The work of Yinka Shonibare, MBE is filled with the complexity and ambiguity that make art endlessly exciting. Born in London, Shonibare moved to Nigeria when he was three years old and later returned to London to attend college. In a way, his work reflects this personal dynamic between Europe and Africa. However, Shonibare’s work makes it clear that his scope is much larger than that. He skillfully blends traditional textiles, costume, and symbolism from various European and African cultures and times. Through his distinctive work, Shonibare has a way of exploring issues of colonialism in an increasingly shrinking world without taking away any of its complexity. Thus, his work doesn’t inspire political reactionism, but rather sincere thought and deep consideration.
Often it seems the most useful objects are the most overlooked. Much of the work of artist and designer Joost Goudriaan is set upon changing our relationship with such items. A park bench, an object whose aesthetic is nearly entirely defined by its use, is transformed with traditional craftsmanship. Goudrian uses leather and walnut wood to turn a typically stark bench into luxuriant public seating. Also pictured, is a replica of the classic Nike Air Max made from chocolate. While the original may be prized and collected, Goudriaan compelled anyone who bought his chocolate replica to sign a contract stipulating that they would eat the shoe.
The art of Turkish born artist Mehmet Ali Uysal is at once playful and contemplative. His work often makes use of common objects or images as its starting line. Uysal then alters its purpose or use in subtle but profound and often humorous ways. Not only Uysal’s objects, but the surrounding space can feel transformed in a way. Whether it’s a giant clothespin pinching the earth or slabs of dry wall peeled off the gallery walls, his work seems to reveal the playful potential in mundane places and things. Visitors are encouraged to revisit spaces that would otherwise be passed over forgotten.
Christopher Lavery’s sculptures and installations work as poetic monuments– stretching beyond one particular brand or medium, and focusing, instead, on the art of humanity in relation to our natural state of dreaming.
For instance, Cloudscape (top image above), a collection of representational clouds, stands as tall as 42 feet and hovers alongside Pena Blvd. in Denver, Colorado. Each piece, made of steel, solar panels, polygal, and LED lighting, allows us to reconsider our own relationship with the sky– how a cloud is a talisman or connector: nature’s billboard, ephemerally reminding us to look up and inward.
Big Gold Word Bubble (plan and model, 2nd and 3rd image above), his latest endeavor, after completion, will stand 14’ tall and examine this idea of how, parallel to the clouds, language is both concrete and abstract: a beautifully harmonized collective word bubble and diversely individualized journey of interpretation. To help support its construction and transit to Art in the Park at Elm Park in Worcester, MA, click here. To view more Cloudscape installation shots, scroll down after the jump.
Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro’s large scale installations leave us feeling a bit overwhelmed or claustrophobic, and this is perhaps maybe the point. Their installations use recyclables to not only emphasize the gluttony of spending, but even more so, to confront the looming power of clutter and our strange animalistic aversion and contrasting need for it.
Of their work, the two say, we “live in such an organized society where detritus is not an issue. You put your garbage in a bin, and it goes somewhere. When you start to look at detritus, you automatically think about refuse. Or even more about consumption…getting caught up in the cycle of consume, consume, consume. And how these objects start to quantify your life.”
Sarah Sze’s installations incorporate everyday items from toothpicks to light bulbs, and “Triple Point,” her most recent endeavor at the Venice Biennale, is no different. Ladders, paper scraps, aluminum rods, sleeping bags, and other finely scavenged items collect and assemble to create a whole new type of machinery: a thinking one that has to do with re-assessing value and investigating the romanticism of objects at play with one another in this never-ending Milky Way of constructs.
According to The New York Times, Sze “wanted the installation to bleed out into the environment.’’ This is relevant to not only the pavilion itself, where the bulk of her work sprawls from room to room and outward onto the exterior landscaping, but also the neighboring community.
Blazing a cryptic trail, before the opening, Sze deposited a series of fake rocks (aluminum structures wrapped in photographs of rocks) sporadically in unexpected places, sometimes, with local businesses, who now house them in unconventional spaces, often along with their own imaginative origin stories. The intention is to lead patrons into the exhibit slowly, almost subconsciously, as though foraging their own trail into the surprising wilderness of Sze’s art.
More images of the installation and a video after the jump.
Iconic Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei has never shied away from political ideas in his art. His contributions to this year’s Venice Biennale are no exception. Bang utilizes 886 stools to create this sprawling installation. Such three legged stools were traditionally handcrafted and a common item in many Chinese households. They had numerous uses and were often passed down through generations. With the onset of the Cultural Revolution and modernization such stools soon disappeared. The enormous structure seems to have grown uncontrollably but organically – much like the explosion of growth in population urban centers, and consumer products.
Straight addresses the tragic 2008 Sichuan Earthquake and specifically the thousands of children’s lives claimed by the disaster. Ai Wei Wei straightened 150 tons of mangled steel rebar and neatly stacked in the project space. While bringing to mind the suspicion of shoddy school construction the installation also serves as a vehicle to mourn, remember, and address. Straight reflects Ai Wei Wei’s desire to straighten out the complexities and problems surrounding the massive casualties. [via]
The artwork created by the Japanese art collective known as Three creates work with a political subtext as powerful as it is subtle. Three often uses common food objects such as fish shaped soy sauce packets or candy. For example, the installation Eat Me uses 7,000 wrapped candy pieces hung from the gallery ceiling in the shape of a house. Visitors are encouraged to pluck candy from the installation and toss the wrapper in a corner set aside in the gallery. Slowly throughout the day the ‘house’ of candy is transformed into a pile of trash – a symbolic recreation of the overwhelming destruction of homes by Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami.