Posts filed under ‘Artists at the Museum’

Artist Eduardo Sarabia talks treasure hunting, painting, and “Moctezuma’s Revenge”

Eduardo Sarabia is no stranger to the art world—his latest exhibition, “Moctezuma’s  Revenge,” which opened this season at the ASU Art Museum, is just one in a long list of successes for this emerging Mexican-American artist. Sarabia’s work has been shown at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Santa Monica Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Whitney Museum of American Art, L.A. Louver and the New Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as at the 51st Venice Biennale, the 2nd Moscow Biennale and the Istanbul Biennial, among others.

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Sarabia, who grew up in Los Angeles and presently lives and works in Guadalajara, Mexico, uses his artwork to make reference not just to a physical border, but to a dividing line in the identity of one who feels at once familiar with and distant from his or her cultural heritage.

“Moctezuma’s Revenge,” the first comprehensive solo exhibition of works by Sarabia, features more than 40 works of art from both previous and new bodies of his work in a variety of media, including sculpture, painting, video, fiber and works on paper. It is on view at the ASU Art Museum’s 10th Street and Mill Avenue location on ASU’s Tempe campus through April 26, 2014.

Before the exhibition opened, Sarabia sat down with the curator of the exhibition, Julio César Morales, and Brittany Corrales, Windgate curatorial intern and master’s candidate in art history, to talk about his influences, dreams and new work.

JCM: One of your earliest works dealt with the investigation of your grandfather’s treasure map of the mythical hidden treasure of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. Can you talk about the research and events that led to your search for the hidden treasure?

ES: I started researching companies and people who do treasure hunts. There are a lot in the United States, and I was interested in having this set up as a business. I talked to a lawyer friend of mine, who helped me write up a joint-venture agreement for potential investors. I met with them and talked about the project, the evidence and everything that my grandfather left me. They bought shares in my company, which was called Pacific Discovery Group of the Americas. I made stock certificate venture drawings that they purchased. It was an edition of 10 — I figured it was a rough number of what I needed to start the search. I did a round of fund-raising and bought some equipment and just went down to Mexico and started. I was a little bit naïve about going down there and what I was going to find. I met up with a friend of my grandfather who had gone with him on one of his searches, so he pointed me to where we thought the treasure would be, and that’s where we started looking.

BC: You often infuse elements of humor into your work to deal with darker issues. The exhibition title, Moctezuma’s Revenge, is a phrase often used to describe a traveler’s digestive complications upon entering a new country, thought to be a lingering curse from the conquered ruler of the Aztec empire.  What were your reasons for choosing this title?

ES: I think it is a funny phrase, but it is a very strong phrase. For the exhibition, I wanted to make a connection between what has been happening in Mexico in the present, to what happened in the past, using these traditional languages to bring meaning to contemporary culture. I use an anthropological approach to the work that gives it a connection with Moctezuma and the Aztecs — what we know about them and how we are living now. There are beautiful parts of the culture and violent aspects to the culture, as well. So, at one point the title just made sense to me. It was something that I had thought about years ago and was waiting for the right moment to use, and it made sense to do it at an exhibition in Arizona. There is so much friction with the politics with Mexico here in this state. The title will hopefully trigger some kind of emotion. Once you come see the exhibition, you will notice that it has nothing to do with what you thought it would be about.

JCM: In the last year, you have been in residence at the ASU Art Museum’s artist residency program and have traveled several times to Phoenix, developing a new body of work that is influenced by Arizona. Can you describe your findings and how you worked these experiences into your new body of work and artist practice?

ES: One of the first trips I took was during the Turn off the Sun (2013) exhibition [at the ASU Art Museum]. Our friend took us to a ceremonial Yaqui dance in Guadalupe nearby, and it was amazing. It seemed like a mix of various cultures put into these elaborate ceremonies. It gave me a starting point for me to investigate. It had a lot to do with subcultures — the Catholic Church, Yaqui indigenous beliefs, border culture, American popular culture and a mix of things that blew me away. I convinced our friend to do a scouting trip to come back and visit sacred spaces here in Arizona, to look at cave drawings and to explore a little bit within the reservations. We visited a place called Painted Rock. This all inspired my ideas for this show, mixing and matching these traditions with pop and contemporary beliefs that maybe date back a long time ago, maybe not. I was also impressed with the Arizona landscape and its colors. It was a good starting point for some of the drawings in the exhibition.

