Visit to the Contemporary

Last Thursday we took a trip with Jeffrey and Leah to meet with Veronica Kessenich, executive director of the Atlanta Contemporary. Currently, they had on view three solo shows by artists Sascha Braunig, Paul Anthony Smith, and Ja’Tovia M. Gary. Veronica had to leave for a meeting, so she took us quickly around the gallery spaces with a quick tour of the art and background information on the artist. I found it interesting because last time I was here, with ART260 last semester, the exhibit on view was focused solely on Atlanta (or Southern) based artists. However, this time, the goal was to bring up and coming contemporary artists into Atlanta. Sascha Braunig and Ja’Tovia M. Gary are based in New York City and Paul Anthony Smith in Jamaica. Veronica explained how the goal is to bring in artists who are not yet big name, and to show a larger number of women artists, LGBTQ artists, and artists of color.

 

 

The images above are of some of Sascha Braunig’s pieces – the one on top was my favorite. She takes her inspiration from Italian horror films, Flemish painting, fashion, and the human body. I was absolutely fascinated by her ability to convey both the quality of a person and a machine in her figures. I am usually drawn to the unusual and, I guess, unsettling so I was immediately pulled in by the horror movie-quality of Sascha’s paintings. Also, the realism in these pieces was absolutely incredible. It’s difficult to see in a photograph, but the way the wire is draped on the metal hooks looks so deceivingly real. Aesthetically, these are not pieces I would want hung in my house, but I am fascinated by them and greatly appreciate her artistic skill.

 

These works are by Jamaican artist Paul Anthony Smith. The top two are beaded screens covering painted brick walls; the beads mimic the way they are used in Jamaican homes, as a security device. I learned that because of the heat many Jamaican homes do not have door, but instead put across their doorways beaded screens so if someone tries to invade the house they are alerted. I desperately wanted to run my hand through the screens, to feel the beads and hear what kind of sound they made. I thought they were beautiful and the colors so dynamic against the dark wall. The bottom two pieces were incredible as well. They were images of Jamaica (or Jamaican culture elsewhere) that Paul Anthony Smith punctured holes in deliberate patterns. It was a similar effect to pointillism or to impressionist painting; the full image can only be understood from a distance, but up close you can see the skill and what makes up the illusion.

Although contemporary art isn’t really my “thing”, I have learned to better understand and appreciate it. Returning to the Contemporary, I could more easily recognize their mission and how it was reflected in their current exhibit. It’s not somewhere I feel a strong connection to, but I do greatly admire their efforts to make the art world a more inclusive space.

 

Bridget’s Exhibit: Choreography

 

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This section of the exhibition space, the left corner closest to the entrance (when standing at the front door) is meant to represent Bridget’s role as a choreographer.

On the short wall, posters from previous Studio Dance Theatre productions have been attached. Although not all the works performed by Studio Dance Theatre are original pieces, it has been a platform for Bridget to choreograph on students and create based on subjects that are important to her (frequently, subjects of social justice and human rights). On the longer wall, a flat-screen TV is hung displaying images of Studio Dance Theatre in performance – these are only works that have been choreographed by Bridget. The geometric dome is a prop from a piece entitled Timeless Bearings from 2009, inspired by research findings about Parkinson’s Disease. Lastly, a white podium covered by a white cloth (used because cloth is an important element of Bridget’s choreography) supports the dome; on top of the podium rests an archival binder of all past performances given by Studio Dance Theatre.

This category attempts to familiarize the viewer with the work of Studio Dance Theatre, while preserving a sense of abstraction that will hopefully invite the viewer to attend a show in the future. Unfortunately there was no sufficient video footage to display, so I settled on a slideshow of photos instead. Although video would have given a better sense of the choreography, a slideshow allows for more pieces to be shown. I desperately wanted to display the dome in an unusual manner – my initial idea was to hang it from the ceiling but that was not plausible – but I could not figure out a way that didn’t result in podiums obnoxiously overtaking the negative space in the dome and the shadows created from it. Through collaboration and discussion, the final display came into place. I still wish it could be suspended completely, but I am content with the result. Out of all the corners, this has to be my favorite.

Gallery Installation: The Vinyl

One of the very first steps in our gallery installation process was attaching the vinyl for our participant’s name and their two quotes. I had never before attached vinyl to anything (and truthfully, I didn’t even know what vinyl was) so this was a completely new experience for me.

Essentially, the process of attaching vinyl follows three steps:

  1. Attach the strip of vinyl to the wall with tape and level it.
  2. Remove the bottom layer and let the vinyl fall onto the wall, wherever it lands naturally.
  3. Remove the top layer and reveal the lettering!

The process itself was not difficult for me. I enjoy detail work, so I found it quite soothing to methodically level, peel, and peel. What was frustrating was whenever the letters would stick to the paper, so I would have to go back over them with the squeegee (I actually found it easier to use my ID rather than an actual squeegee). At first I was overly cautious, going over the letters three or four times, but with practice I discovered that I really only need to go over them once and can go back if needed. Below I have included some close-up photos I took while installing one of Bridget’s quotes.

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I ended up finishing the vinyl quickly, both because the quotes I was given were quite short and I spent a lot of time outside class working on it. I worked during our Tuesday class, and then Tuesday night and Wednesday night, and was done before class on Thursday. It was a process I really enjoyed and a skill I’m glad I acquired – I’m now considering attaching vinyl to my walls at home.

