Li Songsong uses dramatic textural repetition to create portraiture and landscapes in his large-scale oil paintings. The Chinese artist often centers visual narratives around historical events of the 20th century, working from found photographs and news images. In some instances, the story becomes more personal, as in “Civil Rather Than Military”, which depicts Songsong’s grandfather. In a statement about the work provided by Pace Gallery, Songsong shared:
I started this painting a month after my grandfather passed away. It’s from a photograph of him that I think was taken in the early1960s, when he was about my current age. I know what kind of person he was, but not until this year was I really willing to think deeply about him. I used a technique in which it is nearly impossible to paint delicate details, but in the end, the work still ended up with lots of expressive detail and an almost idealized quality, as if from a fairy-tale.
In both his intimate and anonymous paintings, Songsong balances content with process, employing tactile techniques that obscure the subject and emphasize the painting as an object or artifact in and of itself. Take a closer look at Songsong’s work in his solo show “One of My Ancestors”, on view through December 21, 2019 at Pace Gallery in New York City. You can also explore more of the artist’s work on the gallery’s website.
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In his series Chronicle: Passing (6,393 Per Hour), artist Greg Sand creates analog super-edits of the repeated patterns found in old photographs. Drapery, flowers, shoes, shadows, hands, and faces are homed in on and grouped into enormous grids, representing the simultaneous enormity and specificity of human death. As the series’ title notes, approximately 6,393 people around the world die every hour. Each small black-and-white or sepia-toned image is from an ambiguous past era, though hairstyles and clothing offer clues to every individual’s specific moment in time.
Sand tells Colossal that the biggest challenge was collecting all the images he needed; he relied on eBay and local antique stores to source the thousands of old photographs. Using a half inch or one inch punch, Sand framed each visual element in a small square, and arranged them manually. “I was intrigued by the interactions of the various textures, values, and colors that developed,” Sand explains. “I found my eye bouncing around from light to dark, from matte to glossy, from bright to dull, from textured to smooth. The pieces became like pixelated masses from a distance that required getting very close to discover each image individually.”
Sand explains that he hopes the series sparks a reflection in the viewer on how memories fragment. Childhood recollections may focus on specific details like the clothing or gestures of a loved one. “Photographs function in a similar manner. They do not show a whole person or an entire life, but instead capture a single moment,” Sand says. “These keepsakes help determine some of the pieces of memory that stick with us.”
See the artist’s work in person at Momentum Gallery in Asheville, North Carolina in the exhibition Small Works | Big Impact, which opens November 14, 2019.
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Towering female figures fill the frame in large-scale collages by Johanna Goodman (previously). Using a range of contemporary and historic materials and visual motifs, ranging from bright red glitter to greyscale photos of classical sculptures, Goodman builds powerful protagonists from disparate materials. Elongated torsos are with clipped vintage photos, contemporary model shots, and even sculptures and paintings. Goodman places each figure in an imagined landscape—often oceanside or celestial—with the open horizon adding to the grandiosity of each “Imaginary Being”.
The multidisciplinary artist uses a combination of her own photographs of everyday objects and places combined with found images. Goodman noted in an interview with Create that she is fastidious about using images that are in the public domain, though it can be limiting particularly when sourcing historical images of diverse women.
Goodman has created almost 400 plates in the “Imaginary Beings” which started nearly four years ago. “It is still going strong, and no one is more surprised than I am!” the artist tells Colossal. “At its inception I had no idea that what I was doing was inventing my own language, or a template, wherein I could endlessly experiment, explore, and process everything in my world.”
She continues to draw inspiration from a disparate range of sources: “I’m inspired by fashion, nature, science, politics, painting, sculpture, traveling, signage, tag sales, architecture, textiles, bugs, outer space, you name it. And the beauty is that there are no rules, no boundaries; I get to play with all of it.” Goodman also touches on current events, particularly stories and issues that center women. She explains to Colossal that in 2018 she created a piece based on Christine Blasey Ford, as well as all the women elected to Congress. More recently, a trip to Los Angeles inspired a series using the photos she took there. “The possibilities are endless and I still feel as inspired and hungry as I felt when the project began,” Goodman says.
