Posts tagged ‘artist’

Notes From Underground: Fall Season Opening

Guest blogger and ASU student Veronica Rascona writes about the ASU Art Museum’s Fall 2012 Season Opening Reception:

At 6:30 on the evening of September 28, the ASU Art Museum launched its 2012 season. People gathered in the darkness at the front of the building to talk, eat and watch a performance by the mixed parkour, martial arts, dance and acrobatics group Movement Connections. The group, dressed in white, took advantage of the museum’s unique structure as they silently crawled, leapt and ran all over the walls and stairs of the Art Museum’s entrance.

In a touching moment, a little girl got caught up in the mix and one of the performers invited her to perform a stunt with him—a simple handstand, nothing dangerous. After performing a few more acrobatics on their own, eventually the performers climbed up onto the cement pillars in the front of the Museum. They performed a few stunts and then began pointing toward the façade of the museum upon which a video was being projected. It appeared to have been filmed from the window of a car and depicted an expanse of desert landscape rushing by.

The video continued to play as Movement Connections wrapped up their performance. People then began to shuffle down the stairs, waiting for the next sequence in the evening’s activities. Some ventured into the Museum to look at the current exhibits on display, while others, like myself, sat just outside the doors, taking in the array of lights that filled the underground courtyard—part of the “55: Music and Dance in Concrete” performance that would start at 7:30 p.m.

I sat to one side of the courtyard and began to notice other elements—a video of an eye opening and closing and rolling around in its socket was projected onto the back of the pillars that outlined the courtyard. Above and below the eye was the phrase, “Don’t touch me!!” projected backwards. It was somewhat disturbing,and I did not know what to expect from the performance after seeing these images. Just before the performance began, the audience was instructed as to where to stand in order to best view the performance, but were also told that the performers would be moving throughout the space alternately providing various vantage points a better view.

The crowd gathered, and from my vantage point I witnessed three of the visiting dancers, each dressed in red, black and white, slowly fill the empty space between us and the Museum. I could not see what was happening on the other half of the courtyard as it was blocked by cement pillars and benches, but this was how the show was meant to be viewed: people seeing different parts of the show, each person having a unique viewing experience. The three girls on my side slowly moved into position.

The lights changed from bright white lines filling the space to a strange speckled effect, and music composed of electronic sounds, “from 55 improvised and 55 composed pieces” started to play. The dancers began to move. Their dancing was rapid; they moved convulsively, throwing themselves at the cement walls and against the floor as the lights continued to change and pulse. The effect was alarming and intriguing. As the dancers moved throughout the space, the crowd adjusted to watch each new scene; at one point the only male dancer shut himself behind a gate while a video of him stuck in what seemed like a jail cell played on the wall behind the bars. The video cut from scenes of him in the cell, to the real dancer performing similar movements in the real, jail-like space.

The music and lights continued to change as the dancers set and reset their stage, from one side of the courtyard to the other, to behind the bars, to on top of the cement benches, to at one point taking the elevator in the middle of the space up to the second floor where we lost sight of them for a moment. The performance, meant to engage the audience in sight, sound and movement, felt like a piece about escape; the dancers’ jerking movements gave the impression that they were almost trying to break out of their own skin.

What was most beautiful about the whole event, however, was not only the performances, but the interaction between the performers and their audience. I looked over the faces in the audience and everyone’s eyes were on the performers, completely captivated. The decision by both performance groups to use the space around their audience created an atmosphere in which we were all connected. Not only did everyone get to watch a fun and intricate performance, but they were encouraged to feel like they were a part of it all.

Thanks to Sean Deckert and Veronica Rascona for the use of their photographs.

55: Music and Dance in Concrete  premiered at Fort Worden as part of Centrum’s Reverberations series, in addition to premiering at the ASU Art Museum. The project received initial funding from the MAP Fund and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, as well as support from Arizona State University, and RBMA. The project is supported by the Japan Foundation through the PerformingArtsJAPAN program. The Centrum Artist Residency program is made possible by support from the Washington State Arts Commission and the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. Additional support was provided by 4Culture Site Specific.

