Suspended in public squares and parks, the knotted sculptures that comprise Janet Echelman’s Earthtime series respond to the destructive, overpowering, and uncontrollable forces that impact life on the planet. The artist (previously) braids nylon and polyurethane fibers into striped weavings that loom over passersby and glow with embedded lights after nightfall. With a single gust of air, the amorphous masses billow and contort into new forms. “Each time a single knot moves in the wind, the location of every other knot in the sculpture’s surface is changed in an ever-unfolding dance,” a statement about the series says.
The outdoor installations are modeled after geological events so catastrophic and powerful that they slightly impact the planet’s rotational speed. Each title refers to the number of seconds shaved off the earth’s day because of that occurrence, with “Earthtime 1.78” referring to Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami and “Earthtime 1.26” speaking to a 2010 tremor in Chile.
Containing innumerable knots and weighing hundreds of pounds, the monumental nets are the product of countless hours and a team of architects, designers, and engineers who interpret scientific data to imagine the original form. Each mesh piece begins in the studio with techniques done by hand and on the loom, and the threads are custom-designed to be fifteen times stronger than steel once intertwined. This allows them to withstand and remain flexible as they’re exposed to the elements, a material component that serves as a metaphorical guide for human existence.
Echelman will exhibit an iteration of “Earthtime 1.26” in Jeddah from December 2021 to April 2022, with another slated to be on view in Amsterdam this winter. You can see more of the prolific artist’s works on her site and Instagram.
Share this story
Japanese artist Tanabe Chikuunsai IV threads strips of bamboo together into monumental works that appear to grow from walls and ceilings. His hollow, circular creations utilize a style of rough weaving that his family has practiced for generations—Tanabe’s father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all worked with traditional craft techniques and shared the name Chikuunsai, which translates to “bamboo cloud”—and result in installations that are massive in scale as they coil across rooms, stretch dozens of feet into the air, and loop around support beams.
Because his family has been steeped in the practice for decades, Tanabe began weaving as a child, and today, he continues to build on the traditions he learned early on, expanding from smaller baskets and pods to larger, site-specific works made with the pliable wood material. “The appearance of my grandfather weaving a basket was very beautiful and elegant. I felt art. Now I feel that bamboo is the most beautiful material, and I believe that bamboo art has endless possibilities,” he tells Colossal.
Tanabe currently lives in Sakai, near Osaka, and will show his spiraling constructions at the Baur Foundation in Geneva from November 16, 2021, to March 27, 2022. You can see more of his projects on Instagram.
Share this story
Icelandic artist Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, otherwise known as Shoplifter (previously), fittingly describes her immersive environments of hair as “an exploded rainbow.” Cloaking walls with neon fur and hanging tendrils of fuzzy fibers from the ceiling, the artist creates enormous, extravagantly colored landscapes designed to be ruffled and stroked as viewers pass through the cave-like walls and underneath the suspended strands.
In a new interview with Lousianna Channel, Shoplifter recounts her first encounter with the medium as a child in Iceland and her later move to New York, where she’s spent the last 25 years creating kaleidoscopic landscapes brimming with textures. She perpetually gravitates toward vibrant, bold color palettes because of their therapeutic, playful, and ornamental qualities, and although she creates such strikingly manufactured installations, she describes her practice as a form of “hyper-nature… I’m not competing with nature. I just exaggerate and create this abstraction that resembles it but isn’t literal.”
Share this story
On the edge of the city of Sheboygan in northeast Wisconsin is a new museum nestled into the hillside. Opened earlier this year, the Art Preserve of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center is home to 40 artist-built environments, or “spaces and places that have been significantly transformed by an artist to embody and express aspects of their history, place, and culture, their ideas and imagination.” The first of its kind, the spectacular, immersive space is an ode to the artists and their intellectual and creative trajectories, displaying a staggering array of installations, sculptures, paintings, and myriad works across mediums.
Ranging from Emery Blagdon’s suspended kinetic assemblages made of sheet metal, holiday lights, and other found objects to Nek Chand’s troupe of more than 150 mosaic figures, the artworks are eclectic in discipline, scale, and aesthetic. Each of the environments consists of thousands of objects, structural components, and ephemera that form a holistic, comprehensive view of the artist’s life and work. Around the circular pathway winding through Ray Yoshida’s reconstructed Chicago apartment, for example, are ritual masks from New Guinea, printed works, pieces of pop culture from Maxwell Street Market, and notes and letters, offering an intimate glimpse into his diverse collection and personal relationships.
In addition to the environments, the 56,000-square-foot space also houses 11 commissioned responses that included standalone works and projects literally embedded into the preserve’s structure. The Denver-based architecture studio Tres Birds designed the building, although the stairway was completed in collaboration with the late Ruth DeYoung Kohler II and uses concrete pavers that jut out beyond the walls to display a series of “hobo symbols,” or emblems travelers historically used to denote safety. Kohler conceived of the Art Preserve while director of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, where she championed local and international artists and devoted herself to protecting their works and legacies.
Watch the video below for a tour of the expansive space, and dive into the full collection, which includes pieces from sites in Wisconsin, New York City, Mississippi, India, and other global locations, on its site.
Share this story
A landmark collaboration between Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto (previously) and Tin Drum, a production studio and technology developer, brings an undulating, reactive installation to the 2021 London Design Festival, but the immersive artwork is only viewable through a headset. Falling at the intersection of architecture and virtual reality, “Medusa” is comprised of monochromatic pillars that appear to suspend from the ceiling in a rippling environment. As viewers move through Raphael Court at the Victoria and Albert Museum where the work is on display, the responsive structure shifts and alters its composition in light and shape.
The work draws inspiration from the dynamic displays of the aurora borealis and underwater bioluminescence, two phenomena that manifest through the animated qualities and shifting patterns of Fujimoto’s curved forms. “This is the first time I am designing architecture with non-physical materials—it’s using light and pure expanse of the space,” he said in a statement. “It’s an architecture experience but completely new and different.”
“Medusa” is on view through September 26.
Share this story
Brooklyn-based designer Charlie Baker wrangles unruly branches and twigs into large-scale sculptures and installations that highlight the natural curvature of his foraged materials. Whether cloaking a perfectly round sphere in wood or constructing a treetop nest built for people, he envisions discrete spaces, which are sometimes marked with hidden passageways and windows, that tame the gnarly, knotted wood and present it anew. “I like the sense of motion the curvy pieces create because, to me, it gives a sense that the artwork is living, growing,” he says.
Baker has a background in landscape design, a parallel practice that continues to influence his work. “I am constantly considering how my creations interact with their surroundings, how they tie in with nature. With my artwork, it’s no different,” he tells Colossal.
The designer was recently interviewed by Wired, which travels with him from his studio to the forests of Long Island where he gathers materials. Currently, he’s working on a few projects, including an elaborate kitchen garden, a children’s tree platform, and smaller sculptures, which you can follow on his site and Instagram.
Share this story
Editor's Picks: Illustration
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.