with oil painting
Spanish street artist Pejac (previously) addresses the concept of “returning to normal” in a discerning new series that focuses on the urgency of the issues affecting the world today. Centered on the increasingly disastrous effects of the climate crisis and the social issues that dominate the news cycle, the artist speaks to the myriad global crises in his largest exhibition to date, which opens on October 30 in a former train factory in Berlin. Titled APNEA, the solo show features 45 of his newest works in myriad mediums and themes, including chaotic scenes in acrylic, oil, and spray paints, delicate honeycomb on cardboard, and large-scale sculptures and installations that occupy the industrial space.
Pejac created many of the pieces on view since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, an ongoing concern that also formed the basis for his 2020 trio of interventions paying tribute to health care workers. The new series includes a disquieting depiction of the White House overcome by a violent riot, with canisters releasing billowing smoke and an unaware figure golfing in the foreground, in addition to a cyclone-like drain on a paint palette. Other pieces depict a surreal earthen map of the U.S. with state lines cracked in the dirt and a rendering of Rodin’s “The Thinker” precariously balanced on scaffolding. “During a time of lockdown, painting within the four walls of my studio felt like a liberation and a lifeline. APNEA represents this contradiction,” the artist says.
To coincide with the show’s opening, Pejac is releasing “The Boss” (shown below) as limited-edition prints and postcards available through a lottery system, and proceeds will be donated to Sea-Watch, a German NGO that has helped thousands of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea. The artist also teamed up with the organization for an installation depicting a child wearing a life jacket atop Neo-Gothic Holy Cross Church in Berlin, a heartwrenching visual that draws attention to the refugee crisis. You can find out more about the release and see additional works on Instagram.
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In abandoned sheds, tiny campers, and imposing, hilltop castles, Scottish artist Andrew McIntosh (previously) nestles glowing entryways to mysterious new worlds. The illuminated portals are central to the artist’s ongoing interest in exploration, curiosity, and a never-ending desire to uncover the unknown, and they offer a tiny window into what lies beyond the immediate landscapes. Each of the compositions exudes a ghostly air, with fog or storm clouds hanging above the once-occupied spaces.
Whether the focus of the work or tucked in an enclave, art historical references proliferate many of McIntosh’s oil-based paintings. He positions the renowned works often preserved in institution halls within the context of outdoor settings or dilapidated travel trailers, a subversion that establishes his conceptual framework. In his most recent series, the artist reimagines the “Tower of Babel” as a rugged termite hill and places the catacombs of the Colisseum into a paint-chipped caravan, a vehicle he sees as “the perfect symbol of human hardiness and the intrepid desire to explore, an instinct that exists no matter how small or humble the being.”
Some of the paintings shown here are part of McIntosh’s solo show God Shaped Holes, which is up through October 30 at London’s James Freeman Gallery, and you can explore a larger collection of his works on his site and Instagram.
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Nearly a century since it began, the Great Depression is still largely associated with the iconic imagery that’s come to define the era. Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” and Walker Evans’s portrait of the distinctly tight-lipped Allie Mae Burroughs are two foundational shots that establish the period’s visual record, and they accompany the approximately 175,000 photographs also commissioned by the U.S. Farm Security Administration during those years.
While vast in number, this collection is understood today as being limited in scope, particularly in relation to its failure to reflect racial diversity, because the head of the FSA from 1935 to 1941, Roy Stryker, effaced images he felt didn’t align with the agency’s goals. When he wanted to reject a photo and prevent its dissemination, he would mark it with a hole punch, an erasure that Tulsa-based artist Joel Daniel Phillips evokes in his striking series Killing the Negative Pt. 2.
The ongoing project reimagines intimate portraits and wider shots from that period as meticulous graphite and charcoal drawings and oil paintings in shades of red. Monochromatic and ranging from small portraits to life-sized renderings, Phillips’s works complicate the narratives expunged from the historical record by focusing on a wider and more diverse swath of the population. “When the black voids of Roy Stryker’s hole punch are placed front and center, the reality of just how much power that a single, White man had to shape the narrative re-frames and re-defines the entire discussion,” the artist said in an interview about the first part of the project.
Included in Killing the Negative Pt. 2, which runs from October 9 to 20 at Hashimoto Contemporary’s new Los Angeles gallery, are glimpses into both rural and urban life with large-scale paintings of an older farmer, young girl outfitted in a frilly dress, and a panoramic shot of a migrant family and their makeshift living quarters. One smaller work (shown below) recreates a selfie that FSA photographer John Vachon snapped “in a hotel room mirror while on assignment. He took several of these, and apparently, Roy Styker (the head of the FSA) particularly hated this one, since he punched it twice,” the artist writes.
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Whether depicting a floating cluster of stairs and balconies or a living space separated by differing forces of gravity, a new series of paintings by Cinta Vidal (previously) establishes multiple perceptions of reality within a single work. The artist, who lives in the small town of Cardedeu near Barcelona, favors skewed perspectives that flip domestic objects and invert architecture, and her collection of oil paintings that comprise Concrete use that same style of distortion to question notions of individual space and community and the walled structures people build in their minds.
Rendered in a subdued color palette of grays and soft blues, the compositions precisely arrange multiple routes and manners of living into single, cement buildings. Each work “remind(s) viewers that they are not alone and to pay closer attention to the many pathways of life existing amidst the masses.”
Curated by Thinkspace Projects, Concrete will be on view October 2 through December 26 as part of Structure, a series of solo exhibitions at the Museum of Art and History in Lancaster. Vidal is also in the process of painting a large, outdoor mural nearby to accompany her smaller works, and you can follow her progresss on Instagram.
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Wrapped within the piecey curls surrounding Miho Hirano’s subjects are twigs, vine fragments, and clusters of pink blossoms. Using a cool color palette tinged with blues, the Japanese artist (previously) paints ethereal, introspective portraits of women enveloped in movement whether through small fish swimming around their torsos or branches growing from under their hair. Hirano tells Colossal that she tends to center her oil-based works around finding harmony and the inevitability of change, particularly in relation to life’s fragile nature.
Many of the pieces shown here are on view at Beinart Gallery in Melbourne, and Hirano is currently preparing for a solo show in London next year. You can see more of her dreamy paintings on Instagram.
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Distorted Figures Navigate the Aftermath of Environmental Destruction in Portraits by Stamatis Laskos
Fantastically tall figures with elongated limbs and torsos inhabit the distorted, mysterious realities painted by artist Stamatis Laskos (previously). The highly stylized artworks, which extend upwards of six feet, imagine a universe marred by unknown destruction: an elderly man wades through waist-high water while fire burns in the background, a woman retrieves a human skeleton from a flood, and a self-portrait shows the artist shielding his eyes with detached hands. Working with Earth tones and an implied dim light, Laskos shrouds each scene with shadow, which obscures the figures’ faces and casts an eerie tension over the degraded environments.
At once distant and deeply personal, each painting draws on ideas of collective unconscious and Jungian archetypes, whether portrayed through wise figures, an apocalypse, or the unification of opposing forces. “Giving them the necessary deformation, my archaic protagonists carve out incompatible and irreconcilable trajectories,” Laskos says. “The unconscious and the hidden memories are framed by colors, shapes, and situations that complement my compositions in such a way that each work is a page from my diary, always reminding me how and why it was created.”
Laskos is currently based in his hometown of Volos, Greece, and some of his works on canvas are on view through June 25 at Lola Nikolaou Art Gallery in Thessaloniki. Later this summer, he’ll be painting a larger mural in Athens focused around a theme of environmental ruin, and you can follow his progress on that piece on Behance and Instagram.
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Editor's Picks: Art
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.