Harvard Gazette: Seeing beauty in the mundane

Contemporary sculptor, printer, and visual artist Willie Cole’s haunting works blend the familiar with the unexpected. Now that striking creative tension is on view at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study in “Willie Cole: Beauties.”

The exhibit, on display in Byerly Hall’s Johnson-Kulukundis Family Gallery, features a series of prints made from ironing boards that have been crushed, hammered, flattened until they’re a few millimeters thick, covered with ink, and used as plates on a printing press. The ghostly silhouettes shift perceptions and challenge assumptions with their suggestion of the ethereal and the everyday.

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How Clarissa Tossin uses Amazonian tribal lore and retro sci-fi to address looming ecological disasters

To create a portrait of the earth in its present state, the Los Angeles artist Clarissa Tossin delved into the depths below its surface. Her Future Fossil (2018), the central sculptural piece that lent its name to her current solo show at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (through March 16), is a six-meter-long, cylindrical cross section of the Earth, as if an enormous pipe had extracted thousands of years’ worth of compacted sediment from its crust. In the gallery, Future Fossil lies on its side like a fallen tree trunk, striped with colors and materials symbolizing different eras: The base is the terracotta color of iron-rich Amazonian soil, followed by a black stripe of the more fertile soil that indigenous peoples cultivated for growing their crops. The opposite tip ends in futuristic materials imprinted with alien patterns with a skin-like, silicon feel. And in between, the bulk of this core sample comprises the bright, synthetic colors of layers and layers of compacted trash.

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Radcliffe Institute at Harvard Presents a Special Installation of Willie Cole's Haunting Beauties

Willie Cole’s Beauties are full-scale prints made by stripping and flattening ironing boards, then inking them and running them directly through a printing press. Working with Highpoint Editions in Minneapolis, Cole transformed these humble tools of domestic labor into haunting images that bear multiple conflicting associations: oppression and resistance, precarity and permanence, violence and beauty.

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Radcliffe Institute at Harvard presents Future Fossil, a newly commissioned exhibition by Clarissa Tossin, inspired by Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy

The new artworks inFuture Fossilimagine a moment of collision of the past, present, and future. As Tossin explains, “In the course of making this work, I’ve wondered what a core sample of Earth taken 1,000 years from now will look like. How much plastic and other nonrecyclable materials will remain in Earth’s geological sedimentation, and for how long?”

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Boston Globe: Cosmic images, captured in quilts at Harvard exhibit ‘Measure’

Anna Von Mertens stitches patterns of stars and galaxies into quilts, charting their movement with astronomical software. Invited to exhibit at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, she went to the Harvard College Observatory to study the “computers” — women who, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, scrutinized more than 500,000 glass-plate astronomical photographs.

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Harvard Gazette: Before Circuit Boards, Female "Computers" Set the Standard

At the turn of the 19th century, the idea of women working was a foreign one, but at the Harvard College Observatory (HCO), it was the norm. From 1877 to 1919, Edward Charles Pickering, director of the HCO, led a team of more than 80 women to study glass plate photographs of the night sky. Pickering deliberately hired women, as he believed they were more detail oriented — a crucial trait for this work — and more affordable than men. The team is credited with numerous astronomical achievements and became known as the “Harvard Computers.”

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