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March 2018

Wara Art

Recycling into art as reported by Atlas Obscura:

Giant animal sculptures are created with the rice straw leftover from the fall harvest each year. 

The rural, coastal Niigata prefecture in Northern Japan is known for its wealth of rice paddies, which produce a rich harvest each fall. After the rice is harvested and the grain extracted, a huge amount of rice straw is leftover, called wara.

Instead of going to waste, the excess wara is reused in many ways: for roofs, fertilizer, livestock feed, and, historically, to make various goods before it was replaced by more modern materials. In the region’s capital city, Niigata, it’s put to an even more creative use, transformed into giant, fantastic animal sculptures.

For the last decade, students from Musashino Art University in Tokyo have headed north to Niigata each fall to create wonderful sculptures with the leftover rice straw. These golden artworks, made by piecing patches of braided straw over a wooden frame, can be seen on display at the annual Wara Art Festival in Uwasekigata Park. In 2017, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the festival, the students were challenged to build the creatures twice as large as usual, and supersized gorillas, rhinos, and dinosaurs filled the open field.

Know Before You Go

The Wara Art Festival is held each year starting in late August and the sculptures remain up until the end of October.

Maqtha Art District in India

In Hyderabad, India, a new street arts district has been created, delighting the eye and enlivening the neighborhood. As reported in Atlas Obscura, a magical expanse of colorful street murals lies hidden within the quiet neighborhood. 

Crossing the train tracks into the small, residential neighborhood of MS Maqtha does not prepare you for what lies beyond. Hidden within the network of narrow alleyways, roadside stalls, and curtained-off homes lies a world of vibrance and energy, a collection of brilliantly colorful street art murals that stretch across entire buildings four and five stories high.

In December of 2017, the largest street art foundation in India, St+Art India, took to the streets of MS Maqtha with a troupe of artists from around the world. The coming weeks saw the residential area transformed, with more than 30 murals breathing new life into the faded walls.

In an interview with Arch Daily, St+Art India’s Akshat Nauriyal said of the project” “We feel that art, at least the way it exists as an industry, has become marginalized only to a very small section of society, almost a novelty of the rich and the elite.” This Maqtha project, the third fully fledged art district to be created in India, is an attempt to democratize art, to bring it (quite literally) to the streets.

Walking through the streets is a magical experience, full of color. The area is divided into four districts: Green Gully, Yellow Gully, Pink Gully, and Blue Chowk. A series of painted arrows direct visitors to each of the areas of the district, allowing one to spend hours exploring the painted streets.

Hyderabad is a rapidly developing city in the Indian South, divided between the “Old City” and the fast-growing areas of Hitec City of Jubilee Hills. There is perhaps no better place in the city to see this intertwining of old and new than in the neighborhood of MS Maqtha.

Know Before You Go

To find the murals, cross the train tracks and follow the main road all the way to the end. The beginning of the first section is at the end of this road on your left. From there, follow the art and follow the arrows.

Yarn-Bombing at the Guggenheim Museum - A Toilet with Gold Crochet

Hyperallergic reports that the guerrilla intervention was in place for two hours during the museum’s pay-what-you-wish period on a Saturday.

A guerrilla intervention in the Guggenheim Museum's fourth floor bathroom (photo provided to Hyperallergic by anonymous source)

On Saturday, the otherwise unremarkable fourth-floor bathroom in the Guggenheim Museum saw an artistic intervention whereby the currently installed, stock white toilet was completely enveloped in coarse, glimmering gold yarn. The bathroom in question was previously and rather infamously activated by Maurizio Cattelan’s gold toilet (“America,” 2016). While that work stayed in place for a full year, Saturday’s unsanctioned intervention remained in place for roughly two hours.

“We can confirm an intervention of a crocheted piece that covered a toilet on the museum’s Ramp 4,” a spokesperson for the Guggenheim told Hyperallergic. “The intervention came to the attention of security personnel near the end of our Pay-What-You-Wish hours on Saturday evening and was carefully removed and sent to the registrar’s office. There was no damage and nothing was vandalized. The Guggenheim does not encourage unauthorized interventions; however, we are heartened that a visitor was so inspired by the Cattelan installation that they were moved to create one of their own.”

To anyone even remotely familiar with the inner workings of New York’s contemporary art scene, this particular guerrilla art intervention, in every respect, screams of the Polish fiber and knitwear artist, Olek. When asked over the phone about the Guggenheim intervention, Olek — an irreverent cross between a Guerrilla Girl and a Pussy Riot member — would neither confirm nor deny authorship.

