Posts filed under ‘Art Trips’

Experiments with robots, machines and conditions: Juan Downey’s Invisible Architect

Last week at work, I had to find and compile images (and the necessary credit lines, of course) for an online slideshow presenting some of the works of Juan Downey. The cool part? Once I was done, I got to go look at the works in person.

In case it wasn’t already obvious, I work at the ASU Art Museum, which is currently exhibiting Juan Downey: The Invisible Architect, the first U.S. museum survey of Chilean artist Juan Downey’s work. There are three whole galleries worth of his work here, one on each floor, but unfortunately I only had time to properly appreciate two.

Now, I might not be someone exactly qualified to comment on art (I’m a marketing and economics major, very boring), but Downey’s work is awesome. The gallery on the first floor contained some of Downey’s more technical pieces, sketches and drafts of his experiments in performance art examining the interactions between man and machine. I was amazed by the depth of the contrast.  Downey documents his inquiries into invisible energies existing in human-machine communication in the crisp, precise detail of an architect’s draft, but done with such simple mediums, color pencil and graphite.

Downey’s projects are complex investigations and experiments with robots, machines, and conditions. Yet, such seemingly intricate, technical undertakings are juxtaposed against the simple, even humble, but loving detail he used to document them. His sketches, as I mentioned, are done on paper with pencil, and while devoid of much color and punctuated with Downey’s scribbles and annotations, still retain a perfect feel and respect for space and position, nothing random, everything with a purpose.

Three pieces by Juan Downey: "Inside the Robot," "Follows People and..." and "...and Breathes Stuffy Air on Them," all 1970, all colored pencil and graphite on paper, all courtesy of Marilys B. Downey.

While interactions between man and machine and invisible energies seem as though they could easily be boring, high-brow and scientific, they’re not. Downey’s innovative sense of whimsy avoids anything detached and pretentious. My personal favorite is Downey’s transcription of Pollution Robot, decomposed into three pieces: Inside the Robot, Follows People And….., And Breathes Stuffy Air On Them.

If the names of the works are amusing, then Downey’s performance of Pollution Robot must have been even more so. In Pollution Robot, Downey hid himself within a robot box, followed people, and breathed stuffy air on them. I loved it, the lack of pretention in the names and the act, that Downey himself was in the robot following people, and the fact that in the robot, Downey’s main purpose was, rather than anything else one could imagine, to follow people and breathe stuffy air on them. It makes the complexity of the themes explored in Downey’s performance accessible and entertaining.

Unfortunately, I am now out of time and space, and I didn’t even get to mention the exhibition in the second gallery featuring some of Downey’s more traditional (but still far from it) art. But hopefully, that’s another story for another day, or another blog post for another day at work.

Karen Enters, PR and Marketing Intern

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October 13, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Contemplating security from very different perspectives – Securing a free state: The Second Amendment Project

Thursday, October 13 marks the first field trip for Securing a free state: The Second Amendment Project, currently underway at ASU Art Museum. Jennifer Nelson’s Social Studies project, which focuses on security, takes us to two sites that will force us to contemplate security from very different perspectives.

On Thursday, we will visit Artificial Limb Specialists (2916 N. 3rd Street, Phoenix, AZ 85012) at 6:30 p.m. for a tour of the design facilities where custom prosthetics are made.

An individual who lost a limb  and uses a prosthetic will speak with us about how he inhabits his limb, what the prosthetic means for him emotionally, and his feelings of security or vulnerability with the limb.

On Sunday, October 23 at 11 a.m. we will visit a sniper training school that provides realistic training opportunities for individuals in law enforcement, military as well as civilians. We will observe a group of students as they go through their final exercises in sniper training and will discuss the topic of security from the perspective of someone who is prepared to encounter and deflect threats. The address for this field trip will be provided only to those who sign up to attend the tour. Car pools to the facility can be arranged.

Space for both fieldtrips is limited—for questions, or to sign up for either, please contact the project’s curator, Lekha Hileman Waitoller at lwaitoll@mainex1.asu.eduor 480-965-0497. Attendance to both field trips is suggested in order to more
fully understand the dialogue unfolding in Securing a free state.

