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Art

Kehinde Wiley Addresses Vulnerability and Resilience in a New Series of Monumental Portraits and Bronze Figures

April 27, 2022

Grace Ebert

“The Wounded Achilles (Fillipo Albacini)” (2022), oil on canvas, 70 1/8 × 107 7/8 inches. All images © Templon, Paris –Brussels, shared with permission

In 2008, artist Kehinde Wiley (previously) exposed the violence against Black bodies in a series of majestic portraits titled DOWN. Holbein’s painting “The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb,” which depicts an emaciated Jesus outstretched on white cloth, inspired Wiley’s collection that reimagined the 16th Century piece and other art historical works in the same vein with contemporary metaphors of pain and ecstasy. Centering on Black men lying on their sides with twisted limbs or supine against the artist’s signature floral backdrops, DOWN positioned the subjects as saints and heroes as they confronted death.

Now more than a decade later, Wiley returns to this series for a new body of work that expands on its themes and indictment of the continued brutality against Black people. An Archaeology of Silence, hosted by Fondazione Giorgio Cini for the Venice Biennale, exhibits new bronze figures and large-scale portraits featuring subjects in unguarded positions, their eyes closed, arms splaying outward, and bodies resting.

 

Front: “The Virgin Martyr Cecilia” (2022), bronze, 251 × 152 3/4 × 70 1/8 inches. Back: “Young Tarentine II (Ndeye Fatou Mbaye)” (2022), oil on canvas, 131 7/8 × 300 inches

Monumental in scale— “Femme Piquée Par Un Serpent (Mamadou Gueye),”  or “Woman Stung By A Snake (Mamadou Gueye),” is 25-feet wide, for example—the works portray Black men and women as icons, and while vulnerable, the figures exude a sense of resilience and perseverance, having endured exceptional pain and cruelty. Both sculptures and portraits speak to the ways technology has allowed more people to witness injustices that have been occurring for centuries. “That is the archaeology I am unearthing: The spectre of police violence and state control over the bodies of young Black and Brown people all over the world,” Wiley says, explaining further:

While this work is not specifically about tomb effigies, it does relate to death, mortality, powerlessness, and the downcast figure—the juxtaposition of death and decay in the midst of a narrative of youth and redemption. It is an expression of my desire to depict the struggles of Black and Brown youth globally, through the rubric of violence and power.

An Archaeology of Silence will be on view through July 24. You can explore more of Wiley’s practice on Instagram, and visit his shop for goods and prints that support Black Rock Senegal, the residency the artist established in 2019 in Dakar.

 

“Morpheus” (2022), bronze, 26 3/4 × 59 × 29 1/2 inches

Detail of “Morpheus” (2022), bronze, 26 3/4 × 59 × 29 1/2 inches

“Femme Piquée Par Un Serpent (Mamadou Gueye),”  or “Woman Stung By A Snake (Mamadou Gueye),” (2022), oil on canvas, 131 7/8 x 300 inches

“Dying Gaul (Roman 1st Century)” (2022), bronze, 21 1/8 × 18 7/8 × 47 inches

Detail of “Dying Gaul (Roman 1st Century)” (2022), bronze, 21 1/8 × 18 7/8 × 47 inches

“The Virgin Martyr St. Cecelia (Ndey Buri)” (2022), oil on canvas, 77 1/8 × 143 6/8 inches

“Sleep (Mamadou Gueye)” (2022), bronze, 11 4/5 × 51 1/6 × 21 1/4 inches

 

 



Photography

Saturated Neon Hues Veil Snowy Landscapes in Photos by Maria Lax

April 18, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images © Maria Lax, shared with permission

Known for experimenting with an assortment of in-camera techniques, photographer Maria Lax transforms quiet, nighttime vistas and frozen forests into fantastically colored dreamscapes. She’s always been fascinated by the interplay of light and color, she tells Colossal, and following formal training in cinematography, has developed a distinct style that vividly interprets the outside world.

Lighting and filters produce the kaleidoscopic range that overlays Lax’s images, and the London-based photographer is conservative with equipment. “I often shoot in remote locations in difficult conditions—some of these images were shot in temperatures reaching -30 C,” she says. “I work mostly by myself when I am on location, which means my kit is relatively minimal and nimble so that I can carry it on my back even on longer hikes through the snow.”