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JCM: In 2007 you participated in the now-seminal exhibition Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement at LACMA, the first post-Chicano contemporary group show that defined the production of Mexican-American art in the United States. Do you feel the exhibition’s impact changed the perception of your work and if so, how?

ES: I liked the exhibition because I got to meet other artists working in different mediums that I am somehow connected to. Although they are not all defined by their identities, they were doing interesting work that I could relate to, by having a connection within our backgrounds. That was important for me to see — how other artists were dealing with their identities and identity issues.

I was recently asked how my work relates in a Mexican contemporary landscape. I feel that I have a unique point of view because I am very close to both cultures, having grown up in Los Angeles and moved to Mexico. In the United States, I am constantly defending the things happening in Mexico and vice versa. I have to be honest with myself and what is happening. It’s a very particular situation, to be able to defend both sides.

BC: The basis of the paintings in this exhibition are painstakingly detailed photorealist images, which you then drown with daubs of paint, in what some might perceive as a violent defacing of the original images. Can you talk about what inspired this technique? 

ES: My projects are really elaborate. They usually start with a small, simple idea that leads to a trip or adventure — trying to find a treasure, or a feather or a shaman. I document these trips for personal reasons, to remember, and I take a lot of photographs. I have so many photographs in my studio — some are bad photographs that I can’t use for anything else. I started using them as palettes, accumulating these painted images in my studio.

For the Phantom Sightings show, I wanted to create a secret tomb in the museum space. I wanted typical oil paintings hung outside. Oil paintings made sense, because it is what people think of as low art and high art. A giant photorealist painting made sense as a prop, and to have the door to this tomb hiding behind one. I was trying to get the museum to hang a Picasso or something, but they wouldn’t let me, so I made my own paintings. They took on a life of their own. They are completely personal: a representation of my trips, people I met and talked to. They speak to the themes of illusion and reality that I play with in my work. It made perfect sense to make them part of a larger body of work.

BC: Your work often comments on the romanticizing of drug culture to young people. Growing up in LA, did you ever feel a desire to belong to this culture yourself? 

ES: I grew up in Boyle Heights in the projects, so being part of a gang — a romanticized street family — was a big part of growing up. It starts with the simple idea of your friends being protective of their neighborhood. This escalates until you get to larger things. I understand this idea. Growing up in the late 80s and early 90s, rap music was a big part of our lives. Surviving, making money [and] having nice things was what all our friends wanted in this neighborhood. It made sense to me.

When I was young, I was a bit of a nerd. I was always the first one to finish my work in class. My teachers gave me a pen and pencil to distract me and they realized I had some kind of drawing gift. They convinced my parents to take me to an arts conservatory on Saturdays. I didn’t have time to hang out with my friends on the street. I was either going to art classes or playing on the chess team. Some of our close friends growing up have passed away from being in gangs and getting into the drug culture. When both of your parents are working and you grow up in a bad neighborhood, it is easy to get caught up in these things. Art saves lives.

What was surprising when I went to Mexico was that in the narco culture, it wasn’t just little kids growing up listening to the music. When I was growing up, my parents didn’t listen to rap music or grunge. But in Mexico, everyone, young and old, listens to the folk songs. It’s a big part of the broader culture. I’ve never tried to glorify it, but it was a part of a very specific time when I grew up.

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BC: If you were not working professionally as an artist, what would your career be?

ES: With my personality, I am very open to doing and trying new things, and having fun doing it. When I first graduated from school, I was producing a TV show. I directed a few commercials. But I always went back to working on my personal work. There is a lot that I like to produce and share. I opened a restaurant in Guadalajara and a restaurant in Berlin. I have a tequila company, and I am a partner in a Mexican craft beer company. I like to play with a lot of things — it keeps me busy. I have an entrepreneurial sensibility that translates to my work. When I started looking for treasure, it was important that it be a business, a joint venture. The tequila bar in Berlin was modeled after a business. That’s the way I work — my interests move me forward.

All images courtesy of the artist.

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February 19, 2014 at 7:02 pm 1 comment

Moctezuma’s Revenge opens Jan. 25 at the ASU Art Museum

Tempe, Ariz. – “Moctezuma’s Revenge,” the first comprehensive solo exhibition of works by contemporary Mexican-American artist Eduardo Sarabia, opens at the ASU Art Museum Jan. 25, 2014. The exhibition, curated by Julio César Morales, will feature more than 40 works of art from both previous and new bodies of Sarabia’s work in a variety of media, including sculpture, painting, video, fiber and works on paper. Also included in “Moctezuma’s Revenge” is Sarabia’s breakthrough installation, “The Gift,” previously exhibited at the 2008 Whitney Biennial.

