lumber room

Saturday, April 24,2021

Deborah Roberts

image credit: Deborah Roberts, Curled Up, 2020, mixed media collage on panel

Born 1962 in Austin, TX
Lives and Works in Austin, TX

“What I want as an artist is for the viewer to see that face, first and foremost, as the face of a child because that’s the image I think you need to come to. I tell my audiences that this is the idea—to ‘see’ that little girl [or boy]! I am also hoping they see vulnerability, strength, and beauty. If you can find yourself in her [or his] face, then you can see and embrace your own humanity. Once you see me as human, then we can coexist equally. That’s the basis of the work.” — Deborah Roberts

For over three decades, Deborah Roberts has depicted the multiplicity of Black experience through an artistic practice of painting, drawing, and, most recently, mixed media collage. Throughout her career, the figure has been central to Roberts’ work. Since an introduction by her high school art teacher to the tender portraits of Charles White, Roberts has sought to celebrate and present an expansive view of Black life, one that encompasses the softness, joy, beauty, and hope that exist and thrive amidst oppressive systems of racism, colorism, and gender inequality. 

In combining collage with a deep love of painting and drawing, Roberts references the long and important history of collage’s role in activism, notably in the realms of civil rights and women’s rights. There is an urgency inherent to cropping and recombining found images readily available from printed and online sources. The immediacy and clarity with which new and powerful meanings and statements can be made through collage makes it a poignantly egalitarian medium. 

Through color, pattern, form, and line, Roberts asks the viewer to stop and pay attention to the image of Black children. She often begins a work by creating the child’s face, combining found fragments to form a unique whole. In Curled Up, as in many of her works, the figure gazes directly out at the viewer. Crouched at an angle, the boy embodies a complexity that directs the viewer to look beyond narrow cultural constructs and ideals of masculinity. In the painted and drawn contours of the boy’s hands and arm, Roberts highlights the nuances of tone in his skin. While one of his hands forms an upraised fist, the outstretched fingers of his other hand point toward the ground, somewhat relaxed but also ready for movement. The lengths of his fingers point the viewer to his bare ankles, which like his hands, present subtleties of skin tone, and to his feet clad in bright red shoes. The heel of one foot is raised, while the other foot is firmly planted. Within the image, the innocence and joy of childhood, implied in playful color and pattern and in the delicate gesture of the boy’s lowered hand, seem about to meet adulthood and its ensuing demands. The area of stark white surrounding the boy suggests a space that is his own to make and inhabit, one in which a vast range of truths and possibilities can coexist. 

Roberts studied at the University of North Texas in Denton as well as at the San Francisco Art Institute. She went on to earn an MFA from Syracuse University in New York in 2014. Solo exhibitions of her work have been presented at The Contemporary Austin, Austin, TX (currently on view through August 15, 2021) and Spelman Museum, Atlanta, GA (2017), among other venues. Her work has been included in exhibitions at The Drawing Center, New York, NY (2020); Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University, Saint Louis, MO (2020; traveled to Alaska State Museum, Juneau, AK); Pérez Art Museum, Miami, FL (2020); Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL (2020); National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C. (2019); Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Scotland (2019); California African American Museum (CAAM), Los Angeles, CA (2019); MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA (2019); and The Studio Museum of Harlem, New York, NY (2017), among many others. Roberts was selected to participate in the Robert Rauschenberg Residency (2019) and is a recipient of the Anonymous Was A Woman Grant (2018), the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant (2016), and the Ginsburg-Klaus Award Fellowship (2014). Her work will be included in a forthcoming group exhibition at the ICA Boston, Boston, MA (August 7, 2021-January 2, 2022).

Wednesday, April 21,2021

Shara Hughes

image credit: Shara Hughes, Purgatory Chasm, 2018, oil and acrylic on canvas

Born 1981, Atlanta, GA.
Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

“There’s something very open-ended about the idea of a landscape that appeals to me too. All landscapes are constantly changing, whether it’s the time of day or the temperature or the weather patterns and things growing and dying. The constant state of change created so much possibility.” — Shara Hughes

In dreamy, immersive paintings, Shara Hughes captures the boldness of natural growth and energetic potential within a landscape to simultaneously provide and take away, protect and endanger, nurture and deplete. These visual observations unfold and become embedded in her paintings as memories of touch, smell, sound, and other forms of sensory experience. Heavily saturated colors flow freely through her imagined environs in layers of stacked loops and pools of hot color that eschew expected perspective. Shifts in scale and focus heighten the focus on one’s personal experience and imagination. As Hughes has said, “Even if you go back to the same location that you love, it looks different because you're different, so nothing is ever actually the same.”

Purgatory Chasm is one of three paintings by Hughes that was exhibited in her 2018 solo exhibition, Sun Salutations, at the Newport Art Museum in Rhode Island. Each work was made in response landscapes in and around Newport. Purgatory Chasm is the name of a natural landmark in the area, a dramatic crevice that drops nearly 50 feet to meet the ocean. Once the substrate of ancient glaciers, the rock has been carved and sliced over time by the ocean.

In Hughes’ painting, the channel of saltwater that ebbs and flows through the crevice is depicted as a jewel-toned mosaic of colors reflecting the surrounding foliage and rock surfaces. Hughes visited the site at sunrise one morning and, with memories formed from that experience, portrays the sparkling splendor of light reflected on water and refracted through clouds. A narrow strip of sky at the top of the painting captures both the blinding and captivating aspects of the sun’s light, embodying the desire to look at and remember such a sight as it clashes with the risk inherent in doing so.

Hughes earned a BFA in 2004 from the Rhode Island School of Design and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2011. Solo exhibitions of her work have been presented at the Le Consortium, Dijon, France (2021); Newport Art Museum, Newport, RI (2018); Gallery Met at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, NY (2017); and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, Atlanta, GA (2016), among many others. In May 2018, Hughes completed a large-scale mural in Boston, MA, commissioned by the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy in partnership with the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum. Her work has been included in numerous group exhibitions, including those at The Drawing Center, New York, NY (2020); Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX (2020, 2019); Atlanta Contemporary, Atlanta, GA (2020); Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY (2019); MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA (2018); Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (2017); and High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA (2015), among others. Forthcoming solo exhibitions of Hughes’ work will be held at the Garden Museum, London, UK (May 17-Jun 25, 2021); Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, St. Louis, MO (Sep 3, 2021-Feb 20, 2022); Yuz Museum, Shanghai, China (2021); and Kunstmuseum Luzern, Luzern Switzerland (2022).

Thursday, March 4, 2021


image credit: Susan Rothenberg, Bucket of Water, 1983-1984, oil on canvas

Born 1945, Buffalo, New York.
Died 2020, Galisteo, New Mexico.

“The magic part [of painting] usually frames itself in my head like a question, a phrase, like, ‘What should be? What picture should be? Here.’ And I don't know if I mean here in my studio, or here in this world. Sometimes, it comes up as, ‘What do I want to do? What do I want to make?’ But ‘What should be?’ is a kind of prior thought to letting an image come up. It will happen any time; it happens sometimes just thinking, ‘I know what I want to do,’ and then starting. I mean, I mess up the canvas as soon as I can with some sort of paint.” — Susan Rothenberg

Upon moving to New York City in the late 1960s, Susan Rothenberg found herself in the throes of Minimalism and its reductive geometries. In time, however, she found herself drawn by a more emotive and poetic impulse, incorporating line and contour over monochromatic and geometric grounds. In the mid-1970s, seeking an earthly and relatable form on which to focus, Rothenberg produced a series of works of horses. Seeking distance from the often intangible language of abstraction, she gravitated towards the powerful form of the horse, a figure replete with history and symbolism, and one whose features and movements she could explore in depth. Rothenberg has said, ”The horse was a way of not doing people, yet it was a symbol of people, a self-portrait, really,” and it offered the opportunity to work simultaneously in abstraction and figuration.

Rothenberg continued to make space for both Minimalist and Expressionistic strategies in her paintings and drawings. In the early 1980s, she switched from using acrylic paints to the richer depths and textures of oils. With this shift, she came to concentrate more on movement and other mutable qualities. Bucket of Water, 1983-84, is exemplary of her ability to visualize all of the currents of energy that course through a simple gesture. In it, a pale, sinewy arm painted in shades of violet extends through a flood of glittering light, depicted by a burst of short, vertical brushstrokes that dominate the left side of the canvas. The arm meets the back of a figure that seems to be lifting or dropping a bucket of water. In speaking about Bucket of Water during a 1984 interview, Rothenberg said, “There has to be some absurdity, some non-real event in the painting, almost, some little extra added attraction to what you see with your eyes, to make a painting happen for me. And it suddenly occurred to me, with that blank space on the left, to make a figure in total contradiction to the one with the bucket - a spiritual as well as a physical counterpoint to it. The figure is doing something in real life, whereas the floating one is in a state of perfect nonactivity. It's putting two states of being, whatever they are, into one picture.” The broad scale of the painting immerses the viewer in these actions: the cascading repetition of shadow-like marks that describe the water pouring from a bucket is inescapable at this scale. As in many of Rothenberg’s works, the pace and texture of her brushstrokes coupled with exaggerated or fractured figures creates a tension between joyful play and brazen force.

