Through a Monumental Sculpture of Moving Chains, Artist Charles Gaines Confronts the Enduring Legacy of American Slavery
Eight years after artist Charles Gaines began work on “Moving Chains,” the monumental public work now stands at Outlook Hill on Governors Island. Evocative of a ship hull, the enormous kinetic sculpture features nine rows of steel chains weighing 1,600 pounds each that roll atop a structure made of Sapele, a wood native to Africa, with eight moving at the pace of the harbor’s currents and the other at that of a boat.
The 110-foot is Gaines’ first public art commission and a sharp critique of systemic issues inherent within the American economy. Located next to the harbor that was an essential waterway in the transatlantic slave trade, “Moving Chains” exposes the nation’s capitalistic impulses and inextricable foundation in the heinous practice. “I wanted the piece to address that… in order to produce this kind of economy, they had to legitimate slavery,” Gaines says in an interview. “It becomes a real emblem of what I call the fatal flaw that exists at the foundation of American democracy.”
Specifically, the artist focuses on the Supreme Court’s landmark Dred Scott ruling that prohibits anyone of African descent from becoming a U.S. citizen. Although reversed with the 14th amendment, that decision has spawned myriad effects that continue to plague American society today. “It shows the history of slavery and Manifest Destiny and colonialism and imperialism as an interlinking narrative,” Gaines told Artnet. “In education, they’ve been separated, but the U.S. economy was built on slavery. Manifest Destiny legalized the taking of land from other people.”
Commissioned by Creative Time, Times Square Arts, and Governors Island Arts, “Moving Chains” is one part of Gaines’ ongoing The American Manifest project and is on view through June 2023 in New York before it travels to Cincinnati. You can find more of the artist’s work on Hauser & Wirth, Instagram, and a new film from Art21.
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Drips of Colored Paper Accentuate the Intricate Details of Joey Bates’ Layered Bouquets
In Joey Bates’ sprawling floral sculptures, what appear as dried splashes of paint are actually meticulously cut segments of colored paper. The American artist, who is currently based in Dals Långed, Sweden, layers petals, leaves, and fronds into elaborate three-dimensional bouquets brimming with textured detail. Although most works primarily utilize white or black paper, Bates infuses spots of Yves Klein blue, fiery reds and yellows, and gold to accentuate a single bloom or pocket of foliage.
Currently, the artist is finishing a series of sculptures that will be available in November from Simon Breitbard Fine Arts, in addition to a few commissions and personal projects. You can follow his work on Instagram. (via Beautiful Bizarre)
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Organic Features and Textures Cloak Carol Long’s Sculptures in Natural Embellishments
Melding the decadence of Art Nouveau and the whimsy of Alice in Wonderland, artist Carol Long (previously) transforms humble clay vessels with an array of small spheres, curled handles, and densely laid stripes. Her ornamental works begin with simple, wheel-thrown shapes that are pushed, bent, and warped into swelling forms evocative of organic material or more representational subject matter like a deer or mushroom. Long then uses slip trailing and an elaborate glazing process to add a staggering amount of embellishment to the amorphous sculptures, mimicking the patterns, textures, and colors found throughout the natural world.
The Kansas-based artist will be presenting at Clay Con West this January, and you can follow her latest works and news about available pieces on Instagram.
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A Fluttering Exterior Responds to the Elements in a Kinetic, Open-Air Cabin by NEON
In the park surrounding Louvre-Lens, which opened in 2012 on a 49-acre former mining site about 125 miles north of Paris, a cabin-shaped installation has fluttered onto the grounds. The kinetic structure designed by Margate, U.K.-based studio NEON, who describe it as an “animal-like” work that responds to natural forces in its environment, has feather-like polycarbonate shingles that respond to wind or precipitation to generate movement. “Shiver House V2″—version one was modeled after a traditional mökki in Finland—is an exploration into the way that architecture can help to build a closer connection between its inhabitants and its surroundings.
“Something that we can do with our work is make people be more present in the moment,” says NEON artist Viliina Koivisto, who along with director Mark Nixon, founded NEON on the premise that architecture, art, and design are not ivory towers and instead intersect with one another in unique ways. “Our projects are often eye-catching, bold, and emotive—and quite fantastical,” Nixon explains.
You can view more of the studio’s work on its website and on Instagram.
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In vanessa german’s New Exhibition, Freedom, Value, and Time Coalesce Through Elaborate Assemblages
vanessa german knows how to translate experiences. In her latest project with the Skinner Museum—Mount Holyoke’s early 20th-century cabinet of curiosities—she explores what decolonization means by interacting with the institution’s 7,000 precious historical objects. german finds past, present, and future in everything from Native American baskets to Samurai swords to pieces of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
By touching these great American valuables, the artist explores ideas of rarity and protection amongst the context of this country’s sordid history with distorting people, objects, and the inherent value of every living thing.
On an episode of The Green Dreamer, Gavin Van Horn from the Center for Humans and Nature talks about flipping our perspective from being head over heels to heels over head, instead privileging touch. “That involves us not just venturing out into the world in a way that we are just grasping what we need but being open. Think of our own porosity…Our skin is just a membrane…it keeps us bound together enough so we can think of ourselves as individuals, but it’s also a constant exchange of information between ourselves and the world around us,” Van Horn says.
german’s solo exhibition, THE RAREST BLACK WOMAN ON PLANET EARTH, began as a quest to own the story of the Skinner Museum by doing what no one else on Earth can do to these precious items: touch them. She found that she was not only grasping for something but that she was moved and found connection through the tactile interactions. While reaching for objects society deems valuable and in a reality where fat, Black, queer women are not, she was not granted value but instead recognized it already within herself.
german translates that revelation into a mixed-media installation and healing site so deeply rooted in place that it captures the concurrence of time. The installation, “MUSEUM OF EMANCIPATORY OBJECTS,” is made up of artifacts and words collected from the Mount Holyoke community related to questions of emancipation.
There is also a sense of freedom and groundedness across the show. In “THE FATHER SHOES,” one shoe has nails that evoke the feeling of digging into the earth, while the other sole features shimmery thread. In the pair, there is “one for leaving and one for coming back,” the artist says. Similarly, “WALK IN BEAUTY” is a sculptural rendition of knee-high boots made of rose quartz. This evokes the physicality of our surroundings (a path, movement, stone) and the emotionality of what such concepts represent in our everyday lives (the journey, the heart). No one story, element, or gift is valued above another. All are woven throughout time.
THE RAREST BLACK WOMAN ON PLANET EARTH is on view at the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum through May 28, 2023. german recently was awarded the prestigious Heinz Award, and you can find more of her work on Instagram.
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Trees Are Tied Up in Uncanny Knots in Monsieur Plant’s Playful Sculptures
Trees have an incredible ability to adjust to their surroundings, slowly sending roots across walkways, growing through fences, or merging with other trunks. Artist Christophe Guinet, who works as Monsieur Plant, draws inspiration from nature’s ability to flex and modify in a series of uncanny, elegant sculptures titled Twist.
Since childhood, outdoor walks fueled Guinet’s creative imagination. “It was during my walks in the forest that I was inspired for this project,” he tells Colossal. “By observing the way trees grow, we found unusual, unique, humorous shapes,” prompting him to consider the surprising ways nature can adapt. Using plaster to form the shapes like knots or spirals, he then covers the surfaces with pine bark to give the appearance of real trees and documents each work in wooded surroundings.
Find more of Guinet’s work on his website and Instagram. (via Hyperallergic)
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