Dapper penguins, nonchalant musicians, and self-destructive politicians are a few of the distinct figures adorning Mike Stilkey’s sculptures. The Los Angeles-based artist (previously) rummages through heaps of discarded books, plucking out complementary titles that become the basis for his towering works. Using ink, colored pencil, paint, and lacquer, he renders minimal portraits of figures with exaggerated limbs or instruments and gestures that show a flair for the absurd.
Vacillating from the playful and whimsical to the cheeky and ironic, Stilkey’s idiosyncratic, sometimes anthropomorphized characters translate an essential interpretation of the volumes’ messages or subject matter through a contemporary lens. He explains:
Sometimes it’s a wry, tongue-in-cheek, satirical kind of thing, and sometimes it’s an extension or interpretation of it. It depends on the book and my mood. There’s been a lot of fodder over the past couple of years with all of the political conversations and things you hear or read on the news or social media. But I’ve always been able to do this with books. It’s one of the reasons I started using books as a canvas or vehicle for painting—the richness of layering literary and visual narratives over each other to convey something more complex.
As well as the repurposed sculptures shown here, Stilkey also creates installations with thousands of books and large characters, although these on-site projects have been put on hold since the onset of the pandemic. Prints and postcards are available in the artist’s shop, and you can follow his works on Instagram.
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Within the confines of a canvas, Russian artist Ekaterina Popova nurtures the calm, familiar atmosphere of home. Her dreamlike interiors are comprised of blurred edges and thick brushstrokes in oil that cast a subtle haze over each scene, and Popova’s warm, impressionistic style lends itself to the lived-in feeling of her paintings: a quilt hangs off the edge of a mattress, a book rests in the window as if it was just set down by its reader, and the lunch remnants remain on a dressed table.
Often depicting her own bedroom and friends’ spaces, Popova focuses on an array of textures like slatted wood flooring, fur blankets, floral bedding, and lush foliage, and the natural light or soft glow of a lamp that illuminates the scenes bolsters their sense of comfort and intimacy. She explains:
For the past few years, I have been exploring interiors in my work. The interest started as a way for me to reflect on my upbringing in Russia, but eventually progressed to exploring the overall idea of “home” and what it means me now… My paintings include messy rooms, intimate items, and objects that refer to human presence without including the figure.
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Totaling a whopping 717 gigapixels, a new photo of Rembrandt’s 1642 painting “The Night Watch” unveils an astounding array of minuscule details and precise artistic choices behind the Dutch Golden Age masterpiece. A team at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, which is currently housing the art historical work, captured 8,439 individual images to create the gigantic composite that leaves just 0.0002 inches between each pixel, which themselves are smaller than a red blood cell.
One of Rembrandt’s most iconic works, “The Night Watch”—its formal titles include “Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq” and “The Shooting Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch”—stretches 11.91 x 14.34 feet and is evidence of the artist’s famed use of light and shadow and ability to imbue movement into the cast of nearly life-size characters. Rijksmuseum’s composite now shows the cracked texture of the paint, brushstrokes, and slight pigment variations that wouldn’t be visible even if you were standing in front of the work itself. Zoom in on hard-to-see spots like the blurred fur of a reactive dog, the gleaming light that bounces off guns and the figures’ ornamental clothing, and the gray-blue tones underlying the captain’s facial features. The magnifiable image also retains evidence of the damage done by a knife gash in 1975.
In addition to this project, the team used artificial intelligence to restore pieces that had been cut off the original painting in 1715, including two shooters on the left side and part of a soldier’s helmet on the right. You also might enjoy this 10 billion pixel panorama of Vermeer’s “Girl With a Pearl Earring.” (via New Atlas)
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Human Anatomy and Decomposing Flora Unveil a Surreal Mix of Dreams and Feelings in Rafael Silveira's Portraits
In Rafael Silveira’s Unportraits, magenta curls and slick, turquoise coifs frame the bizarre scenarios unfolding in a subject’s mind. The Brazilian artist, who gravitates towards oil paints in shades of pink and blue, translates a character’s psyche through wilting flowers, gashes in the earth’s surface, and parrots with feathers that drip like wet paint. Anatomical elements like singular eyes, hearts sprouting veins, and twisting brain matter bolster the unearthly qualities of each work, which meld flora and fauna into a surreal mishmash. “From inside, we are a strange mix of dreams, thoughts, feelings, and human meat,” Silveira tells Colossal. “I think these portraits are not persons but moods.”
Peculiar situations surround the subjects as their sweaters melt like ice cream and spiders spin webs from the parched ground supplanting their necks, a visual that evokes thick wrinkles associated with aging. These fleeting actions are part of the artist’s reference to paper ephemera and the ways thoughts and feelings decompose over time. “This rich mental energy is like an invisible raw element, part of the immaterial alchemy of my works,” he says. “We can’t control what life brings us, but we can decide how to react. We make these small decisions all the time. These characters evoke the power of reaction.”
Silveira is based in Curitiba, Brazil, and has his work slated for a January group exhibition at London’s Dorothy Circus Gallery and in March in an immersive solo show at Farol Santander in São Paulo. Until then, pick up a print and keep an eye on his Instagram for new additions to his portrait series, which will be on view in July at Choque Cultural Gallery.
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Contrasting Shades of Gray with Vibrant Color, Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe Paints Bold, Subversive Portraits of Black Subjects
Ghanaian artist Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe has a proclivity for contrast. In his striking portraits of Black people, he gravitates toward shades of gray to render the skin tone of single figures or small groups, who sport patterned garments, hats of textured fabrics, and generally vibrant fashions that are in direct opposition to their physical features. The bright, bold color palette is the artist’s preferred method for translating emotional states, inner lives, and idiosyncrasies, one he emulates with the richly textured impasto backdrops surrounding his subjects.
Quaicoe is currently a resident at Rubell Museum, where he’s created a trio of monumental works that consider the trope of the American cowboy. “Rainyanni,” “Moses Adomah” and “David Theodore” stand 12 feet high and are reminiscent of the bandana-wearing figures the artist painted earlier this year. Similarly subversive is “The American Dreamer” (shown below), which centers on a younger figure—the subject’s skin is covered in a swirling pattern of lines, a recurring trait in some of the artist’s most recent pieces—who wears a hat printed with stars and strips.
A few of Quaicoe’s portraits are on view through January 27, 2022, at Green Family Art Foundation in Dallas and at LACMA through April 17, 2022, and you can explore more of his oil-based works on Artsy and Instagram.
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German artist Wilfried Grootens (previously) suspends vibrant, textured paintings evocative of minuscule organisms, bacteria, and other microscopic creatures within sleek sculptures made of glass. He renders lines and geometric shapes on dozens of thin panes that, when pressed together into a larger composite, produce the appearance of three-dimensional forms encased within the transparent material. The resulting works are striking illusions that morph into different, otherworldly creatures depending on the viewers’ perspective, sometimes vanishing entirely depending on the angle. “It is these paintings within their special layered space that create a world unto itself, quite apart from the reality outside it,” the artist tells Colossal.
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Editor's Picks: Illustration
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.