Iranian artist Salman Khoshroo (previously) continues his wool portraiture series with dozens of new sculptural works. Chunky, dyed rovings stretch and curl into facial features, beards, and coifs that pair the supple shape and color of the raw materials with a unique expression.
This nuanced set expands on the original collection he created last year in response to quarantine and personal trauma, although they deviate with more stable and durable structures and new materials like velvet and synthetic fur. Khoshroo describes this evolved process as therapeutic and indicative of wide-spread change:
Weaving inanimate fibers into faces has brought me comfort and helped with overcoming my own experience of contracting the virus. These portraits are delicate and vulnerable and resonate with my own precarious situation. We live in fragile times, and I feel the need to find new materials and the mindset to reinvent my practice. Wool brings warmth and intimacy to these portraits and plays with provoking the nurture instinct.
In addition to shaping unspun wool into the portraits shown here, Khoshroo also has been creating full busts with the natural fiber along with sculptures made of foam paint, all of which you can see on his site and Instagram.
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An Expansive Exhibition Pairs Two Indigenous Artists to Explore the Power of Socially Engaged Artmaking
A monumental patchwork wolf, warriors sparring with a fang-bearing snake, and an abstract woolen tapestry made of restored blankets comprise Each/Other: Marie Watt and Cannupa Hanska Luger, which opens this weekend at the Denver Art Museum. The expansive exhibition—featuring 26 mixed-media sculptures, installations, and wall hangings—joins two of the leading Indigenous artists working today in a manner that distinguishes both the connective threads and nuances within their bodies of work.
Situated at the center of the space is the 16-foot creature the pair created together by fashioning about 700 patterned bandannas submitted by an international crew around a steel armature. The collaborative installation, titled “Each/Other,” physically tethers Watt’s and Luger’s individual artworks while drawing on the socially engaged aspects inherent to both of their practices.
Based in New Mexico, Luger is a multi-media artist of Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Lakota, and European descent whose projects often speak to contemporary life within Indigenous communities. For example, his 2018 piece “Every One” strings together 4,096 ceramic beads into a pixelated portrait of a young figure. Each individual orb represents one of the women, girls, and queer and trans folks who have been murdered or gone missing in Canada.
Watt, who is a member of the Seneca Nation and has Scottish and German heritage, utilizes everyday objects steeped in historical narratives and collective memory. Whether presented through leaning, stacked towers or smaller wall hangings, the Portland-based artist primarily works with materials gathered from the community, like blankets stitched in sewing circles.
Following the end of its run in Denver on August 22, Each/Other will visit the Michael C. Carlos Museum in Atlanta from September 25 to December 12, 2021, and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem from January 29 to May 8, 2022. Find out more about Luger and Watt on their sites.
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Japanese artist Yoshitoshi Kanemaki (previously) carves fickle, ambivalent, and even contradictory sentiments in his figurative sculptures that embody a range of emotions. The wooden characters are surreal in form with multiple limbs, duplicate features, and recurring faces that wind entirely around their bodies. Whether conveyed through kaleidoscopic or blurred techniques, each portrait “expresses the dignity of life as a human being, the hate and harassment that people experience, and the importance of environmental awareness,” the artist says, explaining:
It’s the hesitation, contradiction, two-sidedness, or multi-sidedness, double standard. These are the problems that all people have, and I express them as sculptures under the concept of “ambivalence.” I want to portrait a modern person, who visualizes the “ambivalent” state that everyone has.
Kanemaki is based in Nagareyama City and is currently altering one of his older works titled “Memento Mori” to deepen its sentiments and add more complexity. Explore an archive of his glitched figures at Fuma Contemporary Tokyo.
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Annan Affotey has an affinity for bold, bright colors that set his subjects apart from the negative space framing their figures. Through gestural strokes that sweep across the canvas, the Ghanaian artist renders intimate portraits of his friends, family members, and the occasional public figure who, through distinctly red eyes, look directly at the viewer, a decision that’s both aesthetic and cultural.
“When I moved to the U.S. from Ghana, I was often questioned why my eyes were red and whether it meant I hadn’t slept or was doing drugs, neither of which was true. And it became a symbol for misinterpreted identities,” he says. That experience was complicated further by cultural expectations, which Affotey explains to Colossal:
I want the subject to have a direct conversation with the viewer, something I couldn’t do myself a few years ago. I am a shy person and when I first moved to the United States I would often look down when talking with people. In Ghana, looking down indicates shyness or respect. After being in the U.S. for a while, I finally came out of my shell and became more accustomed to looking people directly in the eye.
Currently living and working in Oxford, the artist prefers to surround his subjects with impasto strokes because of the liveliness they generate beyond the figures’ expressions. “I use textures in my paintings for several reasons. One reason is to portray energy or emotion centered around my subject,” he says. “I (also) use many textures so that people who can’t see will still have the opportunity to feel the canvas, brush strokes and feel a story from that.”
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Interview: Arinze Stanley Speaks to the Indelible Impact of Police Brutality and How Extreme Emotion is the Key to Change
For the past few years, Nigerian artist Arinze Stanley (previously) has been at the forefront of hyperrealism with his powerful and sometimes surreal portraits that are arresting in size and emotion, which he discusses in a new interview supported by Colossal Members. His charcoal-and-graphite works are rendered in stunning detail and bear broader political messages, particularly in relation to state-sanctioned violence and his own experiences suffering from police and military brutality.
What people don’t recognize about Bullets and Denim is that the artwork shows emotion on all parts, but if you have a gunshot to your head, you should be dead, right? Well, these people in the photo are not dead. That encapsulates the concept of endurance in general. Even as we try to stitch the patches of our reality, I want people to see that, that we’ve had it to the head. Enough is enough. It’s a visual representation of enough is enough because from here onwards is death.
Colossal managing editor Grace Ebert joined Stanley for a conversation in March 2021 about how he brings his subjects to points of extreme frustration, the ways his drawings resonate with different audiences around the globe, and how he envisions his artworks as catalysts for meaningful change.
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The lengthy exposure times required by 19th Century photography were not conducive to newborns and fidgety toddlers, a problem many mothers tried to remedy by cloaking themselves in fabric and hiding behind furniture. As a result, those Victorian-era portraits, while capturing an endearing stage of life, are often spectral and slightly unnerving, shadowed by phantom limbs and textile silhouettes that closely resemble an inanimate backdrop despite their lively features.
This desire for disguise informs the multi-media works of Philadelphia-area artist Sarah Detweiler, whose ongoing series Hidden Mother is on view at Paradigm Gallery through May 22. Depicted without children, Detweiler’s portraits subvert the original photographs to instead draw attention to the figures otherwise purposely relegated to the background. Fabrics rendered with a combination of oil, acrylic, gouache, watercolor, and embroidered elements further confront traditional notions of femininity and motherhood by literally cloaking the women in materials long associated with domesticity.
Because the artist has a personal relationship with each subject, the textiles, motifs, and colors all evoke specific aspects of their personalities and distinct experiences, resulting in idiosyncratic portraits tethered only by their shared identity. “In maintaining the anonymity,” a statement about the series says, Detweiler “preserves a universal relatability—the woman under the shroud could be you, your mother, your friend.”
If you’re not in Philadelphia, you can take a virtual tour of the sold-out exhibition, and watch this Q&A with Detweiler for a deeper dive into the series, which is available as a limited-edition print set on Paradigm’s site. Head to Instagram to see more of the artist’s process, including some of the original photographs that informed the portraits shown here.
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Editor's Picks: Art
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.