In my last visit to Paris in November, I discovered a home goods lifestyle shop Muskhane in the Le Marais neighborhood, just a 3 minute walk from Marché des Enfants-Rouges. Founded by a French duo, the fondateurs employ craftsmen from Kathmandu, Nepal, to make soft, muted felted pieces for the home– Modern Western. The brand’s products I was most impressed by were the felted rugs— how beautiful and ornate they were, and made with such a homely material such as felted wool!
Inspired, I knew I wanted to learn to felt beautiful objects myself.
Over Christmas, I received a needle felting tool kit, a large ball of white merino wool (cozy!), and a needle felting how-to book. I finished reading the book over a couple days, and then I set to work.
Initially thinking I’d set about making felted slippers with a stylish pattern, I wizened up to the ambitiousness of such a first-time project and decided instead to make a strawberry.
I’m really excited about the talent of this artist. Arcmanoro Niles is a D.C. born and Brooklyn based artist. He is represented by Gallery Lehmann Maupin.
I saw his paintings in person recently for the first time, and I was initially very struck by all the pink and the glitter canvassing every painting. Once my eyes adjusted to this, time had given way to a deep feeling of appreciation for the beauty he redefined and created.
His portraits are invitation.
He explores identity, the things we hold in our private space (people, home, hidden desires) and memory in ways that come out as quite elegant, dignified, intimate, and slightly Johnny Bravo throwback emoji.
“A lot of my references come from old family photos or pictures I take myself with my cell phone or a point or shoot camera. I’m always thinking about how the painting will come out to the viewer so I use quite a bit of reflective paints and shiny materials like glitter. But I think that, at the end of the day, I am a painter who is interested in color and stories that talk about who we are. Little moments that give us a glimpse into what life feels like.” – Arcmanoro Niles
In every painting is included a Seeker, little spindly– some with mischievous bent– characters painted in dark color close to the canvas’ margins.
The Seeker signifies a human desire of the lesser kind. These symbolisms juxtaposed with the virtuous renderings of the people in his paintings invites the viewer to look deeper.
Some things I immediately took away from the paintings of Arcmanoro Nile’s style:
Despite the intimacy of the home or his subjects’ state of dress, Niles paints each with a grace and regalness– similar to how Kehinde Wiley paints the character of his subjects.
He’s a glitter guy.
He paints skin so beautifully: The color of the skin of the people in his life he painted was absolutely striking. What from afar would appear as a light brown skin tone, is skin painted on with a multitude of colors. And the result glistened.
How did Arcmanoro Niles become an artist?
As a kid, he would always be drawing, and this eventually took him to an art high school, Duke Ellington— all was natural progression. He’d then find himself watching a movie of Caravaggio one day in class which would be a source of inspiration for how he would continue on to paint his subjects and treated light.
Influence and process behind Arcmanoro Niles’ art
He’s really interested in color and the color of skin. In a former lecture, Niles says even the colors in the backgrounds of his paintings are made with consideration for making the skin look better. Having recently graduated undergraduate and graduate art school, he references his experience at art school; in the things they were studying, he didn’t see any African Americans in paintings nor were Black artists, people like him, included in studies. That component is a source of meaning for him as an active artist.
Coupled with his desire to highlight African Americans and his heritage more and naturally, the whole interest behind his practice is beautiful.
He is fascinated by color and is interested in the oppositional qualities of color, and often asks himself how to not lose any color in the painting he is rendering.
On indirect painting
“when you have two colors, if you have the orange, and then I put red on top of that, and then if I go over the red with a yellow thinly, it kind of creates a third color. But if I do that with three colors and they are all very saturated, then it will keep on making more colors, and that’s sort of what gives it [the painting] the glow.”
Arcmanoro had his first solo show on the West Coast at the UTA Artist Space. I feel like it’s only a matter of time before Niles has his own show at the MoMA, Whitney, or New Museum.
I’m really excited for that day.
Hey Tomorrow, Do You Have Some Room For Me: Failure Is A Part Of Being Alive runs through August 28, 2021 at Lehmann Maupin Gallery, 536 West 22nd St., NY, NY
The first time I encountered Brooklyn-based artist Carol Bove’s works was at David Zwirner Gallery almost 6 years ago.
