Posts tagged ‘travel’

Recent NY Times article recognizes social practice art – something we know a thing or two about!

Last week in The New York Times, Randy Kennedy, arts writer, took a look at something the ASU Art Museum has been thinking about for many years: socially engaged practice.

In an article entitled “Outside the Citadel, Social Practice Art Is Intended to Nurture,” Kennedy examines the history and current exploration of social practice, whose “practitioners freely blur the lines among object making, performance, political activism, community organizing, environmentalism and investigative journalism, creating a deeply participatory art that often flourishes outside the gallery and museum system.”

“Leading museums have largely ignored it,” Kennedy writes, “But many smaller art institutions see it as a new frontier for a movement whose roots stretch back to the 1960s but has picked up fervor through Occupy Wall Street and the rise of social activism among young artists.” He highlighted museums such as the Hammer Museum, the Walker Art Center, and the Queens Museum of Art, all of which are working to extend their reach in the socially engaged practice sphere.

ASU Art Museum has been focused on socially engaged practice for more than 5 years, with the launch of our Social Studies initiative in 2007, which provides opportunities for artists working in various media to interact creatively and collaboratively with students, other artists, and faculty and community members. The social interaction of the museum-as-artist’s-studio setting encourages participants to explore new avenues of creativity and ultimately enhance their understanding of their world and each other.

The museum has hosted several social practice artists to date as part of the Social Studies initiative, including Jarbas Lopes, Anila Rubiku, Jillian MacDonald, Gregory Sale, Jennifer Nelson and Julianne Swartz, among others.  In 2012, the museum launched a new social practice speaker series as part of the Socially Engaged Practice Initiative at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and welcomed artist and dancer Elizabeth Johnson as the new Coordinator for Socially Engaged Practice for the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. Johnson is building a socially engaged practice certificate/focus at HIDA, and is housed at the ASU Art Museum  because of the museum’s work in this area.

Finger Dance between mothers and daughters

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.

If you’re curious about the history of the museum’s dedication to socially-engaged practice, take a look back at some of our blog posts showcasing the art and artists we’ve had the pleasure of working with: https://asuartmuseum.wordpress.com/category/social-studies-collaborative-projects/

For Kennedy’s full New York Times piece, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/arts/design/outside-the-citadel-social-practice-art-is-intended-to-nurture.html

–Juno Schaser, PR Intern

March 28, 2013 at 8:55 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

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

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

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

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

The Desert Notebooks: Charted Territories

“Of what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map?”
Aldo Leopold

Arizona is one of the most beautiful states in the Union, a diverse range of landscapes, each more breathtaking than the next, ranging from vast and desolate plateaus to hidden canyons opening into lush, green fields, from cactus fields to piñon forests.

Arizona was an even more abundant land before the arrival of progress and massive numbers of new residents and industries built on extraction.

Native communities thrived here for centuries before Europeans arrived. The canyons of northern Arizona are littered with large numbers of prehistoric ruins — sophisticated, multi-story masonry structures built into protective cliffs and along rivers. These structures were abandoned well before the arrival in the area of the Navajo, the largest Native community in the United States, who now trace their origin stories to this land..

The former abundance is reflected in the sheer number of these ruins, a mysterious precursor of the wildly expanding low-density sprawl we have in Arizona today. Matteo Rubbi found an aerial photographic map of Apache Junction taken in 1971 that shows a view of largely undeveloped that will never be reproduced.

Visiting artists Miguel Palma and Bruno Pereira Sousa, both from Portugal, and Matteo Rubbi from Italy and I traveled north this week on behalf of the Desert Initiative. On May 14, we were hosted on a visit to the Navajo Nation and other locations in New Mexico and northern Arizona by Phoenix artist Steve Yazzie (http://www.stevenyazzie.com). Yazzie and his family grew up on the Navajo Nation, and he had an opportunity to visit his mother while we were there. Yazzie’s late grandfather was a Navajo Code Talker, and Yazzie served in the Marines before dedicating himself to his work as an artist. One of his works was recently acquired by the Phoenix Art Museum.

Our first night was spent in Gallup, New Mexico, at the historic El Rancho Hotel. Gallup was once called the “Indian Capital of the World,” and about 30 percent of the city’s population traces its roots to Navajo, Hopi, Zuni or other Native communities.

The following morning, we had a meeting with Manny Wheeler, Director of the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, and learned about many of the exciting exhibitions, projects and commissions he is leading there. We previewed several new temporary public art installations yet to be unveiled as part of a collaboration between the Navajo Nation and New Mexico Arts, the state arts agency. The commissions will be inaugurated in Sante Fe, N.M. on Friday, May 18. Desert Initiative and ARID Journal partner and ISEA2012 Artistic Director Andrea Polli and Will Wilson are among the artists commissioned. For more information, including a map and texts in both Navajo and English, visit http://www.timenm.com/

After a traditional Navajo lunch in Window Rock, we headed southwest through the Navajo Nation toward Chinle Canyon, where we saw several of the prehistoric ruins and watched horses run across the canyon floor. We spent the night and following morning in historic downtown Flagstaff, where we also met with Alan Petersen, Curator of Fine Arts for the Museum of Northern Arizona, and toured his current exhibition, Shadows on the Mesa—Artists of the Painted Desert and Beyond. I highly recommend a visit. More information is available on-line at http://www.musnaz.org/exhibits/shadows/index.shtml

On the drive south back to Phoenix from Flagstaff, as the elevation dropped, the exterior temperature rose from 72 degrees to 106 degrees over a roughly 140-mile drive. We passed by the fires raging on the west side of I-17 near Sunflower, Arizona. At a certain point, smoke from the fires blocked out the afternoon sun and cast otherworldly light and shadows on the landscape.

I saw things on this short journey that I’ve never seen before and may not ever see again: Horses attempting to open the front door of house. The sun sinking through a red and black veil of smoke rising from the largely uncontained Sunflower fires raging to the south, at one point lighting up the previously invisible silhouette of the San Francisco Peaks like a volcano as it slowly sank behind the horizon. Through it all, the best moments were watching the landscape through the eyes of international guest artists and watching the creative process in action as everyone interacted and responded creatively throughout with vision, inspiration, laughter and friendship. My sincere thanks go out to Steve Yazzie, Manny Wheeler and Alan Petersen for their time and support on behalf of the Desert Initiative and ASU, and to our visiting artists Miguel Palma, Bruno Pereira Sousa and Matteo Rubbi.

GREG ESSER
Desert Initiative Director
ASU Art Museum

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Photographs by Steven Yazzie.

May 21, 2012 at 7:44 pm 1 comment

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