13 April 2011

miller & shellabarger

Another good artist talk at AU: Miller & Shellabarger, from Chicago. When a student asked about seeing Cai Guo-qiang, Ai Weiwei, and Kara Walker in their gunpowder, black sunflower seed, and cutout works, they wisely responded that materials can be similar but the intent and context are different. An artist that uses oil paint is not accused of ripping off Caravaggio. The point of Ai's seeds is the crafting of the seeds; Miller & Shellabarger use it as a transitory material. Kara Walker uses her cutout to talk about racial stereotypes; M & S use it to talk about their relationship. Any material influence is more an homage than plagiarism. They were also asked about their daily life and Shellabarger responded that he tries to work on his art every day, discipline like going to the gym which he doesn't do ... but I understand. This freelance life needs some discipline too. You get out of practice.

The illustration is taken from the images on their artist page at the Western Exhibitions.

08 April 2011

pepper, silva & goriunova

It's been an especially rich bouquet of art talks the last few days. Today was a gallery talk by Jen Pepper in her show entitled "A glimpse, spark & flash" at the Llewellyn Gallery at Alfred State College. It's a reinstallation of work that was part of a show at the Everson in Syracuse, with changes because of the tsunami in Japan and the Pacific. In the Everson, the blanket of woven wire (1000 feet, in honor of Rauschenberg) was suspended likes waves or medical instrument readings. Here, it was splashed against the wall and spilling onto the floor. The rubber-coated and white-painted silk poppies were strewn on the wall rather than planted in a "pizza box." It reminded me of Petah Coyne but much more approachable (and Pepper, as she calls herself, let me touch one of the buds).

Pepper is a dictionary reader and words are important to her and her art, e.g., liminal space (because of its potency), "soy" which in Dogon means both woven material and the spoken word as it does in Hebrew.

Another exhibition at Cazenovia used engineering student notebooks from 1927-1932, discarded when Kanakadea Hall at Alfred University was renovated (other stuff went to the archives so it wasn't mass destruction). The notebooks included instructions like "Measure a line in which one end is inaccessible." Sounds like Sol LeWitt.

She and her partner did a piece entitled "I'm only number 2 ..." at the Spoleto festival in Charleston some years ago. They "hid" pencils around the city and folks were supposed to let them know if they found one. The results can be seen at http://cracksinthepavement.com/. Paula Stewart and I started exchanging museum pencils from our travels during the time I was at the Amon Carter Museum. I still buy the pencils but they don't get sent Paula-ward very often. I use them.

Olga Goriunova spoke on Wednesday about "Aesthetic emergence: brilliance, repetition & organizational tendencies on the Internet." She is one of the founders of runme.org which "says it with software art!" She spoke of runme.org as an art platform or locus, a catalyst, with creative energy to make brilliant aesthetic work. The talk was quite philosophical and I felt rather like I was drowning some of the time. One of her interesting observations was that new devices are closing down some of the creativity that was possible. The devices have more closed systems and applications. And they do things for you. She showed a wonderful piece of software that took what you're typing and turned it into banners and streams of letters, moving around the screen. Now, there's probably an app so you can just do it. Toward the end of the question-and-answer period, she said "software is fundamental" and I misheard it as "software is temperamental." Also true.

Bisi Silva spoke on Monday and the title of her talk was "Curating in Africa." She put emphasis on the "in." For a long time, western art curators have done shows of contemporary African art, or African art curators have done shows in Europe and America. She is the founder and director of the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos. Silva is a graduate of the curatorial program at Bard College (home of one of my freelance gigs).

The library at CCA Lagos has 3500 volumes and it's quite an accomplishment to build up an art library in Nigeria. 3500 seems like a small number of volumes but I assume it's quite focused. It made me wonder if we couldn't start a gift program from the art libraries of the U.S.

And I just can't avoid thinking about cataloging as I listen to things. Silva used "lens-based art" to describe artists who use photography, video, and film. We could use a term (subject heading) that covers the waterfront. Pepper likes installation art because you are in the work. File that in the "relational aesthetics" pile for consideration of that LCSH proposal.

Woven through those art talks were presentations by the Alfred State architectural students on their projects for Main Street in Alfred and a talk on "How right was Einstein? or, Stringent tests of the theory of general relativity" by Dipankar Maitra. New jargon: GR.

I must stop now. The Alfred University theater department is presenting "A streetcar named Desire" ... preparation for my June visit to New Orleans for ALA?