Eduardo Sarabia, “La Venganza de Moctezuma,”, 2011, acrylic on paper, 14 in x 17 in (43 cm x 36 cm).  Image courtesy of the artist and Proyectos Monclova, Mexico City.

Eduardo Sarabia, “La Venganza de Moctezuma,”, 2011,
acrylic on paper, 14 in x 17 in (43 cm x 36 cm).
Image courtesy of the artist and Proyectos Monclova, Mexico City.

“Sarabia’s exciting new body of work is in perfect dialogue with Arizona,” explains Morales, “in regards both to the content of the work and to its relationship to the current social climate we are experiencing, from connections to borders, the legalization and trafficking of drugs and identity issues.”

ABOUT THE EXHIBITION

On view in the Lower Level and Lobby galleries at the ASU Art Museum through April 26, 2014, “Moctezuma’s Revenge” will be the largest exhibition to date of Sarabia’s work, as well as a departure from previous exhibitions of the artist’s work in that it will showcase the depth, range and scope of his practice. An opening reception for the exhibition will be held Feb. 14, 2014, from 6:30–8:30 p.m. (with a members, alumni and press preview from 5:30–6:30 p.m.).

Eduardo Sarabia. City in the Clouds, 2013. Oil on canvas, 60 x 75 in. Image courtesy of the artist and Proyectos Monclova, Mexico City.

Eduardo Sarabia. City in the Clouds, 2013. Oil on canvas, 60 x 75 in. Image courtesy of the artist and Proyectos Monclova, Mexico City.

The majority of new work being created for this exhibition is influenced by the artist’s recent visits to Arizona. “From the beautiful distinct light of Phoenix to Yaqui ceremonial dances and to the magical of I’Itoi’s Cave,” says Morales, “Sarabia has translated Arizona into ceramic, video, fiber and works on paper.”

In conjunction with “Moctezuma’s Revenge,” the public has a rare opportunity to collect an edition of one of Sarabia’s ceramic works, made possible by a collaboration with Artspace. Proceeds from the sale of the edition will support the exhibition at the ASU Art Museum.

Eduardo Sarabia, Desert Dreams, 2013. Photo courtesy of the artist and Artspace.

Eduardo Sarabia, Desert Dreams, 2013.
Photo courtesy of the artist and Artspace.

Artspace is an innovative new collecting platform for visual artwork co-founded by Chris Vroom, a well-known patron of the arts and an avid contemporary art collector, that offers limited editions and original works from established and emerging artists and makes them available for sale online while simultaneously supporting international museums, galleries and cultural institutions. For more information or to purchase one of Sarabia’s editions, visit artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/eduardo_sarabia.

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Eduardo Sarabia (b. 1976 ) is a Mexican-American artist who grew up in Los Angeles and presently lives and works in Guadalajara, Mexico. He is best known for his series of hand-painted ceramic vessels that, at first glance, are indistinguishable from the blue-and-white Talavera vases that tourists buy as souvenirs. However, rather than traditional floral and geometric motifs, these vases boast modern hieroglyphs of Mexican and Norteño drug culture such as marijuana leaves, guns, skulls, pin-up models, bottles of liquor, packs of cigarettes, and animals that symbolize specific drugs: the rooster, marijuana; the goat, heroin; and the parrot, cocaine. Sarabia makes reference not just to a physical border, but to a dividing line in the identity of one who feels at once familiar with and distant from his or her cultural heritage.

Sarabia’s interest in the relationship between his cultural roots and his American identity has been a constant theme in his work. Drawing inspiration from the unique and complex zone that divides Mexico from the United States, Sarabia stages intricate scenes infused with light, romanticism, humor and a sense of absurdity. From his liminal point of view, he exposes clichés about Mexican culture in order to question the imaginary borders demarcated by cultural stereotypes.

His work has been shown at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Santa Monica Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Whitney Museum of American Art, LA Louver and the New Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as at the 51st Venice Biennale, the 2nd Moscow Biennale and the Istanbul Biennial, among others.

