Archive for March, 2013

Recent NY Times article recognizes social practice art – something we know a thing or two about!

Last week in The New York Times, Randy Kennedy, arts writer, took a look at something the ASU Art Museum has been thinking about for many years: socially engaged practice.

In an article entitled “Outside the Citadel, Social Practice Art Is Intended to Nurture,” Kennedy examines the history and current exploration of social practice, whose “practitioners freely blur the lines among object making, performance, political activism, community organizing, environmentalism and investigative journalism, creating a deeply participatory art that often flourishes outside the gallery and museum system.”

“Leading museums have largely ignored it,” Kennedy writes, “But many smaller art institutions see it as a new frontier for a movement whose roots stretch back to the 1960s but has picked up fervor through Occupy Wall Street and the rise of social activism among young artists.” He highlighted museums such as the Hammer Museum, the Walker Art Center, and the Queens Museum of Art, all of which are working to extend their reach in the socially engaged practice sphere.

ASU Art Museum has been focused on socially engaged practice for more than 5 years, with the launch of our Social Studies initiative in 2007, which provides opportunities for artists working in various media to interact creatively and collaboratively with students, other artists, and faculty and community members. The social interaction of the museum-as-artist’s-studio setting encourages participants to explore new avenues of creativity and ultimately enhance their understanding of their world and each other.

The museum has hosted several social practice artists to date as part of the Social Studies initiative, including Jarbas Lopes, Anila Rubiku, Jillian MacDonald, Gregory Sale, Jennifer Nelson and Julianne Swartz, among others.  In 2012, the museum launched a new social practice speaker series as part of the Socially Engaged Practice Initiative at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and welcomed artist and dancer Elizabeth Johnson as the new Coordinator for Socially Engaged Practice for the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. Johnson is building a socially engaged practice certificate/focus at HIDA, and is housed at the ASU Art Museum  because of the museum’s work in this area.

Finger Dance between mothers and daughters

Above: Elizabeth Johnson, second from left, takes part in the “Mother-Daughter Distance Dance” at the ASU Art Museum on April 2, 2011, as part of Gregory Sale’s exhibition It’s not just black and white.

If you’re curious about the history of the museum’s dedication to socially-engaged practice, take a look back at some of our blog posts showcasing the art and artists we’ve had the pleasure of working with: https://asuartmuseum.wordpress.com/category/social-studies-collaborative-projects/

For Kennedy’s full New York Times piece, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/arts/design/outside-the-citadel-social-practice-art-is-intended-to-nurture.html

–Juno Schaser, PR Intern

March 28, 2013 at 8:55 pm Leave a comment

Artist-in-Residence Christine Lee encourages artistic and sustainable consciousness

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Visiting artist Christine Lee stands next to one of her pieces at the gallery at Combine Studios, in downtown Phoenix. Photo by Elizabeth Kozlowski.

Christine Lee takes in the disregarded, salvages the thrown away and harbors the excess. For this wood-based artist, the original intention of a material is only a hint of a much more meaningful possibility, making Lee’s artwork a process-driven venture and a thorough material investigation.

Lee’s work crosses back and forth between sculpture, furniture, woodworking and installation. As part of the ASU Art Museum’s Crafting a Continuum series, Lee has given public lectures, taught classes and installed her own work at Combine Studio in downtown Phoenix.

The Crafting a Continuum series is sponsored by a Windgate Charitable Foundation grant, which has enabled the museum to attract and support craft-based visiting artists, such as Lee, who incorporate new ideas and technologies into their artwork.

“I think they were interested that I was working with a range of composite material and creating functional and sculptural work,” Lee said. “I feel like they both can happen in the same studio space.”

Lee’s work stretches the standard associations and intended functions of ordinary materials. According to Lee, people now are looking at the material and how it is being used, but not in a way to determine which medium is better than another: “It’s not so much about the end result of what you make but how you take that material and transform it. It’s the process and where it goes.”

In this sense, public perception of what is craft art and what is fine art is changing. Lee says she believes the line between the two will either significantly blur or be completely nonexistent in the future. “People realize it’s not so much about categorizing everything,” she said. “It’s more about seeing what can happen when you start weaving things together.”

Last month Lee put together Piece by Piece, an exhibition at the ASU International Artist Residency facility at Combine Studios, in downtown Phoenix, for which she stacked slender individual pieces of wood to fan out over an entire wall. No glue, no nails — just balance. This wasn’t her first endeavor for a project like this, however. In other galleries she has created similar works on walls, spanning up to 26 by 12 feet.

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A closer look at Lee’s work. Photo by Elizabeth Kozlowski.

With her own art, Lee strives to create substantive art that is both useful and aesthetic. She added, “It seems these days there’s more exciting work out there that straddle those areas.”

Lee finds potential in material that people casually throw out, a trait she attributes to her family’s concern about not wasting and appreciating the value of things.“We would reuse things like aluminum foil and we wouldn’t throw it away unless we absolutely knew we couldn’t use it,” she said. “And that stayed with me. I’m always very conscious about what I use and if someone throws away a scrap, I’m like, ‘That’s perfectly usable.’”

As part of her residency  Lee taught a class for the Fall 2012 semester — ART 494/598, Sustainable Wood Art, an upper division seminar in the wood program of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts — which she is teaching the Spring 2013 semester as well. Lee’s students use composite boards formed by collecting sawdust and fibers and putting the raw materials into processing chambers. Prototypical, a show on view in December and January in Wrigley Hall, home to ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability and School of Sustainability, highlighted work Lee’s students made using a patent-pending interior composite panel developed by Lee and research engineer John F. Hunt of the USDA Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory. The panels are naturally bonded without an adhesive binder such as urea or phenol formaldehyde and are biodegradable.

What Lee enjoys most about teaching is watching her students as they grow to understand the process and connect with what they make. “Teaching for me is really exciting because I like the dynamics between interacting with people who are very excited about learning something new, and I also like watching them kind of see that transformation of material happen,” she said.

By encouraging recycling and reuse, her students have initiated a sustainable practice in their work. Peter Held, the curator of ceramics at the museum, said the students’ work has evolved as they applied the lessons they learned in Lee’s clas: “ [She] is not only a talented and innovative artist but is exploring the intersections of art, craft, design and application of new materials in her artistic practice.  This interdisciplinary approach to the arts is an important initiative for the museum. When Lee taught the wood class, she brought fresh ideas and techniques to the students.”

Lee at Combine Studios, in downtown Phoenix. Photo by Elizabeth Kozlowski.

Lee at Combine Studios, in downtown Phoenix. Photo by Elizabeth Kozlowski.

Maren Romney, a senior sculpture major and former student of Lee, explained she more consciously considers the materials she uses when making art after taking Lee’s class.  “[Her] class… helped me to understand what I can do on an individual level,” Romney said. “She really did a great job of creating discussions about the importance of sustainable design and living and brought up points from multiple points of view, which I really appreciate.”

Romney added she feels privileged to have taken a class under Lee’s direction, and she hopes Lee makes Arizona a permanent home.

During her time in Phoenix and Tempe, Lee has found a wealth of possibilities.

“I feel like there is so much to tap in here,” Lee said. “I just felt it was very serendipitous that I could be here working on this.”

Mary Grace Richardson

To see more images of Christine Lee’s show at Combine, visit the ASU Art Museum International Artists Residency at Combine Studios Facebook page.

March 11, 2013 at 7:15 pm 3 comments


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