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Art

Natural Elements Emerge from Vintage Garments in Trompe L'oeil Sculptures by Artist Ron Isaacs

December 15, 2020

Grace Ebert

Left: “Up and Up” (2019), acrylic on birch plywood construction, 43 × 14 × 4 1/2 inches. Right: “Aviary” (2019), acrylic on birch plywood construction, 42 1/2 × 23 × 4 inches. All images © Ron Isaacs, shared with permission

Vintage clothing and nature collide in the trompe l’oeil works of Ron Isaacs (previously). Autumn leaves flow from a pastel pocketbook, songbirds emerge from a dress seam, and branches extend the length of formalwear. Despite appearing as fully formed sculptures complete with layered textiles and organic ephemera, the illusory works are constructed as reliefs with Finnish birch plywood that’s painted with matte acrylics.

Isaacs’s oeuvre is poetic and deliberately evasive as the Lexington-based artist renders vintage garments that represent an imagined figure. Whether appearing to be lying flat or slowly drifting to the floor, the slips and blouses evoke a “vivid human presence, as well as their own histories and mysteries,” he says. Brush, withered leaves, and raw elements further enhance the lively qualities while drawing connections between people’s lives and nature.

In a note to Colossal, Isaacs shares how his art and experience intersect:

My work evolves slowly, mostly as a matter of increased and prolonged stages of refinement, and perhaps of concept. The passage of time continues as an undercurrent to the work; as I am now seventy-nine, I have to consider things like what constitutes a life-time supply of plywood and paint—and that I have to make proverbial hay while the proverbial sun shines.

Isaacs is represented by Momentum Gallery in Asheville, North Carolina, and you can view more of his elegant works on Artsy.

 

“Calla,” acrylic on birch plywood construction, 33 × 57 × 3 inches

“Passerines,” acrylic on birch plywood construction, 23 × 42 3/4 × 6 inches

Detail of “Aviary” (2019), acrylic on birch plywood construction, 42 1/2 × 23 × 4 inches

 

 



Art

Paper Torsos Covered with Ancient Chinese Paintings by Peng Wei Reimagine Femininity

December 3, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Peng Wei, courtesy of Tina Keng Gallery, shared with permission

Through delicately layered flax and cotton paper, Peng Wei (previously) reconceptualizes common notions of femininity. The Chinese artist casts figurative sculptures depicting only the human torso, which are shapely in front and abstractly gathered in back. Inky tableaus of spectral figures, scenes of war, and domestic tasks all evoking ancient Chinese narratives—like Paragons of Feminine Virtue by Ming-dynasty thinker Lv Kun and Qing-dynasty novelist Pu Songling’s Strange Tales from the Chinese Studio—envelop the exterior. Combined with evocative poses, Peng’s freehand paintings subvert traditional understandings of women’s roles by removing their original context and displaying them anew.

Many of the delicately sculpted works shown here are part of Feminine Space, a collection that “privileges the female vantage point,” a statement says. Peng’s “stance is less an insouciant look from afar than an earnest gaze that pierces through the ancient works of Chinese literature.” If you’re in Taiwan, Feminine Space is on view through January 30, 2021, at Tina Keng Gallery. Otherwise, explore more of Peng’s work on Artsy.

 

 

 



Art

A Storm of Paint Entangles the Enigmatic Subjects of Glenn Brown's Winding Portraits

December 1, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Lactate (Midwinter)” (2020), oil and acrylic on panel, 78 3/4 x 55 1/2 inches. All images © Glenn Brown, courtesy of Max Hetzler, shared with permission

Winding lines and sinuous strands form the textured labyrinths that surround Glenn Brown’s subjects. The uncanny portraiture that comprises his series And thus we existed seamlessly revitalizes icons of pop culture and art history with the London-based artist’s distinct aesthetic. Bold prismatic hues whirl in curling strokes that intertwine outward across each panel, centering the figures while emphasizing the individual lines that provide their shape.

Prior to painting a backdrop or enigmatic subject, Brown begins with a source image, which he then digitally alters before transferring to the panel. While he evokes the aesthetics of surrealists or artists like Karel Appel, Frank Auerbach, Georg Baselitz, and Chris Foss, each of Brown’s acrylic and oil paintings transcend simple appropriation. Instead, he identifies the unexplored possibilities within the original image, casting unusual and complex lines that bolster the works’ mysterious and unsettling qualities. His deviation from the primary source also entangles his own narrative with that of his predecessors.

And thus we existed will be on view at two of Max Hetzler’s spaces in Berlin—Bleibtreustraße 45 and Bleibtreustraße 15/16—through January 23, 2021. To see where Brown’s work is headed next, check out his Instagram and his site.

 

“Cathedral Gin (after Castiglione)” 2020), oil and acrylic on panel, 52 x 37 3/8 inches

“The Crystal Escalator in the Palace of God Department Store” (2020), oil and acrylic on panel, in artist’s frame, 83 7/8 x 54 3/8 x 3 1/2 inches

“Bring on the Headless Horses” (2020), oil and acrylic on panel, 78 3/4 x 55 1/2 inches

“Drawing 2 (after Delacroix/Raphael)” (2019), acrylic paint on polyester film over cardboard, in artist’s frame, 43 x 37 x 2 3/8 inches

“And Thus We Existed” (2019–2020), oil and acrylic on panel, 78 x 48 1/8 inches

“Myths of the Near Future (Painting for Georgiana Houghton)” (2019), oil and acrylic on panel, 77 3/4 x 48 inches

 

 



Art

Subversive and Grandiose, Kajahl's Vivid Portraits Supplant Historical Narratives

November 20, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Silent Incantation II” (2020), oil on canvas over panel, 38 x 33 inches. All images © Kajahl, shared with permission

Through his meticulously rendered portraits, Santa Cruz-born artist Kajahl subverts the tradition of Blackamoor—a highly stylized European aesthetic that visualized people of color, particularly African men, in exoticized forms and subservient roles—by instead depicting Black subjects in valorized positions. Part of a series titled Royal Specter, the vivid paintings center alchemists, scholars, astronomers, and various intellectual figures within grandiose and luxurious settings.

