Studio Visit: Artist Sophia Narrett on How an Anonymous Renaissance Painting Cycle Inspired Her Latest Feminist Embroidery

Sophia Narrett at work in her studio. Photo courtesy of the artist

In her vibrant embroidered works, Sophia Narrett paints with thread, deftly creating detailed figurative scenes tinged with fantasy, desire, and eroticism.

Her tapestries take center stage this month in “Soul Kiss,” the New York artist’s first solo show at Kohn Gallery in Los Angeles. Her layered thread designs, almost Baroque in their complexity, present a fever dream of feminine sexuality, with women in ecstasy reveling in their freedom.

Narrett took up her unusual medium after earning a BA at Brown University and an MFA in painting at the Rhode Island School of Design, both in Providence. Each work is unique, shaped not by the rectangular bounds of a canvas but by the scene that’s depicted, with embroidered figures and swaths of color jutting out in unexpected directions at the edges of the composition.

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‘We Are Talking About Rebuilding Half a City’: How Beirut’s Cultural Community Is Recovering Three Months After the Deadly Blast

The opening of “Beirut Year Zero.” Photo: Karim Sakr.

It’s been just over three months since a pair of explosions ripped through Beirut, leaving the city reeling. Inside the city’s Sursock Museum, an elegant stone and marble colonnade is such an alluring sight—evocative of Beirut’s golden age and the institution’s exemplary collection—that, for a moment, it’s easy to forget the blown-out door and window frames lying on the floor. 

With no support from the government, a collapsed economy that has made financial hardship a normal part of life, and a spike in coronavirus cases that has overloaded hospitals, the Lebanese have been left to fend for themselves, rebuilding and reconstructing their beloved city with grit and determination. 

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Derek Fordjour’s Art Stares Down Shared Fears and Vulnerabilities

Derek Fordjour sits among paintings in various stages of creation in September.IKE EDEANI FOR ARTNEWS

When Derek Fordjour conjured the title of his new gallery show, “SELF MUST DIE,” it took him some time to understand all that it might evoke. He was thinking about his 22-year-old son in school at Morehouse College in Atlanta. “When everything started with the protests, I remember seeing these kids being tasered and dragged out of their car,” Fordjour said. “I remember the fear of knowing he’s out there and that that can happen.” Then he thought of his father, who is 76—“four years above the average life expectancy for an African-American man in America.”

Then Fordjour thought of himself, at 46—the same age as George Floyd and right “in the middle of these polarities where the danger is.” As he considered his fate and the susceptibility of his family and friends, he came to recognize the many ways that mortality and “vulnerabilities only heightened by Covid really centered death as a starting point of the show.”

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Love from a Stone: How Isamu Noguchi Became a Sculptor and Visionary for the Ages


Isamu Noguchi was a storied sculptor and, over the course of an eclectic career from the 1920s until his death in 1988, so much more. His ethereal workings of chopped and finessed stone were accompanied by monumental treatments of many other sculptural materials. Then he worked as a sharp-eyed designer of iconic furniture as well as unassuming industrial products and fantastical playgrounds that any child would be lucky to indulge. And, thinking ahead, he also shored up his legacy by creating museums for his own work in New York and Japan that count as destinations for many an art world jet-setter (and connoisseurs closer to home).

On the occasion of the artist’s birthdate on November 17, 1904, here’s a look at some highlights from Noguchi’s distinguished time on Earth.

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What Is Bruce Nauman for?

Bruce Nauman (October 7, 2020-February 21, 2021) at Tate Modern, London: installation view featuring “Anthro/Socio (Rinde Spinning)” (1992); (photo: Tate Photography (Matt Greenwood); artwork © Bruce Nauman / ARS, NY and DACS, London 2020)

LONDON — What is Bruce Nauman for? What kind of an artist is he? Let me give you an aerial impression, based on memories, all loosely stitched together, of squaring up to various works of his, from here and there, over the years. 

Squaring up is a phrase chosen with some care. It is neither easy nor especially relaxing to spend time with Nauman. Nauman’s works are a studied provocation, a bit of a poke in the eye. The fact that he is all over the place means that you are too.

Nauman is alarming, if not frenzied, noisy as they come, jitter-bugging all over the show. He almost never stays still. Voices shout at you, accusatory, from small monitors. There is much jabber, flash, jump, and flicker. You want to shout back, but you’ve been shouted down.

