Posts filed under ‘Re-Thinking’

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

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

Penny for your thoughts: ASU Art Museum Spring 2013 Season Opening Reception

On Friday, Feb. 8 we celebrated the season opening for our spring shows: Cu29: Mining for You, a collaboration between Matthew Moore (Phoenix) and Clare Patey (London); Traces of Japanese Life: Selections from the Melikian Collection; and, at the Ceramics Research Center, Born of Fire: The Pottery of Margaret Tafoya and a companion show, Re: Generation: A Survey of Margaret Tafoya’s DescendantsWe also said farewell to artist-in-residence Miguel Palma, from Portugal, whose exhibition Trajectory closed Feb. 9.

Thanks to everyone who made the shows possible — to the hard-working artists, to our donors, to our magnificent staff and advisory board, and to Target and Tempe’s own Cornish Pasty, for helping make it such a great party.

Coming up on March 22: The opening of Turn off the Sun: Selections from la Colección Jumex. Be there!

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Photos by Matthew Corbisiero

February 14, 2013 at 11:06 pm Leave a comment

Passion in motion: Elizabeth Johnson and Socially Engaged Practice at the ASU Art Museum

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.

Art is active. And for those like Elizabeth Johnson, it can move them in more ways than one.

As the Coordinator for Socially Engaged Practice at the museum, Johnson uses dance in order to organize collaborations, promote dialogue, and investigate pressing issues of our time.

Part of how she does this by harnessing people’s natural movement and putting shapes around questions that people then answer physically.

It’s not as abstract as you might think.

“We move to communicate all the time,” Johnson says. “We improvise every moment we have a conversation. We have an idea, we have a vision and we act on that vision or we don’t act on that vision. I just offer ways for people to show that. It’s a very fluid process.”

Before accepting this position, Johnson had never worked for a museum before. Having received her BFA in Dance from Connecticut College, Johnson traveled around the world organizing community engagement events and projects, as she says, in everyone’s community except her own.

Johnson explains working at the ASU Art Museum has made her rethink what a museum is — especially this museum: “I’ve never been a person who felt like I could concentrate with something still on the wall, as beautiful as it might be. Now that I’m in a museum, I’ve realized that a museum is a place that can hold ideas and is a place for the public, not just the people who know about art.”

Johnson’s work uses unique activities to connect with the community and have people think about artmaking and relationships formed through art. She bases her work on the idea that intangible social interactions can constitute the core of an artwork.

“That’s why I’m here,” she says.

When it comes to Socially Engaged Practice, Johnson explains she’s not just a planner but also a practitioner of the process: “There’s a lot of preparation that goes into collaborative events. I tend to set up things, but I also get involved with them. I facilitate and coordinate but I also practice and do. I get myself involved in a lot of interesting things.”

Through dance, Johnson creates meaningful cross-disciplinary collaborations and builds sustainable partnerships.

“What art can do is hold complexity,” she says. “And I kind of believe that when you bring your body into this, it brings out this human experience that we all have and gives us the capacity to have compassion in a way that’s different than if we just read a newspaper.”

Johnson is currently pursuing an MFA in Dance from ASU with her thesis focusing on exploring women and crime, a subject she became interested in after collaborating with Gregory Sale for It’s not just black and white in 2011.

“It really had me think what it’s like for me to be in Arizona and for me to be in a community that was my own.”

Above: Elizabeth Johnson, left, and Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief MaryEllen Sheppard talk with girls who participated in the “Mother-Daughter Distance Dance.”

Johnson considers curriculum integration the biggest and most important aspect of her job — how to create a program that trains the artists of the 21st century that gives them skills to not only hones their craft but apply it in multiple contexts.

Johnson currently instructs Socially Engaged Practice: Engagement and Community, but she is also in the process of designing a new program and curricula for a certificate in Socially Engaged Practice at the undergraduate and graduate level.

“I have a real passion for this kind of work and what happens when young people see how big art can be and how many possibilities there are,” Johnson says. “The actual engagement of young people is really interesting to me. And I thrive on it, which is why I’m in a university.”

Next semester she and the director of the ASU Art Museum Gordon Knox will teach the new class Socially Engaged Art, which will examine the role of the artist in society from an anthropological perspective. Knox and Johnson also plan to use the course to push students to think about how to use art to moderate conversations and assess the complexities of a given social situation.

