After Vasari

writings on artists and artworks and where they exist

Tag: group exhibition

Scrims & Blurs

by Paul D'Agostino

RU-Collage

Scrims & Blurs: Theresa Volpp, Mads Lindberg, Kinu Kamura, Julie Leidner
Curated by Paul D’Agostino for Residency Unlimited

Hosted by El Museo de Los Sures, and featuring current Residency Unlimited artists Kinu Kamura (France), Julie Leidner (USA), Mads Lindberg (Denmark) and Theresa Volpp (Germany), Scrims & Blurs presents a navigable pathway of paintings, drawings, sculptures, collages, photographs and partially site-specific installations. It’s an exhibition that invites visitors to look at, into and through a variably interactive array of objects while pondering notions of blurry translucence, reflective transparency, dematerialization and rematerialization, and self-refraction and self-discovery. In ways active and viewer-activated alike, the carefully considered surfaces of all of the works — layered materially as well as conceptually — serve as sieves and concealers, revealers and obscurants. Behind their textures, filters, scrims and screens lie clues, secrets and discoveries.

Broad and expansive like a sprawling tapestry, Theresa Volpp ‘s multi-panel mixed-media painting on transparent vinyl is an amalgam of gestural, energetic, and at times frenetic marks and layered applications involving household paint, ink, glitter and spray paint. Her treatment is thin yet chunkily abstract in formal ways. Her palette is deep yet punctuated by vibrant yellows. Transparency lies beneath her materially complex surface, but it’s all but hidden. Your act of seeking it out then becomes exploratory; locating its ulterior surfaces is thus excavational.

Hidden in Mads Lindberg’s sequence of mixed-media paintings, meanwhile, is neither transparency nor translucence, but rather various forms of representation. What Lindberg hides, in other words, is paintings or other kinds of imagery that he finds and repurposes, intervening with his own additional marks and forms. These already somewhat hidden works are then hidden even further behind scrims, as it were, of not only resin, but also an additional ‘outsourced’ layer of a different sort: plastic shopping bags. Lindberg’s implicit commentary on the cyclical nature of the trappings of commerce thus runs from the surface to the core of his works.

Julie Leidner, working in parallel on two interrelated bodies of work featuring a common protagonist — a possibly timid, possibly audacious, possibly fearful, possibly fearsome, perhaps even feral young girl the artist identifies as ‘Pebbles’ — has created a series of small paintings on canvas and a suite of larger paintings on paper. Both bodies of work involve not only overtly differentiable layers of paintings, but also of cultural and historical interpretability. In the smaller works, Pebbles is identifiable behind visual sieves of text that that read, to various extents and in various forms, “Dirty ain’t I?”, a cryptic question that seems as if someone wrote it with a finger into caked-up dirt on a car window. Here, Pebbles peers out of the paintings to see not only the ‘filthy’ messaging, and not only her real and implied ‘viewers,’ but also herself. In Leidner’s other body of work, “I Come Creeping,” one large representation of Pebbles crawls across and atop several large sheets of glossy paper, each proportioned like Playboy centerfolds, and each featuring — behind ‘pieces’ of a ‘creeping’ Pebbles — a very differently formal oil rendering of a rural landscape. Here, history meets mystery, and Leidner’s bodies of work look back and forth at one another while we, the viewers, become an additional ‘scrim’ of complicit voyeurs.

Kinu Kamura’s work is all about additional scrims and layers of looking. Inspired by levels of clarity and blur in our own acts of seeing, and by ideas of experiential and spatial reproduction, reflectivity and transference, Kamura has created an ultimately site-specific, multi-piece sculptural installation that invites visitors to look at, into and through it. Her broadly scaled and spatially expansive objects, to some extent a ‘bridge’ between the front gallery and the back, are composed of various types and formations of plexiglass and other reflective, refractive, sight-altering surfaces. Viewers thus see themselves as they look through such pieces, while seeing also manifold layers of reflections of the works in the room. The room, of course, becomes an active part of the work and ‘act of seeing’ as well: it is the site, and it is also ‘in sight.’ The frame-within-a-frame modality of Kamura’s work doesn’t quite end there, however. She incorporates choice photographs and photocopies as well, some nodding directly at the space itself, and others to other works in the show. Residing in our eyes for a time, Kamura’s labyrinth becomes infinite in our minds.

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The above text was composed for Scrims & Blurs, an exhibition produced for Residency Unlimited. It was on view at El Museo de Los Sures in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, from 19 to 28 July, 2018. More information about the show can be found here. Photographs by Paul D’Agostino.

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.

Calling All Sorts: Gestures & Junctures, Questions & Quotes

by Paul D'Agostino

Gestures&Junctures-catalog-montage-pic

Calling All Sorts: Gestures & Junctures, Questions & Quotes

One artist’s operative modes, procedural preferences, concepts and contexts, and embedded or openly conveyed metaphors and meanings might be many and varied, and might change significantly over time or from one body of work to the next. Another artist’s perhaps less stratified or ranging approach to artmaking might appear to be far more focused, resolved or streamlined, its ultimate overall yields of ostensibly greater formal or material cohesion.

