social commentary

Posts tagged
with social commentary



Art

Ironic Compositions Juxtapose Outlandish Scenarios in Paco Pomet's New Paintings

April 8, 2021

Grace Ebert

“The Lesson” (2020), oil on canvas, 130 x 170 centimeters. All images © Paco Pomet, shared with permission

In Beginnings, Spanish artist Paco Pomet (previously) visualizes a series of jarring and absurd scenarios born out of an equally concerning event. He juxtaposes disparate elements—a mushroom cloud erupting in a classroom, women cavalierly poking at a tabletop sunrise, a mountain range lying on an operating table—in a series of satirical commentaries infused with pop culture references and nods to art history.

Generally contrasting a black-and-white scene with a recurring, full-color sunrise or sunset, Pomet’s compositions merge time periods and situations to mark the start of a new reality, a broad theme tied to the current moment. “Romanticism with a twist of irony is a very powerful visual engine,” he says about the series.

If you’re in Santa Monica, Beginnings is on view through May 8 at Richard Heller Gallery. Otherwise, find more of Pomet’s humorous and bizarre compositions on Artsy and Instagram.

 

“Little Big Grief” (2020), oil on canvas, 51 1/5 × 66 9/10 inches

“Hesperides” (2020), oil on canvas, 51 1/5 × 66 9/10 inches

“Melancholy School” (2020), oil on canvas, 51 1/5 × 59 1/10 inches

“The Art of Scaling” (2020), oil on canvas, 51 1/5 × 59 1/10 inches

“Headstrong” (2020), oil on canvas, 23 3/5 × 28 7/10 inches

“Classicism” (2021), oil on canvas, 60 × 73 inches

“Das Erhabene Büro (diptych)” (2020), oil on canvas, 59 1/10 × 102 2/5 inches

 

 

 



Art

Subversively Embroidered Money and Penny Sculptures Question Historical Narratives

March 18, 2021

Grace Ebert

From Insurrection Bills. All images © Stacey Lee Webber, shared with permission

Throughout 2020, Stacey Lee Webber developed Insurrection Bills, a revisionary collection of United States currency overlaid with subversive stitches: flames envelop monuments, a wall is left unfinished, and an eclectic array of face masks disguise Abraham Lincoln’s portrait. Contrasting the muted tones of the paper, the vibrant embroideries stand in stark contrast and as amended narratives to those depicted on the various denominations. “The series references feelings of anger, turmoil, and frustration during the tense political climate while recontextualizing and questioning the beloved iconography we see on our money,” she tells Colossal.

Currently working from her studio and home in Philadelphia’s Globe Dye Works, Webber is formally trained in metalsmithing—she has an MFA from the University of Wisconsin, where she initially began using currency as the basis of her projects—and sees the two mediums as an ongoing conversation. Embroidery “allows me to work in a quieter setting outside of my metal shop acting as a sort of ying to the yang, soft and hard, masculine and feminine,” she says.

Many of Webber’s sculptures involve soldering coins, including the copper penny works that make up The Craftsmen Series and question the value of blue-collar labor in the U.S. Comprised of hollow, life-sized tools, the collection visualizes “putting endless amounts of work into a single cent,” the artist says.

Webber has multiple exhibitions this year, including at TW Fine Art Palm Beach Outpost in April, Philadelphia’s Bertrand Productions in October, and Art on Paper Fair in New York City this November. If you can’t see the currency-based projects in person, head to Instagram, where the artist shares a larger collection of her works and glimpses into her studio.

