Earlier this month, we were excited to announce a new year of our Art21 Educators program. This week, we are again pleased to spotlight the first of this year’s selected educators. Hailing from the tranquil Southwestern desert, let’s meet Lynn Grimes and Carol Barker.
Lynn and Carol first met at Turquoise Trail Charter School, a progressive Santa Fe institution long committed to arts education, where Lynn is an art teacher and Carol is a librarian.
Lynn found Art21 when she visited a Susan Rothenberg exhibition at the nearby Georgia O’Keefe Museum. After viewing one of our Rothenberg films, she became interested in the personal perspective given to the artist. “I am fascinated by how artists follow so many different lines of inquiry,” she tells us.
Living off the grid in beautiful Peña Blanca, her love of nature and desire to bring it into the studio quickly led her to other Art21 artists like Kiki Smith, James Turrell, Mark Dion, Walton Ford, and Robert Adams.
As an interdisciplinary teacher, Lynn uses contemporary art to open her mind to innovative approaches to art making. She believes Art21 films can do the same for her students, teaching them to use curiosities in their environment, from toys to animals, as inspiration for their art.
“I was an artist working in a regular classroom first, and I integrated as much art as I could into the grade level curriculum,” she says. “Now I start with art and I work hard to integrate literacy, math, history, culture, and science.”
It was the summer of 2008. It was hot. And humid. Everything was green and/or sweating. People who didn’t sweat stood out. Their reserve both enviable and mysterious—a contrast from everything else. Refuge from the heat was similarly impressive and constantly sought. Most apartment galleries were barely tolerable for their heat. At cooler exhibition sites, visitors inevitably took considerable time examining the works of art on display. That August, Heather Mekkelson had a solo show at an apartment gallery—or what maybe we should call a basement gallery—half a flight downstairs in Logan Square called Old Gold. With its dark 1970s style wood paneling, built-in bar and enough floor space for a pool table, Old Gold looked like an old rumpus room. It was anything but neutral and its unapologetic, undeniable character forced artists to continually incorporate the space into their exhibitions. Mekkelson’s project was no different. Limited Entry was based entirely on the unique environment. And at that particular time, it was significantly cooler than anything outdoors.
In order to access the stairs down to the gallery, one walked through a front gate and around the side of an apartment building. According to rumor, the landlord and upstairs resident did not know Old Gold existed. Being an unpredictable fellow, gallery directors Kathryn Scanlan and Caleb Lyons preferred to keep the professional aspect of their curatorial project discreet. They didn’t advertise much and the only label on the door was composed from Home Depot stickers, appearing more like the absent-minded work of a teenager than anything formally significant. This place was easy to miss.
In the case of Mekkelson’s show, the landlord might not have recognized the installation as art, even if he happened to walk down the steps, through the back door and into the basement space. Mekkelson installed a series of everyday but nevertheless destroyed objects around the room. Observing these objects, he would have assumed they were damaged by water, and as a property owner, would have had to answer a number of questions about how and when whatever flood that damaged so much in the room had taken place. This would have been puzzling because there hadn’t been any real rain to speak of—and yet judging by the extent of the damage (he would have seen a water line around the room that suggested standing water as high as four or five feet) he would perhaps encounter that strange, uncanny sense that this crisis happened outside of his perception. Even the curtains were stained with a water line. He would have heard a whirring fan, presumably to dry out the damp. Aside from two small garden windows, the only light shone from a bright work light, set up on the ground. It reflected in a mirror, which, like the curtains, displayed the same water mark. A broom leaned against a wall, left with seeming purpose—as though its corresponding human went to pick up the phone for a moment. The built-in cabinets and closets stood half open. Once-soaked clothes hung on hangers, spoiled but not yet thrown out, as board games, equally distressed, spilled onto the ground along with a mud-spattered assortment of VHS tapes, a dead radio, an old pulp paperback, and a distended accordion-style file folder. These objects so perfectly mimicked the residue of a flood, it would be almost impossible to describe them as works of art. Particularly if you didn’t know you were standing in a contemporary art exhibition.
In this week’s roundup Ellen Gallagher plays on black vernacular, John Baldessari considers crowds, William Wegmen displays vintage prints, Ai Weiwei addresses his detention, and more.