CREDIT

“Moctezuma’s Revenge” is curated by Julio César Morales, generously supported by the Fran Fee Memorial Fund, and organized by the ASU Art Museum, part of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University.

An earlier variation of this exhibition, “Tainted,” was curated by Adam Lerner and presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, where it was sponsored in part by David Caulkins.

ABOUT THE ASU ART MUSEUM

The ASU Art Museum, named “the single most impressive venue for contemporary art in Arizona” by Art in America magazine, is part of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University.

To learn more about the museum, call 480.965.2787, or visit asuartmuseum.asu.edu.

Hours: 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. on Tuesdays (during the academic year), 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. The museum is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Admission: Free

Location/Parking: The museum is located on the southeast corner of Mill Avenue and 10th Street in Tempe. Metered parking is available in the lot directly west of the museum entrance.

January 7, 2014 at 8:09 pm Leave a comment

Crafting Your Weekend: Art, Craft and Fun at the ASU Art Museum

We’re sure you’ve all been eagerly wondering since the start of the school semester, ”When is the ASU Art Museum going to have another awesome art party? And when are all their cool new shows going to open?”

Well, wait no longer, for the time has come! Hope you’re resting up this weekend, because we’ve got a full schedule lined up next weekend, Sept. 26-28 at the ASU Art Museum, and we want to see your faces there.

If you’re looking for something to do between now and Sept. 26, both Christine Lee and Del Harrow will be in the Museum creating site-specific works for the Crafting a Continuum: Rethinking Contemporary Craft show.

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Christine Lee, “Piece by Piece,” 2013 (detail). Wooden shims, graphite.
Photo: Elizabeth Kozlowski.

Christine Lee started today and will be working through Sept. 26. She’s become a part of our community over the past couple of years as a Windgate visiting artist; she has taught in the School of Art and lived at Combine. She studied furniture making with the legendary Wendy Maruyama, whose show opens at the Museum on the 26th, and takes an innovative approach to working with wood. And ceramic artist Del Harrow will be installing in our lobby from Sept. 24-26, adding to Cabinet #3 (2012).

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Del Harrow, “Cabinet #3,” 2012. Ceramic, luster, wood. Photo: Craig Smith.

Here’s a rundown of all the happenings and can’t-miss events that we’ve got planned for the weekend of the big opening:

Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013: Kick off the weekend with what’s sure to be a great lecture from an internationally renowned artist. Jessica Jackson Hutchins will be at the ASU-Tempe campus as a featured speaker for the Jan Fisher Memorial Lecture Series, which brings established and emerging women ceramicists to the Phoenix community.

Hutchins, who currently lives and works in Portland, Ore., makes reference to everyday rituals and family life in her work, whichplaces her in the rich tradition of artists who combine the personal and the cultural. In her assemblage sculpture, she teases out notions of function and display by creating richly glazed vessels and locating them on top of or inside used furniture, such as armchairs, couches and tables, or balancing them on plinths of her own devising.

The lecture will be held in COOR 174 and begins at 7:30 p.m. It is free and open to the public. A reception with the artist will follow at the Ceramics Research Center.

Jessica Jackson Hutchins, "Venus," 2013. Photo: Nick Ash. Courtesy the artist and Laurel Gitlen, New York.

Jessica Jackson Hutchins, “Venus,” 2013. Photo: Nick Ash. Courtesy the artist and Laurel Gitlen, New York.

Friday, Sept. 27, 2013: Visual artist and Arizona native Paul Nosa joins the ASU Art Museum for a  two-day sewing performance with his Solar Sewing Rover, a portable sewing machine powered by a solar panel or a bicycle with an electric generator. Nosa will create original images, which are machine sewn on fabric patches, using word associations provided by our guests. Nosa’s goal is to inspire people’s creativity and to demonstrate alternative energy sources through his performances. This performance is co-sponsored by the Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU.

Nosa will perform twice on Friday: from noon-1:30 p.m., in the GIOS Breezeway and again from 5:30-8:30 p.m., at the ASU Art Museum front entrance. His second performance will kick start the fall season opening reception, which we’d like to think of as Tempe’s art celebration of the season. The party is from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m., with a special member’s preview at 5:30 p.m. Full details here: https://asuevents.asu.edu/season-opening-reception-fall-2013

Image: Paul Nosa,"Glow-in-the-dark piano on fire." Courtesy of the artist.