Focusing first on sculpture and then on painting, Rothenberg earned a BFA from Cornell University in 1967. She then enrolled in the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C., but decided instead to move to New York, where she lived until 1990. A major retrospective of her work was organized by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY (1992-1994; traveled to Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C.; Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis, MO; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago, IL; Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA; and the Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX). In 1983, a survey of her work was presented at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA (traveled to San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, CA; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA; Aspen Center for the Visual Arts, Aspen, CO; Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI; Tate Gallery, London; and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA). Solo exhibitions of Rothenberg’s work have also been held at Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth, TX (2009); Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey, Monterrey, Mexico (1996); Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD (1988); Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA (1984); and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (1982), among others. From 2008 to 2016, Rothenberg’s painting Butterfly, 1976, was installed in the Treaty Room of the White House.

Monday, February 8, 2021


image caption: Laure Prouvost, GDM Drinking Fountain (For Grandad to Come Back), 2017, glass sculpture and stone wall fountain

Born 1978, Lille, France.
Lives and works between London, UK, and Antwerp, Belgium.

“The most important thing in my work is to provoke the way of the world, to question the norms, to try and understand why we think a certain way. Maybe my work is also supposed to confuse a little bit rather than just give answers. I’m happy if there is a little bit of provocation, if I’ve questioned the way you’ve been thinking, or even if it just provokes a feeling; if you feel extremely liberated or happy or confused then I am happy.” — Laure Prouvost

Drawing from her research in language, emotion, and sensory experience, Laure Prouvost’s world-building practice combines the real and the imagined through sculpture, film, installation, and performance. Words, smells, and textures are translated into images and sounds, abstracted enough to allow new meaning to be playfully suggested. Prouvost’s work embodies a surreal but carefully crafted reality, often using narratives from the lives of her family members and loved ones to tenderly bend and weave imagined information.

The importance that Prouvost places on relationships and how they serve as sites of transference, while enhancing, conflating, or otherwise altering meaning, is especially evident in her works about the life of her fictional grandfather. She depicts him as a conceptual artist, philosopher, and friend of the late artist Kurt Schwitters. This fictional grandfather has been absent, however, since embarking on his last great conceptual piece: to dig a tunnel from England to Africa. The aspects of humor, sadness, magic, and absurdity that come through this fabricated narrative about her grandfather are likewise present in Prouvost's glass and stone sculpture GDM Drinking Fountain (For Grandad to Come Back), 2017. This piece was made as a part of the artist’s immersive installation GDM—Grand Dad's Visitor Center, a kaleidoscopic museum that combines film, sculpture, light, and sound works made in homage to her grandfather. Drinking Fountain consists of two glass breasts that emit water from red rubber nipples into a stone trough below. The textured tablet or torso form to which the breasts are attached features a carved spiral, perhaps evocative of an ancient relic unearthed to spread its magic. In the story of her grandfather, Prouvost notes that he often drew breasts on his canvases, which were then hidden by his paintings. Threaded through this narrative are Prouvost’s more personal observations and desires. In particular, she highlights the feelings of comfort and welcome with which women have been associated for thousands of years. Of the breasts, which are a common subject matter or form that appears in much of her work, Prouvost has said, "It’s the soft parts of our body, to soften the world.” The glass and rubber breasts of Drinking Fountain can also be interpreted as eyes staring out at the viewer and crying tears into a gaping mouth below. There is no right or wrong way to read the sculpture; it is, in a most essential sense, a site for feeling and questioning.

Prouvost received her BFA from Central St Martins, where she focused on film, in 2002, and her MFA at Goldsmiths College, London, in 2010. Her work has been presented in solo exhibitions at Kunsthalle Lissabon, Lisbon, Portugal (2020); M HKA - Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp, Belgium (2019); French Pavilion, 58th International Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (2019); Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France (2018); The Bass Museum of Art, Miami, FL (2018); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN (2017); High Line Art, New York, NY (2017); Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, The Netherlands (2017); Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan, Italy (2016); Museum Für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt Am Main, Frankfurt, Germany (2016); Le Consortium Dijon, Dijon, France (2016); and South London Gallery, London, UK (2016), among numerous other venues. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands (2020); HOW Art Museum, Shanghai, China (2020); WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels, Belgium (2020); 22nd Biennale of Sydney, Sydney, Australia (2020); Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C. (2019); Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), Detroit, MI (2019); Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK (2019); Museo Jumex, Mexico City, Mexico (2018); Musée National d’Histoire de l’Immigration, Paris, France (2018); 7th Moscow Biennale, Moscow, Russia (2017); Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London, UK (2017); and Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore (2016). In 2011, Prouvost won the MaxMara Art Prize for Women, and she was awarded the Turner Prize in 2013. In June 2019, her first public commission in the UK was presented by Transport for London’s Art on the Underground. In 2021, Prouvost’s work will be included in the exhibition MOTHER! at the Louisiana Museum, Humlebaek, Denmark.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Nan Goldin

image caption: Nan Goldin, Christine floating in the sea, St. Barth's, 1999, Cibachrome

Born 1953, Washington, D.C.
Lives and works in New York and Berlin.

Since the 1970s, Nan Goldin has documented the intimate moments and emotional arcs in her own life and those of friends around her. While studying at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Goldin began to make portraits of close friends who were a part of the thriving, underground drag queen community in Boston. Of this time in her life, Goldin has said, “From my first night at The Other Side – the drag queen bar in Boston in the 70s – I came to life. I fell in love with one of the queens and within a few months moved in with Ivy and another friend. I was eighteen and felt like I was a queen too. Completely devoted to my friends, they became my whole world. Part of my worship of them involved photographing them. I wanted to pay homage, to show them how beautiful they were.” In photographing this group of friends, Goldin began to form the raw, diaristic style for which she has since become known. From Boston, Goldin moved to New York City in 1978, immersing herself in the era’s underground club scene and LGBTQ+ communities while photographing the extremes of vulnerability, strength, pain, and joy shared among her close circle of friends. Throughout her career, she has continued to question societal constraints and norms surrounding gender, sexuality, and identity while focusing on her relationships with family and friends.

In the 1990s, Goldin began to include nature in her portraits, expanding the settings of her personal reflections beyond domestic spaces. Christine floating in the sea, St. Barth’s, 1999, depicts a figure supine and half submerged in the ocean, a small area of land or rock visible to one side of the image. The close vantage point of the image suggests that the viewer may also understand the weightlessness and support experienced by the subject. The woman’s closed eyes and calm expression convey a sense of freedom and trust in being held up by the sea. The low angle of the camera places the clouds almost in line with the surface of the water and the woman’s form, further emphasizing sensations of lightness, release, and integration with the landscape.

Goldin’s work has been the subject of two major retrospectives, one organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (1996; traveled to Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Fotomuseum Winterthur, Winterthur, Switzerland; Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, Austria; and the National Museum, Prague, Czech Republic) and another by the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, and Whitechapel Gallery, London (2001; traveled to Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain; Fundação de Serralves, Porto, Portugal; Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Italy; and Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, Poland). Her work has also been presented in solo exhibitions at Tate Modern, London (2019); Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland (2017); Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (2016); Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Monday, December 21, 2020

Su-Mei Tse

image caption: Su-Mei Tse, Moment (Rue du Pont-aux-Choux), 2019, Inkjet on fine art paper mounted on Dibond and maple wood frame

Born 1973, Luxembourg.
Lives and works in Berlin and Luxembourg.

“The moment prior to something is exciting because everything is possible. It also has some tension, silence and tension. For instance the image of the brush just before it touches the white page, or just before a word is formed. This floating moment is what inspires me.” — Su-Mei Tse

Across works that include photography, video, sculpture, and installation, Su-Mei Tse explores themes of time, identity, memory, music, and language as they permeate everyday scenes and events. Through seemingly simple gestures and settings, she recreates the physical, visual, and spiritual rhythms of a moment, however brief or mundane. Initially trained as a classical cellist, Tse frequently incorporates the language of music in her fine art practice. She highlights the moments of formation and transition inherent to the perception of sensory experiences—auditory, visual, tactile—or the absence thereof.

The image in Moment (Rue du Pont-aux-Choux) was borne of a scene that captured Tse's attention in the Marais neighborhood in Paris. While there, she regularly walked by a restaurant that had a frosted glass window with a plant pressing against it. Tse "viewed it as an ethereal still life, the obscured form of the tendrils and leaves ultimately coming into focus against the glass.” Tse has remarked that, “The space seemed frozen in time over the years while everything else was changing around it, my photograph is a re-staging of that mysterious window, ‘a place of resistance.’” Moment…offers the viewer a visual distillation of a quiet, everyday moment and the opportunity to absorb the details of time and place that might ordinarily be overlooked.