Miguel Palma’s Trajectory is supported in part by the FUNd at ASU Art Museum, the ASU Art Museum Advisory Board and Friends and Margarita and Willie Joffroy.

October 11, 2012 at 10:34 pm 1 comment

Dispatch from Helsinki: “On the road with Georgia O’Keeffe”

Our intrepid registrar, Anne Sullivan, traveled to Helsinki last month to accompany the Museum’s Georgia O’Keeffe painting, Horse’s Skull on Blue,  which has been on tour, back home to Arizona. Here’s a glimpse from her trip:

Everything is about design, no doubt. Even the attractive young man dressed in black, carrying a tool kit (actually cleaning supplies), who cleans the hotel room is a stunner.

Everything is considered, the hotel has strict eco standards — very little paper anywhere — the metro has slick floor guides, called “fish,” which are stainless steel shapes on the floor that guide someone using a cane; mass transport is on-time always. Bicycles are just another transport method and everywhere. Most everyone is under 30 and dressed very hip, lots of black.

The O’Keeffe exhibition, Georgia O’Keeffe: A Retrospective, is in a re-purposed gymnasium-style building. This allowed the exhibition to be installed in a shotgun-style layout — the entire exhibition is viewable from the front door. The curator played with the aesthetics of images rather than following a straight chronology, so even O’Keeffe folks were surprised to see some pieces hanging next to each other.

Overall very nice. Darah and Dayle both here and working on condition reports. The remaining couriers (10 of us) check in on Monday with conditioning first day then packing the second.

Our painting looks to have traveled well.

Helsinki Art Museum walk-through a bit of a disappointment, about 26,000 attendance. Separating the exhibition from the main museum was for environmental reasons, but it did affect general attendance since few were willing to travel to another site just for the O’Keeffe exhibit. Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung in Munich has 60,000 attendance and Fondazione Roma Museo  30,000.

Otherwise all going well, great weather so far.

Anne

Here’s a slideshow of Anne’s photographs from Helsinki:

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Here’s a bit more information about the O’Keeffe exhibition in Helsinki, from the Tennis Palace Art Museum website:

Georgia O’Keeffe
Tennis Palace Art Museum, Helsinki
June 8 – September 9, 2012

The modernist Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) was one of the most important American artists in the history of world art. She entered the New York art scene around 1916 – several decades before women were allowed to study art at American institutions. In 1946, O’Keeffe’s solo show opened at MoMA – the first ever exhibition at MoMA devoted solely to a female artist. New Mexico became O’Keeffe’s cradle of art and permanent safe-haven, which is also where she created her most famous series of works. They feature animal skulls and close-ups of flowers, painted on such impressively large canvases that the compositions become almost abstract to the viewer. Staying faithful to the themes of her paintings, the artist surrounded herself with a bitter-sweet personality, reaching cult-icon status in her own lifetime. O’Keeffe’s works are rarely seen in European exhibitions, which is why Helsinki’s Tennis Palace Art Museum is indulging their visitors by  showing the first-ever Georgia O’Keeffe solo show in Finland, from June 8 through September 9. More than 60 paintings and drawings can be viewed in the exhibition, as well as a few sculptures, personal items and photographs that illuminate her career and life. The photographs were taken by O’Keeffe’s husband, the illustrious artist and promoter of modern art, Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946).

Tennis Palace website:

http://www.helsingintaidemuseo.fi/en/

And a few words about Helsinki as the 2012 World Design Capital:

The World Design Capital is an initiative of ICSID, the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design, which every second year recognizes one global city for its accomplishments in utilizing design as a tool to improve social, cultural, and economic life. Icsid owns the rights to the World Design Capital trademark.

In 2012 Helsinki is the World Design Capital together with the neighbouring cities of Espoo, Vantaa, Kauniainen and Lahti. The previous World Design Capitals have been Turin in Italy (2008) and Seoul in South Korea (2010).  Cape Town,  South Africa was chosen as the World Design Capital for 2014.

