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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.
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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.
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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.
“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.
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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.
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A unique program in New York City created by the Center for Court Innovation offers people who have committed a low-level crime like trespassing or criminal mischief the opportunity to completely divert their case out of the traditional court system. Instead, participants in the Project Reset initiative meet in group settings with teaching artists to share a dialogue about works of art over a three-hour course. Upon successful completion of the program, the case is declined by the local district attorney’s office, the arrest record is sealed, and the individual never sets foot in a court room.
The program was piloted about six years ago at Gavin Brown’s gallery in Manhattan; artists Derek Fordjour and Shaun Leonardo were involved in developing and leading the curriculum. Currently, Project Reset operates in partnership with the New Museum in Manhattan and the Brooklyn Museum. At the latter, the focus is on two paintings: Titus Kaphar’s “Shifting the Gaze” and “Judgement” by Bob Thompson.
In a conversation with Colossal, Criminal Justice Director Adam Mansky explains that they have seen incredible success with the program. Initially limited to first-time offenders ages sixteen to seventeen, Project Reset has incrementally expanded over the years. It now serves a wider age range, as well as people who have had previous encounters with the court system.
“What we’ve observed is that some of the older participants get even more out of it,” Mansky tells Colossal. “There is a conceptual and performance aspect to participating in the course,” he explains, prompting reflection and active engagement on issues like systems of power and social perceptions.
“Conceptually, we do things that allow people to use arts to reflect on their behavior and the injustices of the system, that it can be a constructive experience for people,” says Mansky. Project Reset is effective because it matches the systemization of traditional court processes, while also centering the individual’s circumstances and potential for improvement and change for the future, rather than punishment for the past.
Since 2015, more than 1,750 people have participated in the program, and avoided a criminal record. The program has a 98% completion rate, with 96% of participants recommending it to others and a significant decrease in recidivism one year later. Project Reset also offers expediency: the 3-hour program helps cases, on average, be resolved 186 days sooner than traditional prosecution.
In addition to Project Reset, the Center for Court Innovation engages in a wide array of participatory and creative programming. The organization offers youth photography workshops, as well “a tremendous amount of place-making work”, Mansky explains. Much of their programming incorporates design and urban planning, as well as creative technology.
Find out more about the Center for Court Innovation on their website. The organization is also hiring for dozens of roles if you’re interested in getting involved professionally. You can also keep up with the non-profit and learn more about their impact on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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Montreal-based artists Melika Dez and Pauline Loctin met in January 2018 and decide to combine their imaginations in a creative collaboration. The result, PLI.Ē Project, fuses Dez’s skills as a movement photographer with Loctin’s expertise in paper art, and showcases dancers around the world wearing hand-folded paper costumes. Loctin specifically formed each dress’s shape and color palette to the dancer who would be modeling it, and Dez worked to situate her models in iconic settings from the streets of New York City to the Louvre Museum in Paris. Loctin’s paper creations range from resembling traditional ballet tutus to intricately folded experimental shapes.
Dez shares that the project came together in two phases: first as a studio shoot with professional ballet dancers wearing Loctin’s creations, and later as a worldwide endeavor photographing dancers and costumes outside. “Paper can be a fragile material to work with and that is exactly why we decided to make the impossible, possible. No matter which element we would be confronted to, water (rain), wind, we wanted to show that we are limitless.”
The PLI.Ē Project photographs are on view in Montreal through November 4, 2018, and the duo hopes to shoot a second series of the work and eventually publish a photo book. You can see more from Loctin on Instagram and Facebook and from Dez on Instagram. (via fubiz)
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New York City is sometimes affectionately (or disaffectionately) referred to as a “concrete jungle,” but for Los Angeles-based artist Matthew Grabelsky it’s more of a big cageless zoo. Using the New York City subway system as the setting for his work, Grabelsky paints surreal portraits of people who are seemingly normal from the neck down, but who have had their heads replaced by animals, both wild and domesticated.
Having grown up in New York and being fascinated by the imagery of Greek mythology as a kid, Grabelsky’s paintings are an exploration of human nature and of the way that animals represent various parts of the human subconscious. “The characters are symbolic of the kinds of thoughts that lie under the surface of people’s minds, and they reveal that the most extraordinary can exist in the most ordinary of everyday settings,” the artist told Prohbtd in an interview. “This theme is communicated through the juxtaposition of these ostensibly irrational images with otherwise completely mundane scenes. My idea is that my creatures are not original but are ultimately part of a much larger cultural continuum.”
Since graduating Cum Laude from Rice University in 2002 with a BA in Art and Art History (and a BS in Astrophysics), Matthew Grabelsky has shown in dozens of group exhibitions and solo shows around the world. In 2017 he was tapped by electronic musician Moby to paint an album cover featuring a father cow reading a book to his calf. To see more of Grabelsky’s work, follow him on Instagram.
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