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Art

Artist Harmonia Rosales Reinterprets Genesis through a Stunning Subversion of the Sistine Chapel

November 21, 2022

Grace Ebert

A painted portrait of a woman with flowers

“Beyond the Peonies” (2022), oil on wood panel, 36 x 48 inches. All photos by Jeff McLane, courtesy of the artist and UTA Artist Space, shared with permission

At the heart of Garden of Eve, Harmonia Rosales’ comprehensive exhibition at UTA Artist Space in Beverly Hills, is the power of narrative. The show spans years of Rosales’ career, featuring dozens of portraits in oil and perhaps the grandest work she’s produced thus far: encircled with lights, an upturned ship towers over the gallery, allowing viewers to pass underneath and peer upwards at the frescoed expanse.

Referencing the vessels utilized in the transatlantic slave trade, the lofty structure re-envisions the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and uses Michaelangelo’s Renaissance works as a blueprint to recast Genesis through the lens of female empowerment and Orishas, deities in religions of the African diaspora. Dozens of Rosales’ paintings, like “Birth of Eve” and her 2017 “Creation of God” that garnered viral attention, cloak the ship with a narrative that’s both widely recognizable and subversive in its telling, with Black and Latinx subjects at the center. “I didn’t want it to be a chapel ceiling because then that’s against everything I’m trying to convey, especially with this Yoruba religion,” Rosales shares with Colossal. “So why not put it on the undercarriage of a slave ship, the very thing that brought these stories to us?”

 

A photo of an illuminated ship in a gallery

Now based in Los Angeles, Rosales has roots in Chicago, the city where she began pursuing her art practice full-time and where she first conceived of the installation. Five years in the making, the project is a testament to the artist’s dedication to long-term thinking. Her process is relatively slow and requires as much research as hours at the easel, meaning she generally produces less than ten works each year. Back then, Rosales says, “I was trying to hide behind my paintings. I was thinking that, okay, if I just paint, people will understand that, but I knew I had to really speak on the paintings myself. This time allowed me to feel comfortable and to curate my message better in a way where all can understand.”

Rosales has long been concerned with communication and comprehension, particularly as she brings lesser-known deities into the mainstream and elevates such religious figures to the status of those within ancient Greco-Roman myth and the Christian iconography that have dominated much of art history. “All along, with all of these exhibitions, I was creating puzzle pieces, pieces to the Sistine Chapel,” she says about the smaller paintings. “Now people can go back and really understand it.”

Many of the works collapse time periods and blend references, like “Forbidden Fruit,” which centers on a woman encircled in a gold halo eating a slice of the pink melon. “Ever wonder why watermelon became a cruel stereotype?” Rosales asks. “It was the one fruit that symbolized Black self-sufficiency after emancipation.” Similarly, the titular work, “Garden of Eve,” centers on Yemaya, the mother of all Orishas in the Yoruba faith. Shielding her face from the chaos of children and florals, the spirit witnesses “the disruption of her perfect garden, (which) intentionally parallels the disruption of the African continent.”

 

A photo of paintings that mimic the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

Detail of the installation

Ultimately, Rosales wants to question dominant Eurocentric narratives and to expose that the Orishas and religions she’s referencing are as old, enduring, and relevant as others. “What came first? Why have these gods been hidden? Why haven’t they been mainstreamed?” she posits. “To hide these gods, thus our identity, it’s keeping us in check. The more that they get out, the more that we are realizing that this is old. It strengthens us as a whole.”

Garden of Eve is up through November 30 in Beverly Hills. Rosales will continue working within stories of creation as she prepares for her solo show opening in March at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. Until then, find more from her on Instagram.