Johnson explains she has learned more about socially engaged practice uses dance in a way to share, not perform.  “You combine your experience with somebody else’s and you see ‘Oh, it’s a more complicated picture,’” she says. “More interesting, more broad. [Working here] has definitely expanded what I know.”

Johnson’s intern Lindsay Henika, a senior studying Art Administration, has found her time at the museum to be an opportunity to learn about special event planning and media marketing. “It’s been so great to see how the museum works from the front row,” she says.

Johnson has her hand in many different projects, but her next upcoming event is At Home in the Desert: Youth Engagement and Place. The project partners the faculty and staff in ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts with community-based organizations, The Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan PhoenixThe Boys and Girls and Club of the East Valley, Girl ScoutsArizona Cactus-Pine Council, and South Mountain High School.

Johnson has been working with the Girl Scouts by studying the desert and making dances about what they find. The public event will take place on Dec. 1 at the Diane and Bruce Halle Skyspace Garden on the Tempe campus at 4:30 p.m.

To learn more about what the Socially Engaged Practice community is up to, check out its blog and Facebook.

Mary Richardson

November 27, 2012 at 7:17 pm 1 comment

Serious play: Matteo Rubbi at the ASU Art Museum

Visiting artist Matteo Rubbi, right, explains the game of “Goose” to Museum visitors. Photo by Neil Borowicz.

There was a lot of clucking, growling, mooing and hopping at the ASU Art Museum on Saturday, June 2, and most of all, there was a lot of giggling. The source of the giggling – and all the other sounds – was an artist-led game of “Goose,” patterned after a board game that has been popular in Europe for centuries.

The artist leading the game was Matteo Rubbi, winner of the Furla Foundation Prize for 2011 and one of the first residents of the newly opened ASU Art Museum International Artist Residency facility at Combine Studios in downtown Phoenix, although you’d be forgiven for mistaking him for a gregarious and enthusiastic camp counselor. It’s unlikely that any of the dozens of visitors who played the game that day knew that Frieze magazine calls Rubbi one of the most interesting Italian artists today, and Rubbi isn’t the kind of artist who’d need to let you know that anyway. He’s much more interested in what he calls “social sculpture” and in pulling people into situations that force them to think creatively – and to become co-artists with Rubbi.

Rubbi’s game was  the featured activity during one of the ASU Art Museum’s First Saturdays for Families, which take place on the first Saturday of every month (except July, when the Museum hosts Family Fun Day) and  which are increasingly about artist-led experiences within the museum. (Don’t miss the next First Saturday, on Aug. 4 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.)

In an interview in Italian Vogue last summer, Rubbi was asked why it’s so important to him to involve the public in his work. He answered: “I believe it is the audience that brings a new dimension to my work. Eliminating the concepts of ‘viewer’ and ‘work of art’ from the equation opens up a brand new world, full of unexpected elements and possibilities. I always try to create the conditions for the audience and my work to negotiate their own relationship, which has to be improvised and invented on the spot (as in the case of board games that the public is encouraged to play). I believe this is the most challenging part of my research. It is always quite hard to ‘let go’ of something – an attitude, behavior – we have grown accustomed to.”

In fact, the international jury that awarded Rubbi the Furla Prize, led by artist Christian Boltanski, did so “for his capacity to interact with the viewer and to create new links between exhibition and public space.”

Click here for a clip of Rubbi explaining his work (produced in conjunction with his winning the Furla Prize).

Rubbi’s work is engaging on multiple levels, the most obvious being that almost every piece is a kind of invitation, sometimes a literal one. Shortly after arriving in Phoenix, Rubbi established a series of communal meals served in the Museum lobby for staff and invited guests; he called the lunches, which took place on Fridays, “Magic Friday.”

“Magic Friday” was about food and eating, certainly – each Friday brought a different international taste to the Museum, from Portuguese artist Miguel Palma’s sourda  to Rubbi’s own mushroom risotto, but more than that, it was about bridging communities, and about how communal meals knit people together in both expected and unexpected ways.

One Friday, Rubbi invited members of the Lost Boys of Sudan, who live in Phoenix, to lunch, and they prepared an African dish. One Friday, we celebrated the Ephiphany with a traditional French cake that had some beans hidden in it; those who found the beans got a home-made paper crown. At each lunch, the guests graciously shared their perspectives, as well as examples of their cuisine, and Rubbi has maintained a journal containing the various recipes as well as a wall of photos in the Museum kitchen documenting the events.

