Kara Walker’s new sculpture “A Subtlety” is pure white, coated in 160,000 pounds of bleached sugar; with this modern take on the ancient sphinx, the legendary artist crafts a towering black face in honor of the slave laborers who worked in sugar cane fields. The powerful work is meant to address racial and sexual exploitation; like the sugar that coats her polystyrene core, this black female figure has been pressured, against nature, into succumbing to whiteness.
The work is now on display at the old Williamsburg, Brooklyn Domino sugar factory shed, where it reaches to the ceiling and extends for a magnificent 75 feet. The mythical creature is a powerful assertion of the black female self; the face quite resembles the artists’ own, and a carefully wrought bandana subtly references the stereotypical (and often offensive) symbol of the mammy, a slave woman who nurtured and brought up white children. Walker has been the subject of debate in the past for her use of contested imagery, and despite the controversy surrounding the “mammy” figure, she is presented here as powerful and divine.
Like the ancient sphinxes of Egypt and Greece, Walker’s monolithic creation is godly, simultaneously fearsome and comforting. The sphinx, known for protecting the tombs of royalty, becomes the guardian of history, interrupting a white-washed historical narrative to make visible the labor of the men and women who were kept enslaved. Her face is serene, assured, and unyielding. The sphinx character, in addition to being a protector, is also dangerous, renowned for devouring those who cannot answer her riddle; Walker’s sphinx is similarly confrontational in her overwhelming size, forcing viewers to confront the complex and painful history of American industry. (via The New York Times)
“NYC is a very fast paced city.” said artist HOTTEA in an exclusive talk with Beautiful/Decay. “When I walked across the bridge people are either jogging, running for exercise, walking with friends or alone to get from Brooklyn to Manhattan or vice versa. When observing people walking or running across the bridge, there really wasn’t any reason to look up or slow down. I like creating pieces that dramatically change the space and encourage people to re-look at a certain area.”
One of the most famous of the now-burgeoning international street arts scene that uses yarn and other non-damaging/permanent materials, the Minneapolis-based artist tried to create a similar project on a visit to New York several years ago, but was stopped by authorities. With careful planning and the help of several friends, HOTTEA was able to complete the public installation, creating a canopy of changing colors over a Williamsburg Bridge. Titled ‘Ritual‘, the artist explained that the very act of taking the bridge instead of the train became a ritual, slowing down his journey to the City and being able to process his day, the skyline and enjoy his surroundings. Realizing this, he wanted to create a signature work that would give others the same chance.
Referring to the installation, HOTTEA explained, “After about 5 hours, people continued to slow down but now more and more people were stopping. Either to take photos or to interact with us directly. When the piece was near completion after about 11 hours, everyone that came into contact with the piece either slowed down or stopped completely. I was in awe to see such a fast paced city slow down, stop and look up.” (via Colossal)
Last September, we visited Leon Reid IV‘s studio and brought back some photos. Less than a month later, Hurricane Sandy blew through the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, leaving so many of us devastated. Leon’s studio is located right up against Newtown Creek in Greenpoint. When the storm hit, the creek flooded the studio with nasty, polluted water; damaging equipment, artwork, and the space itself. Slowly but surely, Leon’s working to bring things back together. We recently talked briefly about his rebuilding process and where things are headed going forward. Click past the jump for Leon’s account of the ordeal and some news from his studio. And stop by his booth at the Fountain Art Fair (March 8-10, 68 Lexington Ave.), where he’ll be showing some of the flooded works.
Street art has undergone some interesting developments of late. While not entirely forsaking its aerosol heritage, street art has definitely become more adventuresome in terms of medium in the past few years. Artist MRtoll exemplifies this well. While MRtoll’s aesthetic may resemble that of a stencil or poster artist, his medium is a bit more peculiar: clay. MRtoll works the clay into various images or texts then installs them on walls throughout Brooklyn. He often uses his clay in a nearly painterly manner creating impressive two dimensional work. Other times, his work is text based, seemingly a text or a tweet, playful much like its medium.
Mike Perry is of the artist/illustrator/designer/art director/teacher/typographer/zine-maker breed who have put all their energy into making a living off of creativity. Taking inspiration from Steven Harrington (an LA contemporary), cartoons, and mid century ad copy, Perry’s work is all about enjoying life and encouraging others to live more creatively à la Sister Corita. He has a show up right now until November 20 in Brooklyn called Wandering Around Wondering. I use the term “show” loosely, Because keeping in the spirit of 100% outward-directed positivity, it’s equal parts original work, workshops, and open community events, all of which are free. His press release describes it pretty well:
“Wandering Around Wondering is a free three-month community exhibition and series of events that will coincide with the launch of my monograph, published by Rizzoli. The event space will host workshops, screenings, gatherings, open discussions, and much more — conducted by me and a select group of design and illustration professionals. The space will become a dynamic environment for continuous creation, where visitors will be able to explore freely and create their own unique experiences.”
Daniel Heidkamp uses combines the styles of old timers like David Hockney and Claude Monet to paint the people and places around him in the 21st century. The results are fresh, energetic, and 100% joyful to look at. If you’re not careful you could end up staring at these all day. Not that that’s a bad thing.
Gaia (Brooklyn and Baltimore) pastes huge lino cut prints of animals and other naturally infused imagery onto walls. Massive in scale but not overly so, the works cause us to question our role in nature and our connection to animals. Gaia’s also referencing a lot of renaissance art lately, and the newer works bring a really calming element to the locations in which they’re installed. The artist recently took a degree from MICA — maybe production will be amped up now that the artist has more freetime?
I stopped by Leon Reid IV‘s studio in Greenpoint to see what he’s been up to lately. He’s been pretty busy. Last month, he installed “100 Story House” a public art piece created in collaboration with Julia Marchesi. And he released a new sculpture series less than two weeks ago. On top of all of that, he’s in the midst of raising funds for “A Spider Lurks in Brooklyn”, his proposed project to put a giant spider between the cables of the Brooklyn Bridge during October of 2014 (you can get involved with the project here). So I was pretty psyched that he was able to make time to show me around. Leon’s been creating public art in some form or another for eighteen years now, and his studio was full of past projects and concept sketches.