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Wolfgang Laib Makes Art With Yellow Pollen Fields

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German conceptual artist Wolfgang Laib creates his installations from natural materials displayed in very unnatural ways. In “Pollen from Hazelnut,” Laib collected pollen from the area around his studio for over 23 years. In the gallery, he carefully sifted the rich yellow powder into a saturated rectangular field. He says,

“I wanted to have this very intense, concentrated experience … with the pollen. So, the meadow with flowers where I collect the pollen is something very different from how you see it here, a real concentrated experience without any distractions, nothing else.” (Source)

Traditionally, conceptual art is primarily concerned with ideas—aesthetics are mainly disregarded. Laib’s pollen fields are unusual in that they have a strong conceptual basis, yet they’re also lovely and striking. The geometric shapes, as large as 380 square feet, have been described as a “vast luminous field of color” and “a blanket of pure pigment.”

Interestingly it is in the collection of the pollen and the amassed pollen itself where Laib finds the most meaning. The sifting onto the floor is almost irrelevant to him. This exchange is from an interview in The Journal of Contemporary Art

Ottmann [interviewer]: Your pollen pieces are for sale. If a collector wants to own one how exactly does that work?

Laib: He buys three jars of pollen and it’s his choice of keeping it in the jar or to get rid of his furniture and spread it out on the floor.

Ottmann: Would you go to his home and do that?

Laib: Yes, but of course I would be even happier if he would do it himself.

Some critics of the work are concerned with Laib’s “waste” of natural materials. This is not a concern for Laib, who, although he works with natural materials, does not consider himself a naturalist. It’s important to remember that the pollen is gathered by hand over a long period of time, not mass harvested, denuding the environment in one obscene swoop. From concept to exhibition, every aspect of Laib’s work displays patience, precision, and peace.

Read more about Wolfgang Laib on PBS’s wonderful Art21 website and look out for his episode airing soon!

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Amy Elkins’ Thought-Provoking Project Born From Correspondence With Death Row Inmates

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Los Angeles based photographer Amy Elkins recently won the 2014 Aperture Prize for her project Black Is The Day, Black Is The Night, which explores identity, time, and masculinity through correspondence, memorabilia, and composite landscapes, involving death row inmates. Elkins based this project on a number of long-term friendships she developed with men either serving lifetime sentences or on death row. As a pen pal to these inmates, Elkins explores an alternate sense of reality, reaching toward that of the 1,500 people currently on death row in the United States.

Drawing from these conversations and histories, she formulated composite photographs representative of what she learned of these men, and then created a method of aging and manipulating the photographs based on how much time had passed since they were first incarcerated. What comes from that are these gauzy, dreamy photographs that are clotted with layers but still delicate and vague, nearly transparent. The loose metaphor of memory, clarity, and vision are entangled in this series, heightened by photographs of the actual correspondence, memorabilia, and quotes from various letters.

The title of the project comes from a poem Elkins received from an inmate, “It spoke about that environment so well. The idea of being pulled away from anything. Experiencing no variance. Everything is the same; everything is dark. The poem is mind-blowing. Better for him to describe the situation than me.” (Excerpt from Source)

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Sculptor Carol Milne Knits With Glass

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Carol Milne fires up small structural sculptures of knitting made entirely of glass. Though there’s no mistake that this is no ordinary yarn — unless it’s the crystalline yarn of some mystical other plane — it’s still incredible to see the amount of detail and the illusion of malleability.

The technique Milne uses involves wax, refractory molds, molten glass (at a startling 1,400 to 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit), and a steady hand; once the initial process is done, Milne has to carefully free her work of art from its mold, piece by piece.

The sculptures are at once whimsical and delicate, poised as though mid-conversation during a most magical knitting club session. Her sculptures, on average never exceeding 12 inches, are also flavored heavily with surrealism; one sculpture pays homage to M.C. Escher who, no doubt, would have appreciated her clean, understated lines.

There are, too, some sociological undertones; Milne says in an artist’s statement:

“I see my knitted work as metaphor for social structure. Individual strands are weak and brittle on their own, but deceptively strong when bound together.” (via This Is Colossal)

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Photographer Khalik Allah Captures The Ups And Downs Of Nightlife In Harlem, From Smiles To Struggles

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Photographer and videographer Khalik Allah has been shooting candid photos on the streets of Harlem since 2012. Having developed a relationship of trust with those in the neighborhood he frequents, his photographs reveal, softly, but emphatically, a side of city life that is struggling and raw. Allah ventures into the night alone, with his camera and a few rolls of film, and through him we meet those he crosses along the way.

There is such a fine line, in photographing marginalized communities, between documentation and exploitation. When is the camera no longer communicating a reality and instead romanticizing the hardships? When has our empathy, or humanity, turned to voyeurism? Although addiction and poverty are notable characters in Allah’s photographs, they manage to refrain from becoming the central focal point, and his work extends itself with just as much heart as it does grit. Allah muses on his website about this very topic:

“I feel it’s impossible for any photographer to maintain objectivity. The photographer always has a literal point of view, camera choice, light choice, and many other choices; by default these choices will always make it a subjective form. Subjectivity doesn’t diminish the power a photograph may contain.”