A classically trained musician, Tse won the Cello First Prize at the Luxembourg Conservatory in 1991. In Paris, she went on to study cello at the Conservatoire de Musique and Textile and Printing at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Appliqués. In 2000, she earned her MFA from the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. Her work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan (traveled to Yuz Museum, Shanghai, China; Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau, Switzerland; and Mudam Luxembourg, Luxembourg; 2017-2019); Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR (2018); Centre d’Art Contemporain, Château des Adhémar, Montélimar, France (2014); ESPAI 13/ FUNDACIÓ MIRÓ, Barcelona, Spain (2011); Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA (2009); and Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA (2008). Recently, her work has been included in group exhibitions at UCCA Center of Contemporary Art, Beijing, China (2019); the Biennale of Sydney, Sydney, Australia (2018); Setouchi Trienniale, Honjima, Japan (2016); and National Museum of Singapore (2016), among others. In 2003, Tse was awarded the Golden Lion for best national participation in the Venice Biennale while representing Luxembourg.

Monday, December 14, 2020


Image caption: Ana Mendieta, Untitled, 1984, ink on paper

Born 1948, Havana, Cuba.
Died 1985, New York, NY.

“Art is a material act of culture, but its greatest value is its spiritual role, and that influences society, because it’s the greatest contribution to the intellectual and moral development of humanity that can be made.” — Ana Mendieta

In 1961, at the age of twelve, Ana Mendieta, along with her sister Raquelin, was sent from Cuba to the United States through an anticommunist program intended to protect children from the turmoil of the Cuban Revolution. Having no family in the States, she and her sister were sent to Iowa, where they moved between orphanages and foster homes. Her search for a connection to place, and a desire to explore the energy that unites and courses through the universe, led her to a multidisciplinary practice that included performance, video, photography, sculpture, drawing, and site-specific installation.

Mendieta studied in the experimental Intermedia Program at the University of Iowa, earning her MFA in 1977. During this time, themes of displacement, exile, identity, and belonging became significant aspects of her practice, deeply informed by her expulsion from Cuba. In many of her works from the 1970s, Mendieta incorporated blood and gestures of violence against her own body, often inscribing her figure onto the landscape of her adopted American home. For Mendieta, blood served as both a symbol of rebirth and connection to the earth, as well as a form of protest against domestic violence and the erasure of women’s rights.

In 1981, Mendieta returned to Cuba for the first time since her childhood. There, she reconnected with the landscape of her birth, carving and painting abstract figures onto sand and rock once inhabited by Indigenous cultures. Drawing upon ancient abstractions of the female figure and life force, Mendieta combined her own experiences of trauma and loss with goddess archetypes and rituals of Afro-Cuban and Catholic traditions.

Mendieta was awarded a fellowship and residency at the American Academy in Rome in 1983. This time in Rome afforded her her first proper studio and the opportunity to transfer the themes of her ephemeral land works into more permanent and discrete sculptures and drawings. Untitled, 1984, is one such work that exemplifies Mendieta’s reverence for and fascination with goddess forms. Seeking clarity in her own origin story, Mendieta repeatedly aligned her body with the simple outlines of paleolithic goddesses, forms that speak to a universal understanding of creation, connection, and destruction.

Mendieta’s work has been celebrated as the subject of numerous solo exhibitions at institutions including the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH (2020); Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD (2020); Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia (2019); Middleheim Museum, Antwerp (2019); Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (2018: traveled to Institute for Contemporary Art, Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris); Bildmuseet, Umeå, Sweden (2017); Katherine E. Nash Gallery, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN (2016; traveled to NSU Art Museum, Fort Lauderdale, FL, University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA); St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO (2015); The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel (2014); Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London (2013); Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Italy (2013); Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL (2011); and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (2004; traveled to Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.; Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, IA; and Miami Art Museum, Miami, FL). Her work has been included in group exhibitions at Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL (2020); Barbican, London, UK (2020); Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY (2019); American Academy in Rome, Italy (2019); Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, TX (2018); 10th Berlin Biennial, Berlin, Germany (2018); Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY (2018; traveled to Pinacoteca, Sao Paulo, Brazil); Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY (2018; traveled to ICA Boston, Boston, MA), among many others.

During her lifetime, Mendieta received a number of prestigious awards, including the Rome Prize, American Academy in Rome (1983); National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1982); New York State Council on the Arts Grant (1982); John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (1980); and National Endowment for the Arts Grant (1980, 1977).

Monday, December 7, 2020


image caption: Carrie Mae Weems, Untitled (Woman standing alone), 1990, Gelatin silver print

Born 1953, Portland, OR.
Lives and works in Syracuse, NY.

“I do think that you have to make what you want to see in the world. That is basically your obligation if you're an artist. For that matter, even if you're a plumber. You really have to make your reality meaningful for you, and you can't necessarily rely on anybody else to do it. That is, I think, the great liberty that the arts and letters and music give us...the ability to create meaning in our lives.” — Carrie Mae Weems

Since the 1980s, Carrie Mae Weems has explored storytelling through photography, video, text, and performance. Within multiple series of works, Weems investigates the complexities of Black American life. Seeking greater visual representation of Black women, in particular, Weems has often embodied the roles of both photographer and subject in her work. Her nuanced and thoughtful depictions of her subjects weave together conversations about gender, race, and power dynamics, among other topics, as they unfold in both public and domestic spaces.

Among Weems’ most significant works is the Kitchen Table series, of which Untitled (Woman standing alone), 1990, is part. The twenty images that comprise the series show Weems as the protagonist, and others, in various configurations and scenes of daily life centered around the kitchen table in Weems’ own apartment at the time. The images present an array of relationships, including those romantic, platonic, and maternal, their manifold depths revealed amidst a seemingly simple setting. Untitled (Woman standing alone), 1990, shows Weems’ character standing over one end of the table, her palms planted on its surface and her gaze squared to the camera. Above her, with an almost crown-like placement, a hanging lamp illuminates her figure and the table. She claims the table's bare surface laid out before her, a space in which to build and navigate relationships, community, and memory in ways most meaningful to her. In doing so, she offers possibilities and realities to future generations of women.

“Carrie Mae Weems, who was my teacher and mentor at Syracuse University, and whom I now consider a dear friend, continues to be a source of inspiration and significant influence. Carrie’s practice teaches me to hold myself accountable at all times, to raise questions from my own perspective and, most of all, to leave the door open and keep a seat at the table for others when given an institutional opportunity. Her unwavering support for all artists and her courage to confront the inequities of our time never cease to amaze me.” — LaToya Ruby Frazier

Weems earned a BFA from the California Institute of the Arts in 1981, and her MFA from the University of California, San Diego in 1984. She went on to the Graduate Program in Folklore at the University of California, Berkeley (1984–87). Solo exhibitions of her work have been presented at Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, Toronto, Canada (2019); LSU Museum of Art, Baton Rouge, LA (2018); Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African & African American Art, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (2016-2017); SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA (2016); Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY (2014); Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, TN (2012-2014, traveled to Portland Art Museum, OR; Cleveland Museum of Art, OH; Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford University, Stanford, CA; Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY); McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX (2012); and Art Institute of Chicago, IL (2011), among many other venues. Her work has been included in numerous group exhibitions, including those at Eastman Museum, Rochester, NY (2020); Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, IL (2020, 2019, 2018); Fondazione Merz, Torino, Italy (2020); The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC (2020); The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA (2019); Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA (2018); and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN (2018), among others.

Weems received honorary degrees from Smith College (Doctorate, 2011) and Colgate University (2007), and she has been a Visiting Fellow at the Ford Foundation (2015) and a MacArthur Foundation Fellow (2013). Also in 2013, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award in the Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Washington, DC; a Medal of Arts Award from the US State Department; and a Gordon Parks Foundation Award.

Monday, November 23, 2020


image credit: Alice Mackler, Untitled, 2015, glaze, clay

Born 1931, New York, NY.
Lives and works in New York, NY.

“I have no idea what’s going to happen, good, bad, it just comes out. That’s always been true for me. I let it be whatever it is.” — Alice Mackler

Since the 1950s, and throughout various stages of her life, Alice Mackler has maintained a passionate artistic practice that has grown over time to include ceramics, painting, drawing and collage. Her work is characterized by a celebration of the female form, shaping and embellishing it with applications of volume, texture and color. In 1999, Mackler began taking weekly classes in ceramics at Greenwich House in NY. This along with an ongoing practice of figure drawing and a love of fashion led her to create a body of work that honors the complex postures, attitudes, and characteristics of women. Despite their intimate scale, Mackler’s figures exude a vibrant confidence, one that permeates their exaggerated curves, airy waves of hair, and emphatically-hued anatomy.

Untitled, 2015, embodies the energy and form that characterizes much of Mackler’s work. Grounded by bulging hips formed from pressed and pinched clay, a lumpy, conical form seems to twist up from the earth. Typically highlighting key aspects of her work in color, here bright orange glaze accentuates the figure’s hip and neckline while emerald shades appear as breasts, in the haunting hollows of the eyes, and again in the pocked, broccoli-like bouffant that extends beyond them. Mackler’s exaltation of the female body is evident in the repeated bold marks that adorn the figure. A diagonal punctuation across the form’s face leaves the viewer to surmise if it’s a gasp of surprise, a self-assured sneer or, perhaps, a loaded exhalation. These amassed globs of clay that make up Mackler’s work could be perceived simultaneously as sad or joyful, baudy or demure, expansive or deflated— with ample space to support the multiple truths with which a woman exists.