Olek has made a name for herself by covering famous statues and monuments with her distinctive, multi-colored “yarn-bombing.” In 2010, long before the arrival of “Fearless Girl,” Wall Street’s “Charging Bull” statue — perhaps one of the more overt symbols of wealth, capitalism, industry, and generally masculine, patriarchal notions of American strength and success — was wrapped snuggly and surprisingly in Olek’s pink and purple camouflage pattern. A year later, she wrapped the Astor Place cube in a similar dressing. In 2012 she traveled to Barcelona to give Fernando Botero’s giant sculpture of a cat a similar treatment. Later that summer, in Washington, DC, Olek covered the National Academy of Science’s Albert Einstein Memorial in pink and purple crocheted fabric. Her use of these colors — those often attributed to a particular sex and catering to established female gender norms — one would assume, is no accident.

Though the always playfully ferocious Olek doesn’t lead with feminist talking points, it’s difficult not to contextualize her works as playful but nevertheless punk rock acts of feminist protest. Each project is a brazen, uninvited takeover of otherwise masculine-charged and over-sized art objects.

Maurizio Cattelan, “America” (2016), gold (photo by Carey Dunne/Hyperallergic)
Maurizio Cattelan, “America” (2016), gold (photo by Carey Dunne/Hyperallergic)

In the case of the Guggenheim intervention, the artist (whomever he or she may be) is adding another dimension to Cattelan’s “America,” which resurfaced in the news recently when the Guggenheim’s deputy director Nancy Spector offered to lend the gold toilet to the Trumps. Here, the unnamed yarn-bomber is doubling down on Cattelan’s joke and Spector’s subsequent, suave, punk rock act of political rebellion via polite curatorial sassiness. The artist, if she is in fact female, may also be making a guerrilla statement about the lack of representation of women in institutional spaces.

As the sculptor Antony Gormley said of Olek’s work in 2012, when she covered his seaside sculptures in the UK with her yarn costumes: “I feel that barnacles provide the best cover-up, but this is a very impressive substitute!” Though the US political machine currently seems to be riddled with barnacle types, perhaps it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate potentially vibrant alternatives — however fleeting they may be.


Amazing Hairdos at MOMA's PS1

The event is inspired by the Hair Wars showcase, which began in Detroit’s nightclubs in the mid-1980s.

One model once had her hair braided into a birdcage, while another had a “hairy-copter” — a helicopter hairdo, with blades and all. These are some of the Thisis a dazzling display of what some may call works of art.

This weekend, MoMA PS1 is putting on a Hair Wars-inspired performance for its Sunday Sessions program of live art. The event will begin at 6:05pm (the usual start time for Hair Wars parades) and includes a series of “fantasy hair pieces created by an intergenerational group of artists and hair entertainers.” Hair Wars founder David “Hump the Grinder” Humphries helped select exhibitors, including Keith Matthews, who once molded a wig into the shape of a purple turntable. Luckily, for those of us who have missed past showcases, archival videos spanning from 1985 to the present will be screening throughout the day at the museum.

When: Sunday, March 18, 6:05–8:00pm Where: MoMA PS1 (22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, Queens) More info at MoMA PS1.

RHYMOSAURS: Brush Your Teeth Rex

RymosaursLooking for a great gift for a kid? Artist Charles Ugas has just illustrated a new children's book called Brush Your Teeth Rex (RHYMOSAURS).

It was written by Orlando 'Zeps' Molina, who is a very talented MC out of Brooklyn, and Illustrated by Ugas who explains, "It's a short story about a young dinosaur that loves to eat junk food and at the end of the day he has to figure out a way to brush his teeth, because being that he's a T-Rex, he has very short arms."
The cool thing about the book is that it is told in a RHYME format so kids could rhyme along as they read OR they could get the Audio version on Audible.com and sing along. Half of the book is in color and the other half is in Black/White with space for the kids to color and/or write their own rhymes," he said.
In addition to illustrating children's books, Ugas' work is also included in an Illustrated Anthology called "Puerto Rico Strong' under a comic company called Lion Forge. It's a collection of short illustrated stories about Puerto Ricans and their story about what makes them American. The proceeds will be go toward the Puerto Rican Recovery Efforts from Hurricane Maria.
Puerto Rico Strong is available for Pre-order on Amazon as well...and will be released in March 2018.

Margot Niederland's Otherworldly Boxes

IMG_7403You can visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art right now and see a small selection of Joseph Cornell boxes or you can go to 21 Ludlow Street in NYC's Chinatown to see a much more interesting array of boxes by Margot Niederland.

She explains, "I began creating assemblages as a counterbalance to my many years of photographing and filming. As a photographer and documentarian, I go into the world and capture reality. I put a frame around what I see and create an expression of what already exists. Alternatively, my assemblages are tableaux of miniature worlds. They are created from my subconscious rather than from any pre-conceived ideas. I work with a ‘palette’ of hundreds of found objects I’ve collected over the years. After choosing the first piece to become an axis for the work, I juxtapose other pieces with synergistic associations. As the montages coalesce into milieus, the individual pieces transform into symbolic metaphors, creating scenes from an unknown movie. These assemblages are open to interpretation, inviting the viewer to enter and participate in their own creation of a dream narrative."

Her work is on exhibit (and on sale) until March 25, 2018.