Using scraps of vibrant Ankara fabric, Lagos-based artist Marcellina Oseghale Akpojotor fashions intimate portraits that consider the fragmented and varied inner lives of her subjects. The intricately composed depictions rely on a cacophony of patterns arranged in loose ripples and tufts, creating a patchwork of color and texture. Although the textiles are Dutch in origin—they’re colloquially known as “African print fabrics”—they have a strong cultural significance, and by piecing together the assorted motifs, Akpojotor establishes a shared visual memory.
Set against uncluttered, domestic backdrops rendered in acrylic, the fiber-based figures are often disrupted with small spots of paint as a way to “speak to the influence our environment has in shaping us as individuals,” Akpojotor shares. “They represent the connections we have with our background and immediate society and how these often ignored elements form a part of our being.” Navigating the links between subjects and their surroundings is an ongoing concern for the artist, whose work delves into the effects of the current moment, in addition to the ways personal histories and the actions of previous generations have lasting impacts.
Akpojotor is represented by Rele Gallery, where her work will be on view later this month, and she’s currently working on pieces that explore how education affects women’s empowerment, which you can follow on Instagram. (via Women’s Art)
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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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Using geometric motifs and vibrant hues that contrast their brick and concrete backdrops, multi-disciplinary artist Georgie Nakima paints oversized portraits that use color to convey “divinity, resilience, strength, and beauty.” The Charlotte-based artist, who works as Garden of Journey, gravitates toward bright reds and blues to form stripes, facial features, and various plants and animals in a manner that connects the central subjects to their environments. “The color is totally freestyle, and I really like to start with a base color or gradient,” she tells Colossal. “Especially in urban societies, it’s not always inspiring when you’re surrounded by gray and brown buildings.”
A studio artist primarily, Nakima creates smaller works on paper in addition to her more monumental projects, all of which are tied to ideas of Afrofuturism and countering media narratives with positive messages. Her practice has evolved in recent years from strict hyperrealism to a more abstract style that uses patches of color and patterns. “It’s still proportionately realistic, but there’s more depth,” she says, sharing that she focuses equally on her subjects and their surroundings. “My murals are really playing to the ecosystem. I am a portrait artist. However, I don’t seek for my work to be focused on humans existence. (I want to) put some of the focus off of the human ego and think holistically about who we are on this planet.”
Nakima is currently working on a piece at Mechanics and Farmers Bank, Charlotte’s first Black-owned financial institution, and you can see more of her outdoor projects, portraits on paper, and basketball court transformations 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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Spanning the icy downpours of the Norwegian archipelago Svalbard to the intimate portraits of the people of Papua New Guinea, the profound photographs that comprise an exhibition at Hilton Asmus Contemporary in Chicago are a perceptive consideration of the issues at the center of today’s conservation efforts. Titled Origins, the show brings together the work of artists and marine biologists Cristina Mittermeier and Paul Nicklen, who pair their creative practices with their work at the nonprofit Sea Legacy.
Co-founded by the duo in 2014, the organization is dedicated to preserving the oceans, using “their inspiring imagery to convert apathy into action and to drive powerful conservation wins across the globe,” a statement reads. A testament to the landscapes and ecologies worth preserving, the stunning photos document global crises and the tender, joyful moments of people around the world, and their subjects range from a Lisu woman in China’s Yunnan Province carrying her pet duck to the crumbling icebergs of Antarctica.
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Candid Black-and-White Portraits Capture the Tender Bond Between Photographer Masahisa Fukase and His Cat
In what can simply be described as a love letter to his favorite companion, a series of black-and-white portraits are some of the more affectionate images in Masahisa Fukase’s vast body of work. The late Japanese photographer, who died in 2012 after living his last two decades in a coma following a tragic fall in 1992, is known for his portraiture and candid shots, including his groundbreaking collection spotlighting the wild lives of ravens. Largely focused on capturing the world around him, Fukase’s oeuvre also includes an array of photos of his beloved cat Sasuke.
Now compiled in a book published by Atelier EXB, 123 of the photographer’s portraits are a tender portrayal of the pair’s companionship. Although Fukase raised many cats throughout his lifetime, none played as important a role as Sasuke, the titular pet of the volume.
Fukase began photographing Susake in 1977, only after a heartbreaking rift. Just ten days after the photographer brought the cat home, he ran away. After pasting hundreds of missing posters around his neighborhood—these are recreated on the book’s cover—a woman called saying she had found a kitten matching the description in Harajuku and would bring it back. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the original Sasuke. “When I first set eyes on this cat that was not mine, I was disappointed,” Fukase said, “but as I’m a real cat lover and can’t resist them, I soon thought: ‘Come on, let’s pretend that it’s him,’ and that’s how I came to adopt Sasuke Two.”
Masahisa Fukase: Sasuke therefore features images of the second Sasuke, along with portraits of the cat he adopted later named Momoe. Because the pair traveled frequently with Fukase, they’re seen in both quiet moments at the photographer’s home and in public areas. Images include an array of feline antics, including shots of them scattering birds in a park, yawning, and even scaling a window.
Printed in English and French, Masahisa Fukase: Sasuke is available now from Atelier EXB, which also released two limited editions featuring collotype prints, and for pre-order from Bookshop. You also might enjoy Walter Chandoha’s massive volume dedicated to feline companionship.
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Highlights below. For the full collection click here.