Leaves, Insects, and Human Anatomy Converge in Delicate Pencil Drawings by Amahi Mori
Through veins and hybridized beings, Japanese artist Amahi Mori connects life across the plant and animal kingdoms. Various circulatory systems blend together in seamless compositions with leafy greens emerging from a blue morpho or cloaking an elongated human hand. Rendered in graphite, colored pencil, and watercolor, Amahi’s delicate works center on the vibrancy of life conveyed through brilliantly patterned wings and supple leaves. Many of the drawings are also tinged with the otherworldly and surreal, particularly as human skin stretches to account for a growing stem.
Amahi has a solo exhibition slated for this May at Ginza Getsukoso Gallery. Until then, find an archive of her fused creatures on her site and Instagram.
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Harmonious Drawings and Sculptural Renderings by Louise Despont Conjure Balance in Nature
Balance, symmetry, and the geometries of proportion create a distinct visual lexicon for Louise Despont. Working in graphite and colored pencil on antique ledger paper, the French American artist practices an alchemy of pattern and color, fusing the two into intricate, contemplative renderings that evoke natural elements. “I think my work has always attempted to bridge the worlds of plant wisdom and healing with a language of architecture,” Despont tells Colossal. “I’m interested in drawing the invisible, in attempting to represent the unseen but nonetheless powerful forces and systems that surround and inhabit us. I’m interested in art-making as a co-creative experience, a bit like gardening. I plant the seeds and tend to the work, but what grows comes from its own source.”
Inspired by the homeopathy and alternative medicine practiced by the artist’s mother, Despont’s works often hearken back to botanical forms as she renders petals and writhing stems in pastel hues. Her sculptural drawings utilize bamboo and string to perfectly mirror the sweeping lines and circular shapes on each side of a three-dimensional form, and this desire for engineered precision is a nod to her grandfather, father, and partner who all have backgrounds in architecture. Whether on paper or dyed fabric, her works illuminate nature’s organic harmonies and are tinged with a reverence for its more mystical properties, focusing on the energies and expressions of the world around us.
Before moving to her current home in Mallorca, Despont was featured in three Art21 films in New York and Bali that offer insight into her earlier practice. The artist’s drawings will be on view at Art Basel in Miami this December with Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, and she is currently working on a book slated for release next year. For glimpses into her studio and process, head to Instagram.
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Hyperrealistic Portraits by Arinze Stanley Glorify the Resiliency of Nigeria’s Next Generation
In Deconstruct, Lagos-based artist Arinze Stanley (previously) acknowledges the children and teens who will come to define Nigeria’s politics and culture in the next few years. “I believe the youths are the building blocks of every nation,” he says. “I feel most compelled to project the positive image of our youths through this body of work in my attempt to dismantle the stereotype around the Nigerian youth. I believe our leaders of tomorrow are the biggest assets of today.”
Working in graphite and charcoal on paper, Stanley renders hyperrealistic portraits of earnest figures often with faint lines bisecting their faces. Portions of their torsos reveal a brick backdrop, suggesting that their consciousness and presences in the world are still taking shape. More dense works like “Fruits of Labour” draw on art historical motifs traditionally associated with power and resiliency, portraying figures in glorified poses with weapons and arms raised in protest. The incredibly detailed portraits rail against the turbulent political landscape of Nigeria, the world’s perception of the country, and its issues with police brutality, the latter of which the artist generously speaks to in a 2021 interview with Colossal.
Deconstruct is on view now at Corridor Contemporary in Philadelphia. Stanley often shares clips of his works-in-progress, which you can find on Instagram.
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Brimming with Lush Texture, Mixed-Media Tapestries by April Bey Envision an Afrofuturist World
How do we get from where we are to where we want to be with all of these constructs in the way? How do we move forward if we are constantly having to fight back? The past rolls in like a fog and clogs conversations about tomorrow with despair.
April Bey, a Black, queer, mixed-media artist, reminds us that sometimes, in order to get free, we must transcend. Positioning herself within the Afro-futurist tradition, she works with a fictional universe called Atlantica. Atlantica is inspired by the alien stories her father used to tell her as a child to explain racial oppression in the Bahamas and the U.S. Now, based in Los Angeles, Bey uses Atlantica to construct the aesthetics of the future—a reality where Black people are free from the confines of white supremacy, capitalism, and colonialism.
