with public art
Using geometric motifs and vibrant hues that contrast their brick and concrete backdrops, multi-disciplinary artist Georgie Nakima paints oversized portraits that use color to convey “divinity, resilience, strength, and beauty.” The Charlotte-based artist, who works as Garden of Journey, gravitates toward bright reds and blues to form stripes, facial features, and various plants and animals in a manner that connects the central subjects to their environments. “The color is totally freestyle, and I really like to start with a base color or gradient,” she tells Colossal. “Especially in urban societies, it’s not always inspiring when you’re surrounded by gray and brown buildings.”
A studio artist primarily, Nakima creates smaller works on paper in addition to her more monumental projects, all of which are tied to ideas of Afrofuturism and countering media narratives with positive messages. Her practice has evolved in recent years from strict hyperrealism to a more abstract style that uses patches of color and patterns. “It’s still proportionately realistic, but there’s more depth,” she says, sharing that she focuses equally on her subjects and their surroundings. “My murals are really playing to the ecosystem. I am a portrait artist. However, I don’t seek for my work to be focused on humans existence. (I want to) put some of the focus off of the human ego and think holistically about who we are on this planet.”
Nakima is currently working on a piece at Mechanics and Farmers Bank, Charlotte’s first Black-owned financial institution, and you can see more of her outdoor projects, portraits on paper, and basketball court transformations on Instagram.
Share this story
In a neighborhood of tech giants and startups, the San Francisco Center for the Book is decidedly analog. The nonprofit has been a hub for printmaking and book arts for Bay Area creatives since it opened 25 years ago, offering about 300 workshops and classes in papermaking, letterpress, binding techniques, and a range of other processes to thousands of students each year.
Beyond wanting to provide a space for local artists and those interested in the practice, though, one of the center’s tenets is community engagement, a commitment that manifests in the spectacular day-long Roadworks festival. The annual event, which was pared down in 2020 due to COVID-19 precautions, began in 2004 as a way to expand the organization’s footprint beyond its own walls, but it wasn’t until 2013 that it grew into the dramatic occasion it is today. Roadworks celebrated its 18th year this September and brought back its prized activity: printing dozens of linocuts with a 1924 Buffalo Springfield steamroller.
Each year, the center brings in the seven-ton machine from Roots of Motive Power to produce a series of 42-inch square prints in the middle of San Francisco’s streets. The process is as monumental as the event, requiring dozens of volunteers and fast-moving hands to create works successfully in the midday sun and wind. “It’s an interesting printmaking challenge in that you get to practice once a year,” says Chad Johnson, the center’s studio director and a resident instructor who’s been at the helm of Roadworks in recent years. “There’s no replication of all of the conditions except for when you do it.”
The actual process utilizes the street as the base of the press, with an insulating rubber mat on top to counter any debris. A piece of MDF particle board—the team prefers this material to plywood because it has no grain and can distribute pressure evenly—marked with a taped registration system sits on top. Once Johnson inks the plate with the yellow- and purple-tinted pigments specific to Roadworks, he has to quickly position it on the ground and have two others cover it with paper. “The only other trick is keeping the plate wet up until two minutes before. There’s no amount of ink that I can get on it that won’t dry in the wind and the sun,” he says.
After that, the rest is similar to the etching press, although it happens on a much greater scale. The team lays down a plastic tablecloth to prevent steam leakage on the paper, then a wool blanket, and finally a thick rug that serves as an insulator from the massive machine. After two rolls, the team peels off the layers and reveals the finished prints. Roadworks “has the ability to broaden the range of outreach by the sheer fact that it’s a steamroller,” Johnson shares, sometimes printing “Godzilla, sometimes a tree, sometimes a plant.” Most years, the group produces between 30 and 35 pieces within a few hours, although 2021 saw its largest collection of 38.
Alongside the larger prints created by a trio of committee-selected artists, the festival also sells linocut kits prior to the event that allows community members to carve their own works and see them realized day-of. “The idea was to get people excited about printing on a grandiose scale, and I think for me, that’s still really an amazing, powerful thing,” Johnson says, noting that these projects also garner essential funding for the nonprofit.
Although this year’s prints are sold out, the center is selling totes that feature a 2004 steamroller design by Rik Olson, a local artist who’s participated in the festival for nearly two decades. You can see more photos from Roadworks 2021 and watch for information on next year’s event on Instagram.
