Icelandic artist Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, otherwise known as Shoplifter (previously), fittingly describes her immersive environments of hair as “an exploded rainbow.” Cloaking walls with neon fur and hanging tendrils of fuzzy fibers from the ceiling, the artist creates enormous, extravagantly colored landscapes designed to be ruffled and stroked as viewers pass through the cave-like walls and underneath the suspended strands.
In a new interview with Lousianna Channel, Shoplifter recounts her first encounter with the medium as a child in Iceland and her later move to New York, where she’s spent the last 25 years creating kaleidoscopic landscapes brimming with textures. She perpetually gravitates toward vibrant, bold color palettes because of their therapeutic, playful, and ornamental qualities, and although she creates such strikingly manufactured installations, she describes her practice as a form of “hyper-nature… I’m not competing with nature. I just exaggerate and create this abstraction that resembles it but isn’t literal.”
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On the edge of the city of Sheboygan in northeast Wisconsin is a new museum nestled into the hillside. Opened earlier this year, the Art Preserve of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center is home to 40 artist-built environments, or “spaces and places that have been significantly transformed by an artist to embody and express aspects of their history, place, and culture, their ideas and imagination.” The first of its kind, the spectacular, immersive space is an ode to the artists and their intellectual and creative trajectories, displaying a staggering array of installations, sculptures, paintings, and myriad works across mediums.
Ranging from Emery Blagdon’s suspended kinetic assemblages made of sheet metal, holiday lights, and other found objects to Nek Chand’s troupe of more than 150 mosaic figures, the artworks are eclectic in discipline, scale, and aesthetic. Each of the environments consists of thousands of objects, structural components, and ephemera that form a holistic, comprehensive view of the artist’s life and work. Around the circular pathway winding through Ray Yoshida’s reconstructed Chicago apartment, for example, are ritual masks from New Guinea, printed works, pieces of pop culture from Maxwell Street Market, and notes and letters, offering an intimate glimpse into his diverse collection and personal relationships.
In addition to the environments, the 56,000-square-foot space also houses 11 commissioned responses that included standalone works and projects literally embedded into the preserve’s structure. The Denver-based architecture studio Tres Birds designed the building, although the stairway was completed in collaboration with the late Ruth DeYoung Kohler II and uses concrete pavers that jut out beyond the walls to display a series of “hobo symbols,” or emblems travelers historically used to denote safety. Kohler conceived of the Art Preserve while director of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, where she championed local and international artists and devoted herself to protecting their works and legacies.
Watch the video below for a tour of the expansive space, and dive into the full collection, which includes pieces from sites in Wisconsin, New York City, Mississippi, India, and other global locations, on its site.
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A landmark collaboration between Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto (previously) and Tin Drum, a production studio and technology developer, brings an undulating, reactive installation to the 2021 London Design Festival, but the immersive artwork is only viewable through a headset. Falling at the intersection of architecture and virtual reality, “Medusa” is comprised of monochromatic pillars that appear to suspend from the ceiling in a rippling environment. As viewers move through Raphael Court at the Victoria and Albert Museum where the work is on display, the responsive structure shifts and alters its composition in light and shape.
The work draws inspiration from the dynamic displays of the aurora borealis and underwater bioluminescence, two phenomena that manifest through the animated qualities and shifting patterns of Fujimoto’s curved forms. “This is the first time I am designing architecture with non-physical materials—it’s using light and pure expanse of the space,” he said in a statement. “It’s an architecture experience but completely new and different.”
“Medusa” is on view through September 26.
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First Look at 'Numina': A Wonderland Brimming with Bizarre Creatures and Fantastical Scenes Opens at ‘Convergence Station’ in Denver
Between a two-story metallic spaceship, gnarled trees teeming with strangely colored mosses and lichen, and fantastical creatures, the eccentric artworks that comprise the new space at Convergence Station by Meow Wolf (previously) rival those in even the most peculiar sci-fi universe. The immersive, swamp-like installation, which is dubbed “Numina” or the spirit of a place, is one of the anchors of the Santa Fe-based company’s latest undertaking, which showcases more than 70 installations by 300 artists across four floors. Four years in the making, Convergence Station opens on September 17 in Denver.
Accessible through a series of secret portals and wormholes, “Numina” scales 35 feet into the air and is designed as a multi-sensory experience inviting visitors to interact with their unearthly surroundings. When someone speaks to one of the four glowing creatures resembling sea urchins, for example, the forms warp and spew the echoed audio across the space. The color-changing “Fairie Orbs” similarly sing and vibrate with intonations when a person passes by, and the “Frog Egg Garden” emits kaleidoscopic lights and quiet sounds when activated with touch.
Spanning three levels, the extraordinary, hand-built project is evidence of the team’s penchant for detail and ability to fuse seemingly disparate reference materials into surreal sculptures with various colors, textures, and shapes. The wood-like structural elements, for example, are wrapped in innumerable folds that artists modeled after the wrinkled skin of hairless cats, while pieces like the “Toad Piggies” are hybrid creations and the “Nudibranches” exaggerate the striking bodies of real-life mollusks by stretching them to seven feet. “Some ‘flowers’ were inspired by jellyfish, and some ‘jellyfish’ look more like flowers,” says Caity Kennedy, the project’s creative director and co-founder of Meow Wolf.
Although individual artists retained control over much of what they created—the expansiveness of this collaborative approach is part of what makes “Numina” so uniquely vast and diverse—Kennedy tells Colossal that she gravitated toward the more bizarre works rather than whimsical, fairytale-style pieces. “It is an interesting challenge to play with the balance of comfort and discomfort, to build a space that is welcoming but sometimes unnerving, to make people feel both safe and adventurous at the same time,” she shares. “There are so many things I could point out… Look for the sundial! Find the zoetrope! Point the sort of mollusk orchid/telescope creatures at the stars! Find Leomie’s Field Notebook in the library!”
Tickets are on sale now to visit Convergence Station in person. Otherwise, watch the video tour above for a more in-depth look at the unreal wonderland.
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Editor's Picks: Art
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.