She was making a very different kind of sculpture art then (see Polka Dots), but was still working with transforming steel and using paint to facilitate a part of its manipulation.
What follows are photos from her recent exhibition, Chimes at Midnight, at David Zwirner Gallery, W20th Street (running through June 18, 2021) and excerpts from her conversations with art historian Johanna Burton and art curator Phillip Kaiser:
Johanna: Again, pervasive narratives around large-scale metal sculpture usually foreground a kind of battle of wills behind the maker and the material, with, in the end, the maker wrangling the material into a certain configuration. It seems that what you’re talking about is more of a discursive or dialogic dance, where you’re showing an innate quality of the material in a form that is not usually seen. And this negotiation enables different ways of thinking about that process. You do leave certain subtle hints about the process that I think are interesting, such as the use fo bolts and the seams that are produced from welding. There’s a very different logic or purpose in deciding whether to put things together with a bolt or through welding.
Carol: Yes, you can see the decision-making most in the connections. There’s some sort of narrative to either decision too. When parts are welded, it is an instance of two pieces of the same type of material being melted together along a seam. When parts are bolted together, it is a temporary and reversible connection. Bolting is a more erotic relationship because one discrete entity penetrates the other. I tend to choose the mechanical connection when I’m bringing two different materials together. There are reasons for breaking this rule, but in general, if I’m connecting a highly polished, fabricated element to a matte, manipulated tube element, then I could use a bolt. The bolt underscores the way these two elements sit uneasily together, that they can’t be reconciled.
Johanna: So you’re allowing the distinction but forcing the union.
Carol: Yes, and these connections are very erotic. Just as two people can be fully sympathetic and sexually engaged, they are never going become a single person. There will always be difference.
Johanna: And there’s a kind of violence to it?
Carol: There’s violence to it, and desire. The connections have all the pull for me.
Phillip: Are you talking about the fictional nature of any presentation of art?
Carol: Right. That’s how we know something is a sculpture, because in the context of art it’s bracketed out of the world of regular objects. But, because I’m putting a lot of work into this dimension of display, it’s like putting a bracket around the bracket, so you can look directly at the framing devices.
Phillip: This makes me think of your MoMA exhibition a few years ago titled The Equinox, where you included a large riser that elevated and unified various sculptures. Does this presentation form elevate them in a different state?
Carol: I think when something is on a pedestal, especially a big pedestal, we imagine that it’s in a different type of space. It’s qualitatively different, as if it were a live broadcast on television. There’s a belief that the pedestal space isn’t real in the same way that something in “our” space is. Part of my ongoing play with pedestals and display strategies is to understand how that language works and what it means. How much of its meaning is from convention and how much from physical poetry? It seems very much to be about ontology: is this thing on display real? If it’s real, in what way is it real, and to what degree?
Johanna:… How do you listen to the material in a way that feels more like a dialogue and less an exertion of will? Or maybe you disagree with that.
Carol: No, I agree. I want to find out what stainless steel does, what its qualities are. We think stainless steel is hard and strong, and I’m wondering if this is really the case. Is there a gentle and persistent way to act on it so that it will behave differently? Can it be tricked into showing a different side? Under what conditions is it soft and supple? I never force the material to do something it doesn’t want to do. I let it lead me as much as I lead it. I’m invested in an improvisational process where I’m making and solving a puzzle simultaneously.
I also imagine a mirror effect on perception, where the material’s plasticity acts on the imagination. What we know about the material is contradicted, so maybe our grip on reality should be a little lighter, too, enabling us to see what is in front of us rather than only what we think we see.
Johanna: what are the conditions that render the material supple?
Carol: It has to do with the way I prepare the tubes, by pressing them with a series of differently shaped tools that we make specifically for this purpose.
JB: Can you say more about that? In the resulting works, the material looks so distinct from how we ordinarily conceive it, rendering the process a mystery. In discussions with you, you don’t take the pains to hide the process, but if a viewer simply encounters the finished object, how it is produced can feel kind of magical.
