At first glance, Slinkachu’s scenes might appear to be a heap of multi-colored pills or a mess of children’s toys left behind on a London street corner. Closer inspection, however, reveals minuscule figures navigating human-sized items as if they occupy an alternate, miniature world occurring in sidewalk alcoves and planter boxes. Characters find themselves in a sea of medication that’s reminiscent of arcade ball pits, while others create a tower to fend off a nearby bee that’s triple each of their heights. Imbued with humor, the site-specific scenes often comment on contemporary social issues.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Slinkachu (previously) has shifted to creating works in his home to minimize exposure to passersby. Although many of his projects were canceled or postponed, the Natural History Museum commissioned both the mushroom and bee works shown below for its Urban Nature project, a biologically diverse green space in central London. “My work has always reflected the sense of isolation and loneliness that a big city can imbue, but the isolation of being inside is new to me,” he shares with Colossal. “These were recreations of small parts of city streets built in my living room with concrete paving slabs and weeds and moss.” The shift in venue has the British artist reconsidering parts of his practice:
It was a bit surreal recreating the outside world inside, but it has opened up new possibilities for me to create narrative images. By experimenting with mixing miniature sets and photographic backdrops, I’ve had many ideas about creating images that are not always possible to create outside on a real street without digital manipulation. It is different from my usual street work but a new avenue to explore.
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Textural Sculptures by Artist Jessica Drenk Use Junk Mail, Book Pages, and Q-Tips to Explore Materiality
Montana-born artist Jessica Drenk (previously) employs simple materials, like shopping flyers and standard No. 2 pencils, to create organic sculptures that are chaotic and arresting explorations of the substances themselves. Bundled Q-tips spread across a site-specific installation like the roots of a tree, a carved section of plywood reveals concentric patterns, and strips of junk mail are plastered together in long waves.
While Drenk’s latest series, titled Transmutations, is diverse and ranges from wall pieces to cavernous sculptures, each artwork explores materiality and how disparate shapes and textures combine to create forms that are new both physically and conceptually. The artist explains in a statement:
In treating everyday objects as raw material to sculpt, I practice a form of conceptual alchemy: through physically manipulating these objects their meanings become transmuted. Each piece is a direct response to material—a subversion of the meanings associated with it, and a reference to the life cycle of objects through time.
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Overflowing with Flora and Fauna, Collaged Paper Installations Comment on Earth's Dwindling Biodiversity
Sprawling across paint-chipped walls and tiny alcoves, the collaged installations of artist Clare Börsch mimic overgrown jungles and whimsical forest scenes. Layers of flora, fauna, and the occasional gemstone or human figure comprise the amorphous paper artworks as they transform spaces into fantastical ecosystems.
In a note to Colossal, Börsch shares that she began her artistic practice as a way to translate her dreams, which are often lucid and informed by memories and a strong tie to nature, into physical objects that others could immerse themselves in. “Growing up in Brazil, I had the ocean, rivers, and jungles that always existed in stark contrast to the industrial cities (I lived in Sao Paulo). So my earliest and most formative memories are of lush, humming tropical ecosystems —and the encroaching industrial landscapes of Brazil’s cities,” she says.
The Berlin-based American artist sources her many of the vintage photographs from open source archives, including the Biodiversity Heritage Library (previously), Pixabay, and Unsplash. Some of the botanical elements she draws or photographs herself before cutting around the organic elements and assembling them in new, sometimes bizarre, compositions.
Despite the vibrancy and lively qualities of the three-dimensional collages, Börsch uses her artworks to reflect on the ongoing climate crisis and destruction of biodiversity, commentary that’s laced with themes of decay and death. She explains:
This came into focus for me when I made a series of collages and then later realized that many of the species in the vintage illustrations had already gone extinct. Humanity has wiped out 68% of all our planet’s biodiversity since 1970, so working with vintage illustrations can be very heartbreaking as much of the diversity in these gorgeous old naturalist prints has been wiped out by human activity.
Since then, Börsch has been collaborating with scientist Louisa Durkin, of the Nordic Academy of Biodiversity and Systematics Studies, to identify ways the artworks can spark awareness and dialogue about environmental issues. “I often say that I do not want my art to be a funerary dirge for everything we could have saved,” she says.
In recent months, Börsch has been working on a commissioned series that will culminate in a forthcoming book, titled Why Do Tigers Have Whiskers? And Other Cool Things About Animals, which is scheduled for release by Thames & Hudson in May 2021. Follow the artist on Instagram to see her latest projects, including an immersive installation commenting on regenerative approaches to tackling problems of biodiversity, which she plans to unveil in early November. (thnx, Elsie!)
