Until 2020, the Works Progress Administration, a Great Depression–era government program that gave billions of dollars to artists during the 1930s, was largely the stuff of high-school U.S. history courses. But it didn’t take long for it to become the source of fascination within the art world once the pandemic struck the U.S. and Europe. In late March of last year, a mere two weeks after lockdown began in most places, curator Hans Ulrich Obrist called for a government relief program of the WPA’s scale. (So far, none has sprung up.) One month later, art historian Jody Patterson wrote in an ARTnews essay that the WPA’s “aim of radical inclusivity and accessibility—in which art benefits more people, rather than fewer—should not be the distant vision of a past generation.” Government funding for the arts—rarely, if ever, a sexy topic—hadn’t seemed this interesting in ages.

With all this renewed attention being … Read the rest

“Sentient,” 18 feet. All images © The Morton Arboretum, shared with permission

Spread across the 1,700 acres at The Morton Arboretum just outside of Chicago are five enormous figures by Cape Town-based artist Daniel Popper (previously). Constructed mainly of wood with elements of glass-reinforced concrete, fiberglass, and steel, the looming sculptures stand out against the verdant landscape and pay homage to nature’s endurance and diversity, particularly the 220,000 individual specimens growing on the grounds. Human+Nature is Popper’s largest exhibition to date.

The female figures, four of which are shown here, vary in pose, material, and overall aesthetic. “Hallow,” which stands at the arboretum’s entrance, is a poetic sculpture evocative of the fern-canopied installation the artist unveiled late last year in Fort Lauderdale. “Sentient,” on the other hand, surrounds a central bust with a surreal assemblage of facial features depicted on angled hunks of wood. Each is constructed at a monumental … Read the rest

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Gouache, an opaque water-soluble paint with gum arabic or acrylic as its binder, is one of the best-kept secrets in painting. Want flat, opaque areas of color? You’ll need only one coat with gouache. Want strong tones? Gouache has a high pigment load, ensuring saturated color. Gouache is perfect for illustration and design work because it dries quite quickly and great for digital scanning because it is nonreflective. It’s excellent for plein air painting too, since it’s both portable and easy to clean up. Traditional gouache paints may be reactivated with water after they dry, but note that those made with acrylic binders cannot. All gouache paints work best on premium watercolor papers; because they are opaque, they work well on colored papers. Browse our roundup of the best Read the rest

“Paint Can 8” (2019), ceramic, glaze, glass fragments, 12 × 12 × 11 inches. All images © Brian Rochefort, by Marten Elder, courtesy of MASSIMODECARLO, shared with permission

Bulging hunks of glaze and smooth, speckled drips flow from Brian Rochefort’s chunky ceramic sculptures. The Los Angeles-based artist continues his signature abstract style in a newer series of paint cans and oozing vessels, many of which resemble the crusty remnants of volcanic eruptions. Rochefort builds each piece from a combination of clay, glaze, and glass fragments through multiple rounds of firing in the kiln. The final assemblages are literally overflowing with speckles, gloopy lumps, and delicately cracked patches all layered in a kaleidoscope of color and texture.

In a note to Colossal, the artist describes his process as multi-faceted with a diverse array of influences that range from visual to intellectual and historical. The most important, though, are from travel and … Read the rest

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A sandpaper pointer, usually a block of small sandpaper sheets mounted to a wooden handle, is a handy accessory for artists who use charcoal, pencils, and pastels. Pointers can be used to sharpen each of these drawing implements, offering the highest level of control to achieve a perfect point. They are indispensable for pencils with delicate leads that need a soft touch, and for creating an irregular point, such as for shading. They are also are useful for cleaning drawing tools like erasers, blending stumps, and tortillons, as well as de-burring cutting mats. We have rounded up some trusty, sturdy options below.