–Lekha Hileman Waitoller, Interim Curator

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Photos by Jennifer Nelson.

October 12, 2011 at 9:12 pm

Opportunities to participate — Securing a free state: The Second Amendment Project – Jennifer Nelson, Social Studies 7

Photograph courtesy of Sean Deckert.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jennifer Nelson’s Social Studies residency at the ASU Art Museum has been going for about two weeks and we’ve already been to two shooting ranges, a sniper training school and a prosthetics design facility. As if this weren’t enough firsts for me, I also, in a trust-building exercise, allowed a SWAT team commander to lead me around a gallery with my eyes closed (although I cheated when I noted that I was being led into a dark corner). This project is shaping up to be a huge learning experience with nary a dull moment, and we have barely begun.

Securing a free state: The Second Amendment Project is the second in a nonconsecutive series of projects by Jennifer Nelson on the Bill of Rights. While the Second Amendment is commonly thought about only as “the right to bear arms,” Jennifer selected another clause as her starting point for the project: “the security of a free state.”

Throughout the residency, group conversations, field trips and a public panel will engender a dialogue about security—how individuals find it and how we, collectively, think of it. Contemplating private and public security gives rise to a host of complexities, which and can at times seem incompatible. This dynamic negotiation of rights between the public and the private is what this project considers; in fact, it is what Jennifer’s body of work usually considers. (Read about her collaborative project Limerick Cookbook for an example.)

Jennifer, her husband and collaborator, Dimitri, and I have been laying the ground work for this project, which has taken us to the sites mentioned above. This past Saturday and then again next Saturday (October 8 and 15) are the first public opportunities for community members to come to the Museum and take part in the project. From noon-1:30 next Saturday, as we did this past Saturday, we will think about security through activities and conversations that are facilitated by two martial artists, an NRA certified firearms instructor and a trauma therapist.

Check out the full calendar of events below, which will continue to grow as the project develops. (We’ll be updating this blog with new opportunities and events as they arise.)

Lekha Hileman Waitoller, Interim Curator

CALENDAR OF EVENTS:

SATURDAYS IN THE GALLERY: On Saturday, October 8 and 15, members of the public have the opportunity to work with Jennifer from noon-1:30 p.m. These times provide a chance to explore martial practices and therapeutic exercises as we examine strategies for achieving personal security, and ponder what that means in a collective context. Visitors will work in a small group with a martial artist, a shooter and a trauma therapist specializing in somatic treatments to develop choreographies of self-defense and recovery.

Please wear loose-fitting clothes and athletic shoes, and because the gallery is chilly, some may want to bring an extra layer. Please arrive on time and plan to stay for 90 minutes.

PANEL DISCUSSION:
On Saturday, October 22 at 1:00 p.m. we will have a public panel with rotating moderators in the gallery for a discussion of the question: How do people find security? Come prepared to participate in what promises to be a lively discussion.

FIELD TRIPS:

A series of field trips will consider the link between the mind and its extension beyond the body. These include a visit to a prosthetics maker and fitter, which will be thought of as sites where sculpture is made and where one is driven by the need to feel physically whole after a violent interruption of their bodily integrity. The other is a trip to a sniper training facility, which will be considered a performative space where defensive security is practiced.

To sign up for the field trips, please contact Lekha Waitoller at 480-965-0497 or lwaitoll@mainex1.asu.edu

  • Thursday, October 13, 6:30 p.m.: a visit to Artificial Limb Specialists in Phoenix, where we will tour the prosthetics design facility and speak with an amputee who will share his experience about the physical transformation he has been through.
  • Sunday, October 23, 11:00 a.m.: a tour of GPS Defense Sniper School to understand the physical and psychological training for snipers.

This exhibition is supported by a grant from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

The project was initiated by John D. Spiak and is curated by Lekha Hileman Waitoller.

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October 10, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Meet Diablo

Diablo the anaconda has finally arrived.

