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Art

Cosmic Nature: A Spectacular Polka Dot-Filled Exhibition by Yayoi Kusama Sprawls Across New York Botanical Garden

April 9, 2021

Grace Ebert

Now inhabiting the verdant, 250-acre campus of the New York Botanical Garden are oversized flowers sprouting in seasonal arrangements, a glowing pumpkin-packed infinity room, and a sea of 1,400 reflective spheres by Yayoi Kusama (previously). Teeming with squiggly sculptures, site-specific installations, and smaller pieces covered in the Japanese artist’s iconic polka dots, Cosmic Nature is an expansive exhibition celebrating decades of Kusama’s bold, joyful body of work.

Four new pieces are debuting during the immersive show, like the tentacled creature that marks the entrance to the grounds. Others include a 16-foot-tall dancing pumpkin, an obliteration greenhouse, and a new infinity room that reflects the lush greenery of the outdoor environment. Coupled with a variety of smaller acrylic paintings, fabric sculptures, and drawings on paper—the earliest of which dates back to 1945— the most recent works establish a broad visual trajectory of Kusama’s fixation on the natural world and never-ending penchant for polka dots.

While many of the playful blooms connect to larger themes about the human relationship to the environment, some pieces are distinctly personal, including “Flower Obsession,” which invites visitors into a space that mimics the artists’ own greenhouse. “Our earth is only one polka dot among a million stars in the cosmos…when we obliterate nature and our bodies with polka dots, we become part of the unity of our environment,” the prolific artist notably said.

Cosmic Nature opens this weekend at the Bronx venue and runs through October 31. (via Hyperallergic)

 

“I Want to Fly to the Universe” (2020), the New York Botanical Garden, urethane paint on aluminum, 157 3/8 x 169 3/8 x 140 1/8 inches. Collection of the artist, courtesy of Ota Fine Arts and David Zwirner. All images via New York Botanical Garden

“Dancing Pumpkin” (2020), view at the New York Botanical Garden, urethane paint on bronze, 196 7/8 x 116 7/8 x 117 ¼ inches. Collection of the artist, courtesy of Ota Fine Arts and David Zwirner

“Narcissus Garden” (1966/2021), view at The New York Botanical Garden, 1,400 stainless steel spheres, installation dimensions variable. Collection of the artist, courtesy of Ota Fine Arts

“Ascension of Polka Dots on the Trees” (2002/2021), view at the New York Botanical Garden, printed polyester fabric, bungees, and aluminum staples installed on existing trees, site-specific installation, dimensions variable. Collection of the artist

“My Soul Blooms Forever” (2019), view at the New York Botanical Garden, urethane paint on stainless steel, installation dimensions variable. Collection of the artist, courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner

“Pumpkins Screaming About Love Beyond Infinity” (2017), mirrors, acrylic, glass, LEDs, and wood panels, 59 x 59 x 83 ½ inches. Collection of the artist, courtesy of Ota Fine Arts

“Hymn of Life—Tulips” (2007), mixed media, installation dimensions variable, courtesy of the City of Beverly Hills

“Life” (2015), view at the New York Botanical Garden, fiberglass-reinforced plastic, tiles, and resin, installation dimensions variable. Collection of the artist, courtesy of Ota Fine Arts and David Zwirner

 

 



Documentary Science

Chasing Ghosts: A Short Documentary Debunks a Long-Held Theory About What Pollinates the Ghost Orchid

April 5, 2021

Grace Ebert

What insect has the ability to extend down into the nearly foot-long nectar tube of the ghost orchid? For generations, that question has interested researchers who’ve speculated that the giant sphinx moth, which has a proboscis that often exceeds 10 inches, was one of few species with a tubular tongue that could reach the sticky pollen nestled inside the endangered flower.

Shot during the course of three years, a short documentary by Grizzly Creek Films follows researchers committed to proving this hypothesis. It draws on Charles Darwin’s 160-year-old studies about orchids’ evolution, particularly in relation to one species in Madagascar about which he famously said, “Good heavens. What insect could suck it?” In  “Chasing Ghosts,” the team wades into the buggy swamplands of south Florida alongside snakes and alligators to reach a grove of cypress trees, where the white flowers wrap themselves high among the boughs. There they installed cameras to capture the first-ever photograph of the giant sphinx moth probing the ghost orchid.