 

“Masked Abes,” from Insurrection Bills

From Insurrection Bills

Detail of “Masked Abes,” from Insurrection Bills

A ladder from The Craftsmen Series, soldered pennies

From Insurrection Bills

Jewelry made from coins

 

 



Art

Contemplative Artworks of Cicada Wings, Hair, and Thorned Branches Evoke Rebirth and Change

December 11, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Velo de luto (Mourning veil)” (2020), magicicada wings, sewn with hair, 32 x 47 x 2 inches. Photo by Robert Chase Heishman. All images © Selva Aparicio, shared with permission

Woven throughout Selva Aparicio’s cicada veils and fringed floor coverings are the complexities of rebirth, transition, and beauty’s ability to endure. Organic ephemera—human hair, thorned branches, scavenged wings—become poignant installations and smaller artworks that ruminate on a myriad of global issues, including the climate crisis and the infinite failures of the medical establishment.

Aparicio shares that her explorations of life and death began during childhood when she watched the natural world cycle through growth and decay in the woods outside of Barcelona. This lasting fascination has crystallized in the artist’s body of work, particularly in pieces like “Velo de luto (Mourning veil),” which sews together 1,365 seventeen-year cicada wings with strands of hair taken from two generations of women. The shrouds typically are worn to honor a spouse who’s died, and Aparicio notes the material and form exemplify that “as the fragility of the veil of wings decay so does the patriarchal veil of history that it represents.”

 

“Childhood Memories” (2017), hand-carved rug into utility oak wood floor, 657 square-feet. Photo by the artist

Overall, the artist says that her “practice has evolved beyond the individual to encompass environmental, social, and political activism and evoke the change and rebirth I witnesses in nature.” “Childhood rug,” for example, merges personal memory and a domestic object with larger themes of covering and exposing trauma.

Similarly, Aparicio cites her own experiences in “Hysteria,” an installation that surrounds an antique gynecological table with a curtain of thorned branches. Commenting broadly on the unjust power dynamics inherent within traditional healthcare, the artwork draws a direct correlation between the invasive and painful processes of medicine for women and their ability to bring new life into the world.

Although she spends half her time in Barcelona, Aparicio is currently in Chicago and has work on view at two locations: her piece “Hopscotch” is part of MCA’s group exhibition The Long Dream, while her solo show Hysteria is at the International Museum of Surgical Science, where the artist is in residence. Both are slated to close on January 17, 2021. Head to Instagram for glimpses into Aparicio’s process, as well.

 

“Velo de luto (Mourning veil)” (2020), magicicada wings, sewn with hair, 32 x 47 x 2 inches. Photo by Robert Chase Heishman

“Childhood Memories” (2017), hand-carved rug into utility oak wood floor, 657 square-feet. Photo by the artist

“Hysteria” (2020), thorn branches woven with ligature and Hamilton obstetric table from 1931, 9 x 4 x 6 feet. Photo by Robert Chase Heishman

“Hysteria” (2020), thorn branches woven with ligature and Hamilton obstetric table from 1931, 9 x 4 x 6 feet. Photo by Robert Chase Heishman

“Velo de luto (Mourning veil)” (2020), magicicada wings, sewn with hair, 32 x 47 x 2 inches. Photo by Robert Chase Heishman

“Hysteria” (2020), thorn branches woven with ligature and Hamilton obstetric table from 1931, 9 x 4 x 6 feet. Photo by Robert Chase Heishman

“Hysteria” (2020), thorn branches woven with ligature and Hamilton obstetric table from 1931, 9 x 4 x 6 feet. Photo by Robert Chase Heishman

 

 



Art

Artist Nari Ward Has Spent Decades Revitalizing Found Objects to Elucidate Counter Narratives

November 13, 2020

Grace Ebert

“We the People” (2011), shoelaces, 96 x 324 inches. All images courtesy Nari Ward and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London

Jamaica-born artist Nari Ward bases his practice in found objects and their inherent mutability. The Harlem-based artist has scoured New York City’s streets for 25 years gathering house keys escaped from a ring, discarded glass bottles, and clothing tossed season-to-season. Through sculptures and large-scale installations, the scavenged objects find new meaning, whether explicitly scribing a phrase from the United States Constitution or creating more subtle historical connections.