 

A painting of children and a woman surrounded by flowers

“Garden of Eve” (2022), oil on wood panel, 48 x 72 inches

A painted portrait of a woman eating watermelon

“Forbidden Fruit” (2021), 48 x 36 inches

A painting of figures on a boat and coming to shore

Detail of the installation

A photo of an illuminated ship in a gallery

A photo of paintings that mimic the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

Detail of the installation

A painted portrait of a woman surrounded by flowers

“Ori” (2022), oil on wood panel, 48 x 36 inches. Photo by Jeff McLane

A painted portrait of a woman against a background of yellow symbols

“Portrait of Eve” (2022), oil on wood panel, 36 x 36 inches

 

 

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Art

Ride EJ Hill’s Bubblegum Pink Roller Coaster Through a Mass MoCA Gallery

November 15, 2022

Grace Ebert

A photo of a person riding a pink roller coaster in a gallery

“Brava!” (2022), installation view at Mass MoCA. All images courtesy of Mass MoCA, shared with permission

Throughout the Jim Crow era, Black people were often barred entry to recreation spaces like public swimming pools and amusement parks. As these sites of leisure and joy were officially desegregated following the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case, those who continued to champion separation imposed new restrictions to control access to such areas. This included charging high fees to even enter the parks rather than smaller prices per ride, a practice that’s still widely in use today and has proliferated to other cultural arenas like museums.

Artist EJ Hill considers the racialized legacy of such entertainment through Brake Run Helix, the Los Angeles-based artist’s largest solo show to date and first at an institution. On view through January 2024 at the Massachusettes Museum of Contemporary Art, the exhibition revolves around the roller coaster as a way to excavate the history of identity, recreation, and pleasure. Through sculptures, installations, paintings, and smaller works, Hill considers the rides “public monuments to the possibility of attaining joy,” a feeling that is necessary for creating an equitable society.

The center of Brake Run Helix—this title references the mechanisms that slow or stop the cars and the 360-degree turn within the track—is a 260-foot bubblegum pink roller coaster. “Brava!” allows for a single rider, who emerges on a bright blue cart through a velvet curtain before plummeting a few feet and riding the undulating architecture through the Building 5 gallery.

 

A photo of a person riding a pink roller coaster in a gallery

Hill sees these rides as a sort of solo performance by museum visitors, who are propelled by gravity around the course before halting on a wooden stage in front of viewers. “I’m no longer interested in being the one to perform for a ravenous audience who wants to either celebrate me or consume me,” the artist told The New York Times in reference to earlier projects that involved him standing or lying atop an artwork for long periods. “I’m making this elaborate stage for other people to perform while I collect myself and recharge.”

Hill’s manner of inhabiting the world as a Black, queer person is also reflected in the pastel pink that runs throughout the exhibition, considering the pigment is traditionally associated with the feminine. “I feel like I understand bodily threat in a very real way. Every day when I leave my place, the threat to my bodily existence is palpable,” he said in that same interview, sharing that the interactive installation is a way “to bring people as much as I can to understanding what that feels like, but in a space of joy, of being a human in the world.”

For more of Hill’s multi-disciplinary works, visit his site and Instagram.

 

A photo of a pink roller coaster in a gallery

A photo of pink roller coasters in a gallery

A photo of a pink roller coaster in a gallery

A photo of a pink roller coaster in a gallery viewed through a wooden entrance

A photo of a person riding a pink roller coaster in a gallery

 

 



Art

A Landmark Retrospective and Book Delve into Two Decades of Artist Theaster Gates’ Career

November 11, 2022

Grace Ebert

A photo of the gallery space

Installation view of “Theaster Gates: Young Lords and Their Traces,” (2022). Photo by Dario Lasagni, courtesy of the New Museum. All images © Theaster Gates, shared with permission

The first major retrospective of its kind, Young Lords and Their Traces unveils the aesthetic and intellectual lineage that’s guided artist Theaster Gates for the past two decades. Accompanied by a forthcoming monograph, the landmark exhibition encompasses a broad swath of Gates’ work and life and shows how his understandings of preservation, memory, and collective knowledge have continually evolved and manifested. In addition to vast archives, small ceramic sculptures, and his sweeping, multi-panel tar paintings, the Chicago-based artist also brings new site-specific installations to the New Museum to create communal spaces for gathering and reflection.

