am depicting the exact scene that I witnessed, because I want to stay true to the landscape that existed at that point in time.”
Forman shares with Colossal that her passion for remote landscapes was sparked in childhood, when she traveled the world with her family—including her fine art photographer mother. As an adult she has channeled this fascination with our planet’s vast and varied landscapes into her art practice.
Climate change is arguably the largest crisis we face as a global society. I feel a responsibility as an artist to address this in my work, especially since I’ve had the rare opportunity to travel to remote places at the forefront of the crisis. Psychology tells us that humans take action and make decisions based on emotion above all else. Studies have shown that art impacts our emotions. I convey the beauty as opposed to the devastation of threatened places in my work. If people can experience the sublimity of these landscapes, perhaps they will be inspired to protect and preserve them.
Many of the works shown here feature Greenland’s glaciers. Last winter, Forman also re-visited Antactica and Patagonia’s southern ice fields, and she has just started working on a series around Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina. “Impressively, Perito Moreno glacier is the third largest reserve of fresh water on the planet, surpassed only by the Antarctic and Greenland Ice sheets,” Forman explains to Colossal. “It also happens to be the only glacier in the southern ice fields that is not retreating. But it’s not advancing, either. I am excited to dive into its details and textures in these new compositions.”
Next summer, Forman’s solo show will be on view at Winston Wächter Fine Art in Seattle. The artist is also curating an exhibition for the National Geographic Endurance, a polar expedition ship, which will be installed in February, 2020. Follow along with Forman’s work and travels on Instagram.
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Artist Adam Riches uses pen and ink to create frenetic portraits of brooding anonymous figures. The monochrome illustrations emerge out of blank backgrounds, with broad, gestural lines skittering and looping across the paper. Often, pen drawings fall into two stylistic categories: contour drawings that capture the outlines and edges of their subject, or super-smooth ones that seem to defy the fine point of the pen with layered hatch marks. In forging his own style, Riches uses highly varied density in his mark-making to create volume and suggest shadows, while also utilizing each line as a distinctive shape. In a recent video interview with BBC, the artist explains, “the drawings are quite intuitive and are done spontaneously. They reveal themselves as I’m making them.”
Riches will be showing his work at PULSE Art Fair in Miami Beach in December, 2019, and his artwork is available for purchase through Nadia Arnold. See more of the artist’s scribbled portraits as well as his work in charcoal on Instagram and Facebook.
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A short documentary film by Bas Berkhout profiles third generation portrait painter Kathryn Engberg. In the 6 minute-long film, Berkhout turns the tables on Engberg—usually the observer and chronicler—taking a look inside the artist’s studio and digging into her story. “As a painter of people myself, I tried to give Bas total control to capture what felt compelling to him. As someone so self-admittedly interested in being in the audience, it was strange to see myself as the focus. But I trusted Bas to create a wonderful piece,” Engberg tells Colossal.
The artist is currently working on a series of paintings inspired by the artist Artemisia Gentileschi (who is perhaps best known for Judith Slaying Holofernes), and will be exhibiting in the group show “Face to Face” at Robert Simon Fine Art in New York City. The show opens on November 14, 2019. See more of Engberg’s paintings and sketches on Instagram and explore Berkhout’s film portfolio on Vimeo. (via Colossal Submissions)
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Tel Aviv-based illustrator Shira Barzilay creates expressive line drawings on top of editorial style portraits to provide a more exaggerated expression for the subject, or produce an entirely new face on the back of their head. The digital illustrations are created via iPad, and range from simple lines to filled in multi-color shapes that give the pieces an almost cubist appearance. You can see more of her photographic illustrations, in addition to recent clothing and handbag collaborations, on her Instagram. If you enjoy Barzilay’s itinerant illustrations, also take a look at Shantell Martin’s work.
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Editor's Picks: Photography
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