Posts tagged ‘Mary Grace Richardson’

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

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Each piece in the exhibition Turn off the Sun, on view at the ASU Art Museum through Sept. 7, packs tremendous heat, power and impact. Drawn from La Colección Jumex in Mexico City, an incredible private contemporary art collection of about 2,600 works, Turn off the Sun displays two dozen of these searingly honest and beautiful pieces. This is only the second time that any of the Jumex collection has been shown in the United States.

The exhibition title did not come about from a concentrated brainstorm though, but rather from joking about the weather. During Jumex director Patrick Charpenel and curator Michel Blancsubé’s site visit to the ASU Art Museum in the summer of 2012, the two started an ongoing joke about how someone needs to “turn off the sun.” When curator Julio César Morales joined the staff in the fall and heard it, he pointed out how that’s not necessarily a joke—that’s a great name.

“When I heard this phrase, I thought it was a brilliant title, and the more it was discussed by myself and Heather Sealy Lineberry, the more we thought the title really connected with artworks in the exhibition and addressed ideas of site, adaptability and physical displacement,” Morales said.

ASU Art Museum senior curator and associate director Heather Sealy Lineberry said the museum staff became interested in the social and political implications of brining the contemporary art collection from Mexico to Arizona and how the content of the work would shift just by the very nature of having it here.

The artworks address several types of issues between Mexico and the United States, among them borders, landscape, lines, labor, politics, economics, faith and awareness.

One example is “Cuando La Fe Mueve Montañas” (“When Faith Moves Mountains”) by Francis Alÿs, a conceptual performance artist. In the multimedia installation, the artist has a group of people move a mountain with shovels to create a line, like a curious border. Another is “Security Fence” by Liza Lou, which explores dark psychological spaces of violence and confinement. Santiago Sierra’s artwork “3000 holes of 180 x 50 x 50 cm each” is a triptych of three photographs and a performance piece that he created while in southern Spain, looking across to North Africa where many immigrants come into Spain. On video Sierra highlights matters of struggle and immigration by showing the 3,000 shoveled holes, mostly dug by Senegalese and Moroccan day workers over the course of a month with a Spanish foreman overseeing the labor.

“These three pieces pulled at our imagination and were tremendous anchors for what we wanted to do with the exhibition,” Lineberry said.

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liza lou smaller by craig smith

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In an interview with San Francisco Arts Quarterly, Blancsubé also explained, “I generally don’t choose a theme and then look for artworks to sustain or feed it… I am seduced by artworks and imagine funny games between them. The theme or the discourse comes after or during the construction, and in a way it is suggested by the artworks themselves.”

Along with the choosing of the exhibition title, another unexpected aspect of Turn off the Sun is that there are no labels next to the pieces. Instead, there is printed material at the entrance of every gallery space that includes technical information, biographies and further text about the artistic process of all the artworks. This allows people who want to make their own relationships with the work to have that possibility. With each exhibition, the museum experiments with how to provide information for the visitor, and different kinds of exhibitions warrant different information systems.

Blancsubé said the information related to the artworks is accessible for curious visitors, “but not having plaques plugged on the wall near the artworks allows visitors to have a first approach of the artworks on their own without receiving from the beginning glasses that oriented their viewing.”

“We thought the design and artworks look so clean and beautifully installed that labels would interrupt the artwork itself,” Morales said. “I was more interested in the audience having a visceral experience of the work and engaging with it without any other materials to distract from that experience.”

Though some visitors are more comfortable with text panels, many are pleasantly surprised and enjoy the practice of making their own connections with the works.

Lineberry said she sees people relating to the artworks and broadening their thoughts about the border: “I think a lot of people are coming away with a pretty amazing experience of the works individually and the process of piecing them together as a narrative in their minds.”

–Mary Grace Richardson

Images, from top: “Overpass,” by Jeff Wall; “Cuando La Fe Mueve Montañas” (“When Faith Moves Mountains”), by Francis Alÿs; “Security Fence,” by Liza Lou, and “3000 holes of 180 x 50 x 50 cm each,” by Santiago Sierra. All photos by Craig Smith.

June 4, 2013 at 7:30 pm 2 comments

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


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