See if you measure up to Goodman’s figures—some of which measure six feet tall—at her upcoming solo show. “Selections from the Catalogue” is on view November 21, 2019 through January 17, 2020 at David Weeks Studio in New York City. Goodman also offers prints of her work in an online store, and shares recent projects and artistic inspirations on Instagram.
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Solitary female figures command the canvas in oil paintings by artist Miho Hirano. The Japanese artist creates detailed portraits of her human protagonists, who avoid direct eye contact with the viewer. Hirano’s women stare off into the distance as fish and butterflies swarm and flower blossoms and vines seem to grow from the figures’ hair. In a statement on Gallery Sumire’s website, Hirano describes the mission of her work as “to express the changing situation of life’s ugliness and maturity.”
Hirano draws inspiration from her upbringing, noting that her mother cared for plants and animals, and those motifs have continued in her work even though she does not currently reside in a nature-filled place. She also explained to WOW x WOW that she has long found painting a resonant medium to express her thoughts, explore ideas, and escape reality.
Hirano graduated from Musashino Art University’s department of Oil Painting and currently resides in Chiba, Japan. The artist had her first solo show in the U.S. at Corey Helford Gallery in 2017. Hirano’s newest body of work, Recollection, is on view in a two-person show at Corey Helford in Los Angeles from November 2 to December 9, 2019. See more of Hirano’s ethereal paintings on Instagram.
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Photographer Lakin Ogunbanwo creates colorful portraits of Nigerian women that are simultaneously majestic and dreamy. Set against gauzy draped backdrops, Ogunbanwo’s subjects are dressed for bridal ceremonies in vibrant lace bodices, sculptural headdresses, and embellished tulle veils. In a statement on the series, the artist describes his use of veiled portraiture “to document the complexity of his culture, and counteract the West’s monolithic narratives of Africa and women.” The series, titled e wá wo mi (“come look at me”), documents “the traditional ceremonial wear of the Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa-Fulani tribes, amongst others. Rather than objectively archive these as past-traditions, however, he mimics the pageantry of weddings in present Nigeria.”
e wá wo mi is currently on view at Niki Cryan Gallery, in tandem with another of Ogunbanwo’s series, Are We Good Enough. The exhibition runs from October 14 to November 3, 2019 in Lagos, Nigeria. The photographer’s work has also been featured in The New Yorker and The New York Times, as well as the Grid Photo Biennial in Cape Town, South Africa. See more of Ogunbanwo’s stylized portraiture on Instagram.
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California-based artist Spenser Little has spent the past 15 years creating sculptures by bending and cutting wire into figurative portraits and phrases. His lightweight pieces have been installed on lamp posts and other existing structures around the world and have also been exhibited in numerous gallery shows.
According to Little, a few of his sculptures combine multiple pieces and include moving parts, though most of his work is made using one continuous piece of wire. The artist bends the rigid material using a pair of needle-nose pliers until it fits the image of his subject or his imagination. The work ranges from playful figures that interact with their surroundings to pointed commentaries on an internet and tech-obsessed society. Collectors encounter the sculptures framed and presented in a gallery setting, while others wire portraits have been left behind for pedestrians and explorers to find deep in caves and high above the streets.
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Brooklyn-based artist Bisa Butler (previously) uses brightly colored cotton, wool, and chiffon fabrics with bold patterns to piece together quilts featuring detailed portraits of Black people. The materials and themes connect American subjects with their African roots and tell visual stories of history and culture.
Butler is a New Jersey-born African American artist with Ghanian heritage. A closer look at her portraits reveals intricate mosaics of shapes and patterns and complex multi-hued skin tones. For her James Baldwin-inspired piece “I Am Not Your Negro,” Butler created a portrait of a man seated in a pose similar to Rodin’s “Thinker” and a warm complexion inspired by The Fire Next Time, an important book written by Baldwin that was first published in 1963. “I used reds and oranges in his complexion to indicate this while this man sits calmly [there] is fire inside,” Butler said in a statement. “I use colorful imaginative colors in my figures because I am connecting color to emotion and I want their images to indicate a personality, mood, and temperament.”
The artist’s quilts also incorporate nods to Black wedding traditions, references to historically Black colleges and universities, and other elements that speak to the Black and African American experience. The Katonah Museum of Art is set to host the artist’s first solo museum exhibition with approximately 25 of her quilts on display from March 15 to June 14, 2020.
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