Creative Mark Sandpaper Block
The classic paddle shape of this block and its wooden handle make it easy to hold. Simply drag your pencil, charcoal,
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“Bad Lemon (Sea Witch)” (2020), aventurine, serpentine, prehnite, chrysoprase, rhyolite, agate, moss agate, jasper, peridot, moonstone, magnesite, lilac stone, turquoise, citrine, calcite, feldspar, ruby in zoisite, labradorite, swarovski crystal, quartz, mother of pearl, freshwater pearls, glass, steel pins on coated polystyrene, 16½ x 18 x 20 inches. All images © Kathleen Ryan, courtesy of Karma, New York, shared with permission

Colorful, lustrous patterns made of precious and semi-precious stones coat a new series of oversized fruit sculptures by Kathleen Ryan. A bright rind peeks through layers of mold on a halved lemon, white and green Penicillium spoils a basket of cherries, and multicolored fungi crawls out of a grinning Jack-o-lantern. Continuing her practice of portraying the grotesque through traditionally beautiful materials, the New York-based artist (previously) ironically questions notions of value, desire, and “how objects bring meaning and carry a history.”

You can see Ryan’s sculptures at Karma in New … Read the rest

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Create kaleidoscopic compositions with acrylic pouring paint. In recent years pouring paint has become quite popular, but the technique has actually been around since the 1930s, when Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros happened to discover the elaborate effects of pouring different shades of paint onto a wooden panel to produce what he termed “accidental painting.” Fluid dynamics are at work in the pouring of paint: When a pigment of greater density is poured atop a less-dense one, the two interact to mix and swirl—the more dense pigment tends to sink and the less dense one tends to rise. (The opposite pour, a less-dense paint over one of greater density, will not work.) Channel your inner Pollock and play around with pouring pigment over canvas. Investigate the possibilities by browsing Read the rest

The rain is so intense in Serra do Divisor National Park that it looks like an atomic mushroom cloud. State of Acre, 2016. All images © Sebastião Salgado, courtesy of Taschen, shared with permission

Photographer Sebastião Salgado spent six years immersed in the Brazilian Amazon as he documented the world’s largest tropical rainforest in black-and-white. From wide, aerial shots framing the vegetation populating the landscape to sincere portraits of Indigenous peoples living throughout the region, Salgado’s wide-ranging photographs are a revealing and intimate study of the area today.

Titled Amazônia, a 528-page tome from Taschen compiles these images, which in the absence of color, are attentive to naturally occurring contrasts in light and texture. They explore the unique environment and cultural milieu Salgado experienced during his travels as he visited multiple small communities—the tribes include the Yanomami, the Asháninka, the Yawanawá, the Suruwahá, the Zo’é, the Kuikuro, the Waurá, … Read the rest

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Traditionally used in Japanese woodblock printing, a baren is a circular tool with a flat face used for rubbing paper to effectively transfer ink. Like many artists, you might have found that a wooden spoon can serve a similar purpose, but there’s no true substitute for a baren. The tool eases the burnishing process, allowing you to achieve more uniform and steady circular motions while covering more space in less time. Barens can also be used for linoleum printing, gel printing, and more, and they cause far less slippage than a brayer. Explore our favorite ones below, and say goodbye to the spoon. 

Speedball Block Printing Baren
Speedball’s baren has a thick, easy-grip wooden handle and a bottom that smoothly glides over paper while delivering proper, evenly Read the rest

“Tetraconch II” (2019), Faxe limestone, 38 centimeters. All images © Matthew Simmonds, shared with permission

Since antiquity, marble has been a preferred material for sculptors and architects alike because of its relative softness and the unlikelihood that it’ll shatter. British artist Matthew Simmonds (previously) fuses these two traditional forms and honors their history with his miniature models carved into hunks of the raw stone. Evoking ancient ruins and sacred architecture—most pieces aren’t modeled after specific structures—the chiseled sculptures are complete with grand archways, ornately tiled ceilings, and minuscule statues on display in their halls.

Within the spaces, Simmonds contrasts the rough, jagged edges of the stone with precise angles and detailed flourishes. “Drawing on the formal language and philosophy of architecture the work explores themes of positive and negative form, the significance of light and darkness, and the relationship between nature and human endeavor,” he says in a statement.

See … Read the rest