World Design Capital Helsinki 2012 is more than just a series of events or projects. It is about improving cities, embedding design in life.  The 2012 main theme is Open Helsinki – Embedding Design in Life. Openness equals transparency, curiosity, global responsibility, and innovation. This vision  extends the concept of design from goods to services and systems. It means finding solutions to people’s needs, for example in the public health care sector. In short, it’s about improving cities.

http://wdchelsinki2012.fi/en

October 5, 2012 at 7:36 pm Leave a comment

Want a sneak peek of the Fall 2012 Season Opening?

The ASU Art Museum’s Season Opening is this weekend — Friday and Saturday night, from 6:30-9 p.m. — at both the Museum and the Ceramics Research Center.

The events are free and open to the public, and there’s something for everyone, from the premiere of a video/dance piece in the Nymphaeum to a parkour team using the building as their canvas to food trucks in the parking lot.

The parkour group Movement Connections will perform from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Then, at 7:30 p.m., composer/musician Wayne Horvitz will premiere 55: Music and Dance in Concrete, his collaboration with choreographer/dancer Yukio Suzuki and video artist Yohei Saito.

You can get a taste of 55: Music and Dance in Concrete here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=3x6OPYI6ZE4

Below are some shots by photographer Sean Deckert of Movement Connections in action, plus some photographs (also by Sean Deckert) from ISEA2012, in Albuquerque, where artist Miguel Palma presented his “Desert Initiative Remote Shuttle,” which will be on display at the opening as part of Palma’s show Trajectory.

Join us on Friday and/or Saturday night for the big show! So nice, you might just want to come by twice.

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September 25, 2012 at 10:51 pm Leave a comment

The Desert Initiative’s DI:D1 launches at ISEA 2012 in Albuquerque

The Desert Initiative is taking the International Symposium on Electronic Art in Albuquerque by storm — or haboob, to be desert-specific — where it’s kicking off Desert Initiative: Desert One, a.k.a. DI:D1, which runs now through the spring of 2012 and encompasses exhibitions and projects around the Southwest.

DI Director Greg Esser is participating in ISEA2012: Machine Wilderness, Sept. 19-24, as are ASU Art Museum Director Gordon Knox, artist Chip Lord (whose Ant Farm Media Van v.08 [Time Capsule] is on view at the CRC, and ASU Art Museum International Artists-in-Residence Clare Patey (England), Miguel Palma (Portugal) and Matteo Rubbi (Italy).

On Sept. 20, Knox, Patey and Phoenix artist Matt Moore presented at the symposium on the topic of extinction; Patey and Moore are collaborating on a project titled Rare Earth, to be unveiled at the ASU Art Museum in the spring of 2013.

Here are Patey and Moore pre-presentation:

Chip Lord will speak about the Media Van on Monday, Sept. 24 and Miguel Palma will be one of the featured artists during 516 Arts Downtown Block Party on Sunday, Sept. 23, with his Remote Desert Exploration Vehicle, a converted former military vehicle that explores desert surroundings during the day and returns to urban areas to project the desert imagery on buildings at night.

The Remote Desert Exploration Vehicle will be on view at the ASU Art Museum starting Sept. 28, as part of Palma’s exhibition Trajectory.

Here are some photos by Phoenix photographer Sean Deckert of the Remote Desert Exploration Vehicle’s trip out to Albuquerque:

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Join us at the Museum on Sept. 28 and 29 to celebrate the season opening of both Ant Farm Media Van v.08 [Time Capsule] and Miguel Palma’s Trajectory!

And if you’re wondering about those passports pictured in the slideshow above: Stay tuned…

September 21, 2012 at 8:48 pm Leave a comment

New curator at the Museum: Julio Cesar Morales

As of Sept. 4, 2012, the ASU Art Museum has a new curator on board: Julio Cesar Morales, who comes to us from San Francisco. We are thrilled to have him here, and excited about what the future holds.

We hope you’ll join us at the Museum on Tuesday, Sept. 11 from 5-6:30 p.m. for a casual open-house reception to welcome Julio. Introductory comments will be at 6 p.m.; refreshments will be served.

Below is Julio’s statement on joining the Museum, and below that is some biographical information on Julio that gives a sense of the breadth and depth of his experience.

Hope to see you Sept. 11!