 

Art Papers Auction

On Saturday night, I went with fellow Art and Art History majors (not just seniors this year) to the Art Papers Auction at Ponce City Market. It was quite an experience; I had never been to an art auction before, although I knew somewhat what to expect because I went to a contemporary art gallery opening last semester with my Visual Culture class. I expected great people-watching opportunities, good food, and both “good” art and “bad” art. Contemporary art is not a passion of mine, so I was more interested in observing the crowd, rather than the art itself. Personally, I find a lot of contemporary art exhausting because there is so much emphasis on being different and innovative that the technique becomes irrelevant and the content confusing. That being said, there were many pieces that I did enjoy.

It was not as fancy as I had expected. There were some people who went all out in their outfits (one woman wore what looked like a prom dress, covered in glittery pink rhinestones) while the majority wore simple dresses and even some jeans and t-shirts. It was a very relaxed environment, lacking pretentiousness (with the exception of some individuals I observed). Overall, it was a very fun party. There was free food, from local restaurants, and a live band.

Below are some pictures I took at the auction:

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Week Five: Photoshoot

Last Friday I finally got to do the photoshoot with Bridget and Tom. Thankfully, although there was a bit of miscommunication, it all worked out. I showed up at the dance studio around 12pm, to let Tom into the building and help with anything that was needed. There wasn’t much for me to do, so I occupied myself until about 1:45 when dancers started showing up. By then, I started telling people about Showing/Thinking and I passed around the catalogs from previous years for people to look at. It was well-received and I think generated some interest in the show (especially for the first years, who didn’t know what Showing/Thinking was). We then all moved into the main studio where Tom had set up all the equipment and had moved the ladder into the center of the room.

For the actual photo, Bridget was positioned sitting at the top of the ladder – placed at a diagonal – and the dance company was instructed to improvise movement. All the dancers were dressed in black on the bottom and different colors on top. It created a really wonderful contrast with the monochromatic color scheme of the rest of the room (Bridget was dressed in black and the floors were black).

Below are some pictures I took during the photoshoot:

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Week Five: Updates

Last week (well really, last Tuesday) was spent with each student giving updates on the progress of their work with their participants. I caught the flu, so I wasn’t in class on Thursday.

I didn’t have a lot to update for my work with Bridget; I hadn’t done my follow-up meeting with her yet, regarding the layout of the space. I am planning to spend the weekend brainstorming and then meet with her next week. I’m a little apprehensive to start planning out the exhibition space, because I haven’t really had experience doing this before. Mostly I will just be following my gut, placing items where I think they best fit, but I’m not sure whether or not this is a good strategy. Many of Bridget’s objects are large (for example, there is a giant domed play structure that was a prop) so it will be easy to fill up the space. I’ve been thinking about ways to organize the space, since that central gallery is nicely divided into four quadrants. Conveniently, there are four facets of Bridget: notator, teacher, choreographer, and dancer. My plan is to use each of those spaces to represent each of her facets. However, I have a concern that this would look too obvious, like it was too easy since there are four quadrants and four “facets”. For now, I will follow that idea and see what it looks like once I have a clearer view of the exhibit. I may need to tweak it, but that will come later.

The other pieces I have been working on are the posters and the vinyl. I created posters on canva.com, which was fairly easy with some technical difficulties. The color scheme was the reddish-brown color we decided on for the show and the earthy moss green that was runner up. I thought these complemented each other well, and represented the theme of excavation. These are a work in progress, so I will be continuing to edit them this weekend.

Week Four: Interview & Photoshoot Planning

On Tuesday, I was only in class for the last 15 minutes because I met with Tom and Bridget in the dance studio to discuss the upcoming photoshoot. It was a very productive meeting, and we left with a great idea that reflects the importance of Bridget’s role at Agnes Scott and how she has been a constant force in the Dance Department for the last 15 years. We will meet on February 17th at 2:00pm (although I will be there at 12:00pm to help with setting up and doing test shots). The whole dance company will (hopefully) be there, dressed in black on the bottom and various colors on top. We will take the tall, portable ladder in the dance studio, which is important to Bridget’s process, and set it up in the middle of the studio at an angle. Bridget will sit at the top of the ladder, while the company will be below, improvising movement to create a blurred effect in the final image. Bridget was, and still is, nervous about the prospect of a photoshoot so she didn’t have many ideas at the beginning of the meeting. However, she and Tom just began talking in general and from that grew an idea; she is still uncomfortable about it, but she seemed to like the idea we landed on and seems open to playing around with it.

I still need to schedule a follow up meeting just with me and Bridget, in which I want to discuss the list of items that will potentially be in the show. It’s a long list, and although the space she is getting is quite big, I anticipate needing to edit. Most importantly, we want to make sure the exhibit allows for her multiple facets (notator, teacher, choreographer, and dancer) to be shown. Some of the most important objects include the tall ladder which will be used in the photoshoot, a video of a performance, Labanotation scores (probably blown up onto the wall), costume(s), and a chair prop from Bridget’s solo show last year. It seems a little overwhelming right now, but in the end I think her exhibit will be exceptional.

On Thursday, we met in the classroom and provided updates to the class about our progress with our participants. There is a lot to be done before the show opens, but we have an organized calendar and seem to all be on top of our individual duties. As I am doing the vinyl, I took a look at examples of last year’s vinyl lettering. Using that template, I updated it to pertain to this show and will bring a copy to the next class for people to look at. Additionally, as a class, we brainstormed potential promotion ideas. Social media will be important; we discussed using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even creating a Snapchat filter. Also, I thought we should create posters to put up around campus, so yesterday I spent what ended up being about 5 hours creating posters that I will bring into class as well. Lastly, I will write up a press release using one from last year as an example, but adding information about our ART397 class and how we are curating the exhibition this year. There is plenty to do, but our class works well together so I am confident we will have it done in time and create an incredible show.