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Art

Commuters Go Wild in Matthew Grabelsky’s Uncanny Subway Paintings

February 2, 2023

Grace Ebert

A painted portrait of a horse-human figure riding the subway

“Giddy Up” (2022), oil on canvas, 14 × 16 inches. All images courtesy of Thinkspace Projects, shared with permission

Urbanites know the subway is a prime location to spot the city’s oddities, and yet, a run-in with one of Matthew Grabelsky’s characters would be a particularly wild encounter. The Los Angeles-based artist has spent the last few years rendering human-animal hybrids that nonchalantly ride public transit. Sometimes snacking on a cracker or brushing up on some reading, the characters are surreal, uncanny additions to an otherwise mundane scene.

Grabelsky’s newest oil paintings, which are currently on view as part of Riders at The Brand Library & Art Center in Glendale, California, are hyperrealistic and laced with witty details similar to earlier works in the series. Set on the New York City Subway and London Tube, the portraits are narrative-driven and embedded with pop culture references. The artist shares:

My goal is to create the effect of looking at a scene on the subway as if it were a diorama at a natural history museum. The images present richly detailed moments frozen in time allowing the viewer to closely inspect every element and make connections between them to read an overall story. In this world, people are transformed into part-animal to create scenes that are strange, funny, and endearing.

Curated by Thinkspace Projects, Riders is on view through March 17. You can find an extensive collection of Grabelsky’s commuters on his site and Instagram.

 

A painted portrait of a father and son human-monkey hybrids riding the subway

“Curious George Takes A Train” (2022), oil on canvas, 16 × 20 inches

On left, a painted portrait of a woman-crow figure on the subway, on the right, a painted portrait of a woman-parrot figure eating crackers on the subway

Left: “Crow-Magnon” (2022), oil on canvas, 28 × 38 inches. Right: “Polly Wanna Cracker” (2022), oil on canvas, 24 × 36 inches

A painted portrait of a dog-human hybrid riding the subway

“Texas Hold’em” (2022), oil on canvas, 12 × 16 inches

Left: A painted portrait of a wolf-human hybrid riding the subway. Right: A painted portrait of two panda-human hybrids riding the subway

Left: “An American Werewolf In London” (2022), oil on canvas, 24 × 32 inches. Right: “Sichuan Express” (2022), oil on canvas, 14 × 20 inches

A painted portrait of a bat-human figure riding the subway

“Gotham Local” (2022), oil on canvas, 12 × 16 inches

 

 

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Art

From Chicago to Detroit, Yashua Klos Presents Black Resilience, Defiance, and Tenderness

January 30, 2023

Grace Ebert

A photo of a portrait of a woman bisected by blocks of wood

“You See Through It All” (2021), paper construction of woodblock prints and graphite on archival paper, 41 x 54.5 inches. All images © Yashua Klos, shared with permission

Chicago continues to rank among the most segregated cities in the United States, with Black and brown populations living across the south and west sides that lack the investment and resources of the white-dominated northern neighborhoods. Caused by more than a century’s worth of inequitable governance, redlining, and various forms of discrimination, this enduring racial separation has irrevocably shaped the city and its residents, impacting those who came to the area during the Great Migration and those who call it home still today. It’s often said that the history of Chicago is also the history of segregation.

This infamous legacy is an essential component of Yashua Klos’s evolution as an artist. “I’m from the city of Chicago, and Chicago’s urban planning was designed for segregation, to separate Black and white,” he shares with Colossal. “That segregation is baked into the ‘redlining’ housing ownership policies and the geography of the city.”

 

A photo of a collaged portrait of a man with blocks bisecting his face

“Your Strength Is In Your Shadow” (2021), paper construction of woodblock prints and graphite on archival paper, 41.5 x 51 inches

Now based in the Bronx, Klos frequently reflects on his hometown and brings the gridded structure of its streets into his works. A 2021 solo show at UTA Artist Space exhibited portraits bisected by angular blocks textured like wood, brick, and cinder, allowing fragments of the uniform roadways to emerge through facial features. “In art history, the grid is a kind of tool for optical democracy. There’s no visual hierarchy in a grid—you can enter any space at any time. So, I’m interested in that grid’s proposal of democracy and how that’s failed Black folks, especially where I’m from and how Chicago is constructed,” he says.