In total, the mission logged 6,800 camera hours and 52,173 images taken in both Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and Fakahatchee Strand and recorded five species capable of pollinating the delicate plant. Surprisingly, the same event that they sought to capture—the giant sphinx moth with its proboscis reaching into the elusive flower—actually debunked researchers’ long-held hypothesis and set them on a new course of study to determine how this plant continues to reproduce.

Watch the full documentary above, and find more of the Montana-based studio’s adventures into Yellowstone and the rugged landscapes of the southern United States on the Grizzly Creek Films’ site and Vimeo. You also can follow its discoveries on Instagram.

 

A giant sphinx moth near a ghost orchid

Peter Houlihan holding the giant sphinx moth

 

 



Art

Kinetic Flowers Grow from a Deteriorated Landscape in an Otherworldly Installation by Casey Curran

March 26, 2021

Grace Ebert

In Parable of Gravity, artist Casey Curran (previously) assembles a vast garden of delicate kinetic blossoms amidst an expanse of deterioration. The sweeping landscape, which is on view at Seattle’s MadArt through April 17, positions Curran’s pulsing plant forms atop 20 towers of wooden scaffolding that line the gallery space. Coated in a thick layer of mud, the tallest structures scale eight feet at the outer edge of the installation, where a human-like figure appears to hover in the air. The anonymous body is covered in the flowers, which are made from laser-cut polyester drawing papers and powered by cranks and small motors.

Through the maze of garden plots at the other end of the space hangs a hollow, aluminum asteroid—which is modeled after 951 Gaspra, the first rocky mass humans were able to observe in detail thanks to a 1991 viewing by the Galileo spacecraft. Titled “Anchor of Janus,” the imposing sculpture references both the Roman god and the intricate motifs on Gothic cathedrals and provides a foreboding, catastrophic lens to the otherwise burgeoning garden.

In a statement, Curran explains the confluence of the manufactured and organic themes:

This mythological, architectural, and astronomical convergence considers not only the scientific and spiritual aspects of our connection to the natural world, but also our cultural legacy and the ways in which past technological advancements continue to impact our lives and experiences today. Further, the reference to Janus recognizes the dual nature of human progress, with all of the positive and negative implications it carries.

Watch the video above to watch the installation take shape, and follow Curran on Instagram and Vimeo to stay up-to-date with his latest projects.

 

Full installation view: “Kinetic Towers” and “Anchor of Janus,” Dur-alar, MDF, aluminum, dirt, paper, and glue. Photo by James Harnois. All images © Casey Curran, shared with permission

“We Spoke Like This to Remember.” Photo by Adrian Garcia Rodriguez 

Detail of “Anchor of Janus.” Photo by James Harnois

Full installation view: “Kinetic Towers” and “Anchor of Janus,” Dur-alar, MDF, aluminum, dirt, paper, and glue. Photo by James Harnois

Detail of “We Spoke Like This to Remember”

“Kinetic Towers” and “We Spoke Like This to Remember.” Photo by James Harnois

Photo by James Harnois

Visitors walking through the kinetic towers. Photo by Adrian Garcia Rodriguez

Curran installs “We Spoke Like This to Remember”

 

 



Photography

Dozens of Photographs Connect Racial Justice and the Symbolism of Flowers in an Exhibition by The Earth Issue

March 12, 2021

Grace Ebert

Denisse Ariana Pérez (previously), “Boys and Water” (2019). All images courtesy of the artists/The Earth Issue, shared with permission

An online exhibition by The Earth Issue, an artist collective interested in the intersection of environmental activism and social justice, centers on the symbolic power and precarious nature of the flower. Considered both a sign of love and an offering to make amends, plants in bloom are often sites of cultural contradiction, a theme that runs through the dozens of photographs in Strange Flowers—the show is titled in reference to Billie Holiday’s anti-lynching protest anthem “Strange Fruit.”