While commenting broadly on themes of race, poverty, and rampant consumerism, Ward is cognizant of the varied meanings burned wooden bats or shoelaces hold for different populations. No matter the medium, many of his works are site-specific in form and fluid in context, allowing the narratives to take new shapes as they travel from community to community.

His 1993 installation “Amazing Grace,” for example, originally was presented in Harlem in response to the AIDS crisis. The artist gathered lengths of fire hose and approximately 300 baby strollers to line the space’s perimeter, with some piled in a central area, as well. In New York City, houseless populations sometimes use the childcare item to carry their belongings, imbuing the objects with a specific message within that milieu. When “Amazing Grace” later traveled around Europe, the strollers were interpreted anew.

 

“Amazing Grace” (1993), approximately 300 baby strollers and fires hoses, sound, dimensions variable. Installation view, New Museum, New York (2019)

In a 2019 interview, Ward expanded on the inherent fluctuations within the symbols and objects he employs:

History tells a particular story, and I’m trying to say: ‘Yeah there is a particular story, but there are many stories that aren’t visible within that one created narrative.’ I think that it’s about bringing mystery into the conversation more so than facts. So the whole idea is bringing this marker, image, or form to the forefront, but at the same time destabilizing it so that it acts as a placeholder for other possibilities or somebody else’s narrative.

Ward is incredibly prolific, and in 2020 alone, his public artworks and installations have been shown in Hong Kong, Denver, New York City, Ghent, New York, and Ridgefield, Connecticut. To explore the artist’s projects further, check out his site and pick up a copy of Phaidon’s 2019 book, Nari Ward: We the People, which accompanied the 2019 New Museum retrospective of his early works.

 

“Spellbound” (2015), piano, used keys, Spanish moss, light, audio, and video elements, 52.5 x 60 x 28 inches. Photo by Max Yawney

“Spellbound” (2015), piano, used keys, Spanish moss, light, audio, and video elements, 52.5 x 60 x 28 inches. Photo by Max Yawney

“Geography: Bottle Messenger” (2002), bottles, letters, wire, and metal frame, 354.33 x 157.48 x 157.48 inches

“We the People” (2011), (detail), shoelaces, 96 x 324 inches

“Iron Heavens” (1995), oven pans, ironed sterilized cotton, and burnt wooden bats, 140 x 148 x 48 inches

“Amazing Grace” (1993), approximately 300 baby strollers and fires hoses, sound, dimensions variable. Installation view, New Museum, New York (2019)

“SoulSoil” (2011), earth, ceramic toilet fixtures, shoes, broom and mop handles, acrylic and polyurethane, approximately 236 x 236 x 236 inches. Photo by Agostino Osio

“SoulSoil” (2011) (detail), earth, ceramic toilet fixtures, shoes, broom and mop handles, acrylic and polyurethane, approximately 236 x 236 x 236 inches. Photo by Agostino Osio

“Mango Tourist” (2011), foam, battery canisters, Sprague Electric Company resistors and capacitors, and mango pits, 8 figures, each approximately 120 inches in height. In collaboration with MASS MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts

 

 



Photography

Shelters of People Experiencing Houselessness Are Photographed within Affluent Residences to Demonstrate Inequality

September 24, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Jana Sophia Nolle, shared with permission

Whether opulent or minimalist in style, the houses that Jana Sophia Nolle photographs are displays of wealth. Plush rugs cover hardwood, hardback editions line built-in bookshelves, and tall windows reach from floor to ceiling. Even the stark rooms with few sculptures and seats signify a choice, rather than a necessity, and demonstrate the ability to furnish a room with just significant objects.

Within these residences, though, Nolle reconstructs a contrasting shelter to illuminate a growing disparity. In her series titled Living Rooms, which culminated in a book published by Kerber Verlag, the artist situates the shelters of those experiencing houselessness within the dwellings of affluent folks in San Francisco. (Houseless refers to lacking a specific kind of structure, while homeless does not.) The single-occupancy structures often are formed with rain-resistant tarps, cardboard boxes, shopping carts, and other small objects.

 

Nolle started the affective series as a way to raise awareness about disparity, gentrification, and income inequality by explicitly comparing differences in living spaces, wealth, and security. “Art cannot, unfortunately, solve problems or change society: at least one work on its own cannot. It does not provide solutions, but it can wake up people,” she says. Although the photographs shown here were shot throughout 2017 and 2018, income inequality has only worsened. Recent reports state that while the wealthiest Americans have seen significant gains during the last few months, people with lower incomes have not rebounded to even pre-pandemic levels. According to the Federal Reserve’s data collected through the end of March, the richest 1% of Americans own 31% of wealth.

Nolle’s project is also empathy-driven, serving as a reminder of our shared humanity. “While working on Living Room, I noticed that unhoused people said that they feel invisible to the housed residents of the city,” she writes. “For most Americans, homeless people are barely visible, somehow on the edge of our vision in most urban areas.” Her time working in San Francisco was both arduous and gratifying and inspired her to join the Coalition for Homelessness. She formed bonds with about 15 people, who she later witnessed being forcibly removed by officials. “This was one of the hardest parts of the project. It is about people. It is about individuals’ lives.”

 

Prior to the pandemic, Nolle planned to replicate the project in Paris and Berlin. Her time photographing the French city was cut short by the lockdown measures, sending her to Berlin, where she’s been building relationships with people who are experiencing houselessness and those who aren’t. “While housed people can ‘go home’ and close their doors and do everything possible to protect themselves, I met many unhoused individuals who described how their networks and support structures changed dramatically due to the pandemic,” she writes. People who are experiencing houselessness are increasingly worried about being infected with the virus and struggling more because they report receiving fewer monetary donations.

Nolle also tells Colossal that she’s noticed differences in the materials people across the globe use to build their homes. While the structures in San Francisco generally are covered, those in Berlin tend to be open on top and use more mattresses for bases. She attributes these differences to both weather conditions and to the varying rules and landscapes of the cities. In terms of photographing large, lavish residences, Nolle says that due to the pandemic, a lack of connections, and other reasons, she’s had more difficulty finding wealthy people willing to open their living rooms to her in Germany. “Sometimes I get the feeling they do have money and wealth in the background but they seem to have trouble admitting it. Being wealthy/privileged seems sometimes also linked to feelings of shame,” she says.

The San Francisco-based series is currently on view through October 24 at Torrance Art Museum in California, while those captured around Berlin will be part of a solo show at Haus am Kleistpark staring in March 2021. Until then, follow Nolle’s work on Instagram. (via It’s Nice That)

 

 

 



Art

Painted on Front Pages, Lisa Törner's Evocative Animals Astutely Comment on Major News Stories

September 2, 2020

Grace Ebert

“The Wall Street Journal.” All images © Lisa Törner, shared with permission

Lisa Törner repurposes the front pages of The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the French weekly Le Canard Enchainé into inky canvases for her expressive creatures. For each edition, the Stockholm-based artist offers insightful commentary on the day’s events: a pensive monkey masks an article about bankers on Wall Street, a turquoise peacock adorns the coverage of Karl Lagerfield’s death, and a slinking leopard is rendered alongside a heartwrenching story about a mother and child, who were separated more than 50 years ago. “The panther symbolize(s) the son’s escape from North Korea,” she tells Colossal.

Törner, who is the daughter of Swedish sculptor and illustrator Bernt Törner, grew up in an artistic household and learned to paint at a young age. In her own practice, she sketches the evocative animals directly on the front pages. Her technique includes a combination of blank ink, acrylics, and oil paints to complete the wild creatures.

Explore more of Törner’s paintings on Instagram,  and pick up a print from Absolut Art. You also might enjoy these sunrise editions of The New York Times.

 

“Bear Market”

“Monkey Businesses”

“Stealth Black Panther”

“The three wise monkeys” 

Left: “RIP Karl Lagerfeld.” Right: “Le Canard”

“POTUS”