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Art

Paper Show: A Group Exhibition Highlights 14 Artists Exploring the Vast Potential of Paper

June 22, 2022

Grace Ebert

Julia Ibbini. All images courtesy of Heron Arts, shared with permission

One of the most reliable communication materials for centuries, paper historically has served as a vessel, a container for notes or the foundation of an artwork. An upcoming group exhibition at Heron Arts, though, focuses on the humble medium itself and highlights 14 contemporary artists expanding its creative potential. Paper Show features an array of styles, structures, and techniques from the whimsical mobiles of Yuko Nishikawa and Roberto Benavidez’s piñatas to Julia Ibbini’s laser-cut motifs and typographic messages from Judith + Rolfe. Opening July 9, the exhibition will be up through August at the San Francisco gallery. You also might enjoy this book that looks at the artists defining the medium.

 

Yuko Nishikawa

Pippa Dyrlaga

Julia Ibbini

Roberto Benavidez

Roberto Benavidez

Pippa Dyrlaga

Judith + Rolfe

Ale Rambar

Huntz Lui

Huntz Lui

 

 

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Art

Luxuriant Tufted Portraits by Artist Simone Elizabeth Saunders Exude Black Joy

June 7, 2022

Gabrielle Lawrence

“Excellence” (2021), hand-tufted velvet, acrylic, and wool yarn on rug warp, 152.4 x 152.4 x 1.5 centimeters. All images © Simone Elizabeth Saunders, shared with permission

Simone Elizabeth Saunders’ love-based practice adds its own texture to the magic of Black joy and resilience. On Instagram, she writes:

I celebrate the wins. I know the darkness in this world, so do you. It can drag us down. And when I post, positive messaging is key for me. To share light and love and to look at the world as vibrant and colourful as it can be….It’s reflected in my textiles, to uplift narratives often tethered to dark undertones, with the gift of bright hues. I’m not asking anyone to “smile”, because life will hurt. But hold onto your light… keep grasp of your love.

For Saunders (previously), celebrating love is not grand, abstract, or impossible to grasp. It’s as honest as a single strand of thread. Close-ups of her textiles, rug-tufting, and punch-needle works reveal what it means to paint with fabric—that is, to embrace the fluidity of color and create intricacy in its different shades, not taking the versatility or collective power of the individual pieces for granted. The artist’s attention to detail adds depth, dynamism, and life to each scene so that the subjects are captured in their full essence.

 

Left: “Queen of Spades.” Right: “Queen of Diamonds”

In The Four Queens, Saunders draws on the tradition of Art Nouveau, a period of art history specifically concerned with capturing feminine beauty and radiance. Though the artist felt an attraction to the 18th-century tradition, she couldn’t form a genuine bond with the material because of its severe underrepresentation. The heart of these whimsical scenes, the epitome of angelic beauty, was often a white face. And so, Saunders set out to create her own style: Black Nouveau.

In this approach, the essence of beauty is “Black Dreams,” “Black Power,” “Black Love,” and “Black Magic.” Powerful prints that paint the skies of each scene are reminiscent of African motifs in which stories are told through patterns and color. Saunders keeps true to her roots here and offers a connection in a genre that’s typically been limited.

Works like “Excellence” show that the gaze is the point of entry and also the home of Black liberation; where it is nurtured, where it grows, and where we are known. Whether it’s the kind expression of the “Queen of Diamonds” slouching loosely on her throne or the peering side-eye of the “Queen of Hearts,” Saunder’s works emanate the femininity, leadership, power, and joy of Black womanhood.

 

The Four Queens at Contemporary Calgary (2022)

Left: Detail of “Queen of Hearts.” Right: Detail of “Queen of Diamonds”

“Queen of Clubs”

Detail of “Queen of Spades”

“Queen of Hearts”

Detail of “Queen of Clubs”

 

 



Art

Otherworldly Vistas and Noble Portraits Celebrate Life’s Mysteries in Sherman Beck’s Vibrant Paintings

June 6, 2022

Kate Mothes

“Portrait of Shirley Chisholm” (2022). All images © Sherman Beck, courtesy of Kavi Gupta and shared with permission

One of the original ten members of the groundbreaking Chicago-based artist collective AFRICOBRA founded in 1968, Sherman Beck paints vibrant portrayals of Black family, ancestry, and community that celebrate the wonder and mysticism of everyday life. In a retrospective at Kavi Gupta, paintings made during the past five decades explore themes of cultural identity, multidimensional time and space, and the origins of life.

