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Art

Folkloric Portraits in Acrylic by Artist Paul Lewin Envision an Afrofuturistic World

September 21, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Convergence” (2022), acrylic on wood, 24 x 30 inches. All images © Paul Lewin, shared with permission

For Jamaica-born, Miami-based artist Paul Lewin, painting portraits of resilient, unafraid women is a way to process and manifest a lineage. “My work tells the story of me,” he says in a statement. “Each of my paintings is created in a process similar to dreaming. Meditation and dreams were very important tools in the creative process of my ancestors. I like to think of it as traveling inside to the place where my inspirations, emotions, genetic memory, and unconscious thoughts all collide.”

Working in neutral tones and colors evocative of the tropics, Lewin envisions figures within the speculative realm of Afrofuturism. Geometric motifs and symbols reference diasporic folklore and ritual and adorn the subjects’ faces and torsos. Hoods of fur, snake-like coils, and feathers shroud their bodies, using organic details to frame their silhouettes and convey the intrinsic connections between humanity and nature. Rendered on canvas or wood panel, each work is rooted in the transfer of energy and how legacies are passed through generations.

Prints, stickers, and other goods are available in Lewin’s shop. Visit Instagram for more of his works and glimpses into his process.

 

“Nala” (2022), acrylic on wood, 24 x 30 inches

“Habitation” (2022), acrylic on wood, 24 x 30 inches

Left: “Proxima Centauri” (2022), acrylic on wood, 24 x 30 inches. Right: “Ritual” (2022), acrylic on wood, 24 x 30 inches

“Nomad” (2022), acrylic on wood, 24 x 30 inches

“Nexus,” acrylic on wood cutout by Joe Koontz

Left: “Kianga” (2019), acrylic on canvas, 20 x 24 inches. Right: Cover art for “How Long till Black Future Month” (2021), acrylic on canvas, 20 x 24 inches

Lewin with his mural at UC Santa Cruz

 

 



Art

Hyperrealistic Portraits by Arinze Stanley Glorify the Resiliency of Nigeria’s Next Generation

September 13, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Portrait of Resilience #1″(2021), charcoal and graphite on paper, 47 1/2 x 36 inches. All images © Arinze Stanley, courtesy of Corridor Contemporary, shared with permission

In Deconstruct, Lagos-based artist Arinze Stanley (previously) acknowledges the children and teens who will come to define Nigeria’s politics and culture in the next few years. “I believe the youths are the building blocks of every nation,” he says. “I feel most compelled to project the positive image of our youths through this body of work in my attempt to dismantle the stereotype around the Nigerian youth. I believe our leaders of tomorrow are the biggest assets of today.”

Working in graphite and charcoal on paper, Stanley renders hyperrealistic portraits of earnest figures often with faint lines bisecting their faces. Portions of their torsos reveal a brick backdrop, suggesting that their consciousness and presences in the world are still taking shape. More dense works like “Fruits of Labour” draw on art historical motifs traditionally associated with power and resiliency, portraying figures in glorified poses with weapons and arms raised in protest. The incredibly detailed portraits rail against the turbulent political landscape of Nigeria, the world’s perception of the country, and its issues with police brutality, the latter of which the artist generously speaks to in a 2021 interview with Colossal.

Deconstruct is on view now at Corridor Contemporary in Philadelphia. Stanley often shares clips of his works-in-progress, which you can find on Instagram.

 

“Portrait of Resilience #5” (2022), charcoal and graphite on paper, 65 x 55 inches

“Unwritten Memoir” (2022), charcoal and graphite on paper, 47 5/16 x 41 7/8 inches

“Portrait of Resilience #3” (2022), charcoal and graphite on paper, 46 3/4 x 47 1/16 inches

“Fruits of Labour” (2022), charcoal and graphite on paper, 72 x 54 1/2 inches

Left: “Portrait of Resilience #4” (2022), charcoal and graphite on paper, 49 1/2 x 31 7/8 inches. Right: “Portrait of Resilience #2” (2021), charcoal and graphite on paper, 41 x 29 1/2 inches

“Portrait of Resilience #6” (2022), charcoal and graphite on paper, 17 1/2 x 17 1/2 inches

“Portrait of Resilience #7” (2022), charcoal and graphite on paper, 17 1/2 x 17 1/2 inches

 

 



Art Photography

Photographer Zanele Muholi Finds Empowerment Through Bold Black-and-White Portraiture

September 12, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Isiqhaza” (June 10, 2018, Philadelphia). All images © Zanele Muholi, courtesy of African Artists’ Foundation, shared with permission

The striking portraits of South African photographer and activist Zanele Muholi (previously) are easily recognizable. Shot in stark black-and-white, the images utilize heavy contrast and center on single subjects dressed in elaborate garments. These wearables are sculptural in construction and made from commonplace objects: clothespins are strung together as a necklace, dried grasses splay outward like the brim of a hat, and rolls of toilet paper cascade over a figure’s shoulders.

