Based in Oshawa, a suburb of Toronto, artist Toni Hamel (previously) is concerned with human morality—or lack thereof. In her subtly hued artworks, Hamel portrays subjects in the midst of futile and trivial pursuits: children pluck stars from the night sky, a couple attempts to reconstruct a flower after its petals have fallen, and a young family literally watches wet paint dry. Many of the satirical pieces consider socially accepted anthropocentrism and the relationship people have with the surrounding environemnt.
Since 2017, Hamel has been adding to High Tides and Misdemeanors, an ongoing series that is intentionally political. “It confronts us with the repercussions of our actions and denounces the current thinking models. In this age of alternative realities, ‘fake news’ and a culture that is increasingly more self-absorbed and superficial, I feel that it’s even more important for me to carry on reporting what I must,” she writes.
Explore more of Hamel’s visual commentaries on culture and politics on Instagram.
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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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Katharina Grosse’s latest installation transcends the boundaries of the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart as it erupts into a sprawling kaleidoscope. From varicolored surges inside to the vast paintings on the ground and nearby outdoor walls, “It Wasn’t Us” is an expansive artwork on the site of a former railway building. As visitors walk throughout the work, the abstract forms swell in various directions, creating a new visual at each angle. “I painted my way out of the building,” Grosse (previously) said about the site-specific project.
“It Wasn’t Us” will be on view at the Berlin museum until October 1, 2021, and if you can’t experience it in person, watch the immersive video and interview with the artist below. To dive further into Grosse’s work, purchase a copy of her forthcoming monograph or check out her Instagram. (via designboom)
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Through a series of brightly hued paintings titled Lost & Found, Max Sansing examines the human desire for happiness and peace through a distinct sense of place. Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, the artist is known for vibrant murals, which you can explore on Instagram, and smaller-scale artworks (shown here) that are rooted in the culture that’s unique to the city.
Each of Sansing’s paintings focus on a single subject who is overlayed with a thick brushstroke or whispy feather. The artist tells Colossal that the central characters are in the midst of a revelation, having just experienced or realized a needed adjustment. “I think at some point in most Chicagoans’ lives, you come to a point where you need a change. Either Chicago does that for you, or you do it for yourself. Finding that and unlocking those new pathways is a huge part of life,” Sansing says.
Many of the works that are part of Lost & Found hearken back to the artist’s upbringing. “Rapture,” in particular, features Anita Baker in the background, a gesture toward the R&B singer’s tunes that would reverberate throughout the neighborhood Sansing grew up in during the 1980s. In the same piece, though, a bullet propels toward a young boy’s head. “The threat of gang violence in the early 90s was kind (of) like a wake-up call out of adolescence,” the artist says, and a reality for many Black boys and men in the United States.
Sansing isn’t without hope, though. The artist writes, “I think we all want that moment in life to finally have clarity, peace, happiness, and in the end, that’s what a lot of civil unrest is about. Folks just wanna live and be. And some want that for others who can’t have it due to hate and systemic roadblocks.” As a whole, Lost & Found embodies the revelations necessary to bring justice and allow communities to thrive. “To quote the show title,” Sansing says, “these things are lost for some, and we have to find it.” (via Supersonic Art)
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Two new paintings by Kerry James Marshall feature a central crow that looms over a botanical backdrop. One or two birdhouses, which have entrances that are too small for the blackbirds to fit through, are perched on the leafy branches along with more petite species. Part of an ongoing series, the acrylic paintings are based on John James Audubon’s Birds of America, an archetypal text cataloging 435 life-size watercolors of avian creatures.
Marshall’s artworks provide a multivalent counterhistory to conceptions of race in the United States. While Audubon is recognized widely for his contribution to ecology and natural history in America, his own background is conflicting. The ornithologist was born as Jean Rabin in Haiti to unmarried parents: his father was a white plantation owner, while his mother’s identity is not as well-documented. However, many people believe she was a Creole chambermaid who may have had a mixed racial heritage. When Audubon migrated to the United States in the 19th century, he changed his name and masked his potentially biracial background.
Throughout his life, the famous birdwatcher and artist both supported and actively participated in chattel slavery, enslaving and selling people throughout the early 1800s. Audubon, who passed as white, also sought out relationships with presidents James Harrison and Andrew Jackson to promote his studies. In 1976, though, the artist’s work was included by curator David C. Driskell in his exhibition Two Centuries of Black American Art, which positioned Audubon within the Black arts canon.
Today, Marshall utilizes ornithologist’s studies as a way to consider the narratives around race in his series, Black and part Black Birds in America, which on view virtually through August 30 at David Zwirner. The Chicago-based artist paints large crows in chromatic black, which is composed entirely of dark reds, blues, or greens. Another smaller bird, like a goldfinch or cardinal, has the deep shade on its face or wings, evoking the one-drop rule, or the claim that one Black ancestor was enough to grant a relative that same identity.
Because Marshall forgoes actual black pigment when painting, he evidences that racial categories are simply a social construction rather than a biological fact. Similarly, the ambiguous titles of the series compare the classification of birds to that of people, utilizing the color to reference both the creatures’ feathers and human categorization of race. “None of us works in isolation. Nothing we do is disconnected from the social, political, economic, and cultural histories that trail behind us. The value of what we produce is determined by comparison with and in contrast to what our fellow citizens find engaging,” Marshall says.
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The troupe of wild animals in Bruno Pontiroli’s paintings contort their bodies into backbends and handstands that would rival even the most accomplished gymnast. A wrinkly hippo balances on its tongue, a tiger arches its torso into a 90-degree angle, and a hyena rotates its hind legs in the air. The French artist (previously) notes that he begins the bizarre artworks with easily-recognized animals that he then shapes “like the way a child plays with modeling clay or a building set for instance,” morphing a simple depiction of a nimble lion or hare into a peculiar new reality. He explains by saying:
My aim is to turn the narrow vision that we have of the world upside down and disturb our imagination while shaking an accepted reality with images that are as incomprehensible as they are familiar. Distorting a symbol or mixing opposing universes allows me to question the identity of things so that I can reinvent them in a world with no logic. Everything is possible.
Pontiroli’s series A Rebrousse-Poil, or against the grain, will be virtually on view at Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles starting August 22. See what the artist has been up to in the meantime on Instagram.
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Editor's Picks: History
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.