Image: Paul Nosa,”Glow-in-the-dark piano on fire.” Courtesy of the artist.

When you’re in the museum for the reception, you’ve got a lot to check out, and you don’t want to miss any of it. Crafting a Continuum: Rethinking Contemporary Craft, Wendy Maruyama: Executive Order 9066 and This Is Not America: Protest, Resistance, Poetics are all new and on view. And, if you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to duck into the Multi-Purpose Room for Plate Silk Stone: Impressions by Women Artists from the ASU Art Museum Print Collection to see a show co-curated by one of ASU’s undergraduate students and research interns, Emma Ringness.

Wendy Maruyama, "Tag Project," full installation view at San Diego State University. Paper, string and ink. Each approximately 11’ x 2’ in diameter, 2012. Photo credit: Kevin J. Miyazaki.

Wendy Maruyama, “Tag Project,” full installation view at San Diego State University. Paper, string and ink. Each approximately 11’ x 2’ in diameter, 2012. Photo: Kevin J. Miyazaki.

Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013: Don’t stay too late at the Museum having fun on Friday, because the day starts bright and early at COOR 174 with the “Flashback Forward: Rethinking Craft” Symposium, which will explore and discuss critical issues facing the field of contemporary craft.  Our keynote speaker is Jenni Sorkin, with a presentation by Guest of Honor Wendy Maruyama, and lectures by artists Garth Johnson, Christine Lee, Del Harrow and Erika Hanson. There’s too much cool stuff (and it’s all free!) happening to list here, but you can view the full schedule, as well as RSVP, for Saturday’s symposium on the event page: https://asuevents.asu.edu/flashbackforward-rethinking-craft-symposium

And, if you missed him on Friday – or just can’t get enough of Paul Nosa — he’s back again on Saturday with another performance from noon – 2 p.m. in the COOR breezeway.

Whew! What a weekend! We can’t wait. And while you’re out enjoying yourselves, don’t forget to tweet and Facebook us your photos.

Jarbas Lopes, "Cicloviaéra," 2006. Osier (natural fiber vine) over bicycle. Photo by Craig Smith.

Jarbas Lopes, “Cicloviaéra,” 2006. Osier (natural fiber vine) over bicycle. Photo by Craig Smith.

September 20, 2013 at 10:44 pm Leave a comment

This Is (Part of) America

This Is Not America: Protest, Resistance, Poetics, on view now at the ASU Art Museum, gives a startlingly fresh look at the intersection of art and social change through allowing works to converse with one another. Curated by Julio César Morales, with assistance from ASU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences graduate student Indira Garcia, the three-part exhibition pairs works from the museum’s collection with those of emerging and established artists in a sort of “question and answer” format.

Part 1, on view now through Nov. 9, 2013, marries a painting by Cuban collective Los Carpinteros with an animated video by contemporary Seattle-based artist Paul Rucker, in an effort to “explore the power dynamics and political implications of oppression,” according to Morales.

“The exhibition title takes a cue from Alfredo Jaar’s seminal 1987 public art video intervention at Times Square in New York City, A Logo for America, a three-part video animation that plays off the notions of ‘America’ and its relationship to citizenship, homeland and borders,” says Morales.

Alfredo Jaar, A Logo for America, 1986

Alfredo Jaar, A Logo for America, 1986

On the east wall of the gallery hangs Dominar Bestias/How to Dominate Beasts, the watercolor painting by Los Carpinteros, whose name “derives from the historical term for skilled slave laborers,” according to Morales. Within the painting we are shown a number of household objects, such as dressers and chairs, shackled to a fence that corrals them, as though they were animals in a paddock. It is unclear whether they are being chained to the fence so that they do not escape, or whether it is the fence that is tied down to these material goods. One begins to wonder who or what is being dominated, and, beyond that, who or what the beasts are.

Across the darkened gallery is Paul Rucker’s video piece Proliferation, projected on the wall opposite the painting. Rucker was inspired to create the piece while at a “prison issues” residency at the Blue Mountain Center in the Adirondacks, when he discovered a series of maps created by researcher Rose Heyer that showed the growth of the United States prison system over time. Rucker, a musician as well as visual artist, created the durational piece from the maps and also composed the original score.

