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Art Documentary History

A Short Documentary Explores the Life of the 'Artifact Artist' Who's Been Excavating New York City's Trash for Decades

April 19, 2021

Grace Ebert

Jordan in his home

Descending into old privies, scouring landfills, and sneaking onto construction sites in the middle of the night are habitual activities for urban archaeologist Scott Jordan. For nearly five decades, he’s been excavating the trash and forgotten artifacts buried deep underneath New York City’s residential areas and fast-growing developments. His findings are diverse and revealing of the area’s past, offering a glimpse into the consumption habits and lifestyles of previous generations that date back to the 18th Century.

A new documentary produced by Kaleidoscope Pictures chronicles Jordan’s lifelong practice that involves digging and uncovering items that he then transforms into new artworks. Dubbed “The Artifact Artist,” the short film by the same name follows the archaeologist and historian as he pulls glass bottles, Civil War-era garments, and small toys from the earth. While Jordan cleans and restores much of the pottery and well-preserved items, he utilizes the rest to create jewelry and assembled, sculptural works that nestle into shadowboxes, which he then sells at flea markets.

Watch the full documentary below, and find more information on Jordan’s site, Things Found NYC, which he runs with Belle Costes. Shop the pair’s findings on Etsy. (via Kottke)

 

Jordan digging in New York City

Jordan in his home

A collection of Jordan’s artworks made from items he found

Jordan in his home

Items in Jordan’s collection

 

 



Illustration Photography

Creatures of Hope: Cheery Illustrated Monsters Strut through New York City Streets

April 14, 2021

Grace Ebert

Soho (2019). All images © Loe Lee, shared with permission

Friendly monsters with enthusiastic grins and pastel fur and feathers have been sauntering through the streets of New York City thanks to Loe Lee. The jolly characters are part of the Chinese-American illustrator’s Creatures of Hope series, which overlays photographs of the city with the whimsical figures. The project was born out of the city’s strength and perseverance this last year. “As a native New Yorker, it was heartbreaking to see NYC endure such crippling loss and confusion during the pandemic last year. Yet, despite everything, I still saw people striving with unshakable resilience,” Lee tells Colossal.

Creatures of Hope was named the runner-up in Creative Quarterly 62 and will be displayed on LinkNYC this year. Lee also has been working with Chinatown NYC to paint murals imbued with magic and joy around her native neighborhood—the idea is to increase safety and draw people back to the area following the reduced traffic and violence against Asian people since the onset of the pandemic.

Pick up prints, postcards, and stickers of the towering creatures in Lee’s shop, and follow their latest adventures around the city on Instagram and Behance. (via Creative Boom)

 

Chinatown (2020)

Hudson River Park Pier 25 (2019)

Lower East Side (2020)

 

 



Photography

Take an Eerie Walk Through the Empty Streets of Amsterdam, San Francisco, and New York City

March 31, 2020

Grace Ebert

With one-third of the world’s population currently under some level of quarantine, the streets of major cities like Amsterdam, New York City, and San Francisco are an unusual and unsettling sight. Film director and cinematographer Jean Counet, who shot “Meanwhile in Amsterdam,” shows the capital city almost entirely deserted. Public transit is empty and a four-minute walk reveals less than a dozen passersby.

Counet tells Colossal that “Meanwhile in Amsterdam” came together like any other film, except that “this time there was no director, and no plan,” he says. “We walked through the old city centre of Amsterdam between 8:30 (and) 13:30 which is normally teemed by walking people and bicycles. What we witnessed felt like a dream. Sometimes beautiful and mesmerizing, sometimes scary and worrying.”

In a similarly bizarre look at San Francisco, stop lights cycle from green to red with no cars passing through and businesses are boarded up. One with a psychedelic facade even has signs that read “We will survive” and “We will get by,” a hopeful gesture derived from the city’s musical legends that directly contrasts the nailed plywood covering the windows.

