Let there be light — and dark: “Turn off the Sun” at the ASU Art Museum

June 4, 2013 at 7:30 pm 2 comments

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Each piece in the exhibition Turn off the Sun, on view at the ASU Art Museum through Sept. 7, packs tremendous heat, power and impact. Drawn from La Colección Jumex in Mexico City, an incredible private contemporary art collection of about 2,600 works, Turn off the Sun displays two dozen of these searingly honest and beautiful pieces. This is only the second time that any of the Jumex collection has been shown in the United States.

The exhibition title did not come about from a concentrated brainstorm though, but rather from joking about the weather. During Jumex director Patrick Charpenel and curator Michel Blancsubé’s site visit to the ASU Art Museum in the summer of 2012, the two started an ongoing joke about how someone needs to “turn off the sun.” When curator Julio César Morales joined the staff in the fall and heard it, he pointed out how that’s not necessarily a joke—that’s a great name.

“When I heard this phrase, I thought it was a brilliant title, and the more it was discussed by myself and Heather Sealy Lineberry, the more we thought the title really connected with artworks in the exhibition and addressed ideas of site, adaptability and physical displacement,” Morales said.

ASU Art Museum senior curator and associate director Heather Sealy Lineberry said the museum staff became interested in the social and political implications of brining the contemporary art collection from Mexico to Arizona and how the content of the work would shift just by the very nature of having it here.

The artworks address several types of issues between Mexico and the United States, among them borders, landscape, lines, labor, politics, economics, faith and awareness.

One example is “Cuando La Fe Mueve Montañas” (“When Faith Moves Mountains”) by Francis Alÿs, a conceptual performance artist. In the multimedia installation, the artist has a group of people move a mountain with shovels to create a line, like a curious border. Another is “Security Fence” by Liza Lou, which explores dark psychological spaces of violence and confinement. Santiago Sierra’s artwork “3000 holes of 180 x 50 x 50 cm each” is a triptych of three photographs and a performance piece that he created while in southern Spain, looking across to North Africa where many immigrants come into Spain. On video Sierra highlights matters of struggle and immigration by showing the 3,000 shoveled holes, mostly dug by Senegalese and Moroccan day workers over the course of a month with a Spanish foreman overseeing the labor.

“These three pieces pulled at our imagination and were tremendous anchors for what we wanted to do with the exhibition,” Lineberry said.

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liza lou smaller by craig smith

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In an interview with San Francisco Arts Quarterly, Blancsubé also explained, “I generally don’t choose a theme and then look for artworks to sustain or feed it… I am seduced by artworks and imagine funny games between them. The theme or the discourse comes after or during the construction, and in a way it is suggested by the artworks themselves.”

Along with the choosing of the exhibition title, another unexpected aspect of Turn off the Sun is that there are no labels next to the pieces. Instead, there is printed material at the entrance of every gallery space that includes technical information, biographies and further text about the artistic process of all the artworks. This allows people who want to make their own relationships with the work to have that possibility. With each exhibition, the museum experiments with how to provide information for the visitor, and different kinds of exhibitions warrant different information systems.

Blancsubé said the information related to the artworks is accessible for curious visitors, “but not having plaques plugged on the wall near the artworks allows visitors to have a first approach of the artworks on their own without receiving from the beginning glasses that oriented their viewing.”

“We thought the design and artworks look so clean and beautifully installed that labels would interrupt the artwork itself,” Morales said. “I was more interested in the audience having a visceral experience of the work and engaging with it without any other materials to distract from that experience.”

Though some visitors are more comfortable with text panels, many are pleasantly surprised and enjoy the practice of making their own connections with the works.

Lineberry said she sees people relating to the artworks and broadening their thoughts about the border: “I think a lot of people are coming away with a pretty amazing experience of the works individually and the process of piecing them together as a narrative in their minds.”

–Mary Grace Richardson

Images, from top: “Overpass,” by Jeff Wall; “Cuando La Fe Mueve Montañas” (“When Faith Moves Mountains”), by Francis Alÿs; “Security Fence,” by Liza Lou, and “3000 holes of 180 x 50 x 50 cm each,” by Santiago Sierra. All photos by Craig Smith.

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Entry filed under: Art + Performance, Art Events, Artists at the Museum, ASU Art Museum, ASU Art Museum International Artist Residency, ASU Art Museum Press, ASU Art Museum special events, ASU Art Museum: Behind-the-scenes, Ceramics Research Center, Exhibition Openings, People at ASU Art Museum, Random Acts of Art, Uncategorized, video art. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bill Trantham  |  August 26, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    Visceral is the word…the viewer is affected emotionally and physically before ever focusing on the artwork. Cudos.

    Reply
  • 2. edgarcrider  |  June 8, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    Beautiful museum. Looking forward to visiting. whether I agree with every part of it or not.

    Reply

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