Paul Rucker, Proliferation, 2009

Paul Rucker, Proliferation, 2009

“A word that can refer to healing of a wound through rapid growth of new cells, Proliferation explores the evolution of prisons in the United States through an animated series of colored dots indicating location and number of prisons from 1778-2005,” says Morales. “The incarcerated are a relatively invisible aspect of American society… [but] the United States leads the world in the number of people behind bars.”

To Rucker’s score, each new prison appears on the projection as a dot of color, starting first as green specks and escalating in intensity into brilliant red and orange flashes. While viewing “Proliferation,” one is struck by how quickly the outline of the United States is formed, beginning first with New England, but quickly springing across the map to the West Coast. The colored dots, illuminated against a black background, echo other, similar maps, such as those illustrating light pollution from major cities, or urban sprawl.

As the piece goes on, the green dots begin to merge, turning yellow, and the music takes on a more ominous tone. The dots appear in faster succession, sprawling across the map, until there is no one section that is free of color. They evolve from isolated flashes of yellow into orange and then red masses, joining together with sharp, jolting regularity, like explosions. One feels like a cat, mesmerized, watching a laser dart around a wall. But with this feeling of not being able to look away, to stop chasing the flashes of light, the music suggest something darker, a sinking feeling in the pit of one’s stomach. This is not a game. This is serious.

The two pieces, poised opposite each other in the Americas Gallery on the second floor of the museum, both face off against one another and speak to each other. Their conversation occurs in the space between, where the viewer is invited to sit, to pace and to contemplate.

–Juno Schaser , Public Relations Intern

Part 1 of This Is Not America will close on Nov. 9, 2013, with Part 2 on view Nov. 16 2013 – March 15, 2014, and Part 3, co-curated with ASU MFA students, up from March 22 – June 6, 2014.

Artists include Facundo Arganaraz, Sandow Birk, Los Carpinteros, Juan Capristan, Enrique Chagoya, Binh Danh, Kota Ezawa, Eamon Ore-Giron, George Grosz, Ana Teresa Fernandez, Jon Haddock, Alfredo Jaar, Michael Lucero, Carrie Marill, Sanaz Mazinani, Ranu Mukherjee, Georgia O’Keeffe, Gina Osterloh, Raymond Pettibon, Michele Pred, Ken Price, Jerome Reyes, Paul Rucker, Rene Francisco Rodriguez, Fernando Rodriguez, Lorna Simpson and Adriana Varejão.

 

August 14, 2013 at 11:24 pm Leave a comment

Self-described “printmaking nerd” finds paradise and a perspective shift at the ASU Art Museum

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ASU student intern Emma Ringness at work in the Jules Heller Print Study Room at the ASU Art Museum, Spring, 2013.

ASU School of Art senior Emma Ringness, who will graduate this December with a degree in printmaking, worked with ASU Art Museum curator Jean Makin to put together the exhibition Plate • Silk • Stone: Impressions by Women Artists from the ASU Art Museum Print Collection, which is on view at the Museum through Dec. 8.

In these figurative prints selected from the permanent collection, women artists take on social and domestic issues, as well as themes of history, culture and identity. For more information about the show, click here.

Here’s a post from Emma about her experience working on Plate • Silk • Stone:

For printmaking nerds like myself, there is no denying the thrill of sitting down to work next to a famous print by the French satirical printmaker Honoré Daumier, or viewing Roy Lichtenstein’s interpretation of the Oval Office on a daily basis.

But enough with the nerdiness: Last year I had the pleasure of serving as a research intern in the ASU Art Museum’s Jules Heller Print Study Room under its director, Jean Makin. This glorious place is home to the museum’s print collection (including that Daumier and Lichtenstein), and is heaven for print nerds and art appreciators alike.

As part of my internship, my job was to curate an exhibition of prints by women artists in the collection. This meant going through the many drawers and cabinets in which the collection is stored and getting hands-on with prints from the 16th century to today. It was a humbling experience, and for the first time made me feel connected to something bigger than myself as an artist: both to a long line of female printmakers, and to a cultural discourse in which I am a participant.

Through the process of handling the work, selecting pieces for the show, researching and writing about the artists, I was also given a perspective other than that of the creator — of someone who maintains artwork for future generations. I now fully understand the long-term care and storage required by the print medium, as well as the amount of time and energy invested by museum professionals and art historians to research and share with the public the history and social relevance of work created through the print processes. This perspective shift has, in turn, altered my approach as a creator. The beauty of having an institution like the ASU Art Museum is that this unique learning experience was available to me on campus, and during my undergraduate education — rather than during graduate school or beyond.