Muholi often works in self-portraiture and is known for photographing Black queer subjects as a way to explore the radical nature of identity and as a means of celebration and respect. “The work that I produce is meant to be for every person,” they say in an interview. “It could be a teacher. It could be a mother whose child is queer and wants to have a reference point to show their kids and say that you are not alone. And it could be for LGBTI people themselves to understand their worthiness.” Muholi views all of their works as collaborations with the sitters, who often gaze at the camera with direct, empowered expressions.

Many of the photos shown here are part of the group exhibition Dig Where You Stand, which is on view through October 9 at Savannah Centre for Contemporary Art in Tamale, Ghana. A project of African Artists’ Foundation, the group show engages with questions of decolonization and restitution and will travel to Lagos, Lusanga, and Lisbon in the coming months. Until then, find more from Muholi on Instagram.

 

“Sine II” (Melbourne)

“Bester” (May 2, 2019, New York)

Left: “Sine X” (March 17, 2020, Melbourne). Right: “Muzane I” (May 15, 2019, London)

Detail of “Jamile Face” (May 2, 2019, New York)

“Wenzeni” (2019)

Left: “Vika IV” (September 11, 2019, Cape Town). Right: “Aphelile X” (April 11, 2020, Durban)

“Vika III” (September 11, 2019, Cape Town”

 

 



Photography

In Bold Self-Portraits, Atong Atem Vividly Frames Relationships Between Identity and Culture

September 9, 2022

Kate Mothes

“Self Portrait with Pearls” (2019), Ilford smooth pearl print, 90 x 70 centimeters. All images © Atong Atem, shared with permission courtesy of the artist and MARS Gallery

Since its inception, photography has dominated the way we visually remember and describe the world around us and where we are within it. It has tapped into desire, joy, grief, and superstition, such as in the Victorian era, when some believed it could be a channel between people and spirits in the afterlife. In portraiture, photography immortalizes its subjects and has transformed artists’ ability to express themselves and tell stories. For Ethiopia-born, South Sudanese photographer Atong Atem, who is based in Melbourne, the medium enables a salient exploration of the African diaspora and migrant narratives by focusing on the relationship between figures and the interior spaces they inhabit.

Sometimes referred to as Naarm, Melbourne comprises the traditional lands of the Kulin Nation, itself a collective of five Aboriginal tribes. Paralleling her exploration of the nature of place, culture, and postcolonial narratives, Atem’s series of powerful self-portraits focus on how perceptions of identity are shaped through relationships between place, dress, and custom and the way they change over time or merge when people move. Occasionally referencing art history, such as “Blue Face” modeled after Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” (c. 1665), her works also nod to groundbreaking 20th century photographers Malick Sidibe, Philip Kwame Apagya, and Seydou Keita, who expanded traditions of studio portraiture. In a similar spirit, Atem explores intersections between place, people, and time to create a visual representation of the connection to culture.

This year, the artist’s first book of photographs, titled Surat (Sudanese Arabic for “snapshots”), was commissioned by Photo Australia. The second edition is due to be published by Perimeter next month, and you can find more of the artist’s work on her website and Instagram. (via ART RUBY)

 

“Blue Face” (2021), digital photograph, 100 x 75cm and 32.5 x 43 centimeters

“Self Portrait with Plastic Flowers” (2016), Ilford smooth pearl print, 90 x 70 centimeters

“Self Portrait in July 4” (2021), digital photograph, 90 x 60 centimeters

“Self Portrait with Plastic Flowers” (2016), Ilford smooth pearl print, 90 x 70 centimeters

“Horse Girl” (2016), Ilford smooth pearl print, 60 x 90 centimeters

“Self Portrait on Mercury” (2019), Ilford smooth pearl print, 90 x 60 centimeters

 

 

 



Photography

Historic Photographs in ‘Love Immortal’ Celebrate the Timeless Relationship Between Dogs and Their People

September 8, 2022

Kate Mothes

Images from the book ‘Love Immortal’ by Anthony Cavo, shared with permission. Copyright © 2022 by Anthony Cavo, reprinted courtesy of Harper Design, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

After the first known photograph was taken in 1826 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce from the upstairs window of his home in Burgundy, France, the world became enthralled by the newfound ability to capture their loved ones—and their furry friends—for posterity. Love Immortal, a new book by antique dealer and collector Anthony Cavo, underscores the timeless and universal recognition that, to many, dogs are a fundamental part of the family.

When he was seven years old, the author began trawling New York City neighborhoods with his red wagon on the hunt for treasures. A chip off the old block—his father was also an antique dealer—Cavo grew up with a deep-seated love and appreciation for vintage objects, especially photographs, and for more than fifty years, he has been compiling an incredible catalogue of images, including hundreds of portraits of dogs and their doting owners.