- Ellen Gallagher‘s first major solo exhibition in the UK is on view at Tate Modern (London). Ellen Gallagher: AxME explores recurring themes in the artist’s work. The title of the show is, according to an article in The Guardian, “a play on the fictional Acme corporation that supplied Wile E Coyote with mail-order gadgets in the cartoon Roadrunner, as well as a reference to the African-American vernacular for ‘Ask me.’” Public programs scheduled in conjunction with the exhibition include “Afrofuturism’s Others” on June 15. AxME is on view through September 1.
- John Baldessari has collaborated with Mixografia on a show at ForYourArt (Los Angeles, CA). Works on view depict individuals gathered together in formation or haphazardly while captivated by the unknown. Soldiers, onlookers, harem girls, and a wide assortment of people become participants in an event that was undoubtedly defined before the artist altered the image. John Baldessari: Crowds runs through June 16.
- Ann Hamilton is half of a two-artist exhibition at the Spencer Museum of Art (Lawrence, KS). Hamilton and Cynthia Schira were commissioned by the museum to create the room-sized works of art in An Errant Line: Ann Hamilton / Cynthia Schira. Using digital technologies to explore the essential nature of cloth and the ways museums organize and maintain material legacies, the artists considered the role of the hand and thread, and the meanings of gesture and notations. The show closes August 11.
- William Wegman has an exhibition at Marc Selwyn Fine Art (Los Angeles, CA). William Wegman: He Took Two Pictures. One Came Out presents the artist’s text-based black-and-white photographs from the 1970s. The show features vintage prints, as well as prints made from recently discovered vintage negatives. The exhibition is on view through July 6.
- The Artist’s Voice: Fred Wilson in Conversation with Lauren Haynes will take place at The Studio Museum in Harlem on May 30 at 7pm. The program will begin as a discussion about Fred Wilson‘s installation Local Color—originally created in 1993 for The Studio Museum exhibition Artists Respond: The “New World” Question—and then make connections between this installation and Wilson’s project Black Now. Seating is limited and RSVP is essential.
As you enjoy this Memorial Day weekend, catch up on these great recent Art21 posts:
Nettrice Gaskins gave us the big stories on Matthew Barney’s upcoming New York Public Library discussion, Lehmann Maupin’s group exhibition Writings Without Borders featuring Barbara Kruger, and Erin Shirreff’s concurrent work at Art Basel Hong Kong and Lisa Cooley in New York.
Word is a Virus | Public Fiction: The Play’s the Thing
Carol Cheh discussed designer Lauren Mackler’s personalized journal and project space Public Fiction.
To Know Is to Touch and Be Touched
Blogger-in-Residence Danielle Sommer continued her exploration of hindsight with the story of art historian Aby Warburg and his curious way of cataloging (and re-cataloging, and re-cataloging) an extraordinary book collection
The Changing Shape of Teamwork
Joe Fusaro expanded upon his previous thoughts regarding teamwork in the classroom and the range of worthwhile collaborators.
Praxis Makes Perfect | Welcome to the Funhouse: Mike Kelley’s “Mobile Homestead”
Erin Sweeny recounted the history of Mike Kelley’s memory-based work in order to consider the late artist’s new installation “Mobile Homestead,” the first of his major conceptual works both open to the public and situated in his hometown of Detroit.
100 Artists | Julie Mehretu
Nicole J. Caruth spotlighted Julie Mehretu and introduced a previously unpublished 2008 interview between the artist and Art21.
NYCU | Erin Shirreff & Tony Smith Go Way Back
Jonathan Munar posted a New York Close Up film featuring artist Erin Shirreff discussing her canonical inspiration for a pair of works: sculptor Tony Smith.
Art21 Access Screenings
Catch Access 100 Artists—the global campaign celebrating a decade of artists in our documentary series Art in the Twenty-First Century—in the gallery of the West Nebraska Arts Center on Sunday, May 26. 1pm refreshments will be served before a 1:30 screening of “Spirituality” and follow-up discussion. “I felt it was important to bring this experience to our community,”said executive director Mason Burbach. Just a hop across the Pacific, South Korea’s Yae-Inn Juen agrees, bringing Art21 films to Seoul for the second time this month! SongEun ArtSpace will be screening their own Korean translations of both “Spirituality” and “Consumption” on May 29th.
