One of the most inventive and experimental minds in the arts, Vik Muniz has made portraits out of sugar, dirt, dust and chocolate sauce, and now he has made portraits out of photos. Based in Brooklyn, Muniz started out in advertising in his native Brazil, redesigning billboards for greater readability. After picking up his first advertising award at a black-tie gala, Muniz attempted to break up a fight between two gala attendees, and was accidentally shot in the leg by one of the brawlers. The shooter paid Muniz not to press charges and that gave Muniz enough money to move to New York where he took an interest in sculpture and photography. Muniz, who says he has an interest in making pictures that “reveal their process and material structure,” made this series of portraits out of old photographs and then photographed the portraits.
Even standing up close, Beijing-artist Li Hongbo’s sculpture of Michelangelo’s David looks like it is made out of marble or porcelain, but when it is gently pulled up, the bust stretches out beyond recognition, and when released, springs back to its original shape like a Slinky toy. The raw material that Li Hongbo uses for his sculptures is paper, thousands and thousands of sheets of paper. His average classical busts require gluing more than 5,000 sheets of paper together in a honeycomb pattern, using pressure to hold the sheets together. From there, he saws, cuts and shapes the huge block of glued paper to arrive at a rough sculpted form. Li Hongbo then shaves in the finer details and uses sandpaper to smooth the surface.
Is it an intriguing sculpture or three-dimensional infographics? As a personal project, New York-based designers Caspar Lam and YuJune Park of Synoptic Office created a topographic map of the English alphabet based on how frequently each letterform was used in words. In an interview with Colossal, Park says that their reference for word frequency was the University of Cambridge Computer Lab. From there, they modeled each letter in Rhino and exported sections of each letter to AutoCad. They set a total variable of six inches from the most often used letter (E) to the least used (Z), arriving at a height difference of .23 inches. Laser cut in sections on architectural butter board, each letter sits in a 6×6 inch square, allowing for any combination of letters to run seamlessly both horizontally and vertically. Park says the work wasn’t done for any client, but purely “from a desire to explore the idea of language landscapes – visualizing language and the ebb and flow of spoken English.”
You don’t have to live in San Francisco to be awestruck by the cityscape built by artist Scott Weaver entirely out of toothpicks. It took him 35 years and more than 100,000 toothpicks, and he says he intends to keep on refining and adding on to his creation. Replicas of every San Francisco landmark, monument and scenic attraction, including Alcatraz Island, the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, Palace of Fine Arts, the psychedelic Haight-Ashbury district, and even the baseball park with its iconic wire baseball mitt, are rendered in intricate detail. As if that isn’t mind-blowing enough, Weaver one-upped Rube Goldberg by using ping pong balls to turn his sculpture into a kinetic experience. On his website, Weaver explains that he used different brands of toothpicks depending on what he was building. “I also have many friends and family members that collect toothpicks in their travels for me. For example, some of the trees in Golden Gate Park are made from toothpicks from Kenya, Morocco, Spain, West Germany and Italy.” Somehow after seeing this, hearing about Lego sculptures seems like unsophisticated child’s play. Weaver is a staff artist with The Tinkering Studio at San Francisco’s renowned Exploratorium, the museum of science, art and human perception.