Rubbi’s work fits into and expands upon the Museum’s overall emphasis on social practice, an art form that is particularly appropriate for an experimental university art museum and one that the Museum has been at the forefront of developing, particularly in its ongoing Social Studies series.

In a very real way, Rubbi transformed the Museum lobby into a kind of public square, where people gather to meet and talk – which is what ASU Art Museum Director Gordon Knox believes the ASU Art Museum should, in fact, be.

“At its core, a museum should be a safe place for the exchange of ideas, a location where past and present can contemplate each other and people with different cultural or generational perspectives can communicate,” Knox said. “We walk into a museum with an open attitude – what will I learn here? This is a very different starting point from the more transactional one we have when walking into a store, a business, a city, state or federal office. Dialogue is possible in a museum and expected of a university museum; Matteo’s work, evolving out of art and action traditions centuries old, pushes this conversation beyond words and – gently – beyond comfort zones as audience and artist blend and as we all contemplate how much we are in this together, and that we are far more similar than different.”

Rubbi’s game of “Goose” exemplified the kind of creative investigation of the world that art encourages us to undertake. Nothing about the game was expected, or predictable, although elements were familiar – the rolling of dice to determine outcome, the pleasure of playing a game with others. The “spaces” were all drawings of animals made by visitors and the artist himself, then scattered throughout the Museum. Some were recognizable, like rabbits and snakes. Others were creatures from the visitors’ imaginations, animals you won’t find in any dictionary.

At one point in the game, a young boy landed on a “butterfly” space, and Rubbi instructed him to be a butterfly, saying, “Okay, you’re a butterfly – so be colorful!” The change in expression on the boy’s face, from expectation (clearly he thought Rubbi was going to tell him to flap his wings or something equally obvious) to genuine curiosity (be colorful? How does one be colorful? How do I express that in my movements?) captured the very shift in thinking that art allows us all, young and old: from inside the box to utterly outside, being a colorful butterfly.

Rubbi has now returned to Italy for a few months. Currently he is conducting workshops at the Castello di Rivoli, near Turin, but in the fall he will return to the Museum and to Combine Studios. We’re fortunate that Rubbi is one of the artists to inaugurate the International Residency. His openness and engagement with the Phoenix community underscore the enormous benefits that the residency brings, providing the opportunity for students and the public to interface with significant international artists – and for these artists from around the world to be equally affected by the people and places they encounter here in Arizona, forming connections that will ripple out from their origins in wild and wonderful ways.

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Photos by Neil Borowicz.

July 6, 2012 at 10:10 pm 2 comments

Grant strengthens ASU Art Museum’s role in rethinking contemporary craft

A visitor to the ASU Art Museum sits on Brace, 2012, a new piece by Matthias Pliessnig. Photo by Tim Trumble.

A generous grant for Crafting a Continuum: Rethinking the Contemporary Craft Field has given the ASU Art Museum the means and tools to dig deeper and explore craft even further through research, travel and community outreach.Designed to fortify and advance the museum’s commitment to craft, Crafting a Continuum acknowledges the field as a noteworthy and integral part of the fine arts.

“The ultimate goal of the grant is to assess the current and extensive holdings in ceramics, fiber and woods,” curator of ceramics Peter Held said. “We want to move it forward by including younger, emerging artists working in new ways.”

The comprehensive Windgate Charitable Foundation grant, in the amount of $330,000, will be used to accomplish a two-year multifaceted project that focuses on both acquisition and artist residencies, invigorating the museum’s position in the field of craft. Along with community outreach, the museum has hired Elizabeth Kozlowski,  a curatorial fellow focused on contemporary craft, and will also publish a catalogue to go along with the exhibition.

“With these residencies, for instance, the artists are playing an active role,” Peter Held said. “They’re working with our students, (and) they’re working with our community. I think that’s a really powerful aspect of the initiative.”

So far, the Windgate support has helped commission a piece from Matthias Pleissnig, a visiting artist who combines furniture-making and sculpture. As part of the initiative, Pleissnig led well- and enthusiastically attended workshops in the School of Art, and along with giving a public lecture at the museum about his work, Pleissnig delivered a piece for the museum collection (currently on display in the lobby).