Visit www.art21.org/access or contact firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your own Access event no matter what side of the world you live on.
What happens when an image feels more real than the real thing itself?
While deinstalling Sculpture for Snow (2011) in Downtown Brooklyn, artist Erin Shirreff discusses the creation and inspiration for her first public sculpture. Intrigued by book reproductions of the twentieth century American sculptor Tony Smith’s large-scale outdoor works, Shirreff describes visiting an actual Smith sculpture only to realize that there was a lot “more romance and mystery in the image.” In response Shirreff created her first video work, Sculpture Park (Tony Smith) (2006), a black and white video of Tony Smith sculptures revealed by falling snow (actually, tabletop sized cardboard maquettes dusted with Styrofoam in a studio.) In Shirreff’s video, the mysteriously scaled sculptures appear to be both solid three-dimensional forms and fluid two-dimensional apparitions. Shirreff describes how the video served as the springboard for the Public Art Fund commissioned project Sculpture for Snow, on view for a full year in the exhibition A Promise Is a Cloud (2011–12) at MetroTech Commons. Using Smith’s sculpture Amaryllis (1965–68) as a model, Shirreff retains Smith’s signature black metal surface and larger than life scale, but collapses the sculpture’s volume and geometry into thinly drawn, weightless lines. With its pictorial and sculptural qualities intertwined, Shirreff’s Sculpture for Snow is an iteration in the artist’s ongoing exploration of the complex relationship between images and objects.
Erin Shirreff (b. 1975, Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Watch the full film, Erin Shirreff & Tony Smith Go Way Back, below.
100 Artists is a yearlong celebration of the 100 artists who have appeared to date in Art21′s award-winning film series Art in the Twenty-First Century. Throughout 2013, we are dedicating two to three days to each artist on our social media platforms—Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and here on the Art21 Blog. Our current featured artist is Julie Mehretu.
Liminal Squared, a major solo exhibition by Julie Mehretu, is on view at Marian Goodman Gallery in New York. Featured are new large-scale paintings and a group of smaller etchings, many of them bearing Mehretu’s signature sea of marks, erasures, smudges, and architectural tracings.
On the occasion of this show, Art21 has released a previously unpublished interview with the artist. Conducted in Mehretu’s Berlin studio in October 2008, she discusses her process and how several different references might be embedded in just one of her paintings. Here’s an excerpt:
Art21: How much does the viewer need to know? How much of the underpinnings do you wish to reveal?
Julie Mehretu: There are different types of information that go into the picture, depending on the painting, and especially in the work now. In certain paintings that information is very readable and it’s just pure geometry—geometric shapes that mimic architecture. So you look at the structure and you can’t really define anything, but you know that it’s really just created out of geometric shapes. Then there’s other work in which I incorporate a lot of specific architectural plans. As the works progress, the more the information is layered in a way that’s hard to decipher what is what. And that’s intentional. It’s almost like a screening out, creating a kind of skin or layer of just this information that we recognize. So if a building is from Baghdad or New York or Cairo is not so important. I don’t necessarily reveal which building is from which place. It’s more that this information is part of the DNA (that’s how I keep thinking about it) of the painting—part of the ancestral makeup of what it is and the information that informs your understanding or your vision of it.
I’m attracted to images, different types of images, and usually that’s because of what’s going on in the world. And because I used to work with this information more directly, I think I’ve become much more well-versed in the language of architecture. So all of that comes into the work in different ways, but I don’t really spell out exactly that this is, for example, an image from Baghdad. This painting is not a description. I want the work to be felt as much as read.
Read the entire interview here.
Liminal Squared continues through June 22, 2013. See more images from the exhibition after the jump.
The facade is clean and white, and the shutters are a quaint blue. But step across the threshold and any conventional notions of a house are checked at the door. Above ground, an interior with select furnishings features clean white walls and a dedication to flux as a community-oriented space. Descending into the basement, a two-level subterranean space designed for “private rites of an aesthetic nature” unfolds. Rooms intended as working spaces for artists are connected by a series of corridors and ladders; there are no windows or doors. Welcome to Mobile Homestead, conceptual artist Mike Kelley‘s new permanent installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.