He wasn’t thrilled about being moved, and released an indescribable smell to express his displeasure, but he is now safely installed in his enclosure on the third floor, as part of an installation by Juan Downey titled “Anaconda Map of Chile.” It’s an important piece, and it’s never been shown in the U.S. the way the artist intended; because of Downey’s point about the Anaconda Copper Mining Company’s role in the downfall of Salvador Allende and the installation of dictator Augusto Pinochet, the piece was censored more than once.

Diablo, front and center. Photo by Anne Sullivan.

Diablo is a 6-foot Eunectes notaeus (Yellow Anaconda), on loan to the Museum from the Phoenix Herpetological Society, a non-profit reptile education and conservation group. He was rescued by his current owner, Russ Johnson, who is president of the Phoenix Herpetological Society, when he was just about year old. Diablo’s enclosure is heated, and is one-and-a-half times larger than his cage at the Society, giving him more room to stretch out, although he likes to spend most of his time coiled up. During his stay at the Museum, two staff members of the PHS will come regularly to care for him.

Native to tropical South America, anacondas are members of the boa constrictor family and are the largest of the snakes of the Americas. Yellow Anacondas live about 15 to 20 years and grow to be 8 to 12 feet long. Diablo is a young snake, probably 8 or 9 years old, and his diet consists of rats. In the wild, anacondas eat fish, alligators, birds, small deer and large rodents. The anaconda can unhinge its lower jaw, allowing it to swallow animals whole after squeezing them to death with its powerful body.

At the time of his rescue, Diablo belonged to a young man who had purchased him from a local pet store but didn’t know anything about anacondas. Diablo had grown very sick, so someone contacted Russ, who nursed Diablo back to health. It took almost two years. “It was a labor of love,” Russ says.

Now Diablo’s skin is the right color and is iridescent, as it should be. Russ notes that under normal circumstances, people should not own anacondas, but because Diablo was born in captivity, it is against international regulations to release him back into the wild. So Russ will always take care of him.

The museum is grateful to Russ and to the Phoenix Herpetological Society for helping us make sure that Diablo is well cared for during his stay at the ASU Art Museum.

Tonight at 6 p.m., Marilys Belt de Downey, director of the Juan Downey Foundation, will speak with Curator Valerie Smith about her late husband’s work, including “Anaconda Map of Chile,” followed by our Season Opening Reception from 7 to 9 p.m. We hope you’ll come visit Diablo during the course of the season, to see the significant role he plays in the Juan Downey retrospective here at the Museum. If you do, we ask only that you please refrain from touching or tapping on his enclosure. He won’t enjoy that. As a preschool teacher we know tells her students, “Touch with your eyes.”

September 30, 2011 at 10:55 pm 1 comment

Meeting Meredith

Meredith working on the upcoming photography show.

We first met Meredith Bonnett in the Introduction to Museum Education class taught in the Museum, around our exhibitions and programs, by me and Curator of Education Andrea Feller. Meredith returned the next semester as curatorial intern working with me on the curatorial concept for an exhibition of contemporary photographs where performance is a part of the creative process. The international artists use elaborate costumes, large groups of people, theatrical sets or cinematic techniques to tell enigmatic stories in a still image. Most of the works are drawn from the extensive photography collection of Stéphane Janssen, and Meredith, a double major in Art History and Museum Studies, has done the bulk of the organizational work behind the exhibition.

That hasn’t been her only project. She extended her internship into the summer and has helped research and plan our patron trip to London this fall. We have pored over maps and sent off scads of emails as we work on an itinerary that focuses on contemporary art galleries, museums and studios, and goes beyond the obvious to explore the international work being made and presented in this great city. What I didn’t know when I asked Meredith to work on this project was that she would be attending Sotheby’s Master’s of Art Business program in London this fall. So now she goes as an expert on the contemporary art scene AND she will join us on some of our appointments in London, including the Feast on the Bridge by artist Clare Patey. (Watch for a large and ambitious project with Clare at the ASU Art Museum in the future!)

Meredith just got her visa and has her travel plans set. Now she’s trying to find a flat. She has taken full advantage of the opportunities at the ASU Art Museum and has been a great member of our team. We will miss her but look forward to following her career in the field.