If you’re in London, Lax is showing new photos from April 19 to 24 at Open Doors Gallery, where she also has limited-edition prints available. She’s currently in progress on a second book following her monograph, Some Kind of Heavenly Fire, published by Setanta Books, and you can explore an archive of her work on Instagram.

 

 

 



Art

Invoking Black Masking Traditions, Artist Demond Melancon Beads Elaborate, Celebratory Portraits

March 31, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Say Her Name” (2021), glass beads and rhinestones on canvas. All images © Demond Melancon, courtesy of Arthur Roger Gallery, shared with permission

Through intricately woven displays of minuscule glass beads and rhinestones, Big Chief Demond Melancon continues a legacy. He belongs to the tribe of the Young Seminole Hunters in New Orleans, where he was born and raised, and is a leader in the tradition of creating Mardi Gras suits. The “wearable sculptures” are elaborate and celebratory, and Melancon’s works are known for their immense nature and for exhibiting his deft technical skill. Extremely labor-intensive, the garments tend to envelop their wearer in multiple layers and contain more than one million glass beads precisely stitched into evocative narratives of American history.

For nearly three decades, Melancon has also developed a unique visual language that is both entrenched in the 250-year tradition and working to expand the scope of the practice. “The elders, the Indians, and the Black maskers that masked before me, they never saw this as a contemporary art form in the way that I do,” he tells Colossal. “To me, the elders are watching me, and I think what they taught me is different from what I’ve evolved it into.”

Often encircled by feathers, many of Melancon’s suits revolve around portraits of reggae icons, people who were enslaved and subsequently led revolts, and Mardi Gras Indian Big Chiefs who came before him. He’s also started to separate these figurative elements from their more comprehensive counterparts in recent years and has produced an extensive series of standalone portraits. The ongoing collection includes people who have been influential in his life and who have broad cultural relevance, including artists like Basquiat and Frida Khalo, ancient Egyptian queen Nefertari, and Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman killed by police in 2020. “I like to teach with my work, and I want to make something that’s very meaningful,” he says. “It’s going to tell you something. It’s going to hit you in your heart.”

 

“Most Kings Get Their Heads Cut Off” (2021), glass beads and rhinestones on canvas

Sometimes years in the making, Melancon’s portraits exemplify his commitment to transforming the small, tactile materials into compositions evocative of painting. He references artists like Kerry James Marshall (previously) and Kehinde Wiley (previously) as inspiration and is equally drawn to those working today as he is to the art historical canon. His style emerged “through studying Botticelli and Caravaggio. I like the light in the old-school paintings, in the Florentine art, in the art from the 1700s.”

Beginning with a black-and-white sketch, Melancon always completes his subjects’ eyes first to “try to bring people back to the living stage with the portraits… so they can live, and they can look at me while I’m beading the rest of the piece.” For the artist, this spirited energy and sense of vitality are directly derived from his bold color palettes that compose a floral blouse or radiant, crown-like headdress.

Although Melancon didn’t mask for this year’s Mardi Gras—instead, he helped garner grants for those participating in the festival through his work on the New Orleans Tourism and Cultural Fund board—he’s currently in progress on a suit titled “Amistad,” in reference to the historic 1839 revolt on the slave ship by the same name. He also plans to continue his portrait series and will see “Say Her Name,” the striking rendering of Taylor acquired by the International African American Museum, on view at the institution when it opens this fall in South Carolina. It’s one of many works that Melancon sees as part of his duty to pass down stories to future generations and teach them about those who’ve profoundly shaped the world today. “That’s another piece that I think in this time very important,” he shares.  “People should remember her situation, and that’s why I bead.”

To explore Melancon’s full portfolio, visit his site and Instagram.

 

“The Deans” (2021), glass beads and rhinestones on canvas

“Wolf Defender” (2021), glass beads and rhinestones on canvas

“The Rennaisance” (2019), glass beads and rhinestones on canvas

“When She Speaks You Listen” (2021), glass beads and rhinestones on canvas

“Nefertari Meritmut” (2019), glass beads and rhinestones on canvas

“Frida Kahlo” (2019), glass beads and rhinestones on canvas

Portrait of the artist in his studio. Photo by Giles Clement

 

 



Photography

The Annual 'Women Street Photographers' Exhibition Highlights the Images Changing the Genre

March 30, 2022

Grace Ebert

Anna Biret. All images courtesy of Women Street Photographers, shared with permission

Since 2017, a multi-faceted initiative has celebrated hundreds of street photographers whose work develops and expands the boundaries of what’s historically been a male-dominated field. The project of Gulnara Samoilova, Women Street Photographers connects the widespread and deeply personal by highlighting the subtle, nuanced ways the world appears when viewed by different people. Broad in subject matter and style, the initiative’s collection ranges from Anna Biret’s intimate, shadow-laden portrait of a young girl in India to Debrani Das’s candid shot of children at play in black and white.