To see how the global pandemic is affecting public life in New York City and Rotterdam, check out the videos below. (via Kottke)

 

 



Photography

Towering Skyscrapers Reflect New York City’s Density in Navid Baraty's Photographs

March 4, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Navid Baraty, shared with permission

Utilizing the reflections on soaring buildings, Seattle-based photographer Navid Baraty (previously) frames New York City in sections of just a few blocks. Although the traffic-packed streets and countless windows on high-rises can be seen from the ground, Baraty’s aerial shots in his ongoing Hidden City II series provide a distinct look at the area’s density and compactedness. “Most of our perceptions of cities involve us walking the busy streets and staring up at the towering skyscrapers above,” he writes. “With my series, I wanted to offer an altered and at times almost surreal perspective on the familiar streets that us city-dwellers drive and walk on each day.”

Baraty tells Colossal that his cityscapes often remind him of scenes from Interstellar or Inception. They “capture reflections of these hidden realities that exist high above the streets below. I couldn’t believe the first time I saw how much of a city can be seen reflected along the sides of skyscrapers from on high. It really felt as though I’d discovered some sort of hidden dimension,” he said. To keep up with Baraty’s perspective-altering photographs, head to Instagram and Behance.

 

 



Photography

Nearly 100,000 Images by Harlem Photographer Shawn Walker Acquired by Library of Congress

February 29, 2020

Andrew LaSane

Shawn Walker, “Neighbor at 124 W. 117th St, Harlem, New York” (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

Working alongside the Photography Collections Preservation Project, the Library of Congress recently announced that it has acquired nearly 100,000 photographs, negatives, and transparencies by Harlem-based African American photographer Shawn Walker. Depicting the rich culture of the New York City neighborhood, the collection spans nearly six decades from the 1960s to the present and is the first comprehensive archive of an African American photographer to join the national library.

Walker also donated a 2,500-piece collection of audio recordings, images, and ephemera representing the Kamoinge Workshop, a collective of Black photographers established in 1963. Self-identifying as a “fine arts photographer with a documentary foundation,” Walker was born and raised in Harlem and has worked to capture the neighborhood as he sees it.

Portrait of Shawn Walker. Photo by: Jenny Walker

“I look for the truth within the image, the multi-layers of existence and the ironies in our everyday lives,” he said in a statement to PCPP. “Working from a Black Aesthetic, my work tries to speak to everyone. For more than 50 years, I have tried to reflect on the positive aspects of my community and to see the relationships between various communities of color.”

“We are very pleased to celebrate the addition of these two important collections to the Library’s extensive representation of African American life in the United States, from photography’s earliest formats to the present day,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said in a statement. The New York Times reports that once organized, Walker’s archive will be made available to view via appointment. Some of his photography along with works by 14 other Kamoinge Workshop members will also be exhibited this summer (July-October 2020) at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Shawn Walker, “The Invisible Man Series: Dedicated to Ralph Ellison,” 1990s (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

Shawn Walker, “Trick-or-treaters,” ca. 1970s. (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

Shawn Walker, “African American Day Parade, Harlem, 1989.” (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

 

 



Art

Animal-Human Hybrids Spotted on New York Subway in Surreal Paintings by Matthew Grabelsky

January 12, 2020

Andrew LaSane

Images courtesy of the artist, used with permission

Los Angeles-based artist Matthew Grabelsky (previously) is back with a new collection of oil paintings of people with animal heads casually navigating the New York City subway system. The paintings combine the mundane with the surreal, as others on the commute and the environments remain neutral to the hybrid creatures.

Grabelsky’s paintings are inspired by the years he spent riding the subways in New York as a kid and by his early fascination with Greek mythology. Small details including zoo posters, stickers, T-shirts, and toys add humor to the art, while light reflecting off subway tiles and molded sets show the artist’s technical ability to paint hyperrealistic scenes.

In a recent interview with Thinkspace Project‘s blog Sour Harvest, Grabelsky shared that his characters will soon leave the subway, but added that he wants the shift to be organic. “My concept is that these characters started on the subway and then go out into the wider world. I certainly want to do paintings set in different locations in New York. I was born and am currently living in Los Angeles and so I expect that my characters will make it out to LA at some point.”

To witness the characters’ eventual emergence from the East Coast underground, follow Matthew Grabelsky on Instagram.