Iconic Blaxploitation posters

AIGA Eye on Design looked at 5 Blaxploitation posters that defined the era including Super Fly and Foxy Brown:

This poster is rare in how women were depicted. Women in Blaxploitation film posters often were just there to adorn men. This image changes the narrative and features actress Pam Grier front and center, independent in her own strength. “Her films are the best of what Blaxploitation had to offer,” says Howard. “She brought an undeniable movie star quality to her performances. Her posters are so striking because she’s so unique to the history of cinema—she’s never rescued by men. She has agency. She’s sexually objectified but is the driver of the action in her films. Her role has endured in history compared to others from the time.”

And speaking of Foxy Brown, check out the fitting room scene from Jackie Brown but synced together, both starring Pam Grier.

The Afrofuturistic fashions of Iriké Jones

Iriké Jones is a fashion and creative brand led by Walé Oyéjidé, Esq and Sam Hubler. Their work exists outside the confines of conventional Western fashions and art and aims to tell stories with every fibre and thread.

We are proud of what we do, because our work genuinely means something to those who see themselves represented in it. In a world with such a rich diversity to the human experience, we find great joy in using our work to present the triumphant stories of people who many of us have previously ignored.

If you’ve seen Coming 2 America, you may have seen some of their work. Nas is a collaborator too. And that scarf that T’Challa (RIP Chadwick) wore in Black Panther? That was Iriké Jones too.

It’s Black AF and I’m here for it all day every day.

20x200: more affordable art for everyone

Found this via a very old Kottke.org post and I’m glad it’s still around. 20×200 sells exckusive “museum-quality” limited-edition prints. Each print comes with a Certificate of Authenticity and the service works very closely with its artists. 20×200 also sells artist-made objects such as pins and these cute speech bubble dishes which I love.

I don’t really want to bring NFTs into this conversation but here they are! 20×200 offers what NFT artists pretend to offer – unique art that you actually own. Prices are significantly more accessible and there’s international shipping.

When I’m not broke, I hope to buy something from 20×200. Like those dishes for example.

L'évolution en voie d'Illumination

L'évolution en voie d'Illumination, la fabuleuse déambulation nocturne du Jardin des Plantes, vidéo

I saw this on the news yesterday and had to write about it. L’évolution en voie d’Illumination (Or ‘Illuminated Evolution’) is a spectacular night show exploring the evolution of life over the course of 600 million years. The show is held at Jardin des Plantes in Paris and goes through 4 eras of evolution, from the Precambrian times to the present day, with a load of dinosaurs, prehistoric insects, and sabretooth tigers in vibrant coloured lights.

Over a hundred new luminous structures, the fruit of the research and reconstruction work of the Muséum’s palaeontologists, represent the astonishing species that have inhabited the Earth over the last 600 million years. You will find there the “celebrities” of the past, such as dinosaurs, but also lesser-known species that will astound you with their astonishing forms and unique living habits.

All the species presented here existed in the past, but are now extinct.

Illuminated Evolution combines art, science and poetry.

If you’re in Paris (and it’s safe to visit), I highly recommend you do so.

From Braun shaver to War Machine

I TURN a SHAVER into a WAR MACHINE

Ray is a Gunpla model builder and scale modeller and in the above video, he transforms a Braun Series 9 shaver into War Machine (James Rhodes). The shaver is already a great-looking piece of technology but seeing it become a robot model is a joy to behold.

Related to building cool stuff: Ekow Nimako’s Afrofuturistic LEGO® universes, Arndt Schlaudraff, the LEGO® brutalist, and How to make a Star Wars TIE Advanced grill

Look, don't touch (or eat!)

Priya Gandhi retold the story of Ed Brzezinski, who, on a visit to a Robert Gober exhibition, ate one of the donuts from his piece called “Bag of Donuts”, as well as other accounts of museum go-ers treating exhibits as interactive art installations (when they weren’t):

In 1989, the New York Post reported that Ed Brzezinski, on a visit to Robert Gober’s exhibition at Paula Cooper Gallery, ate one of the donuts from Gober’s “Bag of Donuts” (1989). Brzezinski later said that the donut, coated in synthetic resin for preservation, “tasted stale.”

Okay, I was hungry. I’d been drinking and I hadn’t eaten anything all day,” he said, post-ingestion. People were upset — likely because Brzezinski did not take seriously the delicate presence that the gallery and museum space requires of the viewer. He was hungry.

[…]

I don’t believe that these incidents are as simple as negligence and idiocy (though some of that is present). To me, there are no wrong ways to respond to art, only unaccepted ones — and even the unaccepted ones highlight integral questions of purpose. I do not advocate the destruction of art. Rather, I ask a question that seems simple at first glance, but is complicated by defacement: What do we want from our encounters with art? The answer is at the root of our human relationship with an object and reflects the value we get from that encounter. The importance of the question of purpose cannot be undervalued. We value our institutions vigorously; to allow them to serve us, and for us to serve them, they have to allow people the room to make mistakes.

