Posts tagged ‘Performing for the Camera’

An Alternate Reality Check

The ASU Art Museum’s exhibition Performing for the Camera deserves an encore. The exhibition is a collection of large, glossy, striking photographs. This is no mere point-click-shoot scenario; these pictures are scenes, not snapshots of a moment in time. Every crisply displayed image is performance art at its finest. The splendor and exquisite precision of the images illustrates the same dedication and patience as a wildlife photographer entrenched in the jungle waiting for the perfect shot. However unlike the photographer who must ultimately rely on luck, the images in Performing for the Camera are the result of the artists’ talent and ingenuity. These artists have moved beyond the concept of the photographer and his camera as merely operator and tool. By expertly staging the captured image, these artists have used photography as a medium to construct alternate, imaginary worlds inhabited by the beautiful and bizarre.

Moving from one photograph to the next, the viewer will experience anything but the ordinary. Spencer Tunick’s work features hundreds of naked men and women, uniform in their nudity, distributed across the landscape. Individually and unclothed they seem strangely small, lost, and nondescript, but as a collective they form a striking human monument.

Charlie White’s work, titled Sherrie’s Living Room, toys with our sense of intimacy.  White’s photograph mimics a scene common in every home. In a (Sherrie’s) living room a nude couple reclines on the couch, bathed in the warm glow of dim lamplight. He lies on his side brooding and dejected as she comforts him. She is an attractive brunette, he is a humanoid puppet. It is as creepy as it sounds. Looking at White’s work, the viewer can’t help but feel unease and revulsion. The familiarity of this interaction between couples, combined with our perception of the home as a place of privacy and comfort, allows White to create a distortion disturbing to some intrinsic value within us. One can also not help but feel an odd empathy for the puppet. Despite our discomfort, the puppet is just human enough to symbolize the insecurity and alienation equally as intrinsic to us.

Some works in Performing for the Camera also overextend reality into a reflection of our hopes.

Duane Michals’ Grandpa Goes to Heaven is one such piece. This series of slightly unfocused black and white photographs depicts a boy waiting patiently by his grandfather’s bedside. From one photograph to the next, the child’s grandfather, displaying what is unmistakably a pair of wings, rises from bed and waves good-bye to his grandson before departing out the window. In the final shot, the child leans out the window and waves after his grandfather.

The presentation makes the images feel like a half remembered dream one can only hope is true. The old man got to wish his grandson farewell before going to heaven, and the boy, not yet comprehending death, only knows his grandfather is now gone but happy. The child’s innocent acceptance of his grandfather’s quite unusual behavior invokes an odd mixture of hope and melancholia.

This is a story we all wish were true. Yet with age and experience we cannot believe in such a miraculous occurrence like the child can. Do yourself a favor and see it. We might be tired, stressed, and jaded, but seeing Grandpa Goes to Heaven evokes memories of childhood innocence at which we can’t help but smile (even if just a little).

Duane Michals’ Grandpa Goes to Heaven. Courtesy of Stéphane Janssen

– Karen Enters, Intern

March 1, 2012 at 9:23 pm Leave a comment

Notes from Art Basel Miami Beach 2011

I’m starting to emerge from the haze of overstimulation and lack of sleep that is the Art Basel Miami Beach experience. This year Lekha Hileman Waitoller and I from the Museum went with a group from the School of Art that included Adriene Jenik, Director;  two faculty members, Susan Beiner and Mark Pomilio; and eight graduate students from a variety of media,  funded by a local donor. The benefit to all of us — particularly the grad students — is tremendous, as we fanned out all over the city to visit art fairs, private collections, museums, special installations and exhibitions. We noticed a number of trends, in particular painting that utilizes a range of processes and materials, and may not use paint at all, and text-based work diagramming systems and worlds, like the art world or the war.

Here are my highlights:

  • De La Cruz Collection, a spectacular building that rivals any museum and was thoughtfully installed with groupings of international contemporary works, dominated by paintings, that explored media and process
  • Pulse fair, established international galleries who represent edgier contemporary artists, I took copious notes and photos
  • Seven, an offshoot fair/installation by seven New York galleries, with, among other things, a small installation of new drawings and photographs by Anthony Goicolea, who will be in our Performing for the Camera show this spring
  • Bass Museum of Art’s perplexing exhibition of sculptor Erwin Wurm, which stays with me
  • the chance to spend time with work by two of the most important women artists of the twentieth century: at the Miami Art Museum Faith Ringgold’s paintings from the 1960s and 70s exploring race relations, and several installations in the private collections of Ana Mendieta’s performance videos and photographs
  • the main fair, Art Basel, which seemed livelier this year in terms of the art shown and the crowds and had great programs (we saw the Russian installation artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, among others)
  • the video programs in the pods at the main fair — which I immediately photographed for our installation crew — and projected at night outside on one of the largest screens that I have ever seen
  • and, finally, the opportunity to meet and connect with artists, curators, collectors and gallerists from across the country.

–Heather Sealy Lineberry, Senior Curator and Associate Director

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December 12, 2011 at 8:50 pm Leave a comment


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