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James Smalls

(b Somerville, NJ, 1955).

African American sculptor, printmaker, and conceptual artist. He grew up in New Jersey and attended the Boston University School of Fine Arts, the School of Visual Arts and the Art Students League of New York City. Cole is best known for assembling and transforming ordinary domestic objects, such as irons, ironing boards, high-heeled shoes, lawn jockeys, hair dryers, bicycle parts and other discarded appliances and hardware into imaginative and powerful configurations and installations embedded with references to the African American experience and inspired by West African religion, mythology and culture. Visual puns and verbal play characterized his works, thereby creating layered meanings. The objects he chose were often discarded mass-produced American products that had themselves acquired an alternate history through their previous handling and use.

In 1989, he became attracted to the motif of the steam iron both for its form and for its perceived embodiment of the experience and history of the unknown persons who had previously used it. He referred to the earliest versions of these irons as ‘Household Gods’ and ‘Domestic Demons’. With them, he engaged with ideas utilizing not only the found object but also the repetitive scorch mark of the iron arranged in either purely decorative patterns or in such ways as to suggest a face or African mask (...

Article

Maeve Coudrelle

(b São Paulo, 1961).

Brazilian installation artist and sculptor. She studied at the private college Fundação Armando Álvares Penteado (FAAP), São Paulo, from 1979 to 1984, earning her Licenciatura Plena there. Leirner is known for her compelling accumulations of consumer objects, which she organized and assembled into installations.

Leirner was introduced to contemporary art at an early age by her parents, Fúlvia and Adolfo Leirner, who had a large art collection that included Brazilian Constructivist work. During her time at FAAP, instructors there included Nelson Leirner (her uncle; b 1932), Julio Plaza (1938–2003), Regina Silveira (b 1939), and Walter Zanini (1925–2013). In 1981 she traveled to New York and Europe, where her interest in conceptual art, Minimalism, and Arte Povera developed. The next year, she had her first solo exhibition at the Galeria Tenda in São Paulo, where she showed Imagens objetuais (Objectual Images, 1982), a series of collages comprised of cord, wire, and paper. The series’ title highlights the ambiguity of the work of art, which is at once an image—a representation of something—and an object—a physical thing....

Article

Denise Carvalho

(b Rio de Janeiro, 1948).

Brazilian interventionist, multimedia, installation and conceptual artist, considered the most influential contemporary artist of his country. While international critics have compared his work with North American Minimalism and Conceptual art, Meireles insisted that art should be seductive. He studied at the National School of Fine Arts and at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro. Coming of age at a time of the military dictatorship in Brazil (1964–85), he circumvented strict state censorship with a series of interventionist works, adding politically charged texts and reinserting the works back into circulation.

Insertions into Ideological Circuits: Coca-Cola Project (1970) included Coca-Cola bottles with the added text ‘Yankees. Go Home!’ In Insertions into Ideological Circuits: Cédula Project (1970), the same message was printed on one dollar bills, and on the current Brazilian currency, the Cruzeiro. Some bills also queried ‘Who killed Herzog?’ referring to a Brazilian journalist who died while in police custody. Meireles’ series utilizes a mechanistic process of capitalistic insertion and circulation, adding phrases that question the methods and policies of the dictatorship. ...

Article

(b Newark, NJ, April 10, 1938).

American painter, printmaker, and conceptual artist. She wanted to become an artist from an early age. She studied graphic art at the Pratt Institute, New York (1956–8), and painting and comparative literature at Boston University (1958–60). Steir noted her teachers Richard Lindner and Philip Guston and her studies of Voltaire and Leibniz as highly influential on her work. Her wide visual vocabulary stems from her foundation in graphics and illustration at Pratt. In the early 1960s she worked as a freelance book-cover designer, and as art director at publishers Harper & Row, New York (1965–9), simultaneously pursuing her own painting. Her first mature works were exhibited in solo shows at the Graham Gallery and Paley & Lowe, New York (1972). They are characterized by grids, informalized colour or tonal charts and scales, painterly marks, letters, numbers, signs, and the rendering of such simple motifs as birds, shells, flowers, mountains, and clouds. In the late 1970s Steir was on the board of the feminist magazines ...