Take a Swing Around 'Par Excellence Redux,' a Mini Golf Course of Playable Artworks at Elmhurst Art Museum
Now open at the Elmhurst Art Museum is Par Excellence Redux, a miniature golf course featuring a widely varied collection of playable artworks. Curated by Colossal’s founder and editor-in-chief Christopher Jobson as part of an open call, the two-part course pays homage to the wildly popular Par Excellence that opened in 1988 at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The designs range from a challenging optical illusion to a maze-like castle with the potential for a hole-in-one to Annalee Koehn’s fortune-telling piece first shown 33 years ago in the initial exhibition.
Chicago sculptor Michael O’Brien conceived of the original Par Excellence, which opened to lines down the block and subsequently sold out daily. It was recognized nationally in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Chicago Tribune, among others, and went on tour throughout Illinois before returning to Chicago as a rebranded commercial project called ArtGolf, which was located at 1800 N. Clybourn in Lincoln Park on the site that’s now occupied by Goose Island Brewery. Although artist-designed golf courses are shown at a variety of Midwest museums—you can see versions at the Walker Art Center, The Sheldon, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art—Par Excellence is widely regarded as the first.
The Front 9, which runs through September 26, features artists Julie Cowan, Current Projects, Andrea Jablonski & Stolatis Inc., Annalee Koehn, Latent Design, Jesse Meredith, Gautam Rao, Robin Schwartzman & Tom Loftus (aka A Couple of Putts), and the museum’s Teen Art Council. Open October 13, 2021, to January 2, 2022, The Back 9 shows work from artists Wesley Baker, KT Duffy, Eve Fineman, Joshua Kirsch, Annalee Koehn, Vincent Lotesto, Joshua Lowe, Jim Merz, David Quednau, and Liam Wilson & Anna Gershon.
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The Whitney Museum and luxury playing-card company Theory11 are teaming up on a series of artist-designed decks, and their first edition deals in British artist Shantell Martin (previously). Titled “LINE,” the same combination of Martin’s signature patchwork drawings and affirmational messages inscribe the dual deck, which is available in both a black and a white version. The line drawings are mostly monochromatic with the exception of bursts of color on the joker and face cards, which feature mirrored characters encircled by words like “wisdom” and “joy.”
Each deck is printed on FSC-certified paper with vegetable inks and starch laminates, and the cards are canvas textured and blind embossed. Both the black and white versions launched yesterday and are available from Theory11 and the Whitney Shop. You also might enjoy UNO’s sold-out collaboration with Nina Chanel Abney and this revolutionary deck from Studio LO. (via Artnet)
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Kansas City, Missouri-based designer Kearra Johnson of Studio LO describes her standard 54-card deck as anything but traditional: it’s revolutionary. On one side of each playing card is a raised fist, a symbol that’s synonymous with the fight against oppression around the globe. But on the K, Q, and J of all four suits are portraits of ground-breaking Black icons who have profoundly impacted history, from Michelle Obama and Thurgood Marshall to Malcolm X and Rosa Parks. “I wanted to go with the powerful figures we’ve all learned about growing up,” Johnson tells Colossal. “The ones who drove change, and the ones who we are familiar with, but also ones who aren’t as traditional as others. Those features range from Oprah Winfrey to the man with the dream, MLK Jr.”
The concept for the Revolution Card Deck was born out of a class project while the now 22-year-old designer was a student at the University of Missouri. She created a few physical decks after a professor asked to purchase some as gifts, a request that spurred Johnson to print more. Since the project was featured on both CNN and NPR, she’s sold hundreds of decks, which will remain a fixture of Studio LO’s inventory and are now available in the Colossal Shop. You also can follow Johnson’s activism-focused designs on Instagram.
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Clusters of wooden spheres bubble up the fingertips and bodies of the children in Willy Verginer’s poetic sculptures. The Italian artist (previously) contrasts realistic carvings of adolescent figures with elements of whimsy and imagination. Alongside the forms that evoke childhood games are thick stripes of monochromatic paint, which wrap around the sculptures and bisect them in unusual places.
Whether a pastel, neutral tone, or black, the color is symbolic and used to convey subtle messages. Verginer’s works often stem from what he sees as the absurdity of ecological issues or larger societal problems, like the U.S. banking collapse. “My largest effort and research focus on not tying myself to the naturalistic representation of figures, but on giving something more through a dreamlike study, or better an absurd one, and not an imaginary one,” he says. “This world and the whole connected system were so absurd that they made me reproduce an equally absurd situation.”
Many of the sculptures shown here are part of Verginer’s most recent series, Rayuela, which is the Spanish term for hopscotch and the title of Julio Cortázar’s counter-novel that can be read from front to back or vice versa. Written in a stream-of-consciousness style, the book produces varying endings and meanings depending on the reader’s sequence. Cortázar’s adventurous format combined with the imaginative nature of the game informed Vreginer’s approach to the series, which the artist explains:
(In rayuela), kids outline an ideal map on the ground, which starts from the earth and reaches the sky, through intermediate stages marked with numbered squares, on which they jump according to where a pebble is thrown. I can see a metaphor of life in this game; our existence is full of these jumps and obstacles. Each of us aims to reach a sort of sky.
In June, Toronto’s Gallery LeRoyer will have an exhibition of Verginer’s precisely carved works, and the artist has another slated for September at the Zemack Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv. Until then, find more of his sculptures on Instagram.
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Dozens of Contemporary Artists Collaborate with Puzzles with Purpose to Create Limited-Edition Jigsaws
The team at Puzzles with Purpose launched a multi-pronged initiative last fall that directly supports artists and charities around the globe while giving the rest of us a much-needed distraction. Art X Puzzles tasked more than 80 creatives—the list includes Louise Lawler, Nicole Rafiki, Spencer Tunick (previously), and Pixy Liao—with producing a unique work for a limited-edition jigsaw and choosing a social-justice or COVID-relief organization to share proceeds with. The paper, wood, or magnetic puzzles vary in size and difficulty and are accompanied by an engraved USB drive with a certificate of authentication, the original image, and information about the artist. We’ve gathered some of our favorite works below, but you can shop the entire collection on Puzzles with Purpose’s site.
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Unless you want a distraught child, double-check the packaging of your next purchase in case you accidentally snag a one-off toy by Jeff Wysaski, aka Obvious Plant. For years, he’s been littering supermarket and drugstore shelves with his action figures and small games that cleverly comment on capitalism and the harsh realities we all experience, from a birthday for one—it “includes one party blower because that is all you will need”—to a “childless couple” riding matching jet skis. Sometimes parodying pop culture, the elaborate designs are paired with witty copy and a slew of intentional spelling errors, including warnings that “everybody dies, even bird.”
Many of the subversive products, shirts, and other goods are available in the Obvious Plant shop, although they sell out quickly. To stay up-to-date on the latest designs, follow Wysaski on Instagram.
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Editor's Picks: History
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.