Women Street Photographers also function as a vital community for those working today, and in recent years, the project has grown from an Instagram account to an artist residency and book collecting a small portion of images. It also culminates each year in an annual exhibition, with the fourth edition opening on April 7 at ArtSpace PS109 in Manhattan. The upcoming show features the work of 79 photographers from 20 countries and will be presented alongside a collection by residency runner-up Maude Bardet. Similar to previous iterations, this year’s exhibition is an expansive consideration of the photographers working toward a more diverse genre.

See some of our favorite shots included in the show below, and visit the project’s site for a deeper look at the ongoing initiative. Samoilova is also curating a show by Women Street Photographers member Sandra Cattaneo Adorno, which opens on April 23 at Personal Structures.

 

Zeryaden Remini

Sonia Goydenko

Nina Welchkling

Karen Zusman

Heike Frielingsdorf

France Leclerc

Erica Lansner

Debrani Das

Britta Kohlboas

 

 



Photography

Hens and Roosters Fly the Coop and Strut Into the Spotlight in Alex ten Napel's Portraits

March 9, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images © Alex ten Napel, shared with permission

“Hens and roosters can’t be directed,” says photographer Alex ten Napel. No matter the situation, the red-faced birds are wholly themselves, lurching from one spot to the next, burying themselves within masses of feathers, and spreading their wings as if they’ll finally lift off the ground despite being notoriously poor fliers. Chickens are known for their awkward gaits and distinct attitudes and are also the latest subjects of ten Napel’s portraiture.

Having focused his lens on people for about 25 years, the Amsterdam-based photographer realized that documenting the fowl occupying his henhouse would be a compelling challenge. This interest culminated in his ongoing Hens and Roosters series, which shines studio lighting on the oddly photogenic creatures and captures their unique mannerisms as they strut around the space. “Photographing became unexpected, exciting, and out of control. I was impressed by these little feathered creatures who had the power to tell me to be patient and to wait for the right moment,” ten Napel shares.

Prints of the moody birds are available on his site, and keep an eye on his Instagram for news about a Hens and Roosters book. You also might enjoy Henji Shin’s antagonistic chickens and these glamour shots.

 

 

 



Photography

Winners of the 2022 World Photography Awards Highlight the Striking Sights of Life Around the Globe

March 8, 2022

Grace Ebert

Thanh Nguyen Phuc. National Awards, Travel, Winner, 2022, Sony World Photography Awards. All images shared with permission

The Sony World Photography Awards (previously) garnered a whopping 340,000 entries for its 2022 competition, with subject matter spanning from the magical landscapes of Turkey to an intimate portrait of Burmese siblings. Approximately 170,000 of those original submissions fall under the contest’s National Awards category, which recently announced the top images. The winning collection offers a varied and striking look at the state of contemporary photography and a broader consideration of culture, documenting both the serendipitous and composed sights from 62 countries around the globe. Select photos from the competition will be on view from April 13 to May 2 at Somerset House in London, and you can view the entire collection on the contest’s site.

 

Cigdem Ayyildiz. National Awards, Landscape, Winner, 2022, Sony World Photography Awards

Edina Csoboth. National Awards, Portraiture, Winner, 2022, Sony World Photography Awards

Filip Hrebenda. National Awards, Landscape, Winner, 2022, Sony World Photography Awards

Swe Tun. National Awards, Portraiture, Winner, 2022, Sony World Photography Awards

Wonyoung Choi. National Awards, Architecture, Winner, 2022, Sony World Photography Awards

Metha Meiryna. National Awards, Portraiture, Winner, 2022, Sony World Photography Awards

Raido Nurk. National Awards, Motion, Winner, 2022, Sony World Photography Awards

Martina Dimunova. National Awards, Portraiture, Winner, 2022, Sony World Photography Awards

Minko Mihaylov. National Awards, Lifestyle, Winner, 2022, Sony World Photography Awards

 

 

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