While the artist’s works evoke the racist sculpture and decorative pieces of Blackamoor, they remove the historical context and alter the original narrative through anachronistic details. Each oil painting is layered with imagined elements, from the inaccuracies of the source material to Kajahl’s portrayals of fictional characters. “My fantasy is gazing back at their fantasy. I am their fantasy and they are mine… I am the specter of their imagination,” he says.

Kajahl’s work currently is on view at Chicago’s Monique Meloche Gallery through December 19. You can keep up with his historically subversive projects on Instagram.

 

“Alchemist” (2020), oil on canvas over panel, 36 x 48 inches

Left: “Huntress Eclipse” (2020), oil on canvas over panel, 60 x 48 inches. Right: “Tigress Guardian In Palmtree Oasis” (2020), oil on canvas over panel, 60 x 48 inches

“Star Gazer In Solitude” (2020), oil on canvas over panel, 72 x 54 inches

“Huntress In Oasis (Astride A Crocodile)” (2020), oil on canvas, 66 x 84 inches

Left: “Moment of Contemplation (Scholar)” ( 2020), oil on canvas over panel, 48 x 36 inches. Right: “Oracle (Holding Mirror)” (2020), oil on canvas over panel, 48 x 36 inches

“Silent Incantation I” (2020), oil on canvas over panel, 38 x 33 inches

“Oracle Snake In Globe” (2020), oil on linen over panel, 48 x 36 inches

 

 



Art History

Dive into Van Gogh Worldwide, a Digital Archive of More Than 1,000 Works by the Renowned Dutch Artist

November 12, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat,” September – October 1887, Paris, 4.5 × 37.2 centimeters, Van Gogh Museum

A point of levity during the temporary shutdowns of museums and cultural institutions during the last few months has been the plethora of digital archives making artworks and historical objects available for perusing from the comfort and safety of our couches. A recent addition is Van Gogh Worldwide, a massive collection of the post-impressionist artist’s paintings, sketches, and drawings.

From landscapes to self-portraits to classic still lifes, the archive boasts more than 1,000 artworks, which are sorted by medium, period, and participating institution—those include the Van Gogh Museum, Kröller-Müller Museum, the Rijksmuseum, the Netherlands Institute for Art History, and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Each digital piece is supported by details about the work, any restorations, and additional images.

In his short lifetime that spanned just 37 years, the prolific Dutch artist created thousands of works, many of which he finished in his final months. His thick brushstrokes are widely recognized today, particularly in masterpieces like “The Starry Night,” although his sketches, drawings, and prints offer a nuanced look at his entire oeuvre.  (via My Modern Met)

 

“Soup Distribution in a Public Soup Kitchen,” March 1883, ‘s Gravenhage, drawing, 56.5 × 44.4 centimeters, Van Gogh Museum

“Montmartre: Behind the Moulin de la Galette,” late July 1887, Paris, 81 × 100 centimeters, Van Gogh Museum

“Terrace of a café at night (Place du Forum),” c. 16 September 1888, Arles, painting, 80.7 × 65.3 centimeters, Kröller-Müller Museum

“Head of a Skeleton with a Burning Cigarette,” 18 January 1886 – early February 1886, Antwerpen, painting, 32.3 × 24.8 centimeters, Van Gogh Museum

 

 



Art

Metaphorical Scenes Examine Mystery in Dreamy Paintings by Artist Duy Huynh

November 9, 2020

Grace Ebert

“ReciprociTea,” acrylic on canvas, 40 x 30 x 2.5 inches. All images © Duy Huynh, shared with permission

Vietnamese artist Duy Huynh (previously) examines balance through nuanced scenes replete with ethereal, surreal elements: individual flowers ascend from a teapot, a chain winds around an artichoke heart, and figures float mid-air. Rendered in muted hues, the acrylic paintings are metaphorical and narrative-based, visualizing stories by connecting unusual symbols or positioning disparate objects together. The North Carolina-based artist gives the works witty names— “Thyme to Turnip the Beet” and “ReciprociTea,” for example—adding to their playful and whimsical natures.

In a statement, Huynh writes that the core of his practice involves drawing connections “between two or more mysteries,” which he explains further:

My characters often float (literally) somewhere between science and spirituality, memory and mythology, structure and spontaneity, ephemeral and eternal, humorous and profound, connectivity and non-attachment. The intent isn’t necessarily to provide enlightenment but to celebrate the quest itself.

Huynh co-owns Lark & Key, where his elegant paintings are part of a group show that’s on view through November 28. Limited-edition prints and greeting cards of his works are available through the gallery, as well.

 

“No More Clouded Hearts,” acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24 x 2.5 inches

Left: “Thyme to Turnip the Beet,” acrylic on wood, 12 x 12 x 1.75 inches. Right: “Wisdom Keepers,” acrylic on wood, paper on piano reads “press any key to continue,” 30 x 40 x 2.5 inches

“Heart of Gold,” acrylic on wood, 12 x 12 x 2 inches

Left: “A Matter of Pace, Space and Equanimitea,” acrylic on wood, 16 x 16 x 2.5 inches.  Right: “A Life More Aliferous,” acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 x 2.5 inches

“New Dawn Rising,” acrylic on canvas, 34 x 34 x 2 inches

 

 

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