Posts tagged ‘Americas Gallery’

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 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

Bon voyage, Georgia!

The ASU Art Museum gets a lot of requests for our Georgia O’Keeffe, Horse’s Skull on Blue, a 1930 oil on canvas. And mostly we say no.

But then, in January, we got a letter about a major touring exhibition organized by the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, along with the Arthemisia Group at the Fondazione Roma Museo in Rome, the Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung in Munich and the Helsinki Art Museum.

“It will be a landmark event in the artistic and cultural exchange between the United States and Europe,” the letter read, “and although her works have been shown in Europe on occasion, this retrospective exhibition will be the first to acquaint audiences in Italy, Germany, Scandinavia and surrounding areas with O’Keeffe’s extraordinary work.”

They had us at “landmark.”

So later this summer, we’ll be saying good-bye to Georgia for a while. She’ll be on view in Rome from October 2011 to January of 2012, in Munich from January to May of 2012, and in Helsinki from May to September of 2012.

In the meantime, come say good-bye in person — Horse’s Skull in Blue is hanging in the Americas Gallery, for now.

May 20, 2011 at 9:40 pm

You can’t move forward until you know where you are

The Social Studies initiative is guided by open process. Whether it was the fully democratic creative process driven by artist Jarbas Lopes, the opening of the decision making process allowed by artist Josh Greene, or exposing ourselves to the new state of the economy and housing crisis through the volunteer vampire and zombie actors trained and directed by artist Jillian Mcdonald, active participation has always been key to Social Studies success.

image credit: stephen gittins

Over the past couple of months, in preparation for Social Studies Project 6 with Gregory Sale, the artist and I have been visiting correctional institutions and organizations involved with all aspects of justice. We’ve been inside the Florence and Eyman State prisons, The Towers county jail complex, and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.  I’ve had the great fortune to meet with individuals involved with the GED education, Legacy and ALPHA programs inside the system. We’ve had members of their teams here in the museum, working on logistics planning to insure positive results. We’ve met with the leadership of Gina’s Team, an independent inmates’ needs organization; University of Arizona professor Richard Shelton regarding his Creative Writing Workshops at the Arizona State Prison; dancers and choreographers working with Journey Home and Girl Scouts Beyond Bars; and members of social justice and human rights organizations. I’ve met passionate people, working both inside and outside the system, involved with these programs, and heard from both facilitators and participant of their benefits.

image credit: john spiak

Gregory has orchestrated these visits, and, without his passion, openness, dedication and hard work, these connections would not be possible. This process has allowed us to have direct conversation with those involved in the programs from a different perspective: the instructors, the supervisors and the participants. We have met with them, explained what we were up to and the overall vision for the project. We’ve asked for volunteers, giving them all the details we possible could and providing them every opportunity to opt out if they did not feel comfortable.

image credit: john spiak

Working with Gregory has provided a unique opportunity. He is an artist of our very own community, one who has been actively involved in performance and social practice since the mid-90s, when he and I first met. As an artist and educator, he has been an active participant in the Social Studies series from the beginning, engaging his students with each visiting artist during their six-week residencies. With his background as a former charter arts high school teacher, a curator of education, an employee of the Arizona Commission on the Arts and currently an Assistant Professor of Intermedia at ASU’s School of Art, his connections to the community are established and strong. He is truly someone I trust and respect.

image credit: stephen gittins

image credit: stephen gittins

The fact that Gregory is a local artist has allowed the first opportunity in the Social Studies initiative to extend the residency from six weeks to three months.