–Heather Sealy Lineberry
Senior Curator and Associate Director

August 11, 2011 at 5:39 pm

16+ AMAZING YEARS! – A THANK YOU FROM JOHN SPIAK

After 16+ years with the Arizona State University Art Museum I have announced my departure.  I have been fortunate to receive an offer to lead the vision of an institution in Southern California for which I cannot pass up.


(image: Grand Central Art Center)

My new role will be Director/Chief Curator of the California State University, Fullerton, Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, CA.  Located in the historic Grand Central Building (1924) of Downtown Santa Ana, the institution houses a large gallery space, a project gallery, retail space, an 85-seat theater and classrooms.  Another key attraction of the space is the second floor, which houses twenty-seven MFA student apartments with functioning artist studios for each resident on the main floor.  The institution also houses an artist-in-residence apartment and studio with an on-going international residency program.


(image: Grand Central Art Center, CSUF MFA Apartments, Santa Ana, CA)

If you are not yet familiar with the institution, here is a link with some details on the Grand Central Art Center:
http://www.grandcentralartcenter.com/aboutus.php

The added bonus to this venue is its location, in the heart of a very active and involved community with great diversity of culture, vision and influence, just five minutes from where I grew up.  It will allow me to hit the ground running, knowing the lay of the land, as well as local peer institutions and colleagues with which I am excited to collaborate.

And if that isn’t enough reason to visit, here is another…

Grand Central Art Center with present a solo exhibition with artist George Herms during the Pacific Standard Time exhibitions throughout Southern California:


Chaos’ Job…Restrain Order
September 3 – October 16, 2011
http://www.grandcentralartcenter.com/ArtGallery_gcartgallery.php?id=365

I will begin my new role on September 6th, so if you find yourself in the Southern California area, please let me know so we can connect and I can provide you a tour of the Grand Central Art Center.

My new contact information will be:

John D. Spiak
Director/Chief Curator
Grand Central Art Center
125 N. Broadway
Santa Ana, CA 92701
t. 714.567.7233

Thank you to everyone who has made this journey so wonderful – the artists, students, collectors, community leaders, docents, funders, friends and colleagues. I need to especially give my full gratitude and thanks to Marilyn A. Zeitlin, Heather Sealy Lineberry and Gordon Knox, who provided me with support, guidance and trust, allowing me to curate projects through my vision.

My very best to you,

John D. Spiak
Appointed Director/Chief Curator, CSUF’s Grand Central Art Center, Santa Ana, CA

August 4, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Adventures in curating, or “The Invisible Architect”

 

Juan Downey, “Anaconda Map of Chile,” 1973. Photo by Harry Shunk, courtesy of the Juan Downey Foundation.

Just back from a trip to the East Coast to research several upcoming exhibitions and projects. My first stop was the MIT List Visual Art Center to visit the Juan Downey exhibition, The Invisible Architect, which the ASU Art Museum will be presenting this fall. It is a fascinating and complex body of work by a Chilean-born artist who experimented with new technology and its role in our society beginning in the late 1960s. Downey (1940-1993) worked with a number of artists from that period, including Gordon Matta-Clark and Bill Viola, on interactive performances and videos. Much of his early work explored the invisible connections between and among humans, the body and the built environment .

Later he started to explore issues central to his personal history and experiences. In the mid 1970s, he and his family lived for several months with the Yanomami Indians in the Amazon, arriving by canoe with their art materials and video camera. Downey made ironic, pseudo-documentary videos that critiqued Western anthropological approaches.

The sleepers in the exhibition are the beautiful paintings and drawings, many of them maps of the Americas or fantastic architectural structures. The show was featured in Artforum’s summer preview issue; after showing here in Tempe, it will travel to the Bronx Museum.

Ever since my return, I have been working with the rest of the curatorial team to plan for the installation of The Invisible Architect in three of our galleries. We are juggling multiple videos, installations — and an Anaconda.

You never know where curatorial work will take you…more soon.

Heather Sealy Lineberry
Senior Curator and Associate Director,  ASU Art Museum

July 20, 2011 at 11:34 pm

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