An Introduction to “Afrogallonism”

Serge Attukwei Clottey, “Headlines” (2020), plastic and copper wire, 83 x 88 inches

LONDON — In Serge Attukwei Clottey’s exhibition, Crossroads at Simon Lee gallery, the Accra-based multidisciplinary artist uses found materials to explore Ghanaian culture and identity. Several of his large-scale pieces are brightly colored mosaics Clottey created by bounding together square pieces of plastic from Kufuor gallons. Named after Ghana’s then-president John Agyekum Kufuor, these jerrycans were used to collect and store water when the country was suffering from severe shortages in the 2000s. The artist calls the usage and exploration of this material Afrogallonism, for the way this practice highlights the gallon as, at once, a ubiquitous symbol of recent Ghanaian cultural history, a representation of the environmental injustice of water scarcity across the continent, and an object that tells the story of exchange between Ghana and the West. As such, these large, vibrant orange-yellow tapestries appear repeatedly across the two floors of the exhibition like a motif.

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Magic and Myth Arise from Kristin Kwan’s Surreal Oil Paintings

“Multitudes” Image © Kristin Kwan

Kristin Kwan coaxes the magic out of nature in her dreamlike oil paintings. Emphasizing a quiet surrealism centered on plants, animals, and Earth’s landscapes, her works draw on allegories, symbolism, and myth. Suffused with fantastical details, each painting begins “devoid of meaning,” Kwan shares, saying that while they reflect her own musings, she hopes the resulting pieces are open-ended.

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Order and Chaos Converge in Yool Kim’s Emotionally Charged Works

Image © Yool Kim

Yool Kim seizes the disarray of our inner emotional landscapes by trapping energetically impassioned characters in her color-blocked works. Contorted bodies, floating heads, and abstractly shaped cut-outs reveal a range of moods and feelings all compacted into the rectangular canvas. Centered on linework and simple shapes the Seoul-based artist scratches into the composition, the mixed-media works feature stylized figures who emphasize play, sadness, and malaise.

Where pattern signals an underlying sense of order, the characters’ facial expressions veer in the opposite direction. “I draw myself.

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Bewildering Reflections and Perspectives Shift in the Hyperrealistic Oil Paintings of Nathan Walsh

“Monarchs Drift” (2022), oil on linen, 121 x 153 centimeters

In his intricate oil paintings, Nathan Walsh captures the textural sheen of rain on city streets and luminescent reflections in cafe windows. The artist has previously explored different vantage points in elaborate cityscapes, rendering the corners of buildings, corridors of skyscrapers, and expansive bridges in detailed, two-point perspective. Recently, he has further honed ideas around perception and the way the built environment presents uncanny optical illusions in the interplay of people and objects, light, and reflections.

The ideas for Walsh’s compositions often form as he wanders the streets of cities like New York and Paris, making sketches and taking photographs that he brings back to his studio, a converted Welsh Methodist chapel. “Up until last year, my work had been exclusively devoted to the urban landscape,” he tells Colossal, sharing that various objects like those spotted in an antique shop window in Paris’s 7th arrondissement signaled new references to his ideas around place and familiarity.

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Artist Paints Architectural Portraits Onto Concrete Fragments of Same Demolished Estate

Sometimes the choice of materials is just as meaningful as the art itself. Artist Harriet Mena Hill has been working on an ongoing series of unorthodox paintings called The Aylesbury Fragments, rendering scenes of architecture directly onto pieces of concrete. Each of these remnants is salvaged material from the Aylesbury Estate, a large housing complex in South East London, which is being demolished as part of a regeneration program.

Hill finds a way to record snippets of the dismantled buildings on numerous shards of concrete, which range from palm-sized to nearly the length of a human torso. The inspiration for what she paints derives from the stories of residents who used to live in these torn-down apartments.

