Gradients and Everyday Objects Reinterpret the Day's Events by Concealing the Cover of The New York Times
Last summer, Sho Shibuya began a visual archive of the day’s sunrise by painting vibrant gradients in their likeness over the cover of The New York Times. The smooth, colorful transitions literally masked the daily headlines, offering a reprieve from the news and establishing a morning ritual that the Brooklyn-based artist, who’s also behind the design studio Placeholder, continues today.
Alongside those subtle sunrises, though, Shibuya also has started interpreting some of the day’s events through mixed-media works that similarly block out the articles. Two bandaids adhere to a peach cover, for example, marking widespread COVID-19 vaccinations. Bands of silver and gold splice another piece, which is also overlaid with a shattered mirror that reflects on Daft Punk breaking up after 28 years. No matter how heavy the topic, each of the pieces, Shibuya says, is intended as a visual aid that inspires hope and optimism. “I want to create peace through my work sharing my sympathy and emotion,” he tells Colossal, explaining:
I believed simple color and shape have power to influence emotions, and emotions influence actions. It is important to get the facts and understand the news, but I think my work is meant to make people feel the impact of the world beyond just facts and figures. It is similar to the way The New York Times printed all 100,000 names of the people who died from COVID; art can be a more impactful way of communicating the significance of the news.
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For Myriam Dion, a newspaper’s narrative qualities go beyond the text on the page. The Montreal-based artist accentuates the daily briefs and profiles in publications like The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, and Le Monde by overlaying broadsheets with painstakingly cut newsprint. Brilliantly hued flowers veil an issue focused on the wildfires raging across California, while masked subjects appear in the foreground of a piece about the post-COVID economy. Each tableau centers on one narrative, supporting the journalism with intricate motifs and trimmed photographs spread across the unfolded issue.
Masking the text-based print with color and woven sections has been a recent addition to Dion’s practice. “This operation often doubles or triples the working time, but it helps solidify the works (which are already quite fragile) and gives more depth and possibilities to the patterns that I choose and invent,” she writes, noting that weaving thin strips through whole editions visually aligns her works more closely with fiber arts.
More often utilizing vintage copies of North American newspapers than she had previously, the artist has identified a through-line in many of the editions. “For a long time, and even today, the print media has been a forum articulated by and for the male sex, where women have occupied a limited place, and interestingly enough, the newspaper articles I have accumulated document the perception of women in the mass media over the last century,” she says.
Dion will be an artist in residence at the NARS Foundation in Brooklyn in 2021, where she plans to create 8-10 new pieces that merge these historic narratives with traditionally feminine art forms, like lacework and embroidery. The idea is subversive and pays “homage to the female public figures represented in these old newspapers, but more particularly to ordinary women to whom the recognition of any artistic contribution, both from a technical and conceptual point of view, has long been denied by the politics of art.”
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Lisa Törner repurposes the front pages of The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the French weekly Le Canard Enchainé into inky canvases for her expressive creatures. For each edition, the Stockholm-based artist offers insightful commentary on the day’s events: a pensive monkey masks an article about bankers on Wall Street, a turquoise peacock adorns the coverage of Karl Lagerfield’s death, and a slinking leopard is rendered alongside a heartwrenching story about a mother and child, who were separated more than 50 years ago. “The panther symbolize(s) the son’s escape from North Korea,” she tells Colossal.
Törner, who is the daughter of Swedish sculptor and illustrator Bernt Törner, grew up in an artistic household and learned to paint at a young age. In her own practice, she sketches the evocative animals directly on the front pages. Her technique includes a combination of blank ink, acrylics, and oil paints to complete the wild creatures.
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For many people, blocking out the news has meant logging off of Twitter and resisting the urge to check every breaking update. But Sho Shibuya has taken a more literal approach to the stress-reducing action. The Brooklyn-based artist and founder of the design studio Placeholder has taken to painting over the front page of The New York Times with vibrant gradients that mimic the day’s sunrise.
