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Art Design History

Prominent Figures of the Harlem Renaissance Featured on New USPS Stamps

June 3, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © USPS

For those who aren’t keen on emblazoning their rent checks or letters with an American flag, the United States Postal Service recently released a stamp collection dedicated to one of the most influential periods in the nation’s history. The new set features pastel renderings of four prominent figures of the Harlem Renaissance, a profound artistic and intellectual movement that spanned the 1920s. This year marks a century since the period began and became a turning point for Black culture.

Nella Larsen is recognized most often for her two novels Quicksand (1928) and Passing (1929), which explore race relations at the intersection of gender, sexuality, and class; Educator, poet, and avid gardener Anne Spencer exemplified the far-reaching effects of the Harlem Renaissance by hosting artists and intellectuals at her home in Virginia; Arturo Alfonso Schomburg was an Afro-Latinx historian dedicated to furthering recognition of Black artists, writers, and intellectuals. His collections now are housed at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City; and writer, philosopher, and educator Alain Locke is one of the most prominent thinkers of the period. He also edited and contributed to the foundational text, The New Negro.

Designed by art director Greg Breeding with art by Gary Kelley, the 55-cent forever stamps are available for purchase in sheets of 20 from USPS. (via Hyperallergic)

 

 

 



Art Design History

Artist Ruth Asawa's Mesh Wire Sculptures Adorn New Stamps from USPS

April 7, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © United States Postal Service

Soon you’ll be able to mail a letter to a friend—or realistically, pay a bill—with a hint of art history. The United States Postal Service announced this week that it’ll be releasing 10 stamps inspired by renowned sculptor Ruth Asawa. The neutral-toned collection contains mostly her bulbous hanging pieces that appear to swell and contract in vertical lines.

Born in 1926, Asawa was forced into a Japanese internment camp by the U.S. government with her family during World War II. She learned to draw during her detainment, before eventually attending Black Mountain College, where she studied with Josef Albers and began to delve into wire weaving and sculpture. Later in her career, Asawa described her looped artworks as “a woven mesh not unlike medieval mail. A continuous piece of wire, forms envelop inner forms, yet all forms are visible (transparent). The shadow will reveal an exact image of the object.”

The forthcoming stamps feature photographs by Dan Bradica and Laurence Cuneo, with the selvage image taken by Nat Farbman for a 1954-issue of Life. To see more of Asawa’s wire works before you pick up the postal packet, check out the Instagram account that her estate manages. (via Artsy)

 

 



Art Illustration

Stamps, Scientific Charts, and Hand-Drawn Maps Occupy Every Inch of Travel Notebooks by José Naranja

January 6, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © José Naranja, shared with permission

Author and artist José Naranja ensures he won’t forget any detail of his year-round travels across the globe through a meticulous and unique documentation process. Formerly an aeronautic engineer, Naranja now archives his thoughts while visiting foreign countries by hand-crafting journals replete with items like collected stamps, an illustration of the periodic table, and a study of fountain pens. Each mixed-media page centers on a theme, such as the culture surrounding eating a bowl of ramen or the flamingos found in a zoo.

Since he last spoke with Colossal, the artist published a second work titled The Nautilus Manuscript, a 208-page handbound leather journal chronicling his life from 2015 to 2019. Similar to how he constructs each page, Naranja is committed to maintaining the integrity of his work during the production process. “The project is about offering the people the same feeling as having the originals in their hands: same paper, size, leather cover and mainly the same ‘touch.’ It’s bound by hand, slow but the only way to take care of details,” he says. The Nautilus Project, which is written mostly in Spanish, is available for purchase. Keep up with the artist’s most recent spreads brimming with insights and elaborate sketches on Instagram.

 

 



Art Design

100,000 Hand-Arranged Stamps Form Complex Mosaics by Elisabetta Di Maggio

October 21, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

In “Greetings from Venice, Italian artist Elisabetta Di Maggio used thousands of stamps to create colorful mosaics on the floor of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi. Di Maggio created repeating geometric patterns with the varied designs, shapes, and color palettes of each miniature government-commissioned artwork. The paper mosaics were placed below a transparent floating floor, allowing visitors to walk over the artwork, located on the fourth floor of the historic building, which has been repurposed as a contemporary shopping destination.

To create the elaborate repeated patterns, Di Maggio studied St. Mark’s Basilica’s floor and Venetian palazzi and sorted 100,000 stamps by color to prepare the designs. The artist then worked with a team of high school students to arrange the stamps in complex patterns. “Greetings from Venice” was on view in autumn 2018.

Take a behind-the-scenes look at the process for “Greetings from Venice” on Irenebrination’s blog and explore more of Di Maggio’s other projects on her website.

Research and process documents via Irenebrination

 

 

 



Design History

A Dozen New Stamps Celebrate Leonardo da Vinci's Drawings

February 13, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

The head of Leda (c.1505–08), on view at Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

The innovative yet timeless drawings of Leonardo da Vinci will soon be arriving in mailboxes around the U.K., thanks for a special stamp release marking the quincentennial anniversary of the Italian artist’s death. In tandem with the special stamp edition, twelve cultural institutions throughout the United Kingdom will be showcasing a total of 144 of da Vinci’s works in the dispersed show Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing. The exhibitions opened at the beginning of February and are on view through May 6, 2019 in Glasgow, Cardiff, Bristol, Leeds, and other U.K. cities. Stamp sets are available from Royal Mail. (via artnet)

The skull sectioned (1489), on view at Ulster Museum, Belfast

A star-of-Bethlehem and other plants (c.1506–12), on view at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow

Studies of cats (c.1517–18) on view at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

The skeleton (c.1510–11) on view at Cymru/National Museum Wales, Cardiff

The fall of light on a face (c.1488), on view at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

The head of St. Philip (c.1495) on view at Millennium Gallery, Sheffield

The skeleton (c.1510–11) on view at Cymru/National Museum Wales, Cardiff

 

 



Illustration

Vintage Postage Stamps Inspire Fanciful Storybook Scenes Painted by Illustrator Diana Sudyka

March 7, 2018

Christopher Jobson

Chicago-based Illustrator Diana Sudyka uses vintage stamps from Europe as the starting point for fanciful paintings created using gouache, ink, and watercolor. These miniature engravings of portraits, architecture, and ships  become fully formed figures and landscapes that merge with trees and flowers and convene with animals. Many of the artist’s paintings include phrases of hand-painted text that add an additional narrative element to the works.

Sudyka tells Colossal that she begins each new piece by selecting a stamp, but without a specific idea of the painting that will emerge from it. “I let the stamp inform the subject matter and color palette. It’s a very intuitive process. The stamp is really just a stepping off point to get my imagination going.”

Working mainly as a children’s book illustrator, Sudyka creates her stamp paintings primarily as relaxing interludes between client projects. She explains to Colossal that her background is as a fine artist, specializing in intaglio printmaking, and her history with stamps goes back to her days as an undergraduate when she was inspired by collage artist Joseph Cornell, and picked up some vintage stamps at a coin collecting shop in her college town. Sudyka offers prints of many of her paintings on her website, and she also shares her work on Instagram.

 

 

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