In the Queens Museum parking lot, Cuban-American artist Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada (previously) has painted a 20,000-square-foot mural as both an act of gratitude to Latinx healthcare workers, who have risked their own safety to care for others, and a nationwide call to action.
These are the people that make our city move, the people that care for us. These are the people that contribute socially, culturally, and economically to the nation… In the year 2020, where hindsight should not be clearer, it is amazing to me that we must continue to ask ourselves…how it is that minorities today still have to suffer the same injustices of the minorities of the past(?)
“Somos La Luz,” or “We Are The Light,” is a large-scale rendering of Dr. Ydelfonso Decoo, a pediatrician who died when fighting the virus in New York City. Rodríguez-Gerada hopes to draw attention to the disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases among Latinx and Black populations across the United States, in addition to the alarming rates of infection in Queens, one of the city’s epicenters for the virus.
In an Instagram post about the project, Rodríguez-Gerada said presenting the masked figure on such a massive scale reflects the enormity of the issue. “This artwork ‘Somos La Luz’ strives to give deeper meaning to the loss of each life,” the artist writes. “It strives to make evident the importance of every life as well as to value the amazing contribution of migrant people.”
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In a 53-foot mural of exposed roots and tangled branches, Boston-based artist Ethan Murrow (previously) situates an energetic construction site manned by human workers, who heave their materials and balance across taught ropes. “The Garden” is replete with scaffolding, small tool sheds, and suspended orbs of sod and lumber among the sturdy boughs. With flags staked on its top, the tree serves as an organic backdrop for the humans’ manufactured expansion. Evidenced by the figure raising a tree branch to the sky in the top left corner, though, the workers’ actions often appear peculiar and inconsequential.
In a statement, Murrow explains that his scenic works are rooted in United States history and culture. Whereas traditional narratives are founded on the idea that progress and human superiority are natural, the artist works to subvert those assumptions.
As our world leaks and creaks forward, landscape can act as the ultimate term and representation of the joys and foibles of our actions. Landscape is an aesthetic ideal, an edited view of reality that suits the maker—in essence, a fiction. For me, the word has come to define our use of images and stories to convince ourselves of who we are, what we know to be true, and what we wish was fact.
Rendered in high flow acrylic and paint pens, “The Garden” is installed at Expedia Group headquarters in Seattle. Many of Murrow’s projects that are concerned with historical narratives and human progress can be found on Instagram.
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Home MuralFest: 67 Artists Simultaneously Painted Murals in Their Homes and Gardens While Quarantined
Similar to other muralists, Copenhagen-based artist Jacoba Niepoort was preparing for a busy period full of travel and public projects when COVID-19 canceled all of her plans. “I had been dreaming of methods for connecting individual, like-minded creatives who share common dreams within this multi-layered/directional world of art in the public space,” she tells Colossal. “When quarantine hit, I wanted to use the spaces we were in to create parallel individual works.”
Niepoort connected with Axel Void (previously), a Miami-based artist who leads a cultural platform designed to bring art out of conventional spaces. The pair and the Void Projects’ creative team curated Home MuralFest, a collective initiative that inspired 67 quarantined artists around the world to paint their latest artworks on blank walls in their living rooms, studios, and garden sheds. Each worked simultaneously throughout April to create pieces that range from monochromatic birds inked on windows to vibrant geometric expanses.
By bringing them out of the public sphere, Home MuralFest subverts how viewers typically engage with these artworks. “What interests me about this project is the new unexpected connections across time and space—using this digital world in some potentially more productive way, letting it grow, seeing what unexpectedness comes out of this,” says Niepoort, whose contribution is shown below.
Because only the residents inside the building have the opportunity to view each mural, technology and social media serve as integral and sincere methods of connection. “Being cooped up has presented an opportunity to come together in new ways, both as coordinators and as artists,” Niepoort says. “To share visuals of the space and time we’re standing in now, created in solitude, but with the solidarity and simultaneousness being an important value-factor.”