Above: Matthias Pliessnig works with ASU students during his visit to campus. Photo by Elizabeth Kozlowski.

“With the trend of contemporary artists using traditional craft materials to make fine art, disciplines are a lot more fluid than they were. The need to define the two as separate seems to have dissipated,” Held said.

Artists today are more concerned with using the appropriate materials to execute ideas rather than drawing hard lines between art and craft, and in support of this, the ASU Art Museum has an extensive history in presenting and working with artists in the craft field.

“We’re one of the few fine art museums in the country that started collecting  mid-20th-century studio craft. Now it’s becoming a more prevalent trend,” Held said.

The permanent collection of ceramics at The ASU Art Museum originated in 1955, and since then, the museum has consciously built a collection of contemporary studio ceramics at a time when craft based media was considered a lesser art form. The collection of works extends over six decades and contains over 3,500 objects.

In 1990, the museum co-sponsored the exhibition, Meeting Ground: Basketry Traditions and Sculptural Forms, which studied the relationship between traditional baskets and sculptural forms and also highlighted artists’ interests in hand processes and natural materials. More recently, the museum showcased Intertwined: Contemporary Baskets from the Sara and David Lieberman Collection in 2006, which charted the blend of ancient and modern basket making and baskets as sculptural forms. The exhibition traveled to five venues nationally.

Given one of the best turned wood collections in the late 80s/early 90s, the Jacobson Collection, the ASU Art Museum displayed the pieces internationally, and with the influential traveling exhibition and media response, turning became more established as an art form.

“We have a venerable past in contemporary craft,” Senior Curator and Associate Director Heather Lineberry said. “One of the things that is pretty unusual is that we have always shown contemporary craft within the broader contemporary art context.”

The museum is currently evaluating the purpose and quality of its collections, giving the museum the opportunity to rethink the recent history, the present and the future of contemporary craft as well as encourage interactions and connections with rising voices within the field.

The initiative’s exhibition will debut in the fall of 2013 at the ASU Art Museum and will then travel nationally to about five venues.

“As an institution, we are guided by the fact that we focus on contemporary art and that we are a university museum, and as a university art museum, we should be focusing on transdisciplinary issues,” Lineberry said. “We should be focusing on education… We should be experimenting. We should be exploring new ideas, new art forms, new approaches in the museum, and we should be as much about the process as the final product. With the Rethinking Contemporary Craft initiative, we have a real opportunity to reassess the field.”

Gustaf Nordenskiöld
Mure, 2011
Colored porcelain and climbing rope
20 x 16 x 12 inches

–Mary Richardson

June 19, 2012 at 4:58 pm 1 comment

We knew her back when: Lekha Hileman Waitoller

Last week, our friend and former colleague Lekha Hileman Waitoller began working at the Art Institute of Chicago as Exhibition Manager in the Department of Contemporary Art.

Her first big project: an upcoming exhibition of work by Steve McQueen, opening in October.

We’re impressed, but we’re not surprised.

Soon after arriving at ASU in the fall of 2008 to pursue an MA in art history in the School of Art, Lekha sought out opportunities at the ASU Art Museum and started as curatorial assistant. She worked closely with Senior Curator and Associate Director Heather Sealy Lineberry on a number of exhibition projects, large and small, from the collection and featuring international artist residencies and loans, exploring a range of disciplines and community programs and partnerships. In 2009, she curated the exhibition I Never Saw So Clearly, from the Museum’s permanent collection. The lively, smart exhibition focused on issues of identity and hybridity in contemporary art, informed by the research for her Master’s thesis on the work of Lorna Simpson and Steven Yazzie.

Then Lekha stepped in as interim curator in the fall of 2011. Her first big project was artist Jennifer Nelson’s Social Studies exhibition, Securing a free state: The Second Amendment Project.

Lekha handled the project’s challenging content and ambitious scope (both hallmarks of our Social Studies exhibitions) with her usual aplomb, demonstrating grace under pressure whether she was helping lead a tour of a sniper school in the desert or facilitating a series of intense, and intensely moving, workshops involving people whose lives have been radically altered by a violent encounter.

The Museum also benefited from Lekha’s curatorial vision and organizational abilities when we revamped the Americas Gallery, on the second floor, which showcases pieces from the permanent collection.

We look forward to seeing what Lekha does in Chicago — the Art Institute is lucky to have her!