I am so grateful to Jean Makin for giving me this opportunity, and to the many people who make the museum’s collection available to the public on a regular basis.

–Emma Ringness

June 28, 2013 at 7:03 pm 1 comment

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

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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.

June 4, 2013 at 7:30 pm 2 comments

Notes from Kosovo: Linking Phoenix and Prishtina

The relationship between Kosovo and the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts owes much to the U.S. State Department’s Junior Faculty Development Program (JFDP), which brought multi-media artist and University of Prishtina faculty member Alban Nimani (pictured below) to Arizona State University, where his faculty host was Intermedia Professor Muriel Magenta. Nimani became involved with the ASU Art Museum’s International Artist Residency Program through a chance encounter with visiting artists Matteo Rubbi, Miguel Palma and me, Greg Esser, at one of Intermedia Professor Gregory Sale’s graduate classes. The rest, as they say, is history.

kosovo alban

On March 26, I met United States Ambassador to the Republic of Kosovo Tracey Ann Jacobson, who was at the University of Prishtina, Faculty of the Arts (Fakulteti i Arteve), to dedicate a new multi-media lab, funded as a partnership between the U.S. Embassy and the University of Prishtina. Nimani wrote and received the grant for the multi-media lab from the U.S. Embassy following his semester-long residency at ASU. Among other initiatives, Nimani is in the process of adding intermedia, public art and a volunteer component to the curriculum at his university based on his experiences at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

kosovo ambassador cutting ribbon

“There is no more important investment a country can make than in the education of its young people, its future leaders,” Ambassador Jacobson said during her remarks.

Jacobson spent time speaking with each of the students in Nimani’s class about the work they were developing on the new state-of-the-art Apple iMac computers the grant provided. Projects ranged from calligraphy to animated film to interactive video games. The facilities in the lab now rival the tools available to students in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

kosovo students

These new tools represent a significant advancement in the resources available to these students to pursue careers in design and the arts.

Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, working with the new iMac computers, Nimani’s fourth-year students continued work on another aspect of Nimani’s grant and another inspiration from Phoenix, Arizona. Nimani and his students are frantically preparing for E premtja e fundit, or Last Fridays, inspired by the First Fridays monthly art events in Phoenix.

kosovo poster promoting first friday

With less than three days to go, students worked to refine projects, social media and a map that locates art projects throughout downtown Prishtina, including Mother Teresa Boulevard, the main public plaza and the pedestrian mall in Prishtina, the capital city. Last Fridays, or E premtja e fundit, is supported in part by the U.S. Embassy, the Municipality of Prishtina and the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the ASU Art Museum. The free public event will feature dozens of temporary public art projects, installations, gallery openings, local musicians and local businesses all working together to bring art outside of the gallery and into the community.

We ended the afternoon with a traditional Albanian meal with Nimani’s father, Shriqy, who founded the Graphic Design Department at the University of Prishtina. Once an award-winning singer and former director of the National Gallery, Shriqy is an avid historian and author focused on Albanian culture and influence around the world, with dozens of published books and scholarly awards. I learned that Mother Teresa, who once took me by the hands and blessed me while I was working at the United Nations, is Albanian. The main road through the heart of Prishtina is named in her honor.

kosovo mother teresa boulevard

As both an artist and curator, I’m excited to be in Prishtina to help shape and advise on the first event of its kind here on behalf of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the ASU Art Museum.

Notes from Kosovo II – Plan B

kosovo snow on rooftops

Waking up on Wednesday morning, I discovered the city covered in snowfall. Most installations have been planned for outdoor locations. With less than 72 hours before the launch of the event, we immediately embarked on contingency planning.

Amid a flurry of radio and television appearances promoting the event, Alban and I visited Pallati i Rinisë dhe i Sporteve, or Palace of Youth and Sports, to determine if it might serve as an alternative location for installations.

kosovo Pallati i Rinisë dhe i Sporteve

Built from 1977 to 1981 under Communist leadership as a public project when Kosovo was part of Yugoslavia, the structure defines the landscape of the city center and contains a massive subterranean shopping complex with restaurants. A large section of the building burned and is currently vacant, providing an ideal canvas for temporary artist interventions. As snow fell on the city, many outdoor projects were relocated to this new venue.