Share this story
Brazilian artists Douglas de Castro and Renato Reno (previously) are the duo behind Bicicleta Sem Freio, who paint large-scale murals that surround their subjects with a chaotic mix of cartoon characters, squiggly splashes, and brightly colored plants and animals. Their streetside pieces, which can be found in cities like New Dehli, Jerusalem, and Fortaleza, Brazil, balance local culture and references to popular imagery and tropical landscapes. “Our work is influenced by the ‘80s and ‘90s global and Brazilian pop culture,” they tell Colossal. “We both enjoyed watching cartoons and television shows when we were younger, and we are also deeply inspired by nature. ”
Rendered in vibrant blocks of color, Bicicleta Sem Freio’s murals depict a range of subject matter from the native plants of New Dehli to a project honoring people with disabilities in La Solana, Spain. Prior to working on a piece, the pair immerse themselves in the contemporary and historical aspects of the community to draw in mainstream and unconventional references. “We also engage with the locals and ask them about the type of music they listen to and what are the typical animals from the region. This information is crucial for us and ultimately informs our final design… It’s a weird and fun mix,” they share.
De Castro and Reno are currently in São Paulo working on a piece for NaLata Festival before heading to the U.S. next month. You can find limited-edition prints on JustKids, and follow the artists’ upcoming projects on Instagram.
Share this story
Thanks to Gerardo Gomez-Martinez (aka Hacer), the public plazas on Broadway in New York City’s Garment District are now a zoo of origami-style animals. The Mexican-American artist installed a series of powder-coated steel sculptures that loom over dining areas and walkways as part of Transformations. Commissioned by The Garment District Alliance, the project consists of seven creatures that vary in size, including a yellow dog, a magenta elephant, a green bear cub, and two turquoise rabbits and coyotes, one of which extends 14 feet from nose to tail.
If you’re in Manhattan, stop by the plazas between 36th and 39th streets before November 23 to see the bold animals in person. (thnx, Laura!)
Share this story
Artist Thierry Mandon Lives in Suspended Domestic Scenes Within the Ghost Rooms of Severed Buildings
Multidisciplinary artist Thierry Mandon casts himself as the subject of his satirical works as he reads in a bed hazardously suspended feet above the ground or sips a glass of wine at a halved dining table. The humorous and discomforting pieces, titled “Inside–Outside” and “Tableau vivant,” respectively, unveil a series of slow, solitary activities that, once outdoors, become a performative spectacle rather than a mundane moment. They speak to Mandon’s “search for harmony and for a stable unity between humans and their environment,” he says, as he literally slices and adheres domestic objects to a building’s facade.
“Each video portrays a character that, as a kind of archetype of the individual, is confronted by his human condition, his limits, his power, and helplessness,” Mandon writes to Colossal. “These themes are rendered by works where two elements, two worlds are exposed in a precarious balance.”
Share this story
Spanning the 42 St. Connector between Times Square and Bryant Park in New York City is a troupe of dancing figures dressed in vibrant costumes of feather and fur. The ebullient characters are based on the iconic series of Soundsuits by Chicago-based artist Nick Cave (previously) and are the first part of a massive permanent installation titled Each One, Every One, Equal All in the public transit corridor.
Stretching 360 feet, “Every One” is the first in the mosaic trio and displays more than two dozen of the adorned figures inlaid in ceramic tiles. The pieces are based on James Prinz’s photos of Cave’s original designs, which are soulful and energetic forms that blend fashion, sculpture, and performance in full-body coverings. Soundsuits “camouflage the shape of the wearer, enveloping and creating a second skin that hides gender, race, and class, thus compelling the audience to watch without judgment.” Cave describes the impetus for the project.
Times Square is one of the busiest, most diverse, and fabulously kinetic places on the planet. For this project, I took the aboveground color, movement, and cross-pollination of humanity, bundled it into a powerful and compact energy mass that is taken underground and delivered throughout the station and passage. ‘Every One’ places the viewer within a performance, directly connecting them with the Soundsuits as part of an inclusive community of difference.
“Every One” was officially unveiled today with a short video work showing the colorful figures in motion playing every 15 minutes outside the corridor. “Each One” and “Equal All” are scheduled for 2022, and once complete, the project will stretch 4,600-square-feet with more than four dozen dancers. It will mark both Cave’s largest permanent installation and the MTA’s most expansive commissioned mosaic to date.
Share this story
Editor's Picks: Art
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.