Beginning in March when cities began to lock down, Shibuya realized that his sensory perceptions of the world changed. “Some days passed and I realized that from the small windows of my studio, I could not hear the sounds of honking cars or people shouting,” he says. “I could hear the birds chirping energetically and sound of wind in the trees, and I looked up and saw the bright sky, beautiful as ever despite the changed world beneath it.”
Shibuya began to photograph the sunrise each morning, recreating each rich gradient in acrylic. His color choices are inspired largely by the Japanese ukiyo-e artist Hiroshige, who was commended for his bokashi gradient technique and signature blue tones. Each of Shibuya’s works maintains the header and date of the publication. “I started to capture the moment in the newspaper, contrasting the anxiety of the news with the serenity of the sky, creating a record of my new normal,” he says. “Their front page has always been a time capsule of a day in history, so it made sense to use history as the canvas because the paintings are meant to capture a moment in time.”
The spirit of the project is that maybe, even after the pandemic subsides, people can continue some of the generosity and peace we discovered in ourselves and that the sky reminds us of every day with a sunrise through a small window. If one thing the news has made clear, we need generosity and peace for all people now more than ever.
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Packed within a 6,000-square-foot space on Chicago’s south side is a fictional universe teeming with pinned up newspaper clippings, towers of retro electronics, and tons of vintage advertising from McDonald’s to Vienna Hot Dogs. It’s the world of Hebru Brantley’s iconic characters, Lil Mama and Flyboy, whose enlarged head rests on the floor in one room of the immersive installation, titled Nevermore Park. Moving through the pathways lined with plastic toys and paint-spattered pallets, visitors pass a downed spaceship and a brick wall of street art, elements that structure Brantley’s narrative for the surreal environment.
The Los Angeles-based artist cites the tales of the superheroes and comic books he engaged with during his childhood living in Chicago as directly impacting his current projects. “I’m in love with creating and I have so many stories I want to tell,” he tells Colossal. “I want my work to create a narrative that hasn’t been told before, in ways others haven’t seen expressed. I’m working to create the things I wished existed.”
Although Brantley created many of the objects specifically for Nevermore Park, he also amassed thousands of pieces of real ephemera that create a strong undercurrent of Chicago’s history as expressed through pop culture, toys, magazines, and found objects. The periodicals lining the newsstand, for example, belonged to his grandmother. “She had saved a number of them and it created a unique opportunity for me to incorporate these real historical artifacts into my body of work for visitors to experience. Everything weaves together with the goal of staying authentic to the stories I wanted to tell,” he says.
Nevermore Park, though, is intended “to be a total sensory experience,” inspiring Brantley to collaborate with WILLS on the audio component, offering a soundtrack that he says visitors always ask about. “Bringing people into a space they wouldn’t normally occupy with sounds that are familiar, amplify the story and culture even more,” he writes. “Sight is an important aspect of the experience but so is the sound piped into each section.”
If you’re in Chicago, there are tickets available to visit Nevermore Park through May 3. Otherwise, head to Instagram to keep up with Brantley and see what’s next for Flyboy, Lil Mama, and Nevermore Park.
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The Japanese visual artist Atsushi Adachi creates miniature replicas of objects from the past using old newspaper clippings and articles sourced from the same period. Artifacts from history like battleships and Neil Armstrong’s space suit come alive in what Adachi describes as a meditation on memories of our collective memory.
Adachi chooses to work with newspaper because be believes that the medium embodies society’s values of that certain period. Like time, our values are fluid and ever-changing, influenced by events of the world that we often find ourselves swallowed up by.
By working with newspaper clippings from certain periods, Adachi gains an understanding of what was going through the minds of designers and creators of that time as they tirelessly worked on creating machines of science, adventure and sometimes war.
If you’re in New York, Adachi’s work is part of an exhibition titled “Emerging Tokyo” that’s on view in East Harlem from December 3 – December 7, 2019. The address is 213 East 121st Street. You can also keep up with Adachi’s work on Instagram. (Syndicated from Spoon & Tamago)
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