In the afternoon, I provided a lecture for fourth-year students on the impact of the arts in Phoenix, the ASU Art Museum International Artist Residency Program and the Desert Initiative, all of which focus on the power and impact of collaboration and the power of the arts to transform lives.

kosovo students on campus

Posters promoting the event arrived at the Faculty of the Arts following the lecture, and students immediately began distributing them throughout the city. We ended the day at the National Gallery for the opening reception of a retrospective exhibition for deceased artist Engjëll Berisha, also known as Befre. Berisha was one of the early pioneers in building the arts community in Kosovo, a figure similar to artist Philip Curtis in Phoenix, who helped to establish the Phoenix Art Museum.

kosovo gallery opening

*    *     *

The Republic of Kosovo was established in 2008 following protracted ethnic conflict between Serbia and the largely Albanian population. Newly an independent nation with a deep history informed by numerous occupations, including the Roman Empire, 500 years of Ottoman rule (1455 – 1912) and Communist rule as part of Yugoslavia, Kosovo is today focused on a prosperous future and is a warmly hospitable environment for the first-time visitor or long-time friend.

*    *    *

The morning of Friday, March 29 arrived with cold, overcast skies and rain. At around 4 in the afternoon, the clouds broke and sunlight spilled down and began to warm the streets and buildings of Prishtina. As the workday closed, an optimism and energy was percolating throughout the city. With less than three hours to go, students, artists and musicians worked to put the finishing touches on their individual works and the overall event.

kosovo temporary street decorations

*    *    *

As with any group exhibition, the quality, intellectual rigor and execution of the individual artworks varied. Overall, the participants demonstrated exceptional teamwork, collaboration and experimentation. I was tremendously impressed by each of the students who moved outside of the classroom and well beyond their comfort range to create an event that was so much more than the sum of its parts. Works included projected animation, live painting, an interactive Twitter experience, an installation of umbrellas, dance, music, gastronomic work, an installation featuring the preparation and presentation of traditional Albanian foods, murals, a fashion piece made from black plastic bags, an interactive puzzle, a version of Tic Tac Toe with mirrors completing the pieces, transformation of a city bus stop into a representation of the future with sounds from NASA, a light and sound installation in a built environment on Mother Teresa Boulevard and more.

To get the full experience and variety of work, please visit the official webpage, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram sites for the event.

Across the street from the Palace of Youth, nine emerging Kosovo bands performed to a packed house at Punkt. I haven’t witnessed the same level of energy since the early days of the punk movement in the United States, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. There was a range of young musicians with a palpable vibrancy and the first mosh pit I’ve seen in many years.

Notes from Kosovo III – Looking Forward

The headline in Sunday morning’s newspaper in Prishtina translates to “Last Fridays designs the future.”

The story, profiling the event, describes the energy and work of the students as well as the potential for the event to grow. Again acknowledging the numerous partners that made the event possible, including the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, the story captured the impact that the students had, and will have, through their participation.

With the event behind us on Saturday, Nimani and his family graciously shared their insights on more of the region. We spent the weekend visiting the National Gallery of Albania in Tirana, the national enthnographic museum and the museum of Skanderbeg, one of Albania’s national heroes, in the mountain town of Krujë, and the seaside port city of Durres. We ended the weekend with a round of bowling at the Taiwan complex in Tirana in honor of the Phoenix art bowling group that frequently hosts ASU’s international visiting artists.

kosovo The mountains above Krujë, Albania.

Overall, this was a beautiful journey, if too short, hosted perfectly by Alban Nimani and his family and colleagues. I look forward to returning again soon to Prishtina to see how the E premtja e fundit event evolves and watching the progress of the students who were part of this first event. Nimani, in turn, looks forward to continuing his relationship with Arizona State University and seeing the event expand to other cities in Kosovo, Albania and other parts of Europe.

When you plan your travel to Kosovo, be sure to include a Last Friday in Prishtina. It will be rewarding.

Faleminderit (thank you), Kosovo!

Links:

As part of his residency with the Herberger Institute, Nimani composed short soundtracks for YouTube videos on two projects supported by the Herberger Institute, including Valley of the Sunflowers and Desert Initiative:

Valley of the Sunflowers

Desert Initiative

And see more pictures here:

Official Embassy photos

 Photos by Greg Esser

–Greg Esser is director of the Desert Initiative, which is housed at the ASU Art Museum in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

April 1, 2013 at 10:12 pm Leave a comment

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