In Ancestors, a series of untitled works from the 1990s, Beck juxtaposes traditional African masks, labeled as if in a museum display, alongside contemporary Black faces. He challenges the viewer’s perception of reality and the imagination, combining realistic characteristics with vividly patterned backgrounds or portraying visages in bold geometric abstraction. The subjects of his portraits, which include historical figures such as Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress, or Frederick Douglass, the national abolitionist leader and social reformer, always gaze directly at the viewer.

Through symbolic motifs such as winding paths, all-seeing eyes, and contrasts between light and dark, Beck explores continuity across time periods and the human desire to understand how and why we exist. He questions the nature of revealing and concealing, oscillating between representational portraits, bold abstraction, and otherworldly interiors and landscapes that open up into enigmatic cosmic vistas.

Beck’s retrospective continues at Kavi Gupta in Chicago through July 30.

 

“Ancestors” (c. 1990)

“Ancestors” (2005)

“Time” (2022)

“The Boat” (2012)

“Eyes” (2022)

“Immersed” (2022)

“Sunrise/Sunset” (2012/2017)

“Untitled” (2022)

 

 

 



Art

Vivid Contours and Bold Colors Illuminate Empowering Portraits by Naledi Tshegofatso Modupi

June 6, 2022

Kate Mothes

“Colours.” All images © Naledi Tshegofatso Modupi, shared with permission

In vibrant and expressive digital portraits, Cape Town-based artist Naledi Tshegofatso Modupi captures the essence of individual style, confidence, and joy. Pools of color highlight eyelids, cheekbones, chins, or ears while continuous lines define the contours of the subjects’ features and profiles. Intricate linear patterns adorn an array of distinctive hairstyles and accessories, celebrating women’s unique and empowering stories. Focusing on the beauty of Black people, the artist says in a statement that she aims to “inspire confidence and awaken hope in those who are able to find their reflections in her pieces.”

Modupi will have work in Modern Flavours with Brutal Curation in Cape Town from June 11 to July 1. She also has prints available in her shop, and you can find more of her work on Instagram and Behance.

 

“Hair is Jewellery”

“Accept Imperfections”

“Inhale Peace”

“Issa Rae”

“Stay Shining”

“What a Woman”

 

 



Art

Layers of Intricately Cut Paper Evoke Strength and Vulnerability in Christine Kim’s Elegant Collages

June 2, 2022

Kate Mothes

“By Heart” (2022). All images © Christine Kim, shared with permission

In intricately cut collages by Ontario-based artist Christine Kim, flowers, foliage, and crown-like adornments encompass anonymous portraits. Painted floral motifs on carefully torn pieces of paper paired with slats of wood appear like lath exposed beneath ornate wallpaper, providing a backdrop for the elegant silhouettes. The elaborate designs of the figures’ headdresses suggest wrought iron with delicate strands of plants or ribbon partially obscuring their faces. In her series Paper Thin, Kim explores myriad techniques for working with the ubiquitous material.

Inspired to examine relationships between surface, pattern, and volume, she portrays how the medium can be both fragile and solid, rigid yet flexible. She describes in a statement that the series evokes “dualities of strength and vulnerability, as stark black fences crown the regal female figures, but these barriers are, in the end, only paper-thin.”

Kim’s work is currently on view at Galerie Youn in Montréal as part of the group exhibition YOUNIVERSE until July 3. You can find more of her work on her website and on Instagram.

 

“Yesterday’s Thoughts” (2022).

“Stories We Tell” (2022)

“At Least” (2022)

“In Good Faith” (2022)

“Boundaries of Ours” (2022)

 

 



Art Illustration

Minimal Lines Contour the Expressive Women in Luciano Cian’s Bold Portraits

May 27, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images © Luciano Cian, shared with permission

Rendered in sparse, sweeping lines and textured shapes, the women of Luciano Cian’s Tête portraits embody proximity and escape from formality. The digital series, short for tête-a-tête, is the latest in the Rio de Janeiro-based artist’s geometric body of work, which utilizes bright color palettes and minimal markings to define the contours of a cheek or shoulder. Each piece is an invitation, Cian shares, offering an intimate interaction with the anonymous subject.

The artist (previously) recently finished ten digital drawings and one acrylic painting (shown below) for Vozes Negras, A Força do Canto Feminino, or Black Voices, The Power of Feminine Singing, a musical theater production at Teatro Prudential on view through June 26. Originals and prints are available from Saatchi Art, and Cian shares an extensive archive of portraits and other works on Behance and Instagram.

 

From Vozes Negras, A Força do Canto Feminino, or Black Voices, acrylic on wood