“Beauty felled in its prime. Taken without consent, their stems ripped from the earth, their connection to life severed, petals pulled and crushed underfoot. Just like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other innocent victims of racial injustice and police violence,” says a statement about the expansive collection.

The Earth Issue is selling prints of each of the works in its shop through April 11, and a portion of the proceeds will go to BIPOC communities. See some of Colossal’s favorites below, and peruse all the photographs on the collective’s site. (via Juxtapoz)

 

Emily Hlavac Green, “Bird In A Cage” (2020)

Chukwuka Nwobi, “Ore” (2018)

Chieska Fortune Smith, “Back” (2018)

Jesse Crankson, “I Can’t Breathe” (2018)

Joachim Mueller-Ruchholtz, Marathonas, Greece (2019)

Left: Kay Ibrahim, “Flowerboy” (2018). Right: Kin Coedel, “Sky” (2016)

Tom Johnson, “Denis The Dancer,” Rio (2019)

 

 



Illustration Photography

Meticulous Digital Works Layer Petals, Leaves, and Natural Textures into Fantastic Creatures

March 9, 2021

Grace Ebert

Detail of “Kulu.” All images © Josh Dykgaaf, shared with permission

Melbourne-based artist Josh Dykgraaf has a discerning eye for matching two seemingly disparate elements. In his ongoing Terraforms series, autumn leaves become feathers, magnolia petals wind into scales, and plumes form fins that swish through water. Each illustration merges flora and fauna into an entirely new fantastical creature, and a single piece can take days to complete, with the pair of Tawny Frogmouths, for example, clocking in at 55 hours and more than 3,000 layers.

“My process for how I pair natural textures with animals is usually a bit like cloud gazing—like as a kid, did you ever stare up out the clouds and make out different forms and shapes among them?” Dykgraaf says, noting that he takes all of his own photographs of the source materials on hikes or walks around his neighborhood. Once he returns to his studio, he painstakingly collages the extraordinary creatures, coating a closed beak in bark or an echidna in regrown brush following the East Gippsland fires.

In the coming months, Dykgraaf is shifting to a portrait series focused on Indigenous people around the world. His digital works will be included in The Other Art Fair in Sydney from March 18 to 21 and the virtual edition, which runs March 23 to 28. Until then, see a larger collection of the intricately constructed creatures on Behance and Instagram, and pick up a print from his shop. (via designboom)

 

Detail of “Tawu Tawu”

Detail of “Burooli”

“Bunyjul”

Detail of “Kulu”

Left: “Burooli.” Right: “Thaumus”

“Kulu”

“Tawu Tawu”

“Tjirilya”

 

 



Art

A Flurry of Feathers and Leaves Surround Spirited Birds in Fio Silva's Vivid Murals

March 5, 2021

Grace Ebert

Castelar, Buenos Aires. All images @ Fio Silva, shared with permission

Fio Silva tucks clusters of oversized birds and botanicals into otherwise stark urban spaces, creating striking murals awash in puffs of feathers, petals, and leaves. The Buenos Aires-based artist focuses largely on movement, a thread that runs through both the vivid renderings of winged subjects as they appear to take flight or perch for just a moment. “It was that lack of stillness through work and searching for walls to paint that I found meaning in my time,” Silva tells Colossal.

When working in color, the artist starts with blues, yellows, and reds before expanding the palette based on the “moods and to intensify, in some way, what I want to convey, if it is something rather clear, bright, or something… more subdued or desolate,” Silva says. “When I paint, I try to convey a certain force, that by seeing it or sharing it I can move someone, in whatever way.”

Silva plans to complete a few murals in Argentina during the next few months and will travel to Europe during the summer, with an exhibition of smaller paintings slated for October in Paris. Keep up with the artist’s monumental public works on Instagram.

 

Olivos, Buenos Aires

General Roca, Rio Negro

Olivos, Buenos Aires

Left: Berlin, Germany. Right: Belsh, Albania

General Roca, Rio Negro

Patos, Albania

Patos, Albania