For the past two decades, much of Gates’ practice has revolved around shared knowledge and the idea that archiving is an act of devotion, a sentiment echoed in his transformation of a dilapidated South Side bank into a renowned art center and also throughout the exhibition. Its title pays homage to the radical, revolutionary thinkers who profoundly impacted American culture, and an entire floor is filled with references to the artist’s aesthetic and intellectual influences, including curator Okwui Enwezor and writer bell hooks. Objects like the library of the late Russian film and literature scholar Robert Bird and a tar kettle gifted by the artist’s father highlight Gates’ desire for care, conservation, and interpreting the everyday. He describes the latter as a “memorial to the history of labor and the ways in which labor is a beautiful, spiritual way of transmitting energy.”

Young Lords and Their Traces is on view through February 2, 2023, and you can pre-order the monograph on Bookshop.

 

A photo of a book spread

A photo of a ceramic sculpture

“Black Vessel for the Traces of Our Young Lords and Their Spirits – Vessel #1” (2022), high-fired stoneware with glaze and ash plinth, 42 × 13 × 12 inches (106.7 × 33 × 30.5 cm). Photo by Jim Prinz Photography

A photo of a book spread

A photo of books on a shelf and lining a wall

Installation view of “Theaster Gates: Young Lords and Their Traces,” (2022). Photo by Dario Lasagni, courtesy of the New Museum

A photo of speakers on a brick graffitied wall

“A Heavenly Chord” (2022), Leslie speakers, Hammond B3 Organ, and sound. Photo by Jim Prinz Photography

A photo of paintings and sculptures in a gallery

Installation view of “Theaster Gates: Young Lords and Their Traces,” (2022). Photo by Dario Lasagni, courtesy of the New Museum

A photo of a book cover

 

 



Art

Dried Flowers Are Arranged into Passageways and Processions in Installations by Rebecca Louise Law

November 5, 2022

Kate Mothes

An installation by Rebecca Louise Law made of thousands of fried flowers suspended from the ceiling.

“The Womb” (2019), Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. All images © Rebecca Louise Law, shared with permission. Photograph by Chuck Heiney

For millennia, dried flowers have been prepared for a vast array of uses ranging from decoration and fragrance to pigments and medicine. British artist Rebecca Louise Law taps into our perennial fascination with florals for her monumental, immersive installations. Exploring our relationship with the natural environment and the way blooms and botanicals have influenced cultures throughout history, her reinterpretations of existing architecture encourage the viewer to move around the space in a new way.

In Parma, she draws inspiration from the city’s culinary and medicinal history for “Florilegum,” and in Brittany, France, she was invited to reimagine the Château de la Roche-Jagu’s grand banquet hall. For “The Womb,” visitors walked inside a room delineated by delicate strands of flowers and approached a cocoon-like form in the center, suggesting a space that is simultaneously protective, potent, and fragile. By hand-sewing stems and fronds together and wrapping them carefully in thin wire, she constructs lengthy ribbons of foliage that can be draped from a framework to create long, curtain-like expanses or colorful volumes at various heights.

You can visit “Florilegium” at Chiesa di San Tiburzio in Parma, Italy, and “Awakening” at the Honolulu Museum of Art will be on view through September 10, 2023. Explore more of Law’s work on her website and follow updates on Instagram.

 

An installation by Rebecca Louise Law in the dining hall of a château.

“Banquet” (2019), La Roche Jagu, France. Photograph by Julien Mota

An installation by Rebecca Louise Law made of thousands of fried flowers suspended from the ceiling.

“Florilegium” (2020), Chiesa di San Tiburzio, Parma, Italy

An installation by Rebecca Louise Law made of thousands of fried flowers suspended from the ceiling.

“Florilegium”

An installation by Rebecca Louise Law made of flowers in the interior of a French château.

“Banquet” (2019), La Roche Jagu, France. Photograph by Julien Mota

An installation by Rebecca Louise Law made of thousands of fried flowers suspended from the ceiling.