Statement by Julio Cesar Morales

My projects often place special emphasis on examination of the meaning and value of cultural difference, thereby strengthening the public awareness of how diversity preserves individual dignity and group identity, strengthens communities and increases respect among all people. With a deep interest in social change, my projects often address social justice issues relevant to both local and global communities.

Curatorial practice and art education have always been an important part of my overall artistic practice. I am particularly interested in art’s unique ability to engage in a social context, which can imbue daily life with meaning and significance. An important aspect of that is creating opportunities to draw on new models of engagement with both schools and students.

My interest in breaking boundaries between disciplines has led me to work as a curator and educator. I have been fortunate to exhibit and curate at an international level, and I bring these experiences back to a pedagogical environment, which allows me to develop programs, collaboration and enthusiasm within an art university and art museum level.

The ASU Art Museum holds an important place in the critical and contemporary art world, and I am honored to join the team.

Information on Julio Cesar Morales

Morales is an artist, educator and curator currently working both individually and collaboratively. His artwork consistently explores issues of labor, memory, surveillance technologies and identity strategies. Morales teaches and creates art in a variety of settings, from juvenile halls and probation offices to museums, art colleges and alternative non-profit institutions. His work has been shown at SFMOMA (San Francisco); 2009 Lyon Biennale (Lyon, France); 2008 and 2004 San Juan Triennial (San Juan, Puerto Rico); 2007 Istanbul Biennale; Los Angeles County Art Museum (Los Angeles); 2006 Singapore Biennale; Frankfurter Kunstverein (Frankfurt, Germany); Swiss Cultural Center (Paris, France); The Rooseum Museum of Art (Malmo, Sweden); Peres Projects (Los Angeles); Fototeca de Havana (Cuba); Harris Lieberman Gallery (New York City); Museo Tamayo (Mexico City) and UCLA Hammer Museum (Los Angeles).

He has received awards from Rockefeller Foundation, The San Francisco Arts Commission’s Public Art Program, The Fleishhacker Foundation, The Ed Fund, The Creative Work Fund, Levis Strauss Foundation and Artadia, among others.

Writing on his work has appeared in publications such as Artforum, Art in America, The New York Times, Frieze Magazine and Flash Art.

Recent curatorial projects include the retrospective exhibition Living in Studio Kuchar of influential underground film-maker George Kuchar at The San Francisco Art Institute (2012); Politica y Poecia, at The National Watercolor Museum in Sweden (2011), an exhibition of contemporary Mexican art that attempts to trace the lineage of political and poetic issues of migration and labor; and The One Who Sees Blindly, an exhibition that marked the U.S. debut of French artist Nathalie Talec at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco (2012).

From 2008-2012 Morales was adjunct curator at Yerba Buena Center for The Arts and created the ground-breaking program PAUSE II Practice and Exchange, a series of process-based exhibitions with artistsinresidence from the Bay Area and around the world. YBCA’s galleries act as a laboratory in which artists are commissioned to develop, experiment and translate new and existing bodies of visual artwork. These works include lectures, performances and workshops that transform the exhibition space into a fluid and active experience for gallery visitors. Other projects included the development of Crossfade, a forum for distinctive video compilations organized by guest curators based at art venues around the world, and an international residency program with Kadist Foundation. Artists included Xu Tan, George Kuchar with Miguel Calderon, Nina Beier, Jennie C. Jones, Allan deSouza and Koki Tanaka.

Morales is the founder, co-director and curator of Queens Nails Annex, located in the Mission district of San Francisco, which serves as a project space dedicated to presenting collaborative, site-specific and experimental works by artists. QNA challenges both emerging and established artists to work outside their “normal” practice in order to produce unique projects. Collaborative institutional projects include the 2008 California Biennale and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Bay Area Now. Exhibition highlights include more than 36+ projects with Archigram, Pedro Reyes, Suzanne Lacy, Mary Kelly, Yoshua Okon, Tony Labat, Mitzi Pederson, Sarah Cain, Jason Jagel, Stella Lai, Jennifer Locke and Miguel Calderon as well as curatorial collaborations with Hou Hanru and Lauri Firstenberg, among others.

Additional independent curatorial projects have been exhibited at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art; Museum of Craft and Folk Art, San Francisco; The San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery; The Pasadena Museum of California Art; and Sonoma Valley Art Museum.