For the most part, I see signs that explicitly tell observers not to touch art or cross the marked lines on the floor. If you disobey those rules, then you’re being ignorant and deserve the consequences. I may draw the line at stolen artefacts though but good luck reclaiming them without getting caught.

Ill-Studio's 'Then & Now' explores the reconstruction of deconstructed buildings

ILL STUDIO / THEN&NOW

Have you ever watched a demolished building reconstruct itself? Well, now you can thanks to ‘Then & Now’ a collaboration between Ill-Studio and Belgian electronic group Soulwax, who provided the soundtrack.

The project serves as a concept piece merging an “imaginary encounter” between Robert Smithson’s essay A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey and archive footage from contractors demolishing buildings. The creative agency says Then & Now “draws attention to the ruins of 20th century as seen through the prism of modernity” where the lines between past and future are blurred.

Here are two quotes that illustrate ‘Then & Now’ perfectly:

The buildings don’t fall into ruin after they are built but rather rise as ruins before they are built.

I should now like to prove the irreversibility of eternity by using a jejune experiment for proving entropy. Picture in your mind’s eye the sand box divided in half with black sand on one side and white sand on the other. We take a child and have him run hundreds of times clockwise in the box until the sand gets mixed and begins to turn grey; after that we have him run anti-clockwise, but the result will not be a restoration of the original division but a greater degree of greyness and an increase of entropy.

Of course, if we filmed such an experiment we could prove the reversibility of eternity by showing the film backwards, but then sooner or later the film itself would crumble or get lost and enter the state of irreversibility. Somehow this suggests that the cinema offers an illusive or temporary escape from physical dissolution. The false immortality of the film gives the viewer an illusion of control over eternity—but “the superstars” are fading.

Excerpt from A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey by Robert Smithson

Is 'ugly design' good or bad for culture?

Creative director Andrea Trabucco-Campos wrote about the pros of ‘ugly design’ for Fast Company:

For a designer, “ugliness” hasn’t historically been something to strive for. Beauty has largely been a no-brainer when it comes to what’s desirable, or what constitutes “good” design.

Yet, culturally, we’re becoming increasingly fatigued by perfection. After years of brands behaving in similarly simple, orderly ways, we’re yearning for expressions that are less hygienic and altogether more human. When designers do away with old-fashioned principles that align “good” with “beautiful,” they have the freedom to make work that’s infinitely more creative. And in doing so, it’s more interesting—and more inclusive.

Design that destabilizes inherited “rules” around ugly and beautiful rewrites what’s seen as acceptable. It progresses visual culture by celebrating playfulness and forging intimacy by underscoring the limitations (and untruths) of perfection. It subtly helps everyone from brands to designers to consumers communicate more honestly.

Andrea also dives into the disciplines of typography, branding, and ‘ugly as democratization’.

An example of ugly design that I love is brutalism. I jokingly call brutalist buildings “arresting developments” because they are so stark, often cold, grey, and… brutal. Concepts like brutalism and dadaism follow Andrea’s idea of destabilization and serve as visual communication. That’s not to say I dislike modernism or minimalism (spoiler alert: I love them), and don’t think they have their place in design history and the present, but the world and its cultures would be a boring place if they were all we had. Embrace the ugly!

More on ‘ugly’ design: The surreal animations of Wong Ping, Boston’s brutalism, and Observe The Rugged Side Of The Internet With “Brutalist Websites”

A Kaws-tic review by Hrag Vartanian

I try to avoid meta-reviews when they’re especially scathing (Rashayla Marie Brown’s review of Virgil Abloh’s “Figures of Speech” is a notable exception) but I was intrigued by this one by Hrag Vartanian. For Hyperallergic, he reviewed Kaws’ retrospective exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum curated by Eugenie Tsai. Vartanian starts throwing critical punches from the get-go (the title, Kaws Is Terrible, But Thankfully Forgettable, sets the scene):

We live in an age of cons driven by people who think they’re smarter than the rest of us, or in on a joke the rest of us fail to see. Con men (and they’re most often men) are prevalent in the fields of modern and contemporary art. They have their coteries of edgelords, artists, curators, and associated writers and academics who fancy themselves ahead of the crowd, along with collectors, dealers, auctioneers, and other purveyors of luxury goods who join them in celebrating their acquisition of power, or the symbols of it anyway.