“Awakening” (2022), Honolulu Museum of Art

An installation by Rebecca Louise Law made of thousands of fried flowers suspended from the ceiling.

Detail of “Awakening”

Two detail images of dried flowers.

Details of “Awakening”

An installation by Rebecca Louise Law made of thousands of fried flowers suspended from the ceiling and a person standing amongst them.

Detail of “Awakening”

A sculpture by Rebecca Louise Law made of dried flowers, illuminated from the top.

Detail of “The Womb.” Photograph by Chuck Heiney

 

 



Art Food

In ‘Blow Out,’ Artist Genesis Belanger Lures the Uncanny and Anxious Out of Everyday Objects

October 28, 2022

Grace Ebert

Installation views of ‘Blow Out’ (2022). All images by Pauline Shapiro, courtesy of Perrotin, shared with permission

Described as fostering “a sense of lobotomized capitalist productivity,” artist Genesis Belanger coaxes tension from the mundane. Her stoneware sculptures are at once disconcerting and commonplace, depicting the uncanny remnants of a dinner party, medical furniture draped with lanky, limp limbs, and a discount shop hawking carved oranges, a half-eaten cookie, and apples chewed to their cores.

More elaborate than her previous works, Belanger’s newest tableaus are similarly dramatic in subject matter while soft and subtle in visual tone—rather than glazing the ceramic sculptures, she blends powdered pigments into the material itself with a kitchen mixer, a practice that allows her to achieve her signature muted effect. A trio of the artist’s surrealist installations is now on view at Perrotin as part of Blow Out, a solo show that delights in strange theatrics and unobtrusive malice. Detached body parts reside on tables and store shelves in a manner that’s tinged with sexuality, while objects like picnic blankets and tipped bowls appear on the brink of movement. Suspense pervades the otherwise still scenes, exposing the anxiety and fantasy hidden in the banal.

If you’re in Paris, visit Perrotin before December 17 to see the disquieting works in person. Otherwise, find more from Belanger on Instagram.

 

 

 



Art

Olafur Eliasson’s Circular Mirror Installation Embeds Viewers in the Sun-Baked Qatari Landscape

October 27, 2022

Grace Ebert

“سفر الظلال في بحر النهار (Shadows travelling on the sea of the day)” (2022), steel, fiberglass, and glass mirrors, 4.53 x 10.51 x 10.51 meters, ø 8.2 meters, ø 8.2 meters, installation view at Northern Heritage sites, Doha, Qatar. Photo by Iwan Baan, courtesy of the artist, neugerriemschneider, Berlin, and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles, shared with permission

Looking up also means looking down and sideways in the latest installation by artist Olafur Eliasson (previously). Opened this week at the Northern Heritage sites near Doha, Qatar, a cluster of large mirrors and rings made of steel and fiberglass stand on the dry desert landscape amongst shrubs and the remnants of animals that have passed through. Towering meters above the sandy terrain, “Shadows travelling on the sea of the day” allows visitors to wander underneath the glass surfaces and peer upwards at their reflections and that of the landscape, shrouding each figure in an endless swath of dusty earth.

“It is a kind of reality check of your connectedness to the ground,” Eliasson says in a statement about the project. “You are at once standing firmly on the sand and hanging, head down, from a ground that is far above you. You will probably switch back and forth between a first-person perspective and a destabilising, third-person point of view of yourself.”

The remote installation also groups the mirrors so that they reflect their semicircular support structures in addition to those nearby, “creating a sea of interconnections,'” the artist says. “Reflection becomes virtual composition, changing as you move. What you perceive—an entanglement of landscape, sprawling sculptural elements, and visitors—seems hyperreal while still completely grounded.” This connection serves as an urgent visual metaphor for humanity’s need to grasp its relationship to the earth as it confronts the climate crisis and attempts to find new paths for coexisting with the natural world.

Find more from Eliasson on his site and Instagram. (via designboom)

 

 

 

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