Images courtesy of Julio Cesar Morales.

September 5, 2012 at 8:36 pm 3 comments

Time capsules and popsicles: Ant Farm Media Van at the Ceramics Research Center

What are three things you could not live without? What are you looking forward to for this year? What is your obsession?

These are some of the questions pondered at the ASU Art Museum last Saturday, the 25th of August. Each of the buildings in the Arcadia Residential Community was given a blank filing box and told to build a time capsule out of it to be opened at the end of the year.

We were given sticky letters, tape, markers, oil pastels, anything we wanted to beautify this box with the other residents of our building. Each team deliberated on how they would make their time capsule stand out from the rest. Some people went crazy with tape, and others even wrapped their box in gift wrap, like they were assembling a present for their future selves.

Across the street at the Ceramics Research Center, art museum staff (clad in their awesome AMUSEUM shirts) gave away popsicles from AZ Pops and handed out pages with questions to be answered and put in the time capsule.

Some questions were easy, like the ones I mentioned above. But some really made me ponder: What do you expect to accomplish this year? In what ways do you hope to grow this year?

These were remarkably deep questions for the atmosphere of popsicles and friends in the Ceramics Research Center. But it was as good a time as any to take stock. What DO I expect to accomplish this year at ASU?

After deliberating on those questions, we left the classroom and found the Ant Farm Media Van. Now, this was interesting: an interactive exhibit dedicated to collecting donations from cell phones, camera sticks and other electronic devices.

Now, it looked just like a hollowed-out van with the windows painted over, but inside sat a small green computer, called the HUQQUH (pronounced “hookah”), with cords to fit cell phones sticking out in every direction. The goal was to plug in your cell phone, iPod, or camera, and the HUQQUH would randomly select a file, then copy it to make it an electronic piece of the exhibit. For the most part, it was just taking photos and occasionally songs.

On the wall behind the media van hung a huge poster with little thumbnails of the pictures, songs and files taken during the media van’s time in San Francisco.

It was an entire wall of memories, just little digital files, each randomly taken from someone, making up a collection of images from people’s lives.

I decided that I had to give it a shot. I sat down inside the Media Van and plugged my iPhone into the HUQQUH. It sat for a small time before a picture from my phone appeared on the screen on top.  A computer voice came from nowhere, thanking me for my donation and instructing me to unplug my iPhone from the HUQQUH. It spit out a receipt, thanking me for my donation with a little copy of the picture I donated.

The picture taken was a photo of my grandfather, with my little cousin — the last time I saw my grandfather before he passed away last fall.

And now that picture is stored inside the HUQQUH, to travel the country and become a part of the exhibit.

So on the day that we were decorating and putting items into our own time capsule, we were also contributing to a larger time capsule, set to continue its tour and continue to collect small bits of people’s lives. So while the HUQQUH wasn’t pressing us for personal questions, like what am I passionate about, it was still going through my personal phone and pulling out a very personal work about who I am and what I do. In that regard, this was a great day to take stock, and look at ourselves and ask, who are we and where do we want to be?

Oh, and my building’s time capsule? I think it turned out pretty cool.

Colton Robertson, Community Assistant for Arcadia Residential Community

Photos by Colton Robertson.

August 28, 2012 at 4:40 pm Leave a comment

Well, excuuuuse me! “Bad Manners” at the Museum

Marilyn Lysohir’s “Bad Manners,” 1983.

Bad manners? I asked myself. The name of the work, which is part of the ASU Art Museum’s newest exhibition Bad Manners and selections from the ASU Art Museum collection, clearly struck me as more of a question than a first impression. Walking into the gallery and still too far away to read the accompanying text panel, I was bewildered. The work, a ceramic installation piece by artist Marilyn Lysohir, initially appears to be anything but “Bad Manners.”

Far from crass or revolting, as the name might imply, the installation is intricate, even delicate. The complexity of its construction is a thing of awe. At the very center of the gallery, so that everything, even the viewer, must revolve around them, sit four life-sized ceramic figures. Two men and two women are dining at an elegant table complete with tablecloth and decorative candelabrum. They lack heads but are pristinely dressed. The men wear slacks, ties and sports coats. The women are presented as elegant and proper in garments buttoning primly all the way up their necks and along their wrists.