Few genres of contemporary art reveal the machinations of this tiresome ouroboros of popular shock to luxury shlock as clearly as graffiti and street art. And no one encompasses that soulless supersizing of pop culture as clearly as Kaws […]

He pours scorn on the gentrification of street art and graffiti, laying a large part of the blame on artists like Kaws, whom he noted for being “apolitical”, lending his work to “the super wealthy who prefer to be comforted and appeased rather than being criticized.”

The art on display in KAWS: WHAT PARTY, is wretchedly meh. The references are facile, and aesthetically the works are akin to Instagram filters or Photoshop tricks. He uses shiny materials, scale, and quantity to make his obtuse points. Not to mention, he offers merchandise in every color and size and price point — let’s call him the Swatch watch of art.

I recommend you read it for the continuous fire spitting from Vartanian which appears to be aimed mainly at contemporary art’s shallow emptiness rather than Kaws alone. Personally, I can take or leave Kaws. His work uses pop culture references I hold dear to my heart (The Simpsons, for example) but his style isn’t for me. Maybe in 2008 when I was heavily into skateboard art (as much as someone can be without every stepping foot on one but I did love Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 back in the day!) I do agree with Vartanian’s overarching views on street art and its commodification. Alas, it is nothing new and artists lament it every decade it occurs. If anything, the time between artistic revolution and gentrification has shortened so much that some artists appropriate before we can blink an eye. But hey, they’re making their millions of NFTs while we sit and bash on our keyboards, right?

Some “better” artists: Keith Haring documentaries to watch on YouTube and Sampira’s top 5 Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings

Rohini Kejriwal on the history of indigo

Indigo is the penultimate colour of the rainbow and it is etymologically tied to India, demonstrating how far its origins go way back as Rohini Kejriwal discovered for Hyperallergic.

While indigo’s etymology identifies it as a “product of India,” it has a long history of being grown and used around the world for over four millennia and was further globalized as major 18th-century indigo plantations were founded by colonial powers in both India and the American South. For this show, [Bhasha] Chakrabarti sourced indigo from various parts of the world — from India to Nigeria to Guatemala — after interacting with farmers, dyers, and traders in cities with ancient traditions of indigo dyeing. She maps these overlapping cartographies of trade, imperialism, and resistance in her work and traces the presence of indigo in conceptions of divinity, agricultural and textile histories, and musical traditions. For example, she layers the lyrics of Blues songs with Bengali protest songs about the “tyranny of blue,” sung by indigo plantation laborers. 

I don’t hear enough about indigo. It’s a beautiful and underrated colour. There are three birds that are indigo in colour (and/or name):

  • Indigobirds
  • Indigo buntings 
  • Blue grosbeaks

Lactarius indigo, aka the indigo milk cap or blue milk mushroom, is a type of fungus with an indigo underbelly. And denim jeans got their blue colour originally from indigo dye. Go read Rohini’s essay and then check out indigo’s Wikipedia page.

Indian etymology related: Daughters, milking cows, and etymological debates

Colour related: The green experience and pink things

'We Are History' examines the links between art, colonialism and climate change

We are History | Trailer

For gal-dem, Lauren Dei spoke to the artists behind a new exhibition called ‘We Are History. The show, curated by Ekow Eshun, displays art that tells the stories of colonialism and its pivotal role in global warming and the harsh realities of climate change.

Featured artists include Alberta Whittle, Otobong Nkanga, and Malala Andrialavidrazana.

“We have a saying in Barbados charting the timeline of hurricane season,” Alberta tells gal-dem via phone call.“‘June – too soon, July – stand by, August – come it must, September – remember, October – all over.’ In 2021, the hurricane season began in April. Climate colonialism means the hurricane seasons are growing longer and longer, leaving the country on tenterhooks for over half the calendar year.”

An early scene in the film shows the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in 2019. The camera pans above the wreckage of the decimated Bahama Islands. An estimated 13,000 homes were severely damaged or lost during the Category five storm that left the national airport underwater and saw over 6,000 evacuees rescued by air. 

Head over to Somerset House to see We Are History, which runs until 6th February 2022.

How'd you like them apples?

William Mullan has an Instagram account called @pomme_queen. It’s dedicated to unique apple variants and flowers and this year, he put wrote “Odd Apples“, a book about those unorthodox cultivars.

Where does this fascination come from? Apparently, it began during childhood when Mullan discovered the Egremont-Russet apple variety. But it wasn’t until years later, during a trip to a farmer’s market in New York, that Mullan decided to explore the subject artistically. There, he bit into a Pink Pearl for the first time, and the taste gave him such an experience that from then on, he began to photograph apples in an “extraordinary way”.

via Creative Boom

Of all the apples on show, my favourite is the Black Oxford (top right) because it reminds me of the Galaxy frog which I’ll hopefully cover on this site in the future. It looks so… celestial.

Apple-related: Indo apples, samurai, and Japanese farmers