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Art History

Five Prehistoric Cave Drawings Uncovered in Alabama Are the Largest Discovered in North America

May 13, 2022

Grace Ebert

Anthropomorph in regalia, with a rayed circle in the midsection, 0.93 meters tall. All images courtesy of Jan F. Simek, Stephen Alvarez, and Alan Cressler in Antiquity

Hidden in a narrow cavern extending less than two feet from floor to ceiling, five cave drawings are the largest of their kind discovered so far in North America. Three anthropomorphic figures and two rattlesnakes are etched into the mud surface of 19th Unnamed Cave in Alabama—the name is intentionally vague to protect the exact location—with the most sizable glyph measuring nearly 11 feet. The renderings are thought to be from the Early and Middle Woodland prehistoric periods, or between 133 and 433 CE when populations began to shift from primarily nomadic hunting and gathering to settling and establishing agricultural production.

Although the cave is known to house hundreds of Native American drawings, the combination of the small, tight space in this area and the size of the glyphs made it previously impossible for archaeologists to view the works in their entirety. This part of the cave is so limited that even the artists would have had to work on these pieces in segments. Since 2017, though, a research team of Jan F. Simek, Stephen Alvarez, and Alan Cressler has been using photogrammetry, a process that entails capturing overlapping images (approximately 16,000 in this case) and assembling them into a 3D model, to create composites that reveal the full drawings.

The trio published their findings in Antiquity earlier this month with images showing elaborately outfitted figures and diamondback rattlesnakes, a sacred animal to some Indigenous populations that occupied what is now Alabama. Although it’s unclear what exactly these renderings represent, it’s likely that they have a spiritual association:

Native Americans in the Southeast built mounds, by which they could ascend to the spirits of the upper world for religious interaction. Decorated caves represented the opposite: gateways to the worlds below. We know that Native Americans modified their landscapes on very large scales in order to connect the living with the natural and supernatural worlds and to the varied elements of those worlds. The large figures drawn in 19th Unnamed Cave therefore probably represent spirits of the underworld, their power and importance expressed in their shape, size and context.

In addition to the five drawings and smaller sketches of birds and insects, archeologists also found eight pieces of broken ceramics, which are thought to be from five vessels brought into the space. They did not recover any stone tools or bones, meaning the cave was likely used for a limited range of activities. (via Hyperallergic)

 

Enigmatic figure of swirling lines, with a round head at one end and a possible rattlesnake tail at the other, 2.12 meters wide

Anthropomorph in regalia, 1.81 meters tall

A) Coiled serpent figure with head in the center, 0.50 meters in diameter. B) Wasp with head to the left and abdomen to the right, 0.35 meters across. C) Bird, 0.4 meters across. D) Anthropomorphic figure surrounded by swirling lines, 0.20 meters tall

Anthropomorph in regalia, 2.08 meters tall

Serpent figure, 3.3 meters long

The ceiling of 19th Unnamed Cave

 

 



Art

Memories Rendered in Ballpoint Pen and Oil Paint by Nicolas V. Sanchez Recall Moments of Belonging

May 10, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Untitled” (2022), ballpoint pen on paper, 8.9375 x 10.9375 inches. All images courtesy of Sugarlift, shared with permission

Through ballpoint pen drawings and hazy oil paintings, Mexican-American artist Nicolas V. Sanchez (previously) conjures childhood memories, instances of intimacy, and a sense of yearning. Sanchez, whose works vacillate between the incredibly realistic and the dreamlike fog associated with recollection, finds his subject matter in the unassuming and every day. He fixates on the texture of a horse’s short coat and wrinkled neck, the way sleeping children hang their limbs haphazardly off the edge of a couch, and how sunlight permeates sheer curtains scrunched together on a rod.

No matter the medium, Sanchez’s works often evoke his upbringing in the Midwest and his experience as a child of Mexican immigrants. Many of the pieces shown here are included in the artist’s solo show belongings at Sugarlift, which considers connections to histories, ancestors, and geographies. “‘Belonging to’ is always in relation with an enduring sense of to ‘be longing’ for connections that transcend singular explanation,” a statement says.

belongings is on view through June 16 at the New York City gallery, and you can peek into Sanchez’s painstaking process on Instagram.

 

“Mariana” (2022), ballpoint pen on paper, 9.25 x 7.25 inches

“Untitled” (2022), oil on canvas, 96 x 78 inches

“Untitled” (2022), oil on canvas, 96 x 144 inches

“Untitled” (2022), oil on canvas, 96 x 108 inches

“Grandpa” (2021), ballpoint pen on sketchbook, 3.5 x 5 inches

“Family Wall” (2021), ballpoint pen on sketchbook, 3.5 x 5.5 inches

 

 



Art Illustration Science

Clusters of Marine Life Rendered by Zoe Keller Illuminate the Incredible Biodiversity of the Ocean

April 15, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Octopodes.” All images © Zoe Keller, shared with permission

From her studio in South Portland, Maine, Zoe Keller (previously) continues to work at the intersection of art and science with her ongoing Ocean Biodiversity Print Series. The digital illustrations are evidence of Keller’s meticulous technique and attention to anatomical detail, and each piece highlights a vast array of marine life, with dozens of species of octopuses, jellyfish, and other sea creatures congregating in dense crowds—she also pairs every work with a key to easily identify each specimen.