Allah walks the line with a conscientious sort of fragility, and has catalogued a selection of work that shows darkness as well as light. There is a light that remains, and sometimes shines out. Allah has crept close enough to show us the souls through the eyes, in case we forgot to look for ourselves. (Excerpt from Source)

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Who Knew Headstones And Urns Could Be So Beautiful- Greg Lundgren And The Art Of Burial Sculptures

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Greg Lundgren of Lundgren Monuments is an artist in bringing light and color to the one situation where the dress code is all black. Lundgren, who is a Seattle artist and entrepreneur, has built a business that has people seeing the final resting place in a whole new light.

Starting with the thought that there should always be beauty with the burial, Lundgren challenged conventional notions of fixed, grey headstones once he began to create his own. Working with bronze, steel, granite and cast glass, Lundgren designs personalized headstones and urns that will best communicate the light and energy of the departed. Often done through a collaborative planning process with the family of the deceased, what emerges from his designs are stunning, illustrious sculptures that capture and emulate the warmth and respect felt toward the lost loved one.

As said on their website:

“Cemeteries are not known for their colorful sculptures. Typically they are monochromatic landscapes – variations of grey and black and other stone types. There is no burst of color, no spectrum of light or illuminating sense of life. And this seems grossly out of character to represent the diverse, colorful and individuality of the people cemeteries honor and represent.

Even in the depths of grief and loss, a little color – a little rainbow, can help us remember the magic that is life and the good times that our loved ones experienced, lived and continue to fuel. Even in the darkest hour, it is important to remember that the people we have lost were vibrant, illuminating, and entirely one of a kind. That is the kind of memorial Lundgren Monuments wants to create, and we are very honored and proud to help contribute to this memory, this reminder, this alternative to the cemetery landscape.”

Who wouldn’t want to be buried beneath something so beautiful? (Excerpt from Source)

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The Skin She’s In – Jen Davis Takes A Candid Look At (Her Own) Obesity

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Jen Davis has been photographing herself continuously for over a decade. Her series of self-portraits have resulted in a book called ‘11 Years‘ and is a powerful exploration of identity, beauty and body image. Picking up the camera when she was an undergraduate in 2002, she put herself in front of the lens to kick start her creativity.

‘For a long time I was taking photographs and they were always to do with the body, or loneliness, or desire,’ she says. ‘But I was never really comfortable putting myself in front of the camera.’ (Source)

Her photos are at once deeply personal, but still widely universal. These themes she addresses are ones we all know: intimacy, love, insecurity. We see Davis in moments that are intensely private – sitting on her bed fresh from the shower, towel around her head, buttoning up her cardigan; lying in bed in the arms of a lover, looking forlorn and uneasy (Fantasy No 1, 2004). She captures such truthful, non-embellished moments – like the fight to button up clothes that are too small for us, that we can’t help but empathize with her struggle. Davis manages to dispel any ideas of being a victim of obesity. Davis goes on to say:

“In the work what I kept returning to is: What is love? Am I loveable? Can someone find me attractive?… At home with mundane surroundings, I treated the camera as if it were my lover—the camera desiring me, providing me the glimpse of what was missing in my life…..In a way what I was doing was seducing myself. I couldn’t necessarily identify with the idea of someone seeing me as ‘beautiful,’ but I could accept that the pictures that I created and inhabited were. It was a very contradictory experience.” (Source)

Ironically after losing 7 stone, Davis has felt less inclined to turn the camera on herself. To find out what she is photographing now, go here

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Henrik Franklin’s Book Sculptures Are Small Enough To Fit Between Two Fingers

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Galleries come in all sizes, even in a really, really tiny scale. Swedish graphic designer and illustrator Henrik Franklin has created an installation that’s something you’d be more likely to see in a dollhouse than anywhere else. But, instead of a bedroom, it’s located at the Odenplan underground station at Gallery 1:10 in Stockholm, Sweden. The group exhibition is titled If You Tolerate This – an exhibition about resistance. Franklin’s piece features a library of colorful books, all small enough that you can hold between two fingers.

In a show centered around worries of the future and the holding on to hope, Franklin’s tiny books represent how important literature is in our development. It teaches us the lessons of the past so we won’t be doomed to repeat them; prose also encourages and inspires us to dream and to think differently.

If You Tolerate This – an exhibition about resistance is on view until December 6.

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Tom Fruin’s Colourful Plexiglass House Enlivens Brooklyn Waterfront

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Tom Fruin made his solo debut at Mike Weiss Gallery with quilts made of drug baggies. 11 years later, his sculptures maintain reference to that mosaic, but have taken on a different form as colourful plexiglass architecture. The baggies for his earlier artworks were found on the street and sewn into a pastiche. It actually seems like quite a natural progression for Fruin to go from baggies to plexiglass that imitates stained glass. The baggies already had the feeling of stained glass windows, and the choice to use plexiglass instead of glass allows the work to maintain that plastic durability or roughness that regular glass would not.

Fruin’s most recent sculpture is installed in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The structure has lights installed on the inside, so that at night it is lit up. Whether lit from the sun during the day or at night by the artificial lighting, the colourful shadows cast by the installation are totally enjoyable. It’s interesting that stained glass and drug baggies should come together so coherently in Fruin’s work. From his rather turbulent beginning as a divisive artist, Fruin is cooling it down with this work. Still, as stained glass belongs to a religious symbolism, the invocation of the baggie configuration remains a mildly daring one.

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