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A Message for the Next Administration: “We Must Put Creative Workers to Work”

Artist Ruth Reeves and an assistant working on a mosaic mural for the Works Progress Administration in 1940. (Shalat. Ruth Reeves, 1940 June 10. Federal Art Project, Photographic Division collection, circa 1920-1965. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution)

The coronavirus pandemic has upended nearly every industry, and the arts are no exception. Over the last six months, all corners of the creative economy, from freelance artists to top-tier museums, have been impacted by financial losses, sharp drops in sales and attendance, canceled events, and unforeseen expenses.

As the arts scramble to adapt to a new normal of virtual exhibitions and timed ticketing, questions loom over the future of the cultural sector — and whether the next administration can lead its recovery. In advance of today’s presidential election, Americans for the Arts has outlined 16 specific actions that the next administration can take to help boost the creative economy — many of which can be achieved through executive action, without additional federal funding. 

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Sam Gilliam’s Tactile Choreography of Colors

New works by Sam Gilliam in his studio, 2020 (all images courtesy Pace Gallery, © 2020 Sam Gilliam / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York )

“He makes works I can’t get next to and can’t get out of,” writes poet Fred Moten about the iconic DC-based artist Sam Gilliam. In an essay for the monograph accompanying Gilliam’s upcoming exhibition at Pace, Existed Existing — the artist’s first with the gallery — Moten describes his work as a “maelstrom, an irresistible whirlpool.” For six decades, Gilliam’s colors have swirled on canvases, his practice levitating above categorizations.

Starting November 6, Pace’s two Chelsea locations will present the artist’s large-scale canvases beside monochromatic paintings on Japanese washi paper, which are made by repeated drenching in color to create deep saturation. Speaking to art historian Courtney J. Martin, Gilliam describes these works, perhaps coyly, as “nothing more than a print,” as “placeholders” of sorts.

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Collage and Poetry as Social Document

“Draft CX: Primer” from The Collage Poems of Drafts  by Rachel Blau DuPlessis (2011)

The first book of poetry by Rachel Blau DuPlessis that I owned was Tabula Rosa (Potes and Poets Press, 1987). I had just entered the MA Program at Temple University, where she would become my workshop mentor and, eventually, dissertation advisor. The book features the first two of what became a decades-long project in serial poetry, Drafts (1987-2013). An excerpt from “Draft #1: It” exemplifies the language that drew me in then — and more than 30 years later it still comes as a jolt:

No “books”     no ministers     no tow art

“no sandpoems”    built of it, not on it

it is sacred what you can do with it

the general aura of quest just as a baseline.

Since that time, DuPlessis has written many books of poetry and criticism. Ethics are central to her craft as she has confronted such issues as the marginalization and oppression of people based on race, class, gender, and sexual orientation; the diminishment of what the philosopher Hannah Arendt once referred to as the “world held in common;” and the erosion of trust in the arts as a viable instrument of social change.

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How Do You Paint Portraiture Without a Portrait?

Amir H. Fallah, “Remember My Child, Nowhere Is Safe” (2020), acrylic on canvas, 96 x 72 inches (all images courtesy the artist and Shulamit Nazarian)

LOS ANGELES — What does it mean to paint portraiture without a portrait? Though Amir H. Fallah has spent his career grappling with this very question, his newest series — now on view in the show-stopping exhibition Remember My Child at Shulamit Nazarian — represents a departure from his previous work. Whereas Fallah has often obscured his subjects’ faces in his portraits, playing around with legibility, his new body of work takes a step further and removes the figure entirely.

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Quaint Campsites and Forests Populate Miniature Scenes of Carved Wood

All images © Thibaut Malet, shared with permission

Based in Montpellier, France, Thibaut Malet (previously) spent much of his childhood in his father’s workshop, which housed the family’s cabinetry business. At 10-years-old, the third-generation woodworker began sculpting the organic material, although his creations were infinitesimal compared to his dad’s counterparts. Malet carved miniature scenes spotted in everyday life, imagining new, small-scale worlds. “It was a way to work with wood without using the too dangerous machines of my father. My parents organized a tiny workshop in a small room, and it was perfect,” he shares with Colossal.

Although Malet never studied the trade in an official capacity, he now works as a designer and wood artist after a few years as an architect and furniture maker, a background that’s evident in his tiny scenes.

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