Student Show: Install and Opening

After a semester of hard work, Exhibition Processes is coming to a close. Our final class of the semester was on Tuesday and we started laying out the students show.

I worked on the layout for the paintings. The original plan was to hang all the work on the two side walls in María’s former space. It was really difficult to curate the pieces since they lacked the coherency of a single artist’s hand. I tried grouping them in several different ways, including by assignment, but they ultimately looked best grouped by artist.

Wednesday night, a bunch of people from the art department came together to install all the work. Together, we were able to get everything up in a couple of hours. More paintings were brought down to the gallery and María lead the install in her former space. Ofelia and I teamed up to hang the photographs in Nicole and Mary’s former space.

I also helped one of the seniors, Ryland All, hang her art in the main gallery space. We decided to hang her work in a grid, and I was able to use my experience from Showing/Thinking to work out the math.

After working hard to hang the show Wednesday night, the power went out Thursday. We still had the opening, but it was a little difficult to see the art – even with candles and flashlights. Despite this set back, we had an excellent turn out.

The show kicked off with a gallery talk on one of the newly acquired piece from the Art Papers auction. This piece, HTFMHeart Seattle 1:1, by Heather Gordon is hanging in Campbell.


Accidental Hijack: Engaging the Public with Art Experiences

Today we visited the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center.

As a nonprofit, they seek to engage the public by providing opportunities for “accidental hijacking” from the ordinary. The institution serves as a platform for the art; by providing a context, contemporary art is presented in a way that is accessible, but doesn’t feel kitch. Atlanta’s needs are reflected in the curatorial choices and opportunities for conversation are fostered though programing and exhibitions.This is one of my favorite galleries in Atlanta; in addition to free admission, this gallery has a really nice space. While it retains the “white-wall” feel of a bigger institution, its size allow audiences to engage with art in a more intimate setting. There is a good amount of work on display, yet not so much as to overwhelm the viewer. It is consumable, yet presents the opportunity to engage with deeper thoughts.The Contemporary exhibits a wide variety of up and coming artists; currently on view are the artists Sasha Brauning, Paul Anthony Smith, and Ja’Tovia M. Gary.

Brauning draws influence from horror movies and cinema to represent the figure. Line and color are prominent elements in the works and create tension. The figures are simultaneously relatable and discomforting due to the contrast of organic and mechanical structures.Smith creates a juxtaposition of Brooklyn and Jamaica in his photography, representing the duality of identity of place. Texture has been created on the surfaces of the images by hand and appears like cinderblocks at a distance. The hanging curtains pieces are reminiscent of the beaded curtains that serve as security in Jamaican homes without doors which allow air to circulate. An intruder would not see the curtain camouflaged in the dark and would awaken the home owners with the rattling of the beads. A fan has been set up in the gallery so that the beads move.

Gary’s film piece questions ideas of fact and fiction by combining archival footage with new stories.

While each artist focuses on different themes, a connecting thread ties them together. Surface is the unifying thought that unites the solo shows.

Investigating the Immersive Environment: Trip to Spelman College

Today, we visited Spelman College Museum of Fine Art for our first class field trip. This gallery was super nice; celebrating its twentieth year, the gallery looks and feels like a real gallery opposed to a rundown college space which gains its charm mostly from its quirks. The space anticipates the different needs of the gallery and allows for different types of work to be displayed; a small room for video media is one example as well as swing out walls.

Currently on view is Mickalene Thomas: Mentors, Muses, and Celebrates which is a traveling exhibition of the work of Mickalene Thomas. This heavily media based exhibition was installed by Thomas’ own team, yet we were able to learn about the installation from one of the gallery’s preparators. This role is very hands on and similar to our installation process for Showing/Thinking; preparators work behind the scenes to prepare and hang the show, leaving no trace of their work.

For the current exhibit, a wall was constructed to accommodate several large monitors. Thomas’ work plays on the idea of the living room by setting up many areas with film and audio as well as staging seating in the center of each space. This is a very immersive environment; it is impossible not to engage. The dark reflective flooring submerges the viewer in media and asks that a viewer observe. Meanwhile, Thomas observes the viewer from cameras placed though out the gallery. This exhibition touches on ideas of spectatorship and how media influences culture.

We also learned more about curation during our talk with the Curator of Education. Holistically, a show is not dependent on a single work and the “precieved chaos” of certain displays, like salon style hanging, is the result of careful planning.

