with public art
An eclectic array of installations recently popped up at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia, transforming the historic neighborhood into a temporary wonderland teeming with quirky characters, large-scale interventions, and optimism. A life-size piñata shaped like a 1984 Thunderbird is parked on 12th Street, cross-stitched roses trail across the brick facade of Building 99, and a typographic message casts shadows on a pavilion in a call for hope.
Officially titled Mystery Island and the Marvelous Occurrence of Spontaneous Art, or MIMOSA, the entirely outdoor exhibition includes work from seven artists DAKU (previously), Justin Favela (previously), Kid Hazo with South Fellini, Reed Bmore, Liesbet Bussche, and Raquel Rodrigo (previously). It’s a collaboration between the anonymous collective Group X and the Navy Yard, which was overrun in 2018 by a gargantuan sea monster. MIMOSA‘s six site-specific installations are spread across 1,200 acres.
Activated by sunlight, DAKU’s installation “Rays of Hope” casts shadows in 25 different languages on a brick terrace in Crescent Park. Throughout the day as the light shifts, so do the silhouettes on the ground. “The sun has always been associated as a symbol of energy and so is hope,” DAKU says. Rays of light metaphorically serve as “a symbol of positivity and optimism.”
By translating the word “hope” into dozens of languages, the anonymous Indian street artist puts forth a welcoming vision. “When we see a native language, we have a sense of belonging and familiarity with the space. Especially in a foreign land or a place, it makes it more relatable,” DAKU writes. “Languages have been a part of every culture and (have their) own visual aesthetic… Culture is common ground for any language or a form of visual art, and if one comes to think of it, language plays an essential role. It binds the culture in forming into a community.”
A nod to his mother’s first purchase after immigrating from Guatemala to the United States in the 1980s, Favela’s paper-fringed car expands on the myth of “The American Dream.” “The promise that if you keep your head down, work really hard and save your money… you, too, can own a home with a two-car garage, get married, have kids, build an empire, and live an abundant and dignified life,” he says. Through his large-scale piñatas, Favela conveys stories like his mother’s, particularly in relation to her longing to return to Central America. “What about the immigrants that come here and realize that they moved to a country that does not want them here? Their stories are also important,” he says.
Questions about identity, including his own as a first-generation, queer, Latinx American, and the experiences of people who have immigrated to the U.S. face inform Favela’s artworks. He subverts common narratives by offering a revised way of thinking centered on joy:
What are we when we are not viewed as just a labor force? What if we stopped taking pride in suffering and the sacrifices that we had to make? What if we valued joy? Mental health? What if we could take a couple of days of…just because!? What would happen if could just be ourselves? When will we all be free?
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An Artistic Endeavor in Brussels Installs Custom Mosaics Outside Your Home—People Are Choosing Portraits of Their Cats
Cats, dogs, and other mammals are known to mark their territories in myriad ways, but pet owners in Brussels have discovered a more enduring and inviting method. What began as a single project by artist Ingrid Schreyers spurred a municipality-wide initiative: the government of Schaerbeek, a suburb bordering the city of Brussels, now installs any mosaic, either created by residents or a local artist like Whitney Orville, free of charge. Many people are choosing portraits of their furry companions, although the idiosyncratic designs range from playful depictions of wildlife to urban scenes.
We’ve gathered some of the street-side assemblages here, but check out this Instagram account documenting the public art initiative for hundreds more. You also might enjoy these Japanese manhole covers and a similar mosaic-centered initiative to fill potholes.
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Situated along the coast in Cantabria, the Faro de Ajo has been transformed from a barren facade into a vivid display of more than 70 hues. The undertaking of artist Okuda San Miguel (previously), the 16-meter tower features a striped bird, wild animals rendered in bold blocks of color, and various dots and squiggles. Now bearing the name “Infinite Cantabria,” it is the first intervention on a Spanish lighthouse. “It has been a unique experience, both because of the artistic challenge that it has brought about for me, as well having carried this project out in my homeland,” says the artist, who is from the region in northern Spain.
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French artist Julien Malland, who works as Seth Globepainter (previously), is responding to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis with a new series of murals that capture the innocence of childhood. Painted throughout the thirteenth district of Paris, the public artworks feature kids in the midst of an imaginary adventure or playful activity: one rides an oversized pigeon, another blows multicolored bubbles, and a pair appears to float above the ground to embrace.
Each of the figures is sporting a metal knight’s helmet, a sign of protection for their physical wellbeing, in addition to a show of strength and resilience. In a note to Colossal, Globepainter says the headwear also refers to French President Emmanuel Macron’s speech in March in which he said, “We are at war,” as he ordered residents to stay home. The murals represent the way Parisians have accepted this new way of living and are about “how children, in particular, seem to have adapted easily to it,” the artist says. “They are protected by their helmets which weigh so heavily on them. They can only see through small openings in the metal, but they continue to play as if nothing had happened.”
To see more Globepainter’s public artworks that consider the world through the lens of childhood, follow him on Instagram.
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In 2017, artist Chris Fox utilized decades-old wooden escalators to create a sculptural ribbon above Sydney’s Wynyard Station. His latest project titled “Interchange Pavilion” similarly repurposes vintage railway tracks to construct a 350-square-meter outdoor pavilion. The work is comprised of 250 meters of stainless-steel rails, 15 tons of glass-reinforced concrete, and 1,400 pieces of hardwood. Built in sections, the rails in “Interchange Pavilion” offer several paths upward, where they converge at a central point.
If you’re in Sydney, check out the newly-opened public artwork, which was unveiled August 25. Otherwise, find more from Fox on Instagram.
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In London Fieldworks’ delicate creations, architecture meets nature. Its installations feature pine-colored clusters of minuscule wooden forms that appear to grow upon vast tree trunks. Founded by artists Bruce Gilchrist and Jo Joelson, London Fieldworks is a collaborative and multidisciplinary arts practice with projects at the intersection of architecture, sculpture, installation, and film.
Each of the homes has rounded windows and doors, while those on large evergreen trees resemble natural objects, such as wasp and hornet nests or even fungi and mushrooms. From reflecting Clerkenwell’s urban renewal to offering new habitats for animals, the sprawling birdhouses fuse architectural ideas with nature and art, resulting in sculptures that integrate effortlessly in both natural and urban spaces. Through its installations, the practice explores its concern with the climate crisis through the lens of history, the environment, and culture.
One work, “Spontaneous City in the Tree of Heaven,” references opposite sides of London: Duncan Terrace Gardens in the east and Cremorne Gardens in the west. The installation is constructed from hundreds of bespoke bird boxes reflecting the forms of the local architecture—a combination of Modernist 60’s social housing and Georgian townhouses.
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Highlights below. For the full collection click here.