The collaged portraits evoke the ways identities are an amalgam of both genetics and surrounding influences. They mimic three-dimensional forms that surface from the flat plane of the paper, and Klos portrays the subjects as breaking free from constraint or relying on the structure for support. “I’m considering Black folks who are forming a defiant sense of self in order to survive in an often unjust environment. This is why these head forms often appear built of construction materials and suggest that they are sculptures or even monuments,” the artist writes, referencing the art historical use of statues and portraits to convey value and respect.

 

A wood-like rendering of an upturned hand holding blue flowers

“Vein Vine” (2021), paper construction of woodblock prints, graphite, spray paint, and Japanese rice paper on stretched canvas, 84 x 60 inches

While Klos spent his upbringing in Chicago, his father’s family has ties to Detroit, particularly the car industry and Ford plant where many relatives worked. Like his portraiture, the artist’s woodblock prints of singular, upturned hands allow this personal history to converge with broader themes of familial love and political resilience. The appendages grasp botanicals native to Michigan and blocks floating nearby as they deny “work in order to hold flowers,” he says. “Here, I’ve found (an) opportunity to explore themes of nurturing, tenderness, generosity, and self-care.”

To explore an archive of Klos’s works, visit his site and Instagram

 

A photo of a framed collage of a hand grasping blue flowers

“Your Roots Hold On To You” (2022), paper construction of woodblock prints on muslin and Japanese rice paper, acrylic paint on paper, 60 x 75.5 inches

A photo of a colalged portrait of a man with wood blocks bisecting his face

“You Built Your Shelter From Shadows” (2021), paper construction of woodblock prints and graphite on archival paper, 42 x 50.5 inches

A photo of a collaged hand holding blue flowers

“We Hold The Wildflowers”

A photo of a collage of a hand holding blocks

“Diagram of How She Hold It All Together” (2021), paper construction of woodblock prints and graphite on archival Japanese rice paper, 52 x 53 inches

 

 



Photography

Braids and Bowlers: Indigenous Bolivian Women Skateboard in Style in Celia D. Luna’s Empowered Portraits

January 27, 2023

Kate Mothes

A photograph by Celia D. Luna of an indigenous Bolivian woman skateboarding.

All images © Celia D. Luna, licensed and shared with permission

Against the pastels and earth tones of a skate park in Bolivia, Miami-based photographer Celia D. Luna captures the vibrant energy and determination of women who express solidarity and strength through a love of skateboarding. Part of her series Cholitas Bravas, “Cholitas Skaters” focuses on a group of Indigenous Bolivian women who wear traditional clothes while practicing extreme sports. “I’ve always admired brave women and culture; it’s in my DNA,” she says, describing that her upbringing by a single mother in the Andes Mountains of neighboring Peru instilled an admiration for courage and perseverance.

As recently as the last two decades, Bolivia’s Indigenous Quechua and Aymara women, known derogatorily as “cholitas,” were marginalized and ostracized from society. Distinguished by their long braids, wide skirts, and bowler hats—an amalgamation of styles resulting from Spanish colonizers forcing Indigenous people to adopt European styles during the Inquisition—the style evolved into a symbol-rich, empowered look.

Indigenous Bolivian women were historically banned from entering some public spaces, could not use public transportation, and were burdened by extremely curtailed career opportunities. They have been advocating for their civil rights since the mid-20th century, but it wasn’t until the election of the nation’s first Indigenous president in 2006 that the Cholitas finally achieved some success in restoring their rights, and the pleated skirts, lace blouses, and sombreros prevail as emblems of their cultural roots.

Luna tells Colossal that the women’s choice to don traditional apparel is for “some of them in honor of their ancestors and some of them because that’s what they wear in their everyday life. I was taken by their courage and their love for their culture, and I wanted to capture that.” Her portraits highlight each individual as she skates around the park, gathers together with the group, and poses with her board as she gazes commandingly at the viewer.