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Between gnarly chunks of concrete, basalt pillars, and smooth rounds of lapis lazuli, Ramon Todo (previously) positions sleek segments of layered glass. The Tokyo-born artist splices fragments of found objects that otherwise would be regarded as refuse, like a crumbling brick from Iizuka City or coal waste, to repurpose the existing material with a lustrous embellishment.
Whether volcanic rock or chunks of demolished architecture, the resulting juxtapositions carry the original history, although they’re presented anew. “The characteristics of the place. The uniqueness of the place. Like the memories of the place and time,” the artist says in an interview about a recent solo show at Art Front Gallery in Tokyo. “I use the rocks, debris, Bota (stone similar to coal) for my works believing they have such memories inside. I used the glasses as material in the middle to peek into the time and the history of inside the rocks.”
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Living and working in London, Korean artist Do Ho Suh (previously) is concerned with “home, physical space, displacement, memory, individuality, and collectivity,” ideas he evokes in his life-sized fabric sculptures and installations. His 2019 piece “Home within Home,” which is suspended from an atrium in Incheon International Airport in Seoul, positions two structures vertically, with the larger polyester and steel construction on top. This newer work evokes a similar piece from 2013, titled “Home Within Home Within Home Within Home Within Home,” which placed replicas of Suh’s former living spaces within one another, from his first house in South Korea to an apartment building in Rhode Island.
Often using his own experiences as source material, Suh’s multi-media practice explores both the physical and metaphorical understandings of home as he considers the ways people occupy structures in specific times, locations, forms, and histories. “The spaces we inhabit also contain psychological energy, and in his work, he makes visible those markers of memories, personal experiences, and a sense of security, regardless of geographic location,” a statement about his practice says.
Suh is represented by Lehmann Maupin, and you can explore more of the artist’s architectural sculptures, installations, and smaller works on the international gallery’s site.
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An eclectic array of installations recently popped up at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia, transforming the historic neighborhood into a temporary wonderland teeming with quirky characters, large-scale interventions, and optimism. A life-size piñata shaped like a 1984 Thunderbird is parked on 12th Street, cross-stitched roses trail across the brick facade of Building 99, and a typographic message casts shadows on a pavilion in a call for hope.
Officially titled Mystery Island and the Marvelous Occurrence of Spontaneous Art, or MIMOSA, the entirely outdoor exhibition includes work from seven artists DAKU (previously), Justin Favela (previously), Kid Hazo with South Fellini, Reed Bmore, Liesbet Bussche, and Raquel Rodrigo (previously). It’s a collaboration between the anonymous collective Group X and the Navy Yard, which was overrun in 2018 by a gargantuan sea monster. MIMOSA‘s six site-specific installations are spread across 1,200 acres.
Activated by sunlight, DAKU’s installation “Rays of Hope” casts shadows in 25 different languages on a brick terrace in Crescent Park. Throughout the day as the light shifts, so do the silhouettes on the ground. “The sun has always been associated as a symbol of energy and so is hope,” DAKU says. Rays of light metaphorically serve as “a symbol of positivity and optimism.”
By translating the word “hope” into dozens of languages, the anonymous Indian street artist puts forth a welcoming vision. “When we see a native language, we have a sense of belonging and familiarity with the space. Especially in a foreign land or a place, it makes it more relatable,” DAKU writes. “Languages have been a part of every culture and (have their) own visual aesthetic… Culture is common ground for any language or a form of visual art, and if one comes to think of it, language plays an essential role. It binds the culture in forming into a community.”
A nod to his mother’s first purchase after immigrating from Guatemala to the United States in the 1980s, Favela’s paper-fringed car expands on the myth of “The American Dream.” “The promise that if you keep your head down, work really hard and save your money… you, too, can own a home with a two-car garage, get married, have kids, build an empire, and live an abundant and dignified life,” he says. Through his large-scale piñatas, Favela conveys stories like his mother’s, particularly in relation to her longing to return to Central America. “What about the immigrants that come here and realize that they moved to a country that does not want them here? Their stories are also important,” he says.
Questions about identity, including his own as a first-generation, queer, Latinx American, and the experiences of people who have immigrated to the U.S. face inform Favela’s artworks. He subverts common narratives by offering a revised way of thinking centered on joy:
What are we when we are not viewed as just a labor force? What if we stopped taking pride in suffering and the sacrifices that we had to make? What if we valued joy? Mental health? What if we could take a couple of days of…just because!? What would happen if could just be ourselves? When will we all be free?
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Editor's Picks: Art
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