     

The table itself is another wonder. Somehow not bowing under the weight, it is laden, if not overflowing, with a plethora of exquisite, glossy ceramic food. A whole roast chicken, a vibrant red berry tart, spaghetti and several elaborately decorated cakes stand out among a vast array of other dishes. Far from the sloppy connotations of “bad manners,” each individual piece is beautifully crafted. Beyond that the tender, painstaking care required to assemble such a detailed, complex installation is striking. “Bad Manners” seems like a misnomer.

However, up close and upon inspection, my first impression was proven very wrong as the distant appearance of elegance disintegrated. These aren’t mere headless figures. Looking under the table, the true extent of their inhumanity becomes apparent. The men seem ordinary, disguised by their slacks, but in the space between the women’s hemlines and fashionable pumps there is nothing but air. Then it dawns on you (or at least me): These aren’t figures at all; they are hollow, empty suits of clothing. A second inspection of the table reveals more incongruences disgusting in a scene so falsely elegant. A deviled egg sits atop an artfully decorated chocolate cake. There is a slice of pizza in the salad. Corn on the cob is haphazardly placed on a bowl of spaghetti and a hot dog lounges insultingly on the elaborate frosting of another cake. With each newly noticed unfortunate detail a nascent sense of dismay and revulsion grows. As much as you might want to look away, the conscientious care of each individual ceramic piece and the installation’s assembly draws you in. The work becomes both terrible and exquisite as you stare in fascinated horror.

Bad Manners stands, a glossy stark polemic against our increasing consumerist society. The four empty suits of clothing symbolize mindless consumption: the overloaded table critiques gluttony and excess. Through this work, Lysohir cleverly poses the fundamental question of what is really necessary in life. We undeniably look at excess with envy when we desire the glamorous lifestyles afforded to successful actors and musicians. The excess awarded with fame and fortune is alluring. How else can we explain the (unfortunate) enduring popularity and never-ending string of participants appearing on shows like the X-Factor and American Idol? Normally the best we muster is negligible guilt when we are reminded that we throw food away while people in other regions of the world live without even clean water. Bad Manners doesn’t provoke any guilt; it instills a sense of sheer repugnance at the excess it presents. It awakens a lingering sense of shame exacerbated by the initial pleasantness of the scene as we see ourselves seated around that table. The longer we look, the more hollow the suits of clothing become. They will never receive any satisfaction from the feast laid out in front of them, and no amount of food could ever fill their empty forms.

Bad Manners is a sobering experience, but it delivers its blow with an odd compassion. As much as it revolts, shocks and shames us as we recognize our own greed, these same feelings reaffirm our humanity. It is our very ability to realize and feel such dismay that defines us as more than just hollow suits of clothing. We don’t need to be empty.

-Karen Enters
ASU Art Museum intern

Images courtesy of the artist.

Bad Manners and selections from the ASU Art Museum collection is on view at the ASU Art Museum through Sept. 1. More information here.

August 8, 2012 at 9:27 pm Leave a comment

Coming soon to a Museum near you: Miguel Palma

Above: Miguel Palma (left) with space research trainee from the ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration. Photo courtesy of the Desert Initiative.

Artist Miguel Palma (Lisbon, Portugal) was commissioned by the ASU Art Museum’s Desert Initiative to develop a mobile project that explores our connection to the desert environment.

In collaboration with ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) and other community partners, Palma has converted a former military truck into an exploration vehicle equipped with the technology to photograph and film natural desert environments. The vehicle will return to urban settings at night to project the recorded imagery on building facades and other sites.

The work engages issues through the lens of exploration: military history in Arizona and the Southwest, the military’s role in desert preservation, the history of Manifest Destiny and colonialism in populated places, strategies of adaptation and the role of technology in desert survival.

Palma’s “Remote Desert Shuttle” will be live at the ASU Art Museum on our season opening weekend, Sept. 28-29. In the meantime, here’s a teaser to whet your appetite:

July 31, 2012 at 11:16 pm Leave a 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

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