Mackler studied at the Arts Students League in New York (1952-54) and received a certificate in Illustration from the School of the Visual Arts in 1957. She went on to earn a BFA from SVA in 1988. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at The Jewish Museum, NY (2015); White Columns, NY (2016); and MOCA Tucson, AZ (2016), among others.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Dave McKenzie

image caption: Dave McKenzie, Yesterday's Newspaper, 2006, yesterday's newspaper and wood

Born 1977, Kingston, Jamaica.
Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

“I am not an artist who is concerned with defining and sub-defining my practice, but I am someone who desperately wants to produce new situations that may become models for myself or others. I often try to do this through the most economical of means, producing an economy of form that hopefully allows the work to feel familiar, and at the same time the slight formal differences allow for the generation of new areas for discussion and consideration. As always, I hope the work is not a simple reiteration of what is known, but that it can be understood to be an argument for why we think we know at all.” —Dave McKenzie

Through his work in video, installation, performance, and sculpture, Dave McKenzie explores how beliefs and desires inform our daily social interactions. Engaging seemingly simple gestures as well as elements of popular culture, language, and politics, McKenzie reveals the layers of connection, restriction, obligation, and care that comprise personal relationships. In unexpected and poetic ways, his works frequently request activation by the viewer in order to deepen our understanding of a situation. For example, McKenzie once gave out pre-printed date books listing his whereabouts for a full year, and then was present at each location on a specified date and time to see who else, if anyone, might meet him there. His ongoing work It’s a Date entails visitors entering their names in a drawing. A winner chosen at random then has dinner with the artist, providing the opportunity for an encounter and change of ideas that otherwise may not occur.

In Yesterday’s Newspaper, 2006, a copy of yesterday’s newspaper is placed on a low wooden platform each day. The daily replacement of the paper implicates the presence, care, attention, and obligation of the person who must procure it. The work is dependent upon this person and the mental and physical steps they take in order to fulfill the needs of the work. Comically, the two-day old newspaper is replaced by a day-old paper; one can never quite keep up. McKenzie encourages the viewer to slow down and think in directions beyond the present. This piece also draws attention to the cycle of consumption and subsequent removal or disposal that permeates the transfer of images, information, and goods in the world. The viewer is also asked to consider the 24 hour news cycle, and whether stories that were so pertinent the day before still hold the same value or relevance. On view during this election season, Yesterday’s Newspaper has been a particularly pointed observation of how quickly culture moves through news and information.

McKenzie earned a BFA in Printmaking from The University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA, and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (both 2000). Solo exhibitions of his work have been presented at University Art Museum, University at Albany SUNY, Albany, NY (2017); Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, CO (2010); Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Atlanta, GA (2008); REDCAT, Los Angeles, CA (2008); and The Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, MA (2007). His work has been included in group exhibitions at SFMOMA, San Francisco, CA (2020); Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA; MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA (2018); The FLAG Art Foundation, New York, NY (2017); MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA (2017); Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham, UK (2015); Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (2014); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA (2013-, traveling to Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH); New Museum Triennial, New Museum, New York, NY (2012); Contemporary Art Museum, Houston, TX (2012-2015, traveling to Grey Art Gallery at New York University, New York, NY; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN); and The Kitchen, New York, NY (2010), among many others. McKenzie has received numerous awards and grants, including those from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts (2018); Rome Prize for Visual Arts (2014-2015); Guna S. Mundheim Visual Arts Fellow, The American Academy in Berlin (2011); USA Rockefeller Fellow, United States Artists (2009); and an Art Matters Foundation Grant (both in 2009). He has been an Artist-in-Residence at The Studio Museum in Harlem (2003-2004) and in the P.S. 1 National and International Studio Program (2001). McKenzie’s work will be included in Yesterday we said tomorrow, Prospect.5 New Orleans (October 23, 2021-January 23, 2022).

Monday, November 9, 2020

Arlene Shechet

image caption: Arlene Shechet, Other Kali, 2019, glazed ceramic, wood

Born 1951, New York, NY.
Lives and works in New York City and the Hudson Valley, NY.

“I think time is built into sculpture in general. So there is the movement around a work and how it unfolds to the viewer, almost like a small piece of theater. The idea of choreography and the theatrical has to do with something that I think is really basic about sculpture, which is something is always hidden. The thing stands still and provokes the viewer to move. I’m working with a kind of seduction...I think all artists work with seduction and that doesn’t mean that scary and repellent aren’t part of a seduction—and the grotesque, all of those things I love—but seduction where I know everybody is going to sneak a touch. The idea of getting close and having it look a little fragile and yet having it be really tough…I love that contradiction. People separate out the intellect and the body, or beauty and smartness, or separate out humor and intelligence, and my goal is to challenge that.” — Arlene Shechet

Working in materials such as ceramic, porcelain, wood, concrete, bronze, and handmade paper, Arlene Shechet explores the relationships between object and base, interior and exterior, and figure and space. She combines the organic qualities of hollow, tube-shaped forms and visceral lobes and bulges with sharp edges in wood, metal, and paint. With this confluence of textures and densities, the shapes of Shechet’s works encourage the viewer to move around them and to seek an understanding of how such different materials exist as a whole.

Shechet’s works often hold deeply personal details, gestures of devotion to people and memories. In the mid-1990s, the artist endured the loss of a close friend, an event that drew her attention to the fragility of life and to the passage of time. Combining her extensive knowledge of Hindu traditions with her artistic practice and reflections of the friend she lost, Shechet began to consider the goddess Kali. In the Hindu tradition, Kali is known as the devourer of time, and one who can bring about liberation from illusion and the ego. In Other Kali, 2019, Shechet sought to describe the extremes of fragility and strength within the human condition. Like many of Shechet’s sculptures, it appears fragile or unsteady: a domed top, steel bar, and length of dense ceramic weigh down upon a relatively narrow base. Closer looking reveals fissures in the wood, created over time or as other materials have been wedged into it.

In images, the goddess Kali is often depicted with her tongue sticking out, a wide forehead “as luminous as the full moon,” and wild, disheveled hair. Such attributes have made their way into Other Kali. A curving line of metal hugs one side of the sculpture, like hair hanging down around the goddess. The broad dome on top is smooth and round like a forehead while a small length of wood hanging down from it resembles an extended tongue. Towards the bottom of the sculpture’s main column, a small wooden plug that the artist found in the woodshop of a close friend appears, a detail that both centers the viewer’s gaze and pays homage to someone close to the artist.

Shechet earned her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and her BA from New York University. Solo exhibitions of her work have been presented at the Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE (2018); Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. (2016); Frick Collection, New York, NY (2016); ICA Boston, Boston, MA (2015); Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, KS (2015); and Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, NC (2012), among others. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at The Drawing Center, New York, NY (2020); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (2019); Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT (2018); mumok, Vienna, Austria (2018); The Jewish Museum, New York, NY (2018); Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia (2017); Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH (2017); Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, NY (2016); and ICA, Philadelphia, PA (2014), among many others. In 2018, Shechet created a large-scale public project at Madison Square Park, New York, NY. Her work is held in numerous public collections, including the Brooklyn Museum, NY; CCS Bard Hessel Museum, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY; The Centre Pompidou, Paris; The Jewish Museum, NY; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and Whitney Museum of American Art, NY, among others.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Tomashi Jackson

image credit: Tomashi Jackson, The Park and the People (Seneca Village and Brooklyn), 2019, acrylic, oil, buttons, and image transfer on paper and muslin

Born 1980, Houston, TX.
Lives and works in New York, NY.

Tomashi Jackson's work navigates the boundaries between painting, sculpture, printmaking, and collage. Layering found images and materials with color, line, and form, Jackson creates complex works that investigate histories of displacement and systemic injustice in the United States alongside formal structures in visual art.

During her studies of painting and printmaking, Jackson recognized parallels in the language of Josef Albers’ color theory and that of policies of racial segregation. In particular, Jackson was struck by the similarity of Albers’ descriptions of color perception in his 1963 text “Interaction of Color” and in legal descriptions of racial segregation policies and transcripts of the civil rights court cases fought by Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Through this research, Jackson began to apply the properties of color perception as an visual method for investigating the United States’ history of racial segregation in education, urban planning, voting rights, and housing.

Jackson has said, “I recognized terms about how ‘colors’ interact from Albers’s text: colored, boundaries, movement, transparency, mixture, purity, restriction, deception, memory, transformation, instrumentation, systems, recognition, psychic effect, placement, quality, and value. The language around de jure segregation is similar to Albers’ description of the incorrect way to perceive color, as if color is static. Marshall and Albers concluded that color is relative, and what a viewer perceives a color to be is determined by the color nearest to it. Color is always changing, and, contrary to popular belief, it is not absolute.”

The Park and the People (Seneca Village and Brooklyn) is part of a body of work that collapses the history of Seneca Village in what is present-day Central Park and the reality of black property owners having their fully-owned properties seized through the misuse of the Third Party Transfer Program in New York City.

Imagery in The Park and the People (Seneca Village and Brooklyn):
• The house in the landscape is a screen print of an unknown artist’s rendering of Seneca Village in the 1800s.
• The photographs in the screen prints were sourced from Kings County Politics.
• The upside-down image in blue on the bottom of the piece shows the residents of a fully-owned property in Brooklyn that is being seized by the city through the misuse of the Third Party Transfer Program.
• The image in red on the left of the work is of present-day protesters responding to these property seizures.
• The buttons on the upper left include titles of the present-day articles and historical images of black property owners and activists in Seneca Village.
• The buttons on the lower right with handwriting on them are images of the city plans of Seneca Village.