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Vintage Ephemera Backdrops Mark Powell’s Intimate Ballpoint Pen Drawings

Image © Mark Powell

From playing cards and posters to envelopes and postcards scrawled with notes, the untraditional canvases holding Mark Powell’s artworks are tapestries of memories and experiences past. The Brighton-based artist (previously) sutures scraps of vintage ephemera and draws in ballpoint pen, rendering intimate portraits, birds, and scenes brimming with emotion in realistic detail. Some of his most recent works include monochromatic etchings that capture a heron’s fine, wispy feathers and a diptych of hands, two softly grasping a tulip and another wrapped taught in a rope.

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Symmetric Flora and Fauna Converge in Kelly Louise Judd’s Dreamlike Paintings

Image © Kelly Louise Judd

Symmetry and mirroring inform many of Kelly Louise Judd’s paintings, which intertwine flora and fauna in delicate compositions. Ferns overlay the long tails of two cats, a lanky heron gracefully perches among bluebells and sunflowers, and human hands reach upward to reveal sprawling botanicals. Rendered on neutral-toned backdrops, the works evoke the patterns and organic recurrences found throughout the natural world.

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Maurice Sendak’s Life Among the Wild Things

Maurice Sendak, Design for the poster of Where the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop! Opera, Glyndebourne Production (1985), watercolor on paper, 33 1/2 inches x 23 1/2 inches

“I don’t set out to do books for children,” said artist and writer Maurice Sendak in a 2003 interview with art historian Jonathan Weinberg. “I don’t know how to do that. I don’t think anybody knows how to do that.”

Such an attitude might be surprising, given Sendak’s success as a children’s book author, most notably for the enduringly popular Where the Wild Things Are, which he wrote and illustrated in 1963. But behind his words is a conviction that children know more than adults generally give them credit for.

“People keep things from children now,” he continued, “in the sense that we don’t want to frighten them or upset them, yet we all know they sat and watched the [World Trade Center] towers go down a hundred thousand times. They’re just waiting for you to tell them.”

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Cézanne Saw the Nobility of an Apple

Paul Cézanne, “Sous-Bois” (1894) (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Wallis Foundation Fund in memory of Hal B. Wallis)

LONDON — Cézanne at the Tate Modern is the most comprehensive show of works by the artist to be displayed in London within living memory. Its impressive range of loans suggests that the budget has not been unduly squeezed by the financially parlous circumstances of the present moment. Its documentation is broad and to the point — we see sketches by Clive Bell, which fed into that critic’s pioneering study of the artist. It enters territory that has been too little attended to in the past — the nature of Cézanne’s response to the political turbulence of his day, for example. It also shows us evidence of the humdrum, everyday facts of his art-making: his palette, for example (the one created especially in order to accommodate his thumb), and several of his heroically battered tins of paint, all ranged in a row.

Like David Hockney a little later, Cézanne felt that he had to rise to the challenge of one question above all things else: What exactly is it to be a modern artist?

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The Single Detail That Changed My Mind About Alex Katz

Alex Katz, “Round Hill” (1977), oil on linen, 71 inches x 96 inches (© 2022 Alex Katz / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gift of Barry and Julie Smooke)

When Vincent van Gogh said that his “The Night Cafe”(1888) shows “a place where one can ruin oneself, go mad or commit a crime,” he indicated that his paintings dig beneath the surface, that they can reveal what’s hidden.

It’s hard to imagine a painter less like van Gogh than Alex Katz, whose work is all about staying on the surface. Gathering, which fills the Guggenheim’s ramps and two of the side galleries, is a comprehensive survey of his six decades of art making. “Ella Marion in Red Sweater” (1946) and the subway drawings from the late 1940s are modest, surprisingly subdued pieces. But by the 1950s Katz found himself in landscapes like “Pink Sky” (1955), with its intense pale greens and pink. And soon enough, as in “10 AM” (1959), he discovered his signature portrait style of large, flat figures on the surface of monochromatic backgrounds.

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