“Cholitas Skaters” is one of a trio of sub-series that comprise Cholitas Bravas; the other two chapters focus on female rock climbers and wrestlers. Find more on Luna’s website and Instagram.

 

A photograph by Celia D. Luna of an indigenous Bolivian woman skateboarding.

Left: A photograph by Celia D. Luna of an indigenous Bolivian woman skateboarding. Right: A portrait of a "cholita" wearing a traditional Bolivian lace blouse and a white hate, holding a skateboard.

A photograph by Celia D. Luna of an indigenous Bolivian woman skateboarding.

A photograph by Celia D. Luna of an indigenous Bolivian woman holding a skateboard.

Left: A photograph by Celia D. Luna of an indigenous Bolivian woman skateboarding. Right: A portrait of a "cholita" with her skateboard.

A photograph by Celia D. Luna of an indigenous Bolivian woman skateboarding behind a group of three more women posing with their skateboards.   A photograph by Celia D. Luna of an indigenous Bolivian woman skateboarding. A portrait of an indigenous Bolivian woman posing with her skateboard and flicking her long braid into the air.

A photograph by Celia D. Luna of an indigenous Bolivian woman skateboarding.

 

 



Photography

Vibrant Makeup Mirrors Sweet Frozen Treats in Max Siedentopf’s ‘Pleasure Portraits’

January 25, 2023

Kate Mothes

A side-by-side photograph pairing of an ice cream bar (left) and a model wearing makeup that mimics the colors of the ice cream.

All images © Max Siedentopf, shared with permission

London-based artist and creative director Max Siedentopf has a knack for portraying more than meets the eye in his distinctive portraits. A series titled Pleasure Portraits looks forward to summer, featuring the distinctive pastels and jewel tones of ice cream bars alongside subjects whose decadent makeup mimics the hues and embellishments of their paired confection.

No stranger to fashion and makeup artistry in his collaborative, creative development role with the Italian brand Gucci, Siedentopf cast models who were ornamented with gems, baubles, and vibrant patterns. In this playful study of duality, there is a twist of irony: despite the association of frozen treats and the sunny colors of summertime with pleasure, Siedentopf’s subjects sit inert and gaze expressionlessly at the viewer in a similar format to passport photos.

Siedentopf is currently preparing a few upcoming exhibitions, fashion campaigns, and a forthcoming book of photographs. Follow updates on Instagram, and find more of his work on his website.

 

A side-by-side photograph pairing of an ice cream bar (left) and a model wearing makeup that mimics the colors of the ice cream.

A series of side-by-side photographs pairing of an ice cream bar (left) and a model wearing makeup that mimics the colors of the ice cream.

A side-by-side photograph pairing of an ice cream bar (left) and a model wearing makeup that mimics the colors of the ice cream.

A side-by-side photograph pairing of an ice cream bar (left) and a model wearing makeup that mimics the colors of the ice cream.

A side-by-side photograph pairing of an ice cream bar (left) and a model wearing makeup that mimics the colors of the ice cream.

A side-by-side photograph pairing of an ice cream bar (left) and a model wearing makeup that mimics the colors of the ice cream.

A side-by-side photograph pairing of an ice cream bar (left) and a model wearing makeup that mimics the colors of the ice cream.

A side-by-side photograph pairing of an ice cream bar (left) and a model wearing makeup that mimics the colors of the ice cream.

A side-by-side photograph pairing of an ice cream bar (left) and a model wearing makeup that mimics the colors of the ice cream.

A side-by-side photograph pairing of an ice cream bar (left) and a model wearing makeup that mimics the colors of the ice cream.

A side-by-side photograph pairing of an ice cream bar (left) and a model wearing makeup that mimics the colors of the ice cream.

 

 



Art Craft Design

Danielle Clough Reimagines Sportswear and Athletic Gear in Vibrantly Expressive Embroideries

January 24, 2023

Kate Mothes

Am embroidered portrait of eyes surrounded by colorful, loose threads.

All images © Danielle Clough, shared with permission

Utilizing vintage tennis rackets, T-shirts, and tie-dyed fabrics as canvases, Danielle Clough’s expressive embroideries (previously) sport summery motifs like flamingo pool floats, bright citrus, and bucket hats. The artist continues to expand upon the traditional hoop as the framing device and considers how the medium translates to unexpected surfaces like surfboards or apparel. And she isn’t afraid to experiment: her design for a surfboard—a bird perched on a large flower with a stem that trails into loose threads—didn’t go as planned when the time came to apply the piece to the physical board. However, the learning experience shaped the way she approaches future projects.

A recent series of vibrant human eyes stitched onto Adidas shirts comprise a collaboration with the brand to produce limited-edition wearable artworks. “The brief was broad: to create a sense of individual expression through the community,” Clough explains. “This collection of ‘expressions’ looks out from the wearer’s chest. Standing alone, but all together; a part of a group, like a bouquet.” She has also been experimenting with different threads and watercolor, focusing on the fabric background as an important part of the overall composition.

Clough says, “I’m currently working with a South African clothing brand called Poetry on creating a collection for spring using a variety of techniques to translate my work onto apparel,” and shares that she is also collaborating with Florida-based boxing glove maker 1V1 to create embellished mitts. Toward the end of this year, Clough will also present a series of workshops at Paradigm Gallery in Philadelphia. Find more of her work on her website, and follow the latest updates on Instagram.

 

A series of tennis and badminton rackets that have embroidered flowers in the nets.

A series of tennis and badminton rackets that have embroidered flowers in the nets.

Am embroidered portrait of eyes surrounded by colorful, loose threads.

Embroidered flowers in the net of a vintage tennis racket.

A series of portraits of eyes embroidered onto t-shirts which are rolled up to display all of the portraits.

Two images of embroidered flowers in the nets of vintage tennis rackets.

An embroidered portrait of a young woman wearing a bucket hat in profile, on a blue and purple watercolor base.

Embroidered lemons on a colorful watercolor base.

Am embroidered portrait of eyes surrounded by colorful, loose threads.

A pink flamingo embroidered on a blue fabric.

An embroidery of a bird perched on a large flower, on a blue background.

A detail of an embroidered bird.

An embroidery of a bird perched on a large flower, on a blue background.

 

 



Art

Ji Xin Reflects Eastern and Western Art Historical Traditions in His Elegantly Languid Portraits

January 19, 2023

Grace Ebert

An oil painting of a woman with a mirrored reflection

“Pearls and daffodils” (2022), oil on canvas, 59 x 47 inches. All photos by Nicolas Brasseur, courtesy of the artist and Almine Rech, shared with permission

Through ethereal portraits that vacillate between Eastern and Western traditions, Ji Xin coaxes an ambiance of contemplation and ennui. The Chinese artist blends elements of Song dynasty paintings, like the relaxed, unhurried poses of his feminine figures, with particulars of Renaissance works, producing compositions that place calm women among gilded, elegant interiors.

Rendered in a subtle palette of gold and pastel hues, the portraits are delicate and laced with longing and introspection. The subjects all shy away from the viewer, and as shown in “Pearls and daffodils” and “Ripples,” many are in the midst of confronting their emotional states through mirrored reflections of themselves or similar figures. Their elongated limbs stretch across their torsos or hang from their bodies, conveying a sense of stillness and repose.

The paintings shown here are on view through February 4 at Almine Rech Paris as part of the artist’s solo show, Moonlight · Butterfly. You can find more from Ji Xin, who currently lives and works between Hangzhou and Shanghai, on Instagram.

 

An oil painting of two women sitting on a chair with flowers

“Moon light” (2022), oil on canvas, 71 x 59 inches

An oil painting of two women and a sunrise

“Sunrise” (2022), oil on canvas, 75 x 59 inches

An oil painting of a woman lying down wiht a mirrored figure below her

“Ripples” (2022), oil on canvas, 59 x 47 inches

An oil painting portrait of a women and fan

“Pistil” (2022), oil on canvas, 16 x 12 inches

An oil painting of a woman seated on a chair

“White swan” (2022), oil on canvas, 59 x 47 inches

An oil painting of a woman lying down

“The dream of the water” (2022), oil on canvas, 59 x 47 inches

 

 

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