Jackson grew up in Los Angeles, CA. She earned a BFA from the Cooper Union School of Art (2010), her MS in Art, Culture and Technology from the MIT School of Architecture and Planning (2012), and her MFA in Painting and Printmaking from the Yale University School of Art (2016). Her work was included in the 2019 Whitney Biennial as well as in group exhibitions at Moody Center for the Arts, Rice University, Houston, TX (2020); Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston, TX (2020); The Institute for Contemporary Art, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA (2019); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA (2018); MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA (2017); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN (2015); New Museum, New York, NY (2015); and Carpenter Center for Visual Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (2014), among others. Her work is currently the subject of a solo exhibition at the Wexner Center For the Arts, Columbus, OH (through Dec 27, 2020). Forthcoming solo presentations of her work are planned at Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, NY, and Radclife Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Ragen Moss

image credit: Ragen Moss, Puritan (with hellcat Heart), 2019, acrylic, polyethylene, aluminum, and steel hardware

Born 1978, New York, NY.
Lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.

Text within Puritan (with hellcat heart), 2019:
“First quality”
“It shall be fresh, sweet
and clean. The body
Shall be firm. the salt
shall be either light
or medium, and free
from grittiness. The
package shall be
clean, uniform, and
sound. The defects in
body, salt, and package
shall not total
over one point.”

Through an artistic practice that includes sculpture, writing, and performative lectures, Ragen Moss seeks to shift how we perceive, occupy, and respond to form and space. Glass-like and diaphanous, the resin Moss uses to make her recent sculptures presents a durability with its hard outer shell alongside a vulnerability in its visibly thin layers of varying transparency.

The composition of patterns, forms, and opalescent shades that make up Moss’s work permit the viewer to see through the sculpture, making visible both the space that it inhabits as a whole as well as what takes place inside it. Inevitably, there is an anthropomorphic aspect to the work. With Puritan (with hellcat Heart), 2019, two indentations towards the top of the work read like eyes, their dark centers looking out from concave sockets. A heart-shaped form occupies the main, torso-like shape of the sculpture. Or perhaps this large vessel could be understood as a lung interacting with the atmosphere around it with each inhale and exhale.

As in Puritan…, Moss’ work as a practicing lawyer often informs her sculptures through the use of text. The language within Puritan… comes from a statute that provides, for agricultural purposes, the legal definition of “First Quality” butter. Here, the boundaries of law are combined with the softness and flexibility of the body. The abdomen or gut is also often thought of as the seat of language, a source from which ideas and desires are communicated. In order to read the text, a viewer must become familiar with the space between themselves and the sculpture. In this way, the work becomes a propeller of and companion to both movement and meaning.

Moss received her MFA from University of California, Los Angeles; her JD from The UCLA School of Law; and a BA in Art History from Columbia University. Her work has been exhibited at the Haggerty Museum of Art, Milwaukee, WI (2020); Whitney Biennial, The Whitney Museum, New York, NY (2019); Barbara Walters Gallery, Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY (2018); and LAXART, Los Angeles, CA (2016), among others.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Deana Lawson

image caption: Deana Lawson, Wanda and Daughters, 2009, Inkjet print, mounted on Sintra

Born 1979 in Rochester, NY.
Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

“My family is a big, big African American family in Rochester, New York. I know from stories, engagements, and parties there’s so much intelligence that’s not academic, but intelligent in a different way that I wanted to reference. I think as a black female photographer, my natural instinct was to image people who resemble people who I grew up around. In that sense, I didn’t make a political choice, but it was a political choice at the same time. I realize too that there are several black experiences. I guess my identity as an artist or as an individual is singular and everyone else has a singular vision. I’m not a documentarian. The staged part, where I insert myself by bringing props, by having people pose in environments that are not always their own, in a way inserts my singular dream vision within something that’s very real. James Baldwin said, 'The crown has already been paid for. All we have to do is wear it.' I feel like every subject that I meet is wearing a crown. Not because I would take a picture of them, they already have that crown on. I want to capture within them something that represents the majesty of black life, a nuanced black life, one that is by far more complex, deep, beautiful, celebratory, tragic, weird, strange.” — Deana Lawson

Deana Lawson’s portraits document social and familial relationships, touching upon ideas of legacy, community, and spirituality. The subjects of her photographs are people with whom Lawson crosses paths in daily life either in her Brooklyn neighborhood or in her travels to various parts of the country. Her interest in showing Black bodies and the multitude of Black experiences in the United States draws from her awareness of the historical absence of representation of Black culture, even though, as Lawson has said, “I knew it had a certain majesty.” Her focus is frequently on the body in domestic or other everyday settings. Great attention is given to the pose of each person, lighting, and to the details that adorn both figures and their surroundings.

In the image Wanda and Daughters, 2009, Wanda leans her arm against a large tree. The placement of her hands, one above her head against the tree and the other resting on her thigh, highlight the multiple rings she wears on each finger and her carefully manicured nails. Likewise adorned are her daughters’ immaculate braids bearing colorful beads and shaped barrettes. Photographed in front of a verdant, ivy-covered wall, the three figures share similar poses and gaze directly at the camera, but there is a gradual shift in facial expression from one to the other. The youngest daughter smiles freely and broadly, her hand affectionately resting on her sister’s arm. The eldest daughter appears slightly more guarded, thinking and observing before settling on a reaction. Wanda seems to look almost through the camera, knowing and understanding depths and layers of truth and experience while literally and figuratively providing support to her daughters.

Lawson received her BFA in Photography from Pennsylvania State University in 2001 and her MFA, also in Photography, from RISD in 2004. Since 2012, she has been an Assistant Professor of Photography at Princeton University. Solo exhibitions of her work have been presented at Kunsthalle Basel, Basel, Switzerland (2020); The Underground Museum, Los Angeles, CA (2018); Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA (2018); CAM St. Louis, St. Louis, MO (2017); and The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL (2015), among others. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at Punta della Dogana, Venice, Italy (2020); Estancia Femsa, Casa Luis Barragán, Mexico City (2019); Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago, IL (2019); Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO (2018); Whitney Biennial 2017, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2016), among many others. Lawson was awarded The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Biennial Grant in 2019 and has also been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship (2013), Art Matters Grant (2012), John Gutmann Photography Fellowship (2010), Rema Hort Mann Foundation Grant (2010), and Aaron Siskind Fellowship Grant (2009). She is a finalist for the 2020 Hugo Boss Prize. In 2021-22, her work will be the subject of a major retrospective jointly organized by MoMA PS1 and the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Anna Maria Maiolino

image caption: Anna Maria Maiolino, Por um fio (By a Thread), from Fotopoemacao (photopoemaction) series, 1976/2006, black and white digital photograph

Born 1942, Scalea, Italy.
Lives and works in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

“The mouth connects our interior and exterior. It is how we eat and speak – our first physical link to the world….My university was my family’s dinner table; as a child, I felt I was swallowing those conversations along with the food, and this nurtured my imagination and my intellect.” — Anna Maria Maiolino

Working in a range of disciplines, including sculpture, drawing, printmaking, film, photography, poetry, and performance, Anna Maria Maiolino employs the language of abstraction to explore cycles of creation and destruction, particularly as they influence the formation of memory, identity, and one’s sense of belonging. Having moved with her family from southern Italy to Venezuela in the mid-1950s, and then to Brazil shortly thereafter, Maiolino developed a fascination with language and the channels through which inner thoughts, feelings, and impulses make their way outside of the body. Much of Maiolino’s practice centers on the notion of the stomach as the seat of desire, constantly consuming and yet never remaining full, and navigating desire amidst shifting political, social, linguistic, and familial structures.

Taken in 1976, Maiolino’s photograph Por um fio (By a Thread) shows the artist seated between her mother and teenage daughter. A single thread passes from one of their mouths to the other, a metaphor for the multiple lines of connection between them. Used as an expression in Portuguese, “por um fio” means “by the skin of one’s teeth.” The artist’s mother, who was Ecuadorian, grew up speaking Spanish. Maiolino’s own first language was Italian, and her daughter, having been born in Brazil, grew up speaking Portuguese. In Maiolino’s image, three languages pass through three generations of women, each with different experiences of being understood. The passage of time and the changes it brings are likewise delineated by the positions of the women and the shared thread: the artists’s mother points to the past and her daughter to the future. As the curator Helen Molesworth has written, “This image significantly heralds that she [Maiolino] is no longer making work in between the pauses of motherhood, and profoundly, she is not creating art in spite of being a mother.”