June 6, 2012 at 10:57 pm Leave a comment

The Movement of “The Precession”

Attendants of “The Precession” on Feb. 17-18, at the ASU Art Museum, took away not just an experience but a feeling. Artists Judd Morrissey and Mark Jeffery blend otherworldly and secular references. The performers seemed to allude to the working man, while the winged figures suggested a more ethereal source.

Morrissey and Jeffery began to work together creatively when they both became involved with Goat Island, a collaborative performance group based in Chicago. During that time, the artists started to forge their own collaboration, merging live choreography and large-scale digital text installations to create a strange hybrid out of the individual practices.

Moved by the celestial map memorial at the Hoover Dam that Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated in 1935, Jeffery and Morrissey decided to make a piece that responded to the engraved imprint of the stars. However, the work also presents others complexities. With Morrissey’s background in digital art and visual poetics and Jeffery’s experience in choreography and live performance, the two formed a complex piece about celestial patterns, the economy and contemporary issues.

Museum-goer and sculpting student Mikey Estes recounted, “The part that stood out to me was when the four performers were all doing separate actions. One laid on the floor with his face in a shovel, another was looking at the wall frantically as if he was analyzing it, another was making hand movements, and the fourth wasn’t in the room but I heard a lot of clatter …. The reason that stood out to me was because all these different things were going on simultaneously and rather chaotically, but it all had this calming unity about it.”

Though “The Precession” can be interpreted in many different ways, Morrissey and Jeffery offered insight into the creative process of their piece.

What inspired “The Precession”?

Judd Morrissey: We started thinking about this site at the Hoover Dam, a monument to the building of it. What we did is we each responded in our own way to the site as a creative starting point. One way in which I responded was by doing some writing and then taking that writing into the computer and coding it and playing with the visuality of it.

It started from that point, and it’s a very complicated trajectory. But it involves working both separately and together. Whereas I’m working on the screen-based components, Mark also develops his own interventions into the performance, so it’s an organic conversation we’re always having. A lot of the things that I do will come back and play into the physical structure of the space.

Mark Jeffery: This is a piece that’s been going for four years, so we’re happy for these natural intrusions to take place. The video actually is, for here, three websites that will be simultaneously playing. There is still video integrated, which allows for Twitter within a mile radius of the museum to be pulled in. So we actually have this live data that can be charged. The way we’ve been able to keep working is through our residency and an invitation to do an exhibition we’ve been able to feed a particular piece into the main work. For the three-month exhibition we did at the Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago, we opened on the winter solstice and closed on the spring equinox. It was important that we did it those days.

Why is this work called “The Precession”?

JM: We visited the Hoover Dam at the time that Obama’s campaign was going and there was a lot of this New Deal type of talk. There was a different kind of spirit in the air. A lot of people were digging back into the idea of fixing the economy and putting people to work. There was a lot of rhetoric circulating around the New Deal emerging. We decided to look at that. In the celestial map that’s engraved, there is a depiction of precession, and what it is in astronomy is the fact that the sky is slowly changing so that the pole star changes over thousands of years. Right now our pole star is Polaris, but a few thousand years ago it was something else and in a few thousand years it will be Vaga. So actually over time people will see a different sky, different locations, and will have to navigate differently. It’s sort of a representation of time at a monumental scale, and the reason the pole star shifts is because the Earth’s axis is gradually increasing its tilt by one degree every 72 years. It was discovering this concept and playing with the idea of the recession within the word “precession” and the economic cycles. The word has also been used in a lot of other contexts. The philosopher Baudrillard talks about the simulated overtaking the real as though it precedes it. There is also a concept in Buckminster Fuller that has to do with the way human behavior impacts other humans. He uses the concept of precession to discuss the effects of our actions on other people. There was all this strange research around the term. That’s some of the sort of density of our starting point.

MJ: You’ll see here that we’re very interested in research and we’re interested in looking at facts as a way to move a work on, but when people come to the see the work, you don’t need to know. There are anchors there but for us, the audience becomes another respondent to the work. How we like to work is from a number of sources whether that’s historical, personal, social or political. It’s that we’re giving ourselves a certain number of clues that shouldn’t normally be put together and we’re trying during this two or three year process to arrive at a moment of “Here we are, and this is the piece we’ve decided upon.”

“The Precession” seems to have evolved a lot. What changes have been made over the four years?

JM: It’s been quite strange. We started with a residency at Brown University at a gallery in Rhode Island, a little firehouse. We made an initial focus which involved both the projection of real-time text and performers looking at this form called the Living Newspaper, a 1930s style of theater funded by Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration, which was designed to create jobs and also work theater and the arts, which now seems remarkable. These were socially-oriented plays designed to raise awareness around the economic plight of the farmer, for instance, and health epidemics like the syphilis epidemic.

So we were looking at those sources, and we got an invitation to make a piece for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. We developed, based on the Living Newspaper, a work where people were behaving as them. So instead of talking to the concerns of the 30s, they were channeling, through earbuds connected to mobile phones, texts from social networks where people were talking about different contemporary concerns they had. They were acting as puppets, in a way, by receiving texts and speaking them.

That piece was called “The Living Newspaper,” but part of The Hoover Dam memorial is these two winged 32 ft. tall figures that are seated within the celestial map so at some point these Living Newspaper people transform into that image with these massive wings. That was another piece where we started to develop — how do we put the real-time stuff that happens onscreen? How do we put that into people’s mouths and bodies?

Then later on we did another piece for the Museum of Contemporary Art, and we used that piece to develop another further component that would ultimately become “The Precession.” In this one, we interviewed museum visitors about their labor histories. We had them teach us gestures from their occupations and worked with a group of 10 male dancers to develop a choreography out of the interviews.

But returning again to the original celestial map at the site, the dancers’ positions within the choreography are determined by a map of the position of the stars over the building. This piece was mainly a choreographic piece where the dancers are both building and responding to this database of data gestures, but they are also being plotted according to the position of the stars.

“The Precession” is all of these things mashed up and choreographed together. All of these things are happening simultaneously or through a score, so it’s a very organic process. This piece was based on taking small components to specific places. Then when we got to Hyde Park we had an 80-foot 10-screen façade and giant gallery space we could put everything together and the piece became a 10-screen web browser installation. It’s fairly complicated, really process based, but we think the thematics of it come through to some degree. It sounds like it could be a mess, but I think it creates a very discrete vocabulary and certain kinds of imagery comes through. It sort of becomes a piece of visual art performance that is in some ways its own world and in some way rooted to these references. It’s somewhere between having the source and then no longer needing one.

Why do you think this project has been so successful?

MJ: Artists are interested in invitation, and in some respects, it’s probably because of the richness of the vocabulary we’ve discovered. We’re creating an exhibition around monumentality, but then what is it do to look at images that are rather discrete versus images that are semi-spectacle? One of the things about being able to work over a long period of time is that you got to let the world affect what you’re seeing. You’ll see the dam flood into the space trying to become a figure in the night sky. It’ll feel like the dam is flooding over this huge territory and landscape. There’s a sense of how those two things come together in a very powerful way. Because we knew we were coming here, we adapted it and wanted to investigate. A contemporary theme in performance art right now is how to make performance an exhibition. There’s a return to performance coming back into gallery spaces, so this is a test in some respect with doing it here for two days. There’s something about occupying and thinking about time and thinking about how to structure work in a museum space rather than a theater space.

JM: It’s an environment and in many ways immersive. I think the way we work is that we tap into iconographies that speak to the time we live in now as well as previous times. You get the history that communicates to people on a visual level, not just a logical level. I also think that when you make work that is process driven and evolves over a long period of time and has a specific vocabulary, people tend to interpret it within their own vocabulary or within their own lives, whatever narrative they’re bringing to the piece. It enters into that. With a certain kind of experimental work, people become embedded into the narrative. They may have their own sort of epiphany and they may find something that speaks directly to them. And it may not be some prescribed meaning that we’ve created, but it’s chance. Something we’ve noticed over many years is that people tend to get other things from the piece because they’re projecting onto the space, so it’s that network of the individual’s narrative patterns. The audience doesn’t always meet the narrative pattern we’re constructing, and I think these strange conjunctions happen, just in the sense that they’re open to creating your own reading. Not so much that you generate them, just so much that you have them.

Mary Richardson

“The Precession” was curated by Angela Ellsworth, with support from the ASU School of Art, Live Art Platform and Live Art Club.

All photographs by Sean Deckert

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March 12, 2012 at 9:03 pm Leave a comment

Magic Fridays at the Museum with Matteo Rubbi

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Matteo Rubbi arrived from Italy a few weeks ago to begin his six-month residency at the ASU Art Museum, and he has already changed the way we do things here (in a very good way). Last Friday, Matteo and his girlfriend, French artist Béatrice Bailet, invited the Museum staff to eat lunch with them — mushroom risotto, quiche Lorraine, pasta Bolognese — under unusual circumstances. They called it “Magic Friday,” and there will be more of them in the future. Chris Miller, the Museum’s exhibition specialist, was moved to write about the experience:

Today the ASU Art Museum staff was treated to a delicious lunch prepared by the 2011 Furla Prize winner and visiting Artist in Residence Matteo Rubbi, and his girlfriend, Beatrice Bailet. While it’s not uncommon to find us gathered together in small groups for lunch, or the occasional birthday or going away celebration, today was a bit different. Tables were set up in the lobby and the door to the museum kitchen was open and decorated with lights, and the savory smells from within drifted out into the open spaces of the museum. Music played, laughter and conversation filled the room, and we all wore the smiles of people who were being fed. I understand there was an element of performance involved on our part, in that, while we ate in the lobby, people entering the museum would be immediately aware of our banquet. Any other time we would be doing this behind closed doors, trying to minimize the impact on the museum patrons, but today there we were enjoying a meal out in the lobby for all to see. What’s all this cooking and eating in front of everyone about?

 –Chris Miller, Exhibition Specialist

December 14, 2011 at 8:25 pm 1 comment

The Americas Gallery gets a facelift — and the Museum gets an Interim Curator!

Lekha Hileman Waitoller, who wrote the post below about our newly revamped Americas Gallery, has been the Curatorial Assistant here at the ASU Art  Museum since 2008. Today we’re happy to announce that Lekha has agreed to serve as Interim Curator at the Museum until the end of 2011. Lekha received her Masters in Art History and Theory from ASU this spring, with a thesis titled “Destabilizing the Archive: Steven Yazzie, Lorna Simpson and the Counter-Archive.” She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism (with an emphasis on Photography) and one in Spanish from the University of Missouri.

Do come see the Americas Gallery, and, if you get here before August 27, you can also see Self-Referential: Art Looking at Art, an exhibition of works from the permanent collection that Lekha curated.


One of the great things about living in the desert in summer is that things slow down. Most of us find ourselves pulled in fewer directions and better able to hunker down and chip away at our long to-do lists.

For some time now the curatorial staff at the ASU Art Museum has been talking about how to make changes to the Americas Gallery—the gallery dedicated to works from the collection, including historic gems like our Georgia O’Keefe, David Alfaro Siquieros and Edward Hopper, (include hyperlinks that I have provided) that would otherwise be less available to our visitors, since our focus is on contemporary art.

Years ago, much thought went into how to show these favorites. The resulting installation was an active salon-style installation of portraits called FACES, a chronology of WORK in the Americas and a selection of paintings that describe PLACE/SPACE.

This summer we gave the gallery a facelift—a major one. Keeping with the original themes, we re-thought the Faces comparison through figurative sculpture—historic and contemporary—highlighting the ways artists have selected particular media and styles to convey meaning. The installation is purposefully spare, inviting the viewer to make comparisons between the dissimilar works.

Alison Saar’s Hi Yella (1991), left, stands in contrast to Hiram Powers’ George Washington (1849). Photo by Daniel Swadener.

Another major change is in the PLACE/SPACE installation, which loosely traces artistic styles describing both public and domestic spaces from the early 19th century through today. The earliest paintings look at landscape as a defining component of the United States’ national identity, while the most contemporary selections transition from Surrealist depictions to landscape demonstrating the collision of the personal and political.

Activating the gallery is a sculptural installation by the adventurous conceptual artist Dennis Oppenheim. The Last Dance plays on both PLACE/SPACE and figurative sculpture, as the work presents two figures suspended from the ceiling, comprised of nopal cacti. And play it does—animated by a fan motor, the figures “dance” to the tune of “Skokiaan.”

Dennis Oppenheim’s The Last Dance, 1994. Photo by Stu Mitnick.

We hope that you will enjoy what we’ve done with the Americas Gallery and that the powerful works on view will provoke questions and dialogue. Please let us know what you think!

Lekha Hileman Waitoller

Curatorial Assistant

August 24, 2011 at 6:26 pm 1 comment

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