Carol: Right. We use a hydraulic press to start bending and massaging the tubes, and then we pull the bends closed using a chain-hoist system. Through this process of manipulations, the geometry of the steel becomes very complex, making the tube seem more like fabric, or something with a softer texture. It takes some patience, and my ability to manipulate the tubes has developed over a few years.
I think it’s interesting how incidental the illusionism is. I leave a lot of evidence of the work’s construction, and you can even come to the studio to see the tubes being manipulated. But in the end the labor is invisible, and in some way the tubes don’t look fully real.
Josef Albers is a German artist I am a great fan of, him along with his German-American partner and fellow artist, Anni Albers. Both were students and teachers at the Bauhaus, with Josef specializing in abstract painting and Anni in textiles.
I can only dream of the kind of youth they had, studying under Johannes Itten (Swiss abstractionist painter, color theorist and part of the Weimar Bauhaus), brushing shoulders with Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky– becoming masters of crafts.
Most of the painted layers for the square paintings were layered on from center to outwards. There were some where Albers changed up his layering process for, which was very interesting– occasionally he’ll make the smallest center square as the final (top) layer.
If anyone could help me get Josef Albers’ Midnight and Noon book (it’s sold out), I would be extremely grateful.
Very interesting in person:
There’s a small part of me that always wonders if I pursued the creative route.. what would life have been like?
What would life be like with a partner who is equally or more in love with art? What it’d be like for us to chase visions and beauty
As I illustrated these, my mind took me back to a bible verse in Matthew Chapter 4, when Jesus spoke to the men who would become his apostles, saying, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
I also illustrated an avatar of my sister with the thought that it would be nice if there was more open-sourcing of avatars and characters of multiple ethnicities (e.g. Pablo Stanley’s Humaaans project, but even more diversified). It would long term serve the greater good– in company efficiency and racial equity.
While the materials used did not pass muster, I was very content and happy with my first attempt at making a tote bag with little to no direction. I am also happy and proud of the fact that I engaged sustained effort (pretty much guaranteed need with hand-stitching) and focus into this (Even a couple years ago, I was not keep my attention on one art project. I had (still have, but less) a hard time focusing, and would always flit about to the next thing before finishing my project because I would get bored after 2 hours). This finished product is a reflection of my progress over the years in improving my ability to focus on one thing at a time.
I did enlist the help of an unused bag; what I did was deconstruct it by its panels, and study that. That must have influenced the success story above.
Learnings from Experience
I understand now why all sewers use thimbles. Sewing with a metal needle for hours on end feels like playing the guitar for hours without any calluses having formed on my fingers. It leads to a unique, unpleasant burn.
I understand fully now why totes are made often with lighter, more thin material, and things that are more structured are made with more durable fabric. It has a lot to do with desired aesthetic.
What I’d Like to Do Better
I would like to start with materials (fabric, straps, colors) that are ideal.
I would like to improve the evenness of my stitching while also getting better on time.
Siren-like beauties– very much like the Valentino SS 2015 Campaign. I’d say almost identical in interpretation. I’m not sure about the strength of Leonor Fini’s other works, but my goodness, to have this in my home:
Things that make my childlike soul go hop!:
Amazing mastery of painting, and the chemistry between the movement of the waves vs. the wood like whorls of the levitating mass:
I am sitting in a very pretty coffee shop called the Yellow Tucan.
The cafe owner decorates the cafe with bright spots of yellow: oranges, tulips, architectural chairs, and truly brightens up the spirits of anyone stopping in.
It’s been 4 days since I’ve arrived in Paris.
Outside of my meetings for work I’ve committing to a practice of solitude as that’s what I have been looking for as I chose to take this trip– to recalibrate and deepen my focus.
After a sprint of work here and finishing this letter, I will go out to meet a friend, Pierre, to do what’s perhaps some much needed socializing. We will be going to the Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature. It will be my first time, and I am so very excited to go as I know the decorative art pieces there are splendid!
It hasn’t been difficult at all to find new friends here. There have been the hiccups of having to ward off men though. …on runs, during walks between meetings. But it’s nothing.
Work is going very well, although I’m shy to share with you the details of the project I have been working on just yet. It takes a lot of preparation, a lot of risk, and sharing sometimes feels scary because it feels like I am putting all my eggs in one basket, when I myself am not absolutely sure where this heading. But this I think is the scared me talking. 🙂
Things are moving very quickly forward though. It’s enough to excite me and frighten me simultaneously.