Maiolino’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA (2020); Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK (2019); PAC Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea, Milan, Italy (2019); MOCA, Los Angeles, CA (2017); University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA (2014); MASP – Museu de Arte de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil (2012); Malmö Kunsthalle, Malmö, Sweden (2011); Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea, Santiago de Compostela, Spain (2011); and Camden Arts Centre, London, UK (2010), among others. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY (2018); Museu de Arte Moderna de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina (2018); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA (2017); Guggenheim Bilbao XX, Bilbao, Spain (2017); La Biennale de Lyon, Musée d'art contemporain de Lyon, Lyon, France (2017); The Met Breuer, New York, NY (2017); Tate Modern, London, UK (2015); and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, among many others.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Martha Jungwirth

image caption: Martha Jungwirth, Untitled, 1986 - 87, oil on mounted cardboard mounted on canvas

Born 1940, Vienna, Austria.
Lives and works in Vienna Austria.

method: back to the old brains, to the senso-motoric
to before spoken language
to before perception
to before memory
to before the obtrusiveness of objects
to before euclid where the straight lines meet at the
vanishing point
not thinking while painting.

— Martha Jungwirth, the ape in me, 1988

Since the 1960s, Martha Jungwirth has expanded upon the language of abstraction, exploring junctions of spontaneity and control through fields and lines of vivid color. She has remarked that a painter has their own "alphabet of shapes” from which to draw, likening combinations of form and line to intrinsic acts of expression that predate language. She often begins a painting with figurative details, such as an image from the news, a friend’s face, or views of places she has traveled, that have embedded themselves in her memory. Her paintings chronicle the transformation of these figures into swirling loops, opaque slashes, pooled drips, and feathery brushstrokes, revealing the range of marks that one can make while standing at arm’s length from a surface.

The unapologetic dynamism and confident fluidity of Jungwirth’s paintings was, for several decades, overshadowed by the influence of her husband Alfred Schmeller, a renowned museum director to whom she was married from 1969 until his passing in 1990. Because of her proximity to such a prevalent figure in the European art world, curators and institutions were hesitant to present her work. Further stifling the visibility of her earlier work was the ultra-conservative and male-dominated nature of Austrian society. Despite these circumstances, Jungwirth continued to paint, working steadily in her studio.

Working mostly in watercolor on paper for the first few decades of her career, Jungwirth began to experiment in oil on cardboard in the 1980s. The stability and availability of cardboard allowed Jungwirth to explore increasingly energetic variations in palette and texture. Executed in oil on cardboard mounted to canvas, Untitled, 1986-87, exemplifies this shift in Jungwirth’s career. Dynamic and varied gestures, some light and airy and others long and emphatic, verge on revealing a figure amidst the sparsely painted areas of bare card.

Jungwirth is considered one of the most significant figures in Austrian art. From 1956-1963, Jungwirth studied at the Academy of Applied Arts in Vienna. In 1968, she became the sole woman among the six founding members of the Wirklichkeiten (Realities) group. Eschewing the academic dogma and artistic fashions of the era, the Wirklichkeiten group was characterized by intense colors and deeply personal imagery, both figurative and abstract. An exhibition of their work was held at the Secession Vienna in 1968. More recently, her work was included in a group exhibition curated by the painter Albert Oehlen at the Essl Museum in Austria in 2010, where it was introduced to a wider audience.

Major survey exhibitions of Jungwirth’s work have been presented at Kunstmuseum Ravensburg, Ravensburg, Germany (2018); Albertina Museum, Vienna, Austria (2018); and Kunsthalle Krems, Krems, Austria (2014). Her work has been included in group exhibitions at Leopold Museum (2019), mumok (2016), and MUSA (2015), all Vienna, Austria. In 2019 the artist was commissioned by the Vienna State Opera to create an image for the main stage curtain for the 2019-20 season.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Lonnie Holley

image caption: Lonnie Holley, The Way They Saw Things, 1997, sandstone

Born 1950, Birmingham, AL.
Lives and works in Atlanta, GA.

“All my work, in any form, comes down to oneness. The oneness is important: the oneness goes all the way down to this one universe that we believe in; this one mothership, our planet Earth, that we live in; this one mother that gave birth to us and that we should respect; and then that one gray spot that we’re going to after we are dead and gone. That jar all of ashes, the oneness we can’t break out of, that one. A cup, for example, could be called trash. But I could do something in that cup, like mold something, or put a lot of objects in there, and turn them upside down, and seal it. I try to study something before I toss it, before I throw it away. I’ve done that for years and years and years.” — Lonnie Holley

Whether working in sculpture, installation, or performance, Lonnie Holley encourages an awareness that is rooted in patience and curiosity. In his creative practice, Holley prioritizes often overlooked or unexpected nuances of shape, tone, texture, and movement to construct assemblages of sounds or objects that brim with spontaneity and possibility. His work is deeply informed by his own life story. His first few decades bore the fissures of disenfranchisement and displacement caused, in large part, by the legacy of Jim Crow-era policies in the South. All of his work is layered with cultural and personal narratives, weaving together a unique and radical telling of his experiences as a Black man in America. With his sculptures, in using found materials as his main medium, Holley eschews the designation of an object as no longer useful, and recombines discarded items such as scrap metal, chairs, a tattered quilt, a telephone receiver, or tree roots to convey simultaneously the cosmic importance of the present moment and a reverence for memory.

Carved from sandstone molds cast off by nearby steel factories, Holley’s earliest sculptures were borne out of necessity. In 1979, following the tragic death of his niece and nephew in a fire, he created two sandstone sculptures to mark their graves. In a similar manner, Holley’s sandstone sculpture The Way They Saw Things, 1997, embodies the artist’s ability to redirect energy and purpose. Holley has transformed the porous texture of an industrial material into the delicate curves and peaks of faces and folds of hair that seem to preserve the past while inviting in the present. This piece, like each of Holley’s works, can tell many different stories, depending on who you are and where you are standing when you see it.

Holley’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, NC (2019); Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Atlanta, GA (2017); Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Charleston, SC (2015); the John Hope Franklin Center, Duke University, Durham, NC (2015); and the Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL (2005, 2003). His work has been included in group exhibitions at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY (2018); The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (2018); High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA (2018); Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA (2018); Mass MoCA, North Adams, MA (2017); de Young Museum, San Francisco (2017); The Brant Foundation, Greenwich, CT (2017); Studio Museum of Harlem, New York, NY (2014); and Prospect 2 Biennial, New Orleans, LA (2014), among many others. In 2014, he was the recipient of a Robert Rauschenberg Residency, and he was awarded a Joan Mitchell Foundation Fellowship in 2006. His work resides in the permanent collections of the de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; and Smithsonian American Museum of Art, Washington, D.C., among others.

In December 2018, the lumber room was honored to host a site-specific performance by Holley in conjunction with the opening of Kate Newby’s exhibition A puzzling light and moving.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Zoe Leonard

image caption: Zoe Leonard, Good Witch, 1990-1994, gelatin silver print

Born 1961, Liberty, NY.
Lives and works in New York, NY.

Through photography, sculpture, and installation, Zoe Leonard investigates the ways in which various perspectives—social, political, emotional, physical, or otherwise—influence the making and presentation of an image. Since the 1980s, Leonard has turned her attention to a variety of subjects, including cityscapes, storefronts, museum vitrines, and landscapes, to consider how one’s subjective interior connects with the surrounding environment. Often photographing the same or similar subjects multiple times with slight shifts in vantage point, Leonard encourages the viewer to spend time noticing often overlooked and subtle details, rather than focusing on one decisive way to frame a subject. Her work Analogue, for example, comprises 412 photographs of small business storefronts and independent merchants taken in New York’s Lower East Side between 1998 and 2009. While each photograph in this series may represent a single story, as a group, the images present a substantial narrative about gentrification and globalization and the changes left in their wake.

It is with similarly complex, careful, and ongoing observation that Leonard explores themes of gender and sexuality. Good Witch, 1990-1994, shows a vitrine displaying the silvery, starred crown and wig worn for the role of Glinda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz. A faceless, numbered mannequin presents these elements of a famous Hollywood film costume. Also visible in Leonard’s image is just a portion of a black and white photograph of a figure dressed as Glinda. The figure’s face and most of her body, however, are cropped out, and only the airy layers of her tulle dress and wavy wig are apparent. The glare of overhead lights captured on the surface of the vitrine suggests a clinical environment and prioritizes the agency, desire, and freedom of the viewer over that of the enclosed, immobile, and brightly lit crown memorialized as a symbol of feminine benevolence and grace. Good Witch is part of a larger body of work about which, Leonard has said, “I began to photograph in medical museums, in history and science museums, in libraries and fashion shows, trying to look at the ways beauty was constructed, and also looking at how sexism and bias is built into the institutional framework of our society. I began to understand beauty as a construction, a set of rules and regulations. I became interested in how the frame of my camera could carry the attitude of my gaze. Calling these systems of order into question could be a way of upturning them or destabilizing them. I wanted to reframe the world so that we could consider alternative possibilities.”

Leonard’s work has been exhibited widely. She has presented major solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA (2018); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (2018); High Line, New York, NY (2016); Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (2015); Camden Arts Centre, London, UK (2012); and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain, (2008), among many others. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Baden-Baden, Germany (2020); Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C. (2019); Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London, UK (2019); Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA (2018); Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, St. Louis, MO (2017); SFMOMA, San Francisco, CA (2016); The Met Breuer, New York, NY (2016); and Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, UK, among others. She has been the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2020), the Bucksbaum Award (2014), Anonymous Was A Woman Award (2006), Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant (2005); and a residency at the Wexner Center, Columbus, OH (2003).

Monday, August 24, 2020

Sheree Hovsepian

image caption: Sheree Hovsepian, Role Play, 2019, silver gelatin prints, photograms, nylon, artist made frame, walnut, Optium museum acrylic

Born 1974, Isfahan, Iran.
Lives and works in New York, NY.

Following impulses grounded in drawing and mark making, Sheree Hovsepian organizes disparate elements such as nylon stockings, nails, lengths of string, and ceramic fragments over photographs of the body, often her own or her sister’s. Hovsepian’s constructions simultaneously explore intuitive gestures of the hand, the controlled precision of traditional studio photography, and the lineage of abstraction within notions of exposure and concealment. The artist's decisions about which details of the female form to conceal and which to reveal express both empowerment and vulnerability and reflect the artist’s own experiences as a woman and an immigrant. Hovsepian has said, “I’ve always been interested in finding myself within a space. I grew up as an immigrant in Ohio. I was always very aware of my body, myself, and my person. Sometimes I felt like I would try to minimize myself or I would try to hide. A lot of my practice is about regaining space and finding a space for myself and defining that.”

In Role Play, 2019, Hovsepian combines silver gelatin prints and photograms, two analog photography methods controlled by specific chemical reactions, with layers of “nude" nylon stocking. The absence of the camera in making the photograms brings the subject in contact with light sensitive paper. The directness of this technique along with fragmented views of the body in Role Play lend a performative aspect to the manipulation of elements in the work, the artist drawing with movement and light.

Nylon panels are stretched and arced across the photographic elements, sometimes in multiple overlapping layers to create variations in opacity and hue. The upper right and lower left quadrants of the work each show a torso, the figure’s skin stretching over details of ribs and muscles. The figure appears to be folding inward, the spine curved and rounding the body forward. In the upper left and lower right quadrants, curved segments of dark and light echo the nearby torso images and are intersected by transparent contours of nylon. Nylon stockings, often worn to conceal or diminish attention to the skin, are instead used by Hovsepian to highlight exposure—literally, in the photographic method, and figuratively with two slivers left exposed and free from the haze of the nylon.

Hovsepian earned a BFA/BA from the University of Toledo, Toledo, OH, in 1998, and her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2002. Recent solo and two-person exhibitions of her work have been presented at Higher Pictures, New York, NY (2019); Team Bungalow, Los Angeles, CA (with Paul Mpagi Sepuya, 2019); and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago, IL (2018). Her work has been included in group exhibitions at Stony Island Arts Bank, Chicago, IL (2018, 2017); The Drawing Center, New York, NY (2017); Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, NY (2016); and the Aperture Foundation, New York, NY (2016), among others. Hovsepian has been an artist in residence at The Drawing Center, New York, NY (2016-17) and at The Banff Centre, Alberta, CA (2015).

Monday, August 17, 2020

Johanna Jackson

image caption: Johanna Jackson, Set of dishes and service items with unbroken stripes, square fruit, roses in three life stages, a basic pattern inherited from my father, a basic pattern not from my father, drifting checkers, traced shadows, body colors and drawing marks separate and together, 2020, glazed porcelain

Born 1972, Springfield, MA
Lives and works in Portland, Oregon.

Through a variety of practices including knitting, ceramics, painting, installation, and sculpture, Johanna Jackson carefully explores the making of everyday objects and how they accumulate to form a domestic space. The artist’s appreciation for humble materials is evidenced in her thoughtful treatment of commonplace items such as yarn to make a hook rug, sheets of tin used as painting surfaces, and found pieces of wood gathered to construct furniture. Although the past and future lives of these materials may be unknown to her, Jackson imbues them with a sense of reverence and ritual as she crafts her objects, grateful for their potential to provide comfort and service to a person by holding memories, nourishment, or protective properties.

The long history of humans’ relationship with pottery occupies a particularly significant place within Jackson’s practice. She looks towards clay’s capacity to capture the gesture, warmth, and detail of a person’s hand within a sturdy, everyday form. At a dip or notch where one’s finger might pause while crossing an otherwise smooth surface, Jackson frequently adds embellishment in the form of a drawing or pattern to accentuate the irregularity. Commissioned for our current exhibition at lumber room, the plates, cups, mugs, bowls, teapots and platters that comprise Jackson’s Set of dishes and service items…, 2020, bear the natural asymmetries inherent to an object built by hand. The artist intends for these objects to be used and held as practical vessels in daily life. The tenderness and attention that she has shown to their imperfections serves perhaps to remind the user of the power in patience, presence, and kindness towards the history of an object or being. Drawings of flowers in different stages of growth, striped and checked patterns from a loved one’s garments, and cloud-like swaths of blue and pink glaze that adorn the vessels suggest connections to certain memories and to cycles of the natural world. Meant to accompany us through daily life, Jackson’s porcelain dishes become extensions of the person that uses them, and vice versa.

Jackson (b. 1972, Springfield, MA) currently lives and works in Portland, OR. She earned a MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2010. Jackson’s work has been included in exhibitions at the Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR (2018); Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles, CA (2017); Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA (2014); Tang Museum, Saratoga Springs, NY (2014); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA (2013); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA (2012); and SFMOMA, San Francisco, CA (2012), among others. Her work is in the permanent collections of Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; The Henry Museum, Seattle; and SFMOMA, San Francisco. In 2015, Jackson was an artist in residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, CA.

Monday, August 10, 2020

ektor garcia, manos Cu

image caption: ektor garcia, manos Cu, 2018, copper, leather, copper tape on watercolor paper, steel, copper wire, hammered copper napkin holder from Santa Clara del Cobre Michoacan

ektor garcia
Born 1985, Red Bluff, CA.
Lives and works between Mexico and New York.

ektor garcia’s intricately layered sculptures and installations are grounded in references to the body, touch, and memory. His work combines his interests in queer culture and arts and crafts traditions with strong roots in Mexico. Although from a small town, garcia and his parents, who were migrant farm workers, were constantly on the road during his childhood, exposing him to many different communities in Mexico, California, Oregon, and Washington. garcia’s widespread travels, in addition to his archeological and anthropological research of pre-Hispanic cultures, greatly inform his work.

Often combining ceramics, sewing, welding, embroidery, leather-making, and crocheting with recycled and appropriated materials, garcia’s work eschews and confuses conventional ideas about different materials. For example, copper wire and rough strips of leather may be delicately hooked and woven into lace-like forms. garcia pays homage to the physical work and craft performed throughout different generations of his family. In manos Cu, 2018, the artist engraved an image of his great-great grandmother’s hands on a copper plate, her fingers seeming to send forth intricate crocheted patterns. The myriad forms in the work come together as an altar to work done by hand. In a further gesture of honor to the labor of those who came before him, garcia takes care in learning each technique that he incorporates in his work, with attention to the cultural associations of a certain craft, be it pouring concrete or crocheting, in addition to the practical methods involved. Although the materials may vary widely, they are united by the attention of the artist’s hands.

ektor garcia received a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2014, and a MFA from Columbia University, New York, in 2016. His work has been exhibited at SculptureCenter, Long Island City, NY (solo, 2019); Hangzhou Triennial of Fiber Art, Hangzhou, China (2019); Casa Luis Barragán, Mexico City, Mexico (2019); LAXART, Los Angeles, CA (2018); Museo de Arte de Zapopan, Guadalajara, Mexico (2018); Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany (solo, 2018); ACCA, Melbourne, Australia (2018); and New Museum, New York, NY (2017), among other venues. In 2018-2019, garcia was an artist in residence at the International Studio & Curatorial Program in New York.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Cornelia Parker, Unsettled (Jerusalem)

image caption: Cornelia Parker, Unsettled (Jerusalem), 2012-2013, wood found on the streets of Jerusalem, wire

Born 1956, Cheshire, England.
Lives and works in London, England.

Throughout the nearly four decades of her artistic career, Cornelia Parker has worked in sculpture, photography, drawing, installation, and film to transform and abstract seemingly ordinary visual structures and everyday forms. Renowned for her vast and immersive installations, Parker often captures the peak of her subject’s transformation, stilling a moment of drama that one would not normally have the opportunity to observe in detail. The artist frequently layers her interest in architecture and its sense of permanence with commentary on environmental issues and society’s fixation on commodity. With these threads, her work inverts those common associations, turning durability into fragility, and structure into the potential of impending collapse. Parker has stated that her work “is constantly unstable, in flux; leant against a wall, hovering, or so fragile it might collapse. Perhaps that’s what I feel, about my own relationship to the world, It is a universal condition, that of vulnerability. We don’t have solid, fixed lives; we’re consistently dealing with what life throws at us.”

In Unsettled (Jerusalem), 2012-2013, as with many of her works, Parker incorporates materials that often go unnoticed. In this case, the artist gathered weathered planks of wood, perhaps once part of a larger structure, such as a shipping palette or piece of furniture, while walking along the street during a trip to Jerusalem. After shipping these overlooked fragments of urban life back to England, she assembled them in a delicate arrangement, each suspended by a carefully planned length of wire, to form a network that floats eerily just above the floor and away from the wall. While the former lives of each wooden plank are unknown, Parker left their surfaces largely as she found them in Jerusalem, some with smaller pieces of wood attached and nails embedded, bearing the cracks and patinas of age and pressure. Alongside notions of vulnerability and destruction, a sense of absurdity pervades the time, effort, and expense apparent in creating the precarious balance of the installation, a dark spot of levity in the midst of constant instability.