Made in collaboration with PangeaSeed Foundation, a nonprofit working toward ocean conservation through art, the series is the result of in-depth research, Keller says, and she often references organizations like the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and the Schmidt Ocean Institute to focus on the species most at risk. She explains:

Something that is definitely challenging about tackling marine subjects is that we simply do not understand ocean life as intimately as life on land. With this series, I take as much information as I can, and combine it with a bit of artistic license, to—hopefully!—inspire wonder for all of the incredible species living beneath Earth’s waves.

Keller’s most recent addition to the series is “Deep Sea,” and there are still a few of those prints available in the PangeaSeed shop. The next release is slated for fall, so keep an eye on her Instagram for updates. You can also see the artist’s work in person this June at Antler Gallery in Portland, Oregon, and in September at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming, and Nahcotta Gallery in Portsmouth, New York.

 

“Medusozoa”

Detail of “Deep Sea”

“Syngnathidae”

Detail of “Medusozoa”

Detail of “Syngnathidae”

“Deep Sea”

Detail of “Octopodes”

 

 



Art

In ‘King Pleasure,’ Family Stories and Personal Artifacts Illuminate Basquiat’s Life and Work

April 11, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images by Ivane Katamashvili, shared with permission

An expansive exhibition sprawling through the Starrett-Lehigh Building in Chelsea offers an intimate and holistic glimpse at the life that inspired Jean-Michel Basquiat’s body of work. Opened Saturday, King Pleasure is curated by the artist’s two younger sisters,

It David Adjaye. The immersive reproductions provide insight into the places where Basquiat spent much of his time and developed his distinct aesthetic, including his childhood dining room in Boerum Hill, his 57 Great Jones Street studio, and the Michael Todd VIP Room of the Palladium, a beloved night club that commissioned two monumental works.

 

Comprised almost entirely of Basquiat works except for Andy Warhol’s silkscreen family portraits, King Pleasure showcases a variety of paintings, early drawings, cartoon sketches, and newsletters the artist made during high school in Brooklyn.

As Robin Pogrebin writes for The New York Times, King Pleasure augments Basquiat’s legacy with objects, videos, and ephemera that create a fuller picture of his short life, which ended with a 1988 overdose at the age of 27. “We wanted people to come in and get the experience of Jean-Michel—the human being, the son, the brother, the cousin,” Heriveaux said in an interview. “To walk people through that in a way that felt right and good to us.” The exhibition also coincides with other U.S.-based shows of his works, including two at The Broad in Los Angeles and the Orlando Museum of Art.

Tickets for King Pleasure are on sale now, and an accompanying monograph featuring interviews with family members and an in-depth consideration of his life is also available this week from Rizzoli Electa.

 

Photo by Lee Jaffe

 

 



Illustration

Architectural Drawings Detail the Spatial Dimensions and Unique Amenities of Japanese Hotel Rooms

March 25, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images © Kei Endo, shared with permission

In preparing for her own design projects, Tokyo-based architect Kei Endo sketches elaborate diagrams of hotel rooms. The watercolor works depict overhead views of floor layouts, color schemes, lighting, and the details of special amenities from hairdryers to soap bottles paired with precise dimensions. While focused on the uniform details of spaces like Hotel Siro in Toshima-ku or The Okura Tokyo, the drawings reveal how the designer’s attention to space, comfort, and lodgers’ needs inform every inch of the room.

In addition to her travel-based works, Endo also deconstructs desserts with similar measurements, and you can find more of her renderings on her site and Instagram. (via Spoon & Tamago)

 

 

 



Animation Illustration

Peeled Cardboard Adds Corrugated Dimension to Javier Pérez’s Clever Illustrations

March 24, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images © Javier Pérez, shared with permission

Ecuadorian illustrator Javier Pérez (previously) is known for transforming humble materials into minimal drawings brimming with his distinct sense of wit and whimsy. His latest set of experiments peels back the top layer of corrugated cardboard and uses the hidden, textured grooves to define a sailor’s striped shirt, dog’s shaggy fur, or a thick beard pre-shave. A mix of stop-motion animations and illustrations, the series turns simple lines and everyday items into playful scenarios.

Based in Guayaquil, Pérez offers prints of his clever creations through Society6, and you can find more of his works on Behance and Instagram.