As a Nassau, Bahamas native, Bey also incorporates the region’s tropical flora in her work. She positions the futurity of Black people in direct relationship to the environment, which can manifest as a physical landscape buzzing with harmonious texture, and draws on the legacy of Black art and literature that demonstrates how the natural world has always been part of Black liberation.
Her intricate stitching of Black people in grandeur also adds a layer of decadence to these stories that is reminiscent of African diasporic cuisine. Food seasoned over long periods of time or slow-cooked absorbs the depths of those flavors, and when tasted, envelops the palette. The process and attention to detail, alongside the historical and cultural knowledge, are the foundation.
This work, like the environment and cuisine, is immersive. Sequins, eco-fur frames, wax fabric woven into large-scale blankets, and colorful patterns are enticing in their pleasure and vitality. The sense-heavy appeal helps transport the viewer beyond the visual and into the spirit of the body, connecting generations across space and time and planting the seeds of the future. Alexis Pauline Gumbs demonstrates this connection in an essay on combat breathing, which our ancestors used to claim their freedom in a world that would not acknowledge it, and Bey conjures this through-line in stirring pieces such as “Don’t Think We’re Soft Because We’re Gracious.”
Bey’s work adds to the long and transformative history of Black and queer people who have subverted power structures through futurity, love, and hybridity. And how fitting? For she knows that to be queer is to live in the future anyway.
You can catch the artist’s solo exhibition, Colonial Swag, at TERN Gallery until May 28 and follow her on Instagram for updates and to see close-ups of her works.
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Through Blocks of Geometric Color, Artist Derrick Adams Celebrates the Joy of Self-Expression
In Looks, artist Derrick Adams references the immense potential of a wig to alter an appearance and construct a persona. The exhibition, which is on view at the Cleveland Museum of Art through May 29 alongside a survey of art and fashion photography titled The New Black Vanguard (opens May 8), shows nine of Adam’s portraits rendered in the artist’s distinct geometric style evocative of “Benin heads, Kwele masks, Kota reliquary figures,” and other West African masks and sculptures, he says in a statement.
Standing more than eight feet tall, the acrylic-and-graphite works center on busts with direct gazes, their faces mapped with different skin tones and makeup lining rounded eyelids and lips. The elaborate wigs in rainbow stripes and faded ombre are inspired by the salons and shops in Adams’ Brooklyn neighborhood. He reinterprets these functional wearables as bold, two-dimensional portraits that speak to the importance of hair in Black culture and the power of defining oneself through spectacular, joyful adornments. He explains about the works:
I feel more than ever that it is essential for artists to make work that celebrates Black culture. As a Black man, I am aware of my vulnerability and susceptibility to trauma and oppression on a daily basis. I personally don’t need to be reminded of it in art and choose to instead highlight Black normalcy. Those who participate in Black culture understand there are images that are less important for us to see than images of joy.
For more of Adams’ works across painting, sculpture, collage, and performance, visit his site and Instagram.
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Floral Arrangements Instigate Trivial Actions in Ethan Murrow’s Meticulous Graphite Drawings
In his solo exhibition Magic Bridge, Vermont-born artist Ethan Murrow (previously) overwhelms his subjects with sprawling floral assemblages that cloud their senses and judgment. The graphite drawings center largely on figures undertaking precarious and trivial activities to exert some form of control, often through futile underwater adventures and inexplicable actions atop wooden platforms.
On view at Winston Wächter through April 30, the meticulous renderings are tinged with parody and embrace the bizarre and indeterminate. In addition to the smaller works on paper, Murrow is also creating a large-scale mural in his signature imaginative style at the New York gallery—see the work-in-progress on Instagram. Each of the pieces “mull(s) the lines between logic and belief,” he writes.
A limited-edition lithograph of Murrow’s “Planting Time” is currently available from Deb Chaney Editions, and the artist also has works on view at Winston Wächter’s Seattle space through March 19.
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