After Vasari

writings on artists and artworks and where they exist

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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.

Evolutionary States

by Paul D'Agostino

 

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Evolutionary States: Ruth Hardinger

Ever since following her learner’s instincts, anthropological curiosities, researcher’s mind, ecologist’s sensibilities, and artist’s hands and eyes along a creative path leading her to work in landscape art in the 1970s, Ruth Hardinger has passed the ensuing decades seeking out keener, more elementally informed, more environmentally conscious, and more responsibly, relevantly collaborative modes of crafting her consistently arresting sculptures, paintings, drawings, tapestries, site-specific installations and exterior interventions. She ranks among the pioneers of a certain earthy, earthily timeless aesthetic—a middleground of sorts between the quietude of paintings by Agnes Martin, for instance, and the hulking monumentality of sculptures by Richard Serra—that renders some of her works in abstraction no more abstract than a mountain, say, and that has inspired so many artists following in her wake. Working in an astounding breadth of media, yet never adding to her material docket without conceptual reason for doing so, Hardinger is also a boundlessly prolific artist, and an apparently tireless one at that.

Close inspection of Hardinger’s techniques and materials evidence that she employs the former to somehow compel the latter into states that might be described as evolutionary. She uses graphite in all manner of drawings and sometimes sculptures not merely for its technical utility, but also for its materially intriguing virtues as a kind of essence of carbon. She uses concrete in her generally minimalist sculptures—which are at times large scale and subtly anthropomorphic, and often wont to bow in deference to the ancients while referencing a kind of future antiquity—not merely because of its spartan look, grave heft and functional practicalities that nod to infrastructure as well, but also because its constituent elements make it materially kindred to the bones and shells of animals of the land, the sea and the air. She employs select fabrics for their undying anthropological pertinence and rugged tactilities; she uses certain finishes for the ways in which they impress deeper temporal stamps into the grains and veins of surfaces; she incorporates cardboards and other pulp-based materials for their fibrous strengths, familiarity and recyclability; and she maintains subdued palettes so as to prevent chromatic ornament from mounting experiential barriers between viewers and the hearty thingness of her creations. For certain bodies of work, Hardinger has even collaborated with traditional artisans in distant villages to imbue her artworks with the broadened knowledge of so many past generations, and to readily place her activities as a maker of fine art within a vaster chronology of object making in general.

Hardinger’s works are anachronistic, in a sense, and sympathetically rustic, yet always presented with considered pristineness and rigor. To regard them is to ponder the vastness of time, the relative eternity of certain materials, and the mysterious confluence of elements and circumstances that place us here, where we are, wherever we are. In light of the urgency of environmental issues in today’s sociopolitical discourses, now is an auspicious and important time for this inspiring, ecologically enlightened artist to receive the brighter spotlight she richly deserves.
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This essay was composed for David & Schweitzer Contemporary as an accompaniment to the gallery’s solo presentation of works by Ruth Hardinger at Volta Art Fair during New York Armory Week, from 1 to 5 March 2017. The fair is held at Pier 90, and David & Schweitzer’s showcase is located at booth C23. More information about Volta Art Fair is here.

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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