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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Known for his figurative wire pieces attached to light posts and other public fixtures around the world, Spenser Little’s recent artworks venture into the personal. Illumination Devices is comprised of the artist’s bent portraits and totems of merging faces, in addition to a series of irradiated kinetic sculptures. Evoking the nesting doll, these abstract figures contain spacious chest cavities that open up to reveal similar, smaller forms hidden inside.
For each lamp, Little carves a wooden structure of the main character’s head, welds a metal body, and overlays the components with thin paper “skin,” repeating the process for subsequent pieces. He also seats wooden figures in the deepest caverns. The relationship between the inner and outer sculptures explores the tension between the conscious and subconscious, which the artist explains:
I heard the analogy long ago the we, our active, controlled conscious, are merely riders on a large beast. We think our conscious minds are controlling the subconscious beast, but in reality, the beast goes where it wants revealing our unpolished motives. The outer self wants to project control and precision. The inner self is just trying to keep things working. The lamps are shells around motors.
By physically brightening the artworks, Little uncovers the link between the two sometimes disparate selves. “Art to me is the wordless conversation between us and our inner beast. To communicate with our unenlightened animal impulses is very illuminating to our true selves,” he shares with Colossal.
Little’s nestled sculptures are on view through September 20 at MOAH: CEDAR in California. Take a virtual tour of the show, and check out exactly how the articulate artworks function on the artist’s Instagram. (via Supersonic)
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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)
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California-based artist Spenser Little has spent the past 15 years creating sculptures by bending and cutting wire into figurative portraits and phrases. His lightweight pieces have been installed on lamp posts and other existing structures around the world and have also been exhibited in numerous gallery shows.
According to Little, a few of his sculptures combine multiple pieces and include moving parts, though most of his work is made using one continuous piece of wire. The artist bends the rigid material using a pair of needle-nose pliers until it fits the image of his subject or his imagination. The work ranges from playful figures that interact with their surroundings to pointed commentaries on an internet and tech-obsessed society. Collectors encounter the sculptures framed and presented in a gallery setting, while others wire portraits have been left behind for pedestrians and explorers to find deep in caves and high above the streets.
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Seattle-based artist Casey Curran (previously) builds sculpture environments from wire, laser cut acrylic, aluminum, sculpted brass. His works appear in a constant state of growth and bloom, opening and closing with the assistance of motors or hand-cranked systems. These interactive systems invite the audience to not only watch his sculptures, but participate in their movement.
The works are inspired by complex systems in nature, yet aren’t obvious imitations of any particular source plant or natural object. “When conceiving my pieces I center on a hidden narrative and begin to assign visual elements that aline with the concept of the piece, often utilizing ornate structures and simple construction methods to further highlight my interests in foundation and form,” Curran explains on his website. “In the process of creating I look for patterns in nature and symmetry in ecosystems. I look for how innovation shapes itself into our ever expanding systems of complexity and knowledge.”
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Wire Sculptures of Hands and Faces Come to Life When Overlaid with Digital Elements by Yuichi Ikehata
Yuichi Ikehata combines photography, sculpture, and digital editing to create hybrid works that meld together reality and his own fictionalized interpretation. The eerie humanoid forms are pierced with holes that reveal rudimentary structures below their plaster-like skin, making each appear to be in varying states of decay. To create these digital manipulations, Ikehata first photographs his own body in different poses. Using wire, he then three-dimensionally recreates its form in simple structures. Finally, the artist adds parts of his original image onto the sculpture through digital editing, reintroducing a fractured reality to the wire imitation. You can see more of his work on his website, Instagram, and Tumblr. (via Hi Fructose)
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Editor's Picks: History
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.