In Pat Perry’s Sensemaking, there’s no rubric for telling a story. In quiet scenes framed through roadside vantage points and performances of costumed figures and contemporary symbols, the Detroit-based artist (previously) considers the deeply American tendency to configure the world with single, flat narratives. Perry takes an opposing approach, though, and instead layers his pieces with contradiction, complexity, and unusual details that reflect the current moment.
Rendered in subtle color palettes, his drawings and paintings pull from the visual lexicon of Midwestern life (i.e. children playing on pipe abandoned in a field or a lone figure sitting at a card table on the sidewalk), although they contain imaginative twists and nuanced social commentary: swimming pools sit below an underpass, banners display Craigslist ads, and fleeting social media trends are printed on large posters. “These paintings and drawings offer a joyful glimpse into an invented world; one that’s closely related to the one right in front of us; one that we so often struggle to see clearly and make sense of,” a statement about the series says.
In a lengthy essay published by Juxtapoz back in August, Perry elaborates on the impetus for his latest works, which center around a broad theme of flawed logic. He revists his attempts to understand the world through the lens of his religious childhood in Michigan and later, the anarchic ideologies that guided his early adult years, and the two conflicting narratives profoundly impact the artist’s approach today. “Chapter Three of my life so far has had something to do with recognizing that truly lessening suffering maybe has less to do with understanding the world, or playing an oversized role in it. It may not be about constantly ‘using my voice,'” he writes.
Sensemaking, which features dozens of new paintings, charcoal drawings, and works in acrylic and pen, is on view from October 6 through November 16 at Hashimoto Contemporary in New York, and you can follow Perry’s work on Instagram.
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An Eerie, Fairytale Forest and Silhouette Creatures Sprawl Across a Three-Story Mural by David de la Mano
Set against a forest in shades of blue and white, a dark, twisted fairytale lines the entrance hall of the Catholic University of Uruguay. The three-story mural by David de la Mano is titled “Cosmos” and uses the Spanish artist’s signature silhouette figures and thin, branch-like lines to create a sinister narrative consumed by mystery and disorder: hybrid creatures escape down a stairwell, an army marches along the balcony, and myriad characters twist and flail in chaotic clusters.
Completed with the assistance of artist Andrés Cocco, the large-scale piece is derived from the shared etymological root of “university” and “universe,” which means a totality or everything that exists. “Cosmos” evokes Fernando Gallego’s 15th-Century painting of constellations and the zodiac that once cloaked a vaulted ceiling at the University of Salamanca library in de la Mano’s hometown, although this new iteration is devoid of stars. “It is a work full of mystery… There is my own iconography. There is the idea of migration, a constant in my work from years ago,” the artist says in a statement. “The stars were replaced by two forests. There is a dark forest that does not let you see, and there is a clear forest in which the light comes.”
After spending years in Uruguay, de la Mano is back in Salamanca, and you can follow his works on Instagram.
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The monochromatic assemblages of Amber Cowan (previously) are at once domestic narratives and homages to an abandoned industry. Delicate baubles frame a central figure or scene that the Philadelphia-based artist illustrates with scraps of pressed glass. Whether focused on a lone bridesmaid or a hen hoarding eggs, Cowan’s works explore the feminine experience through themes of “loneliness, the search for meaning, the search for love, and the following of symbolism in the mundane.”
Cowan shops at antique stores and markets for materials, although she more frequently scours scrapyards around the country for discarded bits of glass, which are known as cullets. As a whole, the now-defunct industry was booming from the mid-1800s before it dropped off during the 20th Century. “Nowadays, this material is out of fashion and relegated to the dustbin of American design,” the artist writes, noting that she often finds masses of historic hues at the scrapyards. “These barrels of color are often the last of their run, and my work will essentially give the formulas their final resting place and visually abundant celebration of life.”
Some of Cowan’s work is included in the recently published book, Objects: USA 2020. If you’re in New York, her piece “Dance of the Pacific Coast Highway at Sunset” is permanently on view at The Museum of Arts and Design, and she’s also part of an upcoming group exhibition at R & Co. Gallery. Until then, explore more of her textured sculptures on her site and Instagram.
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In a whimsical narrative by Xuan Loc Xuan, an adventurous whale named Lucille traverses a bustling urban center, densely populated forest, and other dry-land locales on her search for a new home. The Ho Chi Minh City-based illustrator renders the marine mammal in a range of playful and melancholic scenes, either resting on a bed of flowers or trapped alone in a city as the sun sets. Titled The Whale Gets Stuck, the vivid series chronciles the whale’s journey that’s ripe with nostalgia and longing for her ocean home, a tale Xuan tells in her book Babà la balena in città, which is printed in Italian.
Shop prints of the illustrator’s quirky pieces on Pinlze or at Toi Gallery, and find two of her other children’s books, Giant: A Panda of the Enchanted Forest and Snowy: A Leopard of the High Mountains, on Bookshop. Head to Behance and Instagram to keep up with Xuan’s latest story-based projects.
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Whether unwrapping themselves from textile folds or balancing atop spindly stools, Monica Rohan’s figures are perpetually in motion. The painter depicts adventurous subjects set amongst whimsical worlds of overgrown bushes, vibrant seas of fabric, and cloudless skies rendered in patches blue. “The figure brings tension, the possibility of a narrative,” she tells Colossal. Rohan envisions each character as the impetus for action in her playful landscapes and thickly decorated domestic scenes.
Each piece begins with the artist exploring a photographic catalog she maintains with imagery of nature, interiors, and self-portraits.
These are developed through photo sessions which last anywhere between 10 minutes to an hour. I then translate this content into sketches and studies, finding different ways to pull patterns out and manipulate the figure before moving forward with the painting proper…The first marks on the board are a transfer of a sketch for the figure. I’ll then start painting and slowly work my way across the surface in a single layer, constantly making micro-decisions and balancing the image as I go. The figure in this way acts as a sort of anchor that the rest of the painting moves around.
Often drawing from texts she’s reading—Charlotte Brontë’s Villette is one—the artist imbues fictional tales into her works. “I’m interested in when real life and fiction bleed into one another. I’ve always been an avid reader, but happily, nowadays I can read and paint at the same time thanks to audio-books. Often whatever I’m reading filters through into titles for works and indirectly into the paintings themselves,” she says.
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A measure of well-written fiction is its ability to provoke clear images in the minds of its readers. For Bethany Bickley, though, the joy of envisioning protagonists and scenery has a more literal element. The Savannah-based artist utilizes pages torn from classics, magazines, and contemporary works to fashion distinctive paper sculptures of clenched fists, a lounging reader, and a trio of masks. Each figurative work serves as a tangible representation of otherwise imagined visuals.
Among her bookish sculptures are the iconic pear tree from Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, a seated Esther Greenwood from Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, and an amalgam of weapons and detective objects to symbolize the thriller genre. In a statement, Bickley said she merges narrative and imagery “to tell a story with impact and purpose. If there are no visuals, I create them.”
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