I hope I have the courage to continue on. And if not, I hope I have the courage to take up something new again. To persevere, and also to be brazen when acting for the good things– the worthy things.
Everyone has probably visited Miami once in their life, if not for Spring Break, or for the lovely beaches. If you’re tired of hanging out in the loud or sheltered parts of Miami, and want to venture out of South Beach and Collins Ave., here are some recommendations for you to explore the blossoming neighborhood culture of Wynwood.
Being the art lover that I am, I made it a mission to visit every mappable gallery in the design district; these are my recommendations for galleries that impressed me with their representation of artists and newness of objects that I would not see if I was in New York:
Art by God : A wonderful store and gallery that I can spend hours in. There was an amazing $4000 Queen of Congo piece I wanted to leave with on my last trip, but I contented myself with buying a small bust of an African boy made of serpentine stone and crafted by an artist from the Shona Tribe (for those interested, the Shona are a people from Zimbabwe, whose ancestors built great stone cities in Southern Africa in days long past!).
To note: It’s a pleasure to hit up art galleries in Miami because they have such a fair representation of Latin American artists, something I haven’t seen much of in concentration in Chelsea or the UES.
Ranivilu Gallery – functions as part gallery, part design store.
There was also Glottman, which was very popular amongst the people there, but it didn’t do much for me. The products it carries look like that of every other design store, but perhaps you might enjoy it.
Dr. Smood: Great interior and awesome cafe concept. Healthy, but with a twist. They offer cashew milk as an option for their drinks, and it’s a great addition to the coffees I’ve drank in New York. I think in New York the extent to our coffee explorations are Nitro brews, grass-fed butter bullets, propolis/bee additive brews, and Australian concept brews.
If anyone knows of a coffee shop in NYC that offers cashew-milk based coffee, I would love to know.
KYU: A modern asian style eatery. Good for drinks.
Coyo Taco: A very popular taco joint. If you are into tacos. Me– not so much.
Plant the Future Wynwood: Recommended by my lovely friend, Thier, and I loved it. I’m not sure if the staff knows what they were doing and I certainly did not think they had a service mindset, but the interior concept of this plant store is cute and fun to walk through. The store has everything from modern potted plants to plants potted in animation characters.
ANTIDOTE: A sustainability focused womenswear concept shop. Owned by a stylish woman who owned a boutique in France and decided to open another concept in Miami.
Up until college, I had grown up with an appreciation for fine art thanks to my parents, but it was never really something I had sought out on my own.
I knew enough “art” to maintain my sense of weird, self-righteous adolescent pride in being cultured and artsy. My interest was driven by nothing else really of nobler substance.
At 18, I moved to New York for college, and I enrolled in an art crit class on a whim during freshman year: the Art of Now course at New York University.
Fast forward to 2013, when I studied abroad in Shanghai. I decided to take on a heavier workload of art classes and immersed myself in contemporary and Asian art. I don’t remember much of the art I saw in detail, but this period of time would leave an indelible mark on me, and it was a catalyst for my passion.
Hu Jieming, Casual Status, 1992
I returned, enrolled in some more art classes.. a studio class in drawing.
During my time as a student, I had more time in the afternoons and between classes to do other things (doing nothing, meeting friends at cafes or for lunch in the West Village, chilling near fountains – damn life from 18-22 was so sweet) and I began exploring gallery spaces and art exhibitions everywhere! pretty intensely.
A pic I snapped years ago on another trip to Pace Gallery.
I started taking random things at home: scissors, a tableweight, a pepper from the kitchen, a rose and draw.
So newly inspired I was by the intricate beauty in all things that held form, line, and shape.
I was falling in love with art then.
I began to accumulate a larger inventory of the things I liked and disliked, formulate stronger opinions backed by a latticework of thoughts and experiences built thanks to the plenitude of art I’ve seen in the years which have since passed post- college.
For example, I prefer minimalism and modernism. I like French impressionism, and abstract expressionism.
Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele works are so luscious and rich. Contemporary movements like pop surrealism, otherwise knowns as “Lowbrow” art are so cool.
Mark Ryden, the father of Pop-Surrealism
I don’t find a lot of photography art to be impressive, but I’m okay with that. Installations with various forms of media are sometimes a hit or miss for me. I like contemporary art, but I’m not particularly fond of Jeff Koons (active from 1977 – ) or Damien Hirst (1988 – , or Jean-Michel Basquiat (1976 – ). But I do love me my Toyin Ojih Odutola (2008 – , Osamu Yokonami, and Chad Wys (2011 – ) :
Toyin Ojih Odutola, Above all else make it look effortless, 2012. Pen ink, marker, and varnish on paper.
Chad Wys, Sculpture with a Spectrum 2, 2014. Collage on paper.
It’s 2018 and I love art more than ever.
I move and live every week, drinking in all the things I see, from the daily visuals of life to the more curated representations of art at institutions.
And the more I do that, the more I understand this:
Art is an instrument that instructs the way we see and live our lives. Our lives, in turn, are ripe, breeding grounds for art: new expressions and new manifestos… and who’s to say that the act of life and breathing aren’t art in themselves.
They are synonymous with one another– and I cannot see the difference.
My friend Christine and I stopped by the Paul Kasmin Gallery yesterday to check out this LOUD art show, which represents the works of Judith Bernstein, a New York based artist, mainly known for her phallic symbol infused works and her ardent devotion to feminism.
Money Shot is a visual manifesto of some very explicit political commentary (truly, a no holds barred, lacking zero subtly situation). Asides from the strong messaging, the artist used fun and creative mediums like fluorescent paint and light for this exhibit to the delight of myself and the many other art goers that walked into the gallery (Exhibit A: it was fun to see anyone with hair lighter than brown with heads literally lit, and seeing men walk in with their stiff collared shirts noticing in surprise that the collars peeking out of their sweaters were brilliantly highlighted in spacey purple light).
Do I see a Darth Vadar, a skull, and a generic demon here or is it just me?
The Trinity Schlong
While this artist clearly shows her bias for the strong left, I believe this show is worth going to and seeing– regardless of one’s political affiliation, and preferably with an open mind.
It is worth mentioning and acknowledging the creative and intellectual risks this artist has made to voice out some very controversial and sensitive opinions, and the gallery that chose to represent her with this recent installation.
Helmut Newton is a photographer best known for his erotica fueled snapshots and a taste for capturing fun… stripped bare. He was regarded by many as the “King of Kink” and you can go back to so many issues of Vogue easily with his indelible footprint.
U.S. Vogue May 1993, “White Mischief”
Here are a couple of my favorite works from this talented German Australian:
Woman Examining Man, 1975 for U.S. Vogue
Cruising From Behind
While I don’t appreciate all his works, I do truly think he was the best of his kind for what he did.
There is so much life and mischief captured through a single portrait– he did it so well.
33 black-and-white photographs—framed, signed, and numbered—on sale this month at Guy Regal’s showroom in the New York Design Center. Open to the public today.
I first became acquainted with this Nigerian artist’s work during a run at the galleries in Chelsea a couple years ago. I remember being so viscerally struck by her drawings that day. They were white pencil on white paper– I had to lower my body and kneel closer to the ground to see what the drawings held. It was a moving experience to encounter the fullness of these white identities she drew out for the appraiser– very controlled and calculated.
I’ve since become fascinated by the unique mark-making techniques she employs.
Imagine a big drawing like this, except everything was white on white.
The Brooklyn based artist uses whirls and lots of hairy (really that’s what it looks like in person: the wispiest of wispy hairs) detailing to create rich visual narratives that surround her already deeply contextualized subjects. If you look at her artwork in person, you’ll see all the swirls and membrane-like pieces that make up the sum of a composition of faces, bodies, and identities– so much integrity and thought put to paper face via graphite, charcoal, or pastel:
Toyin toys with anything from discussions on natural identity to more poignant POVs on say, racial profiling.
I’m happy to share that Toyin Ojih Odutola will be holding her first solo exhibit at The Whitney Museum this month, a commission that is well deserved by this outspoken wunderkind.