Ulric Collette takes a scientific approach to family photos with his Genetic Portraits series. Since 2008, Collette has spliced images of one side of a face with that of a relative, juxtaposing their superficial traits with the inherited. The composites are both disorienting and revealing as they capture the continuity of bone structures and other similarities, in addition to differences like eye color or subtle shifts in the shape of lips or cheeks.
Each portrait varies in resemblance, with some, like the recent portrait of brothers Francis and Jerome, appearing to be a single person at first glance. Others require more comparison to find the similitude behind clear contrasts in hair or age. “Having photographed my daughter with her grandmother,” the Quebec City-photographer shares, “the result is astonishing as they look so much alike on this portrait, one could believe that it is the same person photographed at 50 years interval.”
In the decade Collette has been working on the series, he’s garnered quite a bit of interest from scientists and researchers, and the project was recently on view in the University of Wisconsin’s genetics department. Explore dozens of the portraits on the project site and Instagram. You also might enjoy this collection of doppelgängers. (via Kottke)
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In ‘It Is What It Is,’ Alfred Conteh Takes a Realistic Approach to Examining Life for Black Southerners
The urgency of Alfred Conteh’s portraits lies in the present. He portrays Black people he meets around Atlanta, creating monumental works that accentuate the material both physically and metaphorically, in their mediums and the critical analysis of current social conditions. “Black folks are not doing well in this country,” Conteh tells Colossal. “We will not do well until we come to terms with how this country was built, and the resulting racial wealth gaps and social decay. Nothing is being done to improve that, first and foremost economically.”
Layered with urethane plastic or steel and bronze dust, the works, which are on view at Kavi Gupta in Chicago as part of Conteh’s solo show It Is What It Is, are distressed with cracked surfaces and blotches of acrylic paint. Some stand ten feet tall, and the magnitude of their scale echoes that of the issues the artist is addressing. Conteh focuses on the gritty, harsh reality of the lives of Black people in the U.S., particularly as it relates to the historical policies and institutions that continue to affect the economic, social, and cultural conditions of those he meets. “Stanton Road Water Boys,” for example, features three young men who were solicited drivers on an Atlanta road. “If there were opportunities for them to work, I doubt they would stand here trying to sell a two dollar bottle of warm water,” Conteh shares.
As the title suggests, the exhibition exposes the overlooked or disregarded truths about life today, centering on current conditions rather than a hopeful view for the future. The myth of meritocracy is widespread, and Conteh rails against willful ignorance of privilege and power especially as it relates to wealth and access to opportunity. He explains:
Aspiration is a viewpoint that someone would have if they had the tools and the undergirding to be able to make an idea real, to make whatever they conceptualize a reality. That has not largely been available to African Americans as a whole, to aspire. Historically, legally, African Americans were enslaved, marginalized, segregated, red lined, ostracized, kept from wealth—the list goes on and on. So how can you honestly say “aspire to be something greater” when the policies and norms and mores of this country say no? It infantilizes people when we say things are gonna be alright.
It Is What It Is is on view through March 4, 2023. Find more from Conteh on Instagram.
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Along the contours of roads, property boundaries, and shorelines, English artist Ed Fairburn draws inspiration for his detailed cross-hatched portraits. As an avid map collector, he is fascinated by the urban landscape and cartographic design. “The more maps I collect, the more I want to create,” he tells Colossal, sharing that transportation routes like roads and bridges can be likened to the veins or arteries of the body.
Fairburn’s intricate drawings directly respond to the layout of the original map. “I allow the composition of each map to inform the composition of each portrait,” he explains. An interest in the body as metaphorical landscape and vice versa also informs how he approaches each piece. “In a wider sense, I hope that my work pushes viewers to think about those similarities, and perhaps offers a reminder that we’re shaped by the landscape around us, which we in turn are also shaping.”
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For the last four years, Tbilisi Mural Fest has facilitated more than 40 public artworks around the Georgian capitol, and the 2022 event brought a spate of new projects to the city. Given the nation’s proximity to Russia and that country’s groundless war against Ukraine, festival organizers highlighted renowned Ukrainian muralist Sasha Korban who painted a large-scale portrait of a woman in customary clothing facing the Russian embassy. Other works include celebrations of Georgian culture and history, like a large-scale tablecloth with traditional motifs by Chertova Tina and Mohamed l’Ghacham’s dreamlike rendering of the living room of Georgian thinker and author Ilia Chavchavadze.
See some of the 2022 additions below and those from previous years on Instagram.
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In her exquisitely rendered portraits in acrylic, artist Molly Devlin instills an aura of dreamlike mystery. She shapes the likeness of a deer or snail from layers of translucent florals and foliage: stacked leaves splay outward like the fur of a cat’s face, fronds and wispy tendrils billow from the bulbous head of a jellyfish, and mycelium cloaks a small bird in delicate webbing. Through the fantastical, gossamer compositions, Devlin prods the ephemeral nature of existence and explores various facets of the unknown. “I’ve always been fascinated by the mysteries beyond life and death, the unexplainable offers infinite inspiration to me,” she shares.
Devlin, who is based in Sacramento, is currently preparing for an upcoming group exhibition at Corey Helford Gallery, and she also has shows slated for next year at Revolution Gallery and Arch Enemy Arts. Find prints and original paintings in the artist’s shop, and watch her at work on Instagram.
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Throughout the history of Western art, certain tropes occur again and again in painting and sculpture. The motif of mother and child has been reflected throughout the centuries in the likeness of the Holy Virgin and infant Christ or in domestic family portraiture, like in the works of Impressionist painter Mary Cassatt, who specialized in the theme. The archetype of the female muse dates back to ancient Greek mythology and religion, when goddesses like Calliope or Melpomene were considered the source of creativity and knowledge. Brooklyn-based artist Ruby Sky Stiler challenges these preconceptions and archetypes in her ongoing series of Relief Paintings.
Stiler’s works play with gender conventions by turning the male subject into a muse for the female artist or representing parenthood through an image of a father with his children. In “Old Woman (Blue),” she taps into society’s lingering taboo of aging, especially for women. “I’ve recently been exploring the trope of the ‘muse’ and placing the male figure as object. And also in the role of parent, which is strikingly uncommon (in contrast to the abundant depictions of mother and child),” she tells Colossal. “I’ve also re-positioned the female figure in the empowered role as The Artist.”
In bold, geometric patterns, Stiler’s subjects are human-scaled and gaze directly at the viewer. Black-and-white, tile-like patterns provide the background for abstracted figures that nod to Cubism—a movement practically synonymous with masculine figures like Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Stiler dismantles the “male gaze,” or the lens through which women are depicted as objects of desire for men in visual culture. She explores the notion of the gaze further in the way that the paintings are experienced by the viewer; from far away the outlines of the figures are easy to see, but the closer one gets, the more the fractal-like patterns distort the image.
A monograph of Stiler’s work is scheduled for publication by The Tang Teaching Museum in the spring, and a solo exhibition of her work will open in March 2023 at Nina Johnson Gallery in Miami. She is represented by Nicelle Beauchene, and you can find more of her work on her website and Instagram.
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Editor's Picks: Craft
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.