One artist, in other words, might seem to be all over the place, or to feel most inspired or challenged by working as such, while another might seem somewhat devoted to a specific creative locus, process or directional sense.

One artist’s creative output might look like an explosion. Another’s, hermetic and meticulous.

One’s work might seem nearly nonsensical. Another’s, resolutely rational.

One artist’s personality might be described as Type A, or whatever that’s called these days. Another’s might be described as Type B, or whatever that’s called these days. One artist is introverted, the other extroverted. One is left-brained, the other right-brained. One is instinctive, shoots from the gut. The other painstaking, pensive, cerebral.

And yet, such labels might serve little purpose. Personalities are far more nuanced than such descriptors generally allow, which is particularly true when it comes to discussions of artists—and when considering how and why they do what they do as agents of creative endeavors, as creators of cultural products.

Moreover, artists are rather contrary to being labeled. And rightly so. Who wants to be put in categorical boxes? Artists of all sorts, after all, are the people whose specialty is to think outside of them—much of which derives from posing good questions to answer, and finding good problems to solve.

In other words, to be an artist is to maintain an ever-inquisitive, problem-solving mind and creative disposition. For some artists, this is almost a passive act. For others, a firmly conscious, decisive one. Some artists pose questions and problems in a way that gives them rules to follow. Others throw rules out the window—perhaps even as a rule.

Some of the questions and problems leading eventually to artworks are veiled, implicit, unstated—so inherent to the creative process, even, as to be easily forsaken. For instance:

How would that field look if rendered in watercolors or graphite?

The other aspect of this particular idea about sexuality and art history has never been explored.

Can I carve a cloud with pink lining from a slab of marble?

The art world lacks and therefore needs my parodical video piece on the preemptive museumification of post-nuclear sound art.

Other questions and problems, meanwhile, are explicit, blatant, overt, perhaps even inscribed into the work itself so as to engage a viewer, if not society at large, directly. To be sure, such questions and problems can be of variable complexities, and they might well have no real answers or solutions.

What, then, of all this?

Most simply: It takes all sorts.

All sorts of artists, all sorts of artworks, all sorts of creative personalities, all sorts of approaches, all sorts of introversions and explosions, and of course, all sorts of questions and problems.

What has charmed me the most about working with the inspired and inspiring group of MFA students at Queens College is that they quite literally are, in a collective sense, all sorts. Some work in traditional media and processes, others in advanced technologies and social practice. Some dig into personal narratives and experiences to address complex issues of sexual, racial or national identity; others take creative cues from more directly visual sources, including urban environments, nature and folk traditions. Some seek to create active exchanges with their viewers, or to compel them to regard themselves as ‘other’ to foster understanding; others aim to inform or disarm their viewers by presenting themselves intimately, sincerely, provocatively.

Indeed, the wide range of inputs and pursuits relevant to this group of artists is readily conveyed by the terms they came up with themselves when asked, individually but within a group setting, to try to sum up their respective creative practices in just one word. Here’s what they offered:

chaos, exploration, pattern, connection, empathy, bound, experimental, digestive, emotional, nostalgia, descriptive, poetic, schizophrenic, narrative, weird, understanding, stillness, scientific, cliché, quiet, dignity, hungry

It was from the content of that initial discussion, and from a great many deeply enjoyable and reciprocally enriching studio visits, that I developed the ideas for Gestures & Junctures, Questions & Quotes, an exhibition that I hope does as much to showcase the breadth and quality of the artworks produced by this talented MFA class, as it does to incorporate its viewers into its intermittently audience-inclusive fold. To that end, what you’ll find in the show and in these pages is an array of variably mediated, often interdisciplinarily informed artworks that I have dared to describe loosely as ‘gestural’ and ‘junctural’—created with painstaking care or palpable explosiveness by one of the most driven, creatively variegated groups of art students I’ve ever encountered.

What you’ll also find in these pages are questions these students would like to pose—to themselves and to you—and quotes they’ve selected—for themselves and for you.

And now, for you, a note of advice with which I’ll conclude:

Don’t keep an eye out for these artists. Keep your eyes on them.

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The above text is my catalog essay for Gestures & Junctures, Questions & Quotes, an exhibition I curated for the CUNY Queens College MFA Program, on view at Sideshow Gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, from April 7th-30th, 2017. Featured artists: Arbër Dabaj, Alejandro Salgado Cendales, Alix Camacho, Amy Cheng, Edward Majkowski, Effi Ibok, Eliesha Grant, Erin Turner, Floor Grootenhuis, Jeff Kasper, Jenna Makuh, Julian Phillips, Len Antinori, Maria K. Karlberg-Levin, Michael Ferris Jr., Nancy Bruno, Paula Frisch, Pedro Ventimilla, Tara Homasi, Uno Nam, Zaid Islam.

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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