As I stated in the title of this post, you can’t move forward until you know where you are, so this is where things start within the museum gallery structure with Social Studies Project 6.

image credit: stephen gittins

It’s not just black and white begins with the current state of corrections in the U.S. and Arizona, most specifically Maricopa County. We know it’s extremely complex, and when these issues are raised in public settings the discussion often becomes heated and passionate.  It comes from all directions, and we’ve heard it so many times, comments like, “You must not be tough on crime,” “You’re acting like a victim,” “They have been victimized,” “It’s an issue of public safety,” among many others. Each of us comes to the conversation with our own backgrounds, stereotypes, perceptions and prejudices. The messages get driven home to us through media and other sources, but so rarely are our own opinions based upon direct experience. The passions needs to be there, but with respect and knowledge. The respect for differing opinions, the respect for differing situations, the respect for the individual, the respect for one another as human beings, and the knowledge that comes from firsthand experience. It’s my opinion that conversations can only move forward when everyone is welcome at the table – those with different knowledge bases and from different backgrounds, with diverse experiences and insights.

image credit: john spiak

This past week we began the in-gallery activities of It’s not just black and white. We invited inmates from the Maricopa County Jails’ ALPHA Program to join us at the Museum. They worked as artistic collaborators with Gregory and his team of current and past students as part of the residency, all volunteering to participate in the project. Background checks were run by MSCO on all participants, and MCSO officers were present to insure public safety.

image credit: john spiak

The ALPHA is a re-entry and rehabilitation treatment program, designed to reduce crime, recidivism and substance abuse.

image credit: john spiak

We started the day with a brief introduction and again, explained that if there were any components of the project anyone was not comfortable with, there was no obligation or pressure to participate. We took everyone together on a museum tour. We shared works from the Re-Thinking the Faculty Exhibition being installed, our Americas Gallery permanent collection, and the FUNd exhibition. We talked about the complex works of Jon Haddock, artists from CUBA, Deborah Butterfield and the art and society focus of our institution. We returned to the gallery and took coffee and soda orders from all present, then got to work. When the drinks arrived, we distributed them, but the work continued. We took a break for lunch, sitting together to enjoy a meal and continued getting to know one another, talking honestly and openly.

image credit: john spiak

As you can see from the images posted (and slideshow below), it was a day of activity, conversation and building relationships – group discussions, one-on-one opportunities, introducing collaborators to members of our community who are part of Gregory’s advisory committee.

image credit: john spiak

The week started at the current state of corrections, but quickly moved into the building of relationships, open dialogue and direct experiences. Through participation, continued open dialogue, performances, lectures, panels, tours and artistic gestures scheduled over the coming months, it is my hope that these conversations and experiences will continue to move forward in positive directions and with positive outcomes.

image credit: john spiak

As It’s not just black and white moves forward, you will continue to see activities taking place in the gallery and throughout the community, both scheduled and improvised, that build upon this conversation. Gregory’s official website for the project will go live this week, so I will make sure to post a link on our blog when it’s ready.  He’ll be posting schedules, tour sign-ups, images and much more, as we will continue to do as well on our own blog, website, Facebook and Twitter accounts.

image credit: john spiak

Everyone is welcome at the table, so I strongly encourage you to visit the gallery at several different times during the course of the three-month residency, to get a sense of the project as a whole. The outcome of the project depends on your involvement and your input.  A good place to start is by attending the ASU Art Museum Season Opening Reception which takes place this Friday, February 18 from 7-9pm – it’s free for everyone!

image credit: stephen gittins

I look forward to your participation, insight and knowledge moving Social Studies and issues of our community forward!

– John Spiak, Curator

It’s not just black and white is supported a grant from
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

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Additional Blog Posts
Angela Davis, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Youth in Detention = Social Practice
Reconnecting – It’s not just black and white
Dream like you mean it: The Mother-Daughter Distance Dance
Another Active Week and the Schedule for April
Waiting for Release, Sentencing Reform & Welcoming Home
Invitation to Join Us for Volunteer Event – GINA’s Team
Inside & Outside – It’s not just black and white
More Similar Than Different + Tent City Jail Tour Opportunity
You can’t move forward until you know where you are
Olympic Gold Medalist, Gina’s Team and PVCC Students!
IT’S NOT JUST BLACK AND WHITE: Gregory Sale – Social Studies Project 6

February 15, 2011 at 4:36 am 18 comments

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