Unfortunately, we quickly ran out of time, but I had a few questions. I was curious about how a balance is struck between giving viewers information and allowing viewers to discover information on their own. Unlike Showing/Thinking, Spelman’s exhibition had an overview of the exhbit at the entrance and wall labels for every piece. Wall labels can be great for giving viewers content — such as the name or medium of the piece which contributes to the layers of meaning — but they can also serve as the only point of contact for the viewer. What is a gallery’s responsibility in providing information for the viewer? I feel that Showing/Thinking could have benefited from some more context simply because it assumes a single audience of informed viewers. Even as a part of the Agnes Scott community, Showing/Thinking can be unclear without the information  gained by putting together the show. Without talking with María or Casey, the significance of objects like the blue tape and lock picks, respectively, might be missed.

What’s Next?

Now that Showing/Thinking is up, class will be spent working on various projects as well as visiting local galleries on field trips. This Thursday, we will be visiting Spelman College Museum of Fine Art.

Up until a few years ago, the Art Department advertised the Student Show with a poster that cast the senior art students and the art department faculty as figures in famous works of art. The examples we looked at included a recreation of da Vinci’s The Last Supper, Dega’s The Dance Class, Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, and a final piece that references a Surrealist Manifesto as well as Magritte’s The Son of Man.

We began brainstorming for this year’s poster to advertise the opening on May 4th. After some discussion, it seems that we will be recreating Botticelli’s Primavera. I’m a little skeptical, given the short amount of time we have to prepare, but hopefully we can coordinate schedules for a photoshoot. Ideally, we can have both the seniors and the faculty. I am also a little disappointed by the painting we selected; while Primavera is a masterful painting, I am not that excited to recreate it. Personally, I think it would be fun to reference something like Hannah Höch’s Cut with the Kitchen Knife. I also liked the suggestion of Leutze’s George Washington Crossing the Delaware or Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grade Jatte.

Despite my concerns, I am excited to be working on the poster with Ofelia. Since we are both in a photography class, I’m confident that the images will turn out well.

Catalog Introduction

Since I was not able to finish my introductory statement by the time the Showing/Thinking catalog was printed, I have decided to share the finished version here:

There are several strategies utilized by the mind to excavate the interior life. Expression can be the result of revision and truth is often carved out through repetition. The individuals in this exhibition have all developed and distilled languages unique to their process and specific research. Through writing, researching, investigating, painting, and dancing, each is able to connect to others. Action unifies the different forms, allowing the speaker to share the essence of their passion.

But language is messy; it can be misinterpreted or go entirely unnoticed. Yet it is important to speak despite the potential for failure. Initial action is required to uncover the medium and continual re-articulation is required for precise language. The speaker must be willing to be vulnerable and be aware that the message might need to change.

Gallery Install Day 4: Saturday

I was very disappointed to find this view when I came into the gallery this morning.

Due to the humidity in the gallery, as well as the weight of the paper, the sticky dots were not able to hold the drawing to the wall. I’m annoyed, but there is a solution: the drawings with sticky putty held, so I just need to buy some more on Monday and reinstall the drawings that fell.

Despite this set back, a lot of progress was made today. María came in to help and we were able to hang up the large ink painting as well as set up the desk.

We ended up taping the painting to the wall. While this doesn’t look very professional, we decided the tape highlights the important of process in this show. Along with the unfinished paintings and the desk, the process pieces form a triangle in the space.

I had the unique opportunity of giving my professor homework today; since María was insistent on moving one of the paintings we had already installed, I asked her to come up with something else to fill the space.

Once I reinstall the drawings on Monday, everything will be ready for the opening on Tuesday!

Gallery Install Day 3: Friday

Today was a long day, but we accomplished a lot.

This morning I was able to hang all of the small drawings. I am really proud of how they turned out!

María was able to bring the rest of the abstract drawing over early, so I was able to hang those too. Unfortunately, while she was dropping of the drawings, María noticed some things she wanted to change. I’m not really looking forward to moving anything, so hopefully we can leave most things the way they are.

We still need to come up with a way to hang up the largest piece which is about 8’ x 12’.  Today, a few of us tried hanging it up with binder clips, but the paper was too heavy. María will need to come help with the install.

In the rest of the gallery, the vinyl text is complete on the round wall. I was not able to help with this, but my classmates did an excellent job! I really think it turned out nicely and adds a lot to the show.