After Vasari

writings on artists and artworks and where they exist

Month: May, 2017

Intimate to Infinite

by Paul D'Agostino


Intimate to Infinite: Parsons Integrated Design Capstone Exhibition

From singularly personal to potentially global, from individually exploratory to broadly sociocultural, from profoundly interiorizing to boundlessly concerned for others and society at large, the variably mediated final projects produced by this graduating class of Integrated Design students evidence poles of inspiration and interests that might now be described as intimate, now as ostensibly infinite.

Ceramics, books, music booths, movie trailers, garments, collages, prints, videos, poetry, prose, lexicons, seed bombs, furniture, coloring books, undergarments, jewelry, reconfigured pasts, curiously foreseen futures, critiques of the present, admonishments for what is to come: the physical and conceptual yields of these young creatives’ hard work are as associatively absorbing to describe and discuss—please note that this is hardly an exhaustive list—as they are keenly imagined and instructive to engage with. Indeed, this latter point, that of engagement, is of particular importance, as even the most individualized or autobiographical projects furnish viewers with something to actively use, experience, contribute to or take away. This is how a project whose impetus is something intimate extends outwards into the world at large. In turn, this is also how a project whose initial concern is the world at large brings the individual’s role therein into focus.

A number of students activate their projects by narrating personal or familial histories of discrimination, disappointment or inequality not merely to tell or retell a story, but also to provide functional lessons and suggestions for overcoming, along with transporting or transportable products aimed at further diffusing such narratives and prescriptions. Other students, meanwhile, take cues from broader if not truly global concerns—urban blight, poverty, endangered ecosystems, scarcity of resources—to catalyze and contextualize their works. Thus are the folk traditions of a remote village, for instance, incorporated into solutions for more sustainable forms of production that could also improve villagers’ lives; thus is the relative ease with which every single one of us can become an agent of positive change emphatically expressed, underscoring how crucial it is for everyone to collectively disseminate such knowledge far and wide. From one group of projects to the next, that which is personal is cast out into greater spheres of awareness and utility, and that which is far-reaching or global is compartmentalized into operative modes of individual activity and enterprise.

I have greatly enjoyed working with this group of inspired, enthusiastic design students. It has been a pleasure to become acquainted with them as fellow creatives, with their extensive range of skill sets and intellectual interests, and with their backgrounds and professional ambitions, all of which has taught me a great deal in return. No matter where their individual points of departure are now located on my proposed spectrum of ‘intimate to infinite,’ I am certain that they are all on the right track—and that the paths they’re already carving are well worth following.

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The above text is my curatorial essay for Intimate to Infinite, an exhibition I curated at Parsons The New School for Design, as the Capstone Exhibition for the BFA program in Integrated Design. It was on view from May 8th-18th, 2017. It featured thesis projects by three dozen graduating seniors studying with Caroline Woolard, Gabi Asfour, Jody Wood, and Program Director Adam Brent.

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Paul D’Agostino, Ph.D. is an artist, writer, translator, curator and professor living in Bushwick, Brooklyn. More information about him is available here, and you can find him as @postuccio on Instagram and Twitter.

Themselves Productive

by Paul D'Agostino


Themselves Productive: New Paintings by Liv Mette Larsen

The more you become acquainted with the foundational forms and material underpinnings of Liv Mette Larsen’s works, the more you come to realize the generally uninterrupted extent to which they are all procedurally interlinked, conceptually interconnected, holistically and harmoniously cross-informed. The nature of this realization is perhaps ultimately the most abstract product of Larsen’s hand-pedaled, factory-like process that is itself generative, manually fabricational, iteratively productive.

One should not mistake any of the above as a suggestion that this now Brooklyn-based painter—Norwegian-born, then eventually NYC-bound by way of a period of teaching and artistic activity in Germany—presents her viewers with compositions full of visual convolution, nor that her pictorial processes and products register as even remotely mechanical. On the contrary, Larsen’s essentially representationally-driven forms are dimensionally simplified distillations of at times complex, at times relatively basic structures that stand as variably recognizable markers of place—localized neighborhood skylines, for instance, or readily distinguishable factories, as is the case in her series Concrete Factory / Slemmestad Fabrikker. Working from photographs or observation, Larsen breaks up, breaks down and flattens her chosen structures’ aspects and facets into a series of characteristic shapes, then carries them into so many lightly, almost happily handled compositional arrangements that serve as her platform to explore the chromatic richness and occasional quirks of her long-standing materials of choice—egg tempera on linen treated with rabbit skin glue.

Larsen’s largely earth-tone colors run a full yet quiescent range. She’s not shy at all about employing purples, yellows, oranges and greens to depict objects that might actually be just grey, in other words, but not even the brightest reaches of her palette shout or cry out. Rather, her colors murmur and hum like the low din of machinery, or like a calm flow of traffic along an urban block, maintaining nonetheless all the chromatic lushness and toothsome textures of the powdered pigments and egg mediums she uses to mix them into life. Backgrounds are sometimes the areas where Larsen allows colors to visually intermingle and bleed through one another, especially in her larger works. Consequently, her montages of middle- and foregrounded forms, often filled in with more uniformly viscous admixtures, begin to come across as depth-creating, footprint-stamping, colorful shadow-puppet-like characters—a troupe of implicitly post-industrial, meta-structural actors, let’s say, playing stop-motion roles of form-holders, chroma-bearers and spatial dwellers on some outdoor stage on a forsaken, extra-urban stretch of land, on a fall or spring afternoon in which mild temperatures and overcast skies cooperate to make the setting that much simpler to enthuse.

In Larsen’s creative landscape, some of the forms, colors, compositions and ‘characters’ she develops will then reemerge in kindred bodies of work. Shapes appear in different proportions in other paintings and collages; collages take color cues from paintings and watercolors; watercolors and collages inform compositional and chromatic choices in paintings. And of course, Larsen keeps an ever-sharp eye on how subtle shifts or surprises in one productive mode might lead her to insights in another. All this from regarding very closely and formally dismantling a building or two, then turning constituent parts into inputs for serialized processes made manifest in interconnectedly generative ways. A landmark fabrikk in Norway, as it were, becomes a manufacturer and remanufacturer of itself. And Larsen’s creative factory just keeps on humming. The characters in her plays keep doing their happy thing.

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This essay was composed for Liv Mette Larsen’s exhibition catalogue for Concrete Factory / Slemmestad Fabrikker, the artist’s solo show at Trafo Kunsthall in Trafo, Norway. Her show is on view from 6 May to 17 June, 2017. More information about the exhibit and Trafo Kunsthall can be found here. More information about Liv Mette Larsen is on her website, here. Installation image courtesy the artist and Trafo Kunsthall.

Paul D’Agostino, Ph.D. is an artist, writer, translator, curator and professor living in Bushwick, Brooklyn. More information about him is available here, and you can find him as @postuccio on Instagram and Twitter.

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