Parker’s work has been the subject of significant solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney (2019); Royal Academy of Arts, London (2018); Palace of Westminster, London (2018); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2016); and Whitechapel Gallery, London (2011, 2008), among many others. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at the Albertina Museum, Vienna (2019); British Museum, London (2019); The Met Breuer, New York (2019); The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2016); The Henry Moore Institute, Leeds (2016); and the Gwangju Biennale, South Korea (2014), among others. In 2010, Parker was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. In 2017, she was appointed as the first female Election Artist for the United Kingdom General Election. In this role, she observed the election campaign leading up to the vote, met with campaigners and voters, and produced artworks in response.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Sonia Gomes, Untitled

image caption: Sonia Gomes, Untitled, from Raiz series, 2018, mooring and sewing on wood

Born 1948, Caetanópolis, Brazil.
Lives and works in São Paulo.

Working with found materials as well as objects gifted to her, Sonia Gomes creates sculptures imbued with memory, tradition, and personal histories. She spent her early childhood in Caetanópolis, a center of Brazil’s textile industry, with her black maternal grandmother who was a midwife and traditional faith healer. From her grandmother, Gomes learned to sew and came to understand the intimacy, love, and warmth that one’s hands can impart through gesture. In tandem, it was through her father’s Portuguese and English family that Gomes developed an appreciation for and knowledge of lace, embroidery, and other textiles. Her work marries an understanding of seemingly divergent narratives: one rooted in ancestral, body-focused traditions, the other in commercial opulence and networks of industry.

Throughout her childhood and early adulthood, Gomes pursued creative expression through drawing and in modifying and embellishing her own clothes. Lending unique and personal details to her clothing was a way for Gomes to find visibility as an Afro-Brazilian woman in a post-colonial society that favored European ideas and histories. From these techniques, desires, and histories emerged Gomes’ often biomorphic sculptures. Her lived understanding of vulnerability and being overlooked by society brought interpretations of skin and the body to the fore in her work. Gomes has said, "I was delighted with drawings of internal organs of the human body that I found in science and biology books. The tissues of the body, the vertebrae, the cartilages and muscles, lost me for hours in the colors and textures, do you know that this reflects my work a lot and nobody has said it? It’s a lot about my interior, about a hidden part of the body, the part that we do not see, my work has a lot of this, a lot of that image, I think my relationship with aesthetics also came first from this imagery."

Largely self-taught as an artist, Gomes is drawn to techniques—folding, cutting, tying, stitching—and materials such as wire, rope, thread, and wood, with which she has been familiar from an early age. Particularly striking in her work are the points of encounter between different materials. Through actions long associated with manual labor and industry, the artist takes materials with previous lives and forms new meanings and values in their junctions. In Untitled, 2018, from Raíz series (“raíz” means “root” in Portuguese), soft tubes wrapped in floral fabric weave their way through natural openings in a found tree stump. Lines of fabric stretch from the point of an upturned tree root down to the floor. Fabric roots of varying widths, patterns, and textures stretch out from the wood roots. Large stitches in contrasting colors wrap around the fabric roots, laying bare the work of the hands that created them.

Gomes’ work has been the subject of group exhibitions at Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden, Germany (2019); MASP - Museu de Arte de São Paulo / Casa de Vidro, São Paulo, Brazil (2018); and Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói, Rio de Janeiro (2018). Her work has been included in group exhibitions at the Liverpool Biennial, Liverpool, UK (2020); Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA (2018); Instituto Tomie Ohtake, São Paulo, Brazil (2017); The National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. (2017); and the 56th Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy (2015), among others.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Lee Bontecou, Untitled Relief

image caption: Lee Bontecou, Untitled Relief, 1960, welded steel, canvas and copper wire

Born 1931, Providence, RI.
Lives and works in Orbisonia, PA, and Cedar Key, FL.

Since the 1950s, Lee Bontecou has deployed a compelling visual language to create sculptures and drawings that often combine figurative, natural, and mechanistic references.  While she has eschewed affiliation with any specific artistic movement, Bontecou’s formal and conceptual considerations speak to her admiration of Surrealists such as Alberto Giacometti, to the assemblage practices of Arte Povera, and to the broken and reimagined bodies of Cubism. 

During the 1940s, Bontecou’s parents contributed to the war effort: her mother wired transmitters for navigation, and her father made gliders. Images of machinery and assembly filled her childhood alongside experiences of the natural world, especially the land and seascapes of Nova Scotia, where she spent many summers with her grandmother. With these influences of the organic and the industrial, Bontecou went on to attend the Art Students League in New York, where she studied sculpture and welding and was shortly after awarded a Fulbright fellowship. Her early career saw her drawn to found materials, including discarded conveyor belts and scraps of canvas and wire from a laundry that operated below her apartment. 

In Untitled Relief, 1960, Bontecou embraces the seemingly incongruous realms of machine and nature. With reference to space exploration at the time, a central black hole reaches back beyond the work’s surface into as yet unknown worlds. Like a wildly stepped landscape, geometries of cut canvas shaped by intricate, metal armatures radiate out from the central void. Mottled pieces of fabric, as though darkened and patinated by age and industry, stretch organically across two- and three-dimensional space like skin and with the subtle asymmetries of a living organism. 

In much of Bontecou’s work, the abstracted body, whether of a known or unknown organism, becomes a site at which to question ethical and social issues, contrasting emotions, and the existence of other worlds. Bontecou juxtaposes the fragility and vulnerability of life with humanity's capacity for creation and destruction. In a letter of 1960, Bontecou wrote, "My concern is to build things that express our relation to this country — to other countries — to this world — to other worlds — in terms of myself….To glimpse some of the fear, hope, ugliness, beauty and mystery that exists in us all and which hangs over all the young people today.” With an equitable approach to visualizing the extremes of life, and infinite states in between, Bontecou invites connection across cultural, geographic, and generational barriers. 

Untitled Relief, 1960, was among a group of wall-reliefs included in Bontecou’s first solo exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York in 1960. She was the only female artist represented by Castelli during the 1960s, exhibiting alongside male contemporaries such as Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. 

From the early 1970s until 1991, Bontecou taught in the Art Department at Brooklyn College. In 2003, a major retrospective of her work opened at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA, and traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Solo exhibitions of her work have also been presented at Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Netherlands (2017); The Menil Collection, Houston, TX (2014; traveled to Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, NJ); Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (2010); Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY (1993); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA (1993); and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago, IL (1972), among many others.

Monday, July 13, 2020

LaToya Ruby Frazier, Momme

image caption: LaToya Ruby Frazier, Momme, 2008, gelatin silver print

Born 1982, Braddock, PA.
Lives and works in Chicago, IL.

Working in photography, video, and performance, LaToya Ruby Frazier frequently collaborates with individuals, families, and communities to address and make visible their experiences of inequality related to healthcare, economic opportunity, environmental degradation, among other issues. Employing modes of portraiture to advocate for others, Frazier makes visible and gives agency to the disenfranchised and their stories through candid images of everyday life. 

Momme, 2008, is an image within Frazier’s series The Notion of Family (2001-2014), in which she focused on her hometown of Braddock, PA, where Andrew Carnegie opened his first steel mill. Once a center of industry and steel production, Braddock experienced a severe economic downturn brought on by the recession of the 1980s, driving many to people to leave the region. Drawn to the legacies of Farm Security Administration photographers such as Walker Evans, Gordon Parks, and Dorothea Lange, as well as to conceptual photographic practices of the 1960s and 70s, Frazier looked to her hometown and members of her own family to illustrate the urgent but largely neglected effects of economic instability there.

In college, Frazier was particularly impacted by Lange’s famous image Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936: “No one ever talked about her and her name,” Frazier has said, “and it made me become very sensitive to subjectivity, and the personal, and a person being able to represent themselves.” Within her commitment to visual representation of the working class, Frazier concentrates in particular on three generations of women in her family — her grandmother, her mother, and herself — to reconsider the ways that African American women are portrayed in popular images. Growing up in the shadow of the steel industry that once sustained Braddock, each of the three women has felt the environmental effects of heavy industrial activity. Frazier’s grandmother passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2009. Her mother has also battled cancer as well as a neurological condition. Frazier herself has lupus. Confronting stereotypes of black women as victims or helpless, Frazier depicts their resolve and strength.

Momme is one of several collaborations between Frazier and her mother in which they would take turns holding the camera and deciding on a shot. The two women determine their own positions, simultaneously portraying their strengths and vulnerabilities, their ties and individuality. The title of the image, a conjunction of “mom” and “me,” as well as the position of the two women’s faces—Frazier’s split by her mother’s profile, reference the collaborative nature of the process and, in a broader sense, the memories of trauma, loss, survival, and resolve shared by multiple generations. A similar image depicts the artist and her mother in the same positions but dressed up and with their hair and