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French artist François-Joseph Bosio notably left his iconic marble sculpture Cupid with a Bow (1808) without the actual weapon. In a recent rendering by Valencia-based duo PichiAvo (previously), though, the Roman god is outfitted with a long arrow fashioned out of a preexisting horizontal duct. The graffiti-laden mural was PichiAvo’s contribution to the 2020 Wonderwalls Festival in Port Adelaide.
Known for Urbanmythology—a style that blends urban artwork and Greek and Roman mythology—PichiAvo seamlessly merges the two into vibrant, large-scale compositions. The street artists also depicted Cupid in a 2018 project in Italy, and they tell Colossal that their recent mural is an extension of their fascination with the deity of love and lust. Head to Instagram and YouTube for a deeper look into the duo’s processes, and pick up a print from their shop. (via Street Art News)
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Toronto-based designer Ben Johnston plays with color, shadow, and perspective to create typography that appears three-dimensional in his site-specific murals. He’s a self-taught designer, spending time in the agency world of South Africa before moving back to his home country of Canada to pursue a freelance career focusing on branding and typography.
Johnston happened upon mural painting when a friend asked him to create a piece for the entranceway of a new office building. That opportunity completely shifted the course of his career, and he now spends 80% of his time creating murals for clients, charity, and fun.
A disciplined designer, Johnston told Scotty Russell of the Perspective Podcast that he spends no more than four days painting a mural, preferring to work longer days to get it done rather than stretch it out over a week. He balances outdoor mural painting with client work in his studio and always tries to get in a bike ride before the day begins to clear his mind. The designer pushes what’s possible with letter art by finding inspiration outside of the digital realm—by flipping through classic design books on Bauhaus and taking photos of peeling vinyl lettering. He even has entire mood boards dedicated to shadow references.
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French duo Paul Ressencourt and Simon Roche, or Murmure, highlight the nefarious nature of a commonplace object in their latest project that explores the human impact on the environment. The monochromatic pieces illustrate the ubiquity of the black trash bag as it composes a whale, masks the heads of an embracing couple, and floats in a large group through the air like a flock of birds. Each bag shines in the light, accentuating its plastic materiality.
Murmure told Juxtapoz that the black-and-white pieces are designed to be straightforward, a strategy that emphasizes the single red tie meant to signify a narrative thread. “The main idea was to play with the colors of a regular black garbage bag as much as possible. Not only for dramatic appeal, but also for the depth of shades and, somehow, the elegance of its texture and reaction to light. That’s why we use graphite pencil, to achieve this texture,” the pair said.
Ranging from drawings on paper to larger murals, the works are part of a broader project called Garb-age, a nod to the idea of a new era, that directly speaks to the growing climate crisis. The duo says the purpose is to show the power street art specifically has to impact the ways people think. “To us, Garb-age is a meaningful project that allows us to raise awareness of important environmental issues,” they said. Each piece is “a powerful image reflecting the choices everyone faces daily, between our knowledge of the issues at stake and what we can do about them but don’t. We would love it if visitors could pass this first impression and understand there’s hope behind every picture created.”
Murmure had an exhibition scheduled at Galerie LJ in Paris this month, although it has closed due to worries about the spread of coronavirus. However, the gallery has shot a virtual tour that’s available on Instagram, where you can also find more of the duo’s climate-aware pieces.
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Part of a solo exhibition titled Gimme Something/To Eat at Anomaly in Tokyo, a multi-level project by Japanese painter Yusuke Asai considers the structure of ecosystems and the relationship between humans, animals, and nature. In his mythical installation “The earth is falling from the sky,” a central figure with outstretched arms smiles down from the ceiling. Intertwined scenes of flora and fauna encircle the entirety of the dome-shaped room, with deer, rodents, and snakes scattered throughout the untamed installation. The artist previously shared this project in the Moss Museum at the Wulong Lanba Art Festival in China.
Asai is known for using simple materials like soil, water, dust, flour, tape, pens, and even animal blood gathered from local regions to create his sprawling projects, requiring viewers to interact directly with their surrounding environments. In his mud paintings, the artist literally binds themes of nature with physical elements of the earth.
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Editor's Picks: Street Art
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.