The opening this month at MOCAD follows a recent retrospective of Kelley’s work at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Originally conceived as a mid-career survey, the artist’s death in early 2012 prompted the expansion of the exhibition at the newly reopened Stedelijk into a comprehensive survey encompassing over two hundred works from a prolific career spanning more than three decades. Reflecting upon the history of his work in tandem with the recent opening and vexing design of Mobile Homestead, I consider the memory of Mike Kelley—both literally and figuratively.
Back in October, 2009 I wrote a post called Teamwork which focused on the fact that, as educators, we often have to work creatively with others in order to construct meaningful, age-appropriate and fun lessons. The best lessons and units of study are often the product of people working together, including educators, community members, parents, and of course students.
When I look back just four years ago I realize that my experience with collaboration has changed and evolved into other forms. Collaboration today often involves taking steps on the front end of ideas to gain perspective instead of asking for assistance when I am up to my neck. Sometimes when I am excited about an idea for a particular lesson I need my colleagues to help me straighten out the initial planning before I get too involved in what I was originally excited about. Logistics need to be considered first.
Another path to collaboration these days involves getting more information from (and about) my students before planning all of the steps necessary to work through a project or series of lessons. Giving students a larger role in the planning phase, not just in the product phase, has produced significant changes to what I thought were solid ideas. For example, students recently suggested that we expand a unit involving a variety of approaches to printmaking. Instead of stopping at the approaches that were going to be introduced, students suggested adding a layer that involved pushing the definition of what printmaking can actually be. Students wound up printing on a variety of surfaces, not just paper, and realized that the “art” is not just the design itself. The surface that holds the ink completes the picture and can make or break the overall quality and success of the work.
Looking back at the Teamwork post, I realize that collaboration for me today is larger, more nuanced, and involves a broader range of those I work with.
If it’s true that hindsight is more than an action we take from the present, but a conflation of present and past, a moment when time’s fabric bunches and we reach out and touch the object of our sights (pulling it forward), then, following in the vein of philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty, does this object touch us back?
The pathos of the belief in this possibility can be found in the practice of German art historian Aby Warburg (1866–1929), particularly with his library and his final project, Der Bilderatlas Mnemosyne. As an eldest son, Warburg should have taken over the family banking business from his father, but on his thirteenth birthday, he allegedly offered this position to his youngest brother, Max, in exchange for the promise that Max would buy him all the books he ever wanted. Max kept his word.
By 1914, Warburg had amassed somewhere in the vicinity of 15,000 volumes, most of which were related to history, art, psychology, and religion. These volumes became the Kunstwissenschaftliche Bibliothek Warburg—a research institute located in Hamburg that attracted scholars from all over Europe and America—and, eventually, the Warburg Institute, one of the more important art-historical think tanks of the century.
Warburg’s original cataloguing system, however, left many of the visitors to his library overwhelmed. He ordered everything according to what he called “the law of the good neighbor,” physically arranging (and rearranging) the books to critique, refute, or support each other. As a later scholar wrote, “A line of speculation opening in one volume was attested to or attacked, continued or contradicted, refined or refuted in its neighbor.”
The vast majority of artist-run project spaces in Los Angeles tend to be casual and open-ended in nature, their raison d’être generally being to provide an alternative exhibition venue and gathering place for artists and their networks of friends. Standing out amongst this laid-back crowd is Public Fiction, a meticulously conceptualized venture launched in 2010 by curator and designer Lauren Mackler. Existing as both an exhibition/event space and a journal, Public Fiction energetically utilizes a variety of interrelated formats to explore themes and ideas that capture Mackler’s attention; over the last three years, these have included alternative spirituality, manifest destiny, and theatricality and sets, among others.
Rather than the typical setup of the journal acting as documentation or support for the live programming, Mackler has said that the programming initially existed in order to generate content for the journals, which are inspired by influential artists’ publications such as Wallace Berman’s Semina and Tom Marioni’s Vision. Both of those projects essentially collected original, not reproduced, artwork in print form; in the same way, Mackler, who designs the Public Fiction journals herself, attempts to translate live phenomena into print ephemera. The journals reference and collage events that have taken place in the physical space, but they also add other materials to make them into something new.