The new volume published by Harper Design features more than 200 photographs made between 1840 and 1930 that span the medium’s technological spectrum, from Daguerrotypes to Ambrotypes, tintypes to cartes de visite, to sepia and black-and-white images. Portraying beloved terriers, retrievers, or hounds as expressive and lively as if they could leap off the table, run out of the frame, or—doing what dogs do best—doze off at any moment. You can find a copy at Bookshop.org. (via PetaPixel)

 

 

 



Photography

Photographer Stéphan Gladieu Documents the Congolese Street Children Turning Waste into Wonder

September 2, 2022

Gabrielle Lawrence

All images © Stéphan Gladieu, shared with permission

“So dramatic, so strong, so visual,” artist Stéphan Gladieu said of his first encounter with the revival of an ancestral folk art movement in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. Kinshasa is the capital of Congo but also one of the many places American and European countries send their waste. Though doing so is illegal, wealthier nations still export tons of debris with the knowledge that these places do not have the resources to treat or recycle it. Instead, these discards sit, swell, and slowly drown everything around them.

In the face of this ecological disaster, the young people of Kinshasa began to repurpose the waste into traditional religious costumes that were previously destroyed, along with other cultural histories and rituals, by the forced Catholicism of colonization. Gladieu’s relationship with these artists has evolved into the Homo Détritus series.

“(In the photographs), we are talking about ecology, but we are talking about ecology through African masks. As you can see, they’re completely covered up. You don’t see any part of the skin. The traditional masks were done with natural materials. They symbolized the spirit of the ancestors or the spirit of support of the natural world. These young artists reinvent these traditional masks in a way, but they do it today with trash because they find more trash and natural materials.”

 

While doing research in Yoruba for a different photo project that has yet to be released, Gladieu found some grainy photos of a girl dressed in plastic bottles. After reaching out to the contact, he discovered that several of these outfits already existed in Kinshasa and were being produced by local artists as a cultural response to the growing waste problem. However, some of them were damaged due to the lack of resources to properly store the pieces. The labor ranged widely. It could take a few days to repair a mask or when working in groups of three to four people. When using plastics like the shoes seen in “Babouch” (“Flip-Flop”), costume construction could average five to six days.  The most complex garments made of tires, bottles, and metal scraps took up to three to four weeks.

In “Homme Bidon,” which translates to “Phony Man,” brightly colored cups, water containers, and buckets form a mask. With two pails in each arm, the figure balances a water bucket on top of its head. The opening of a yellow container becomes a mouth, and a perforated top represents its eyes—creating a pained expression that also evokes thirst. To the left of the figure, there is a woman in a yellow chair pouring water into her hands. This image references the inequitable economics of water that disproportionately affect poorer countries like those across Sub-Saharan Africa where, as of 2020, 30 percent of people have access to safe drinking water. The surrounding environment also nods to the gendered divisions of women and girls who are responsible for gathering this vital resource for their communities. 

The young artists of Kinshasa and Gladieu’s photographic approach set this project apart from other ecological art concerning this region. “I didn’t want to do work that would be dark. A lot of work had been done like that,” Gladieu said of wanting to avoid guilting viewers into paying attention. “People don’t want to see and don’t really react anymore to those images. It doesn’t help them realize that we all have a personal responsibility in the way we consume and throw things away.” This approach also better honors the agency and resilience of the community of Kinshasa. It exalts the reclamation of their culture rather than the systemic violences enacted against them.

 

“L’Homme Caoutchouc” (“The Rubber Man”) calls out industrial companies that are not relegated to strictly enforced environmental regulations. This charge is captured in the figure’s monstrous stance, rugged form, and emergence from a pool of oil black mud. Similarly, “L’Homme Sachet” (‘The Bag Man”) speaks to the way the plastic bag engulfed many developing countries and quite literally consumed land, animals, and water sources. The abundant layers and repetitive colors represent the excess of plastic that hungrily survives even after we have tossed it into our garbage cans and out of our minds. Along with the depth of representation, Gladieu’s portrait style captures the magnitude of each figure’s artistic presence. He attributes this accomplishment to the collaborative nature of the project.

“I was living with (the artists in Kinshasa). We chose the materials, and I helped provide the money to build a costume or to repair the ones that were damaged. Then we worked in the city to choose the backgrounds. And when I say it’s a collaborative project, it’s also in terms of income because there is a part of the money that I can send by doing speeches and books. It’s a wonderful experience, even if it’s not easy. There are 25 artists. So sometimes it’s a mess, but it’s quite fun.”

You can see more of Homo Détritus on Gladieu’s website, Instagram, or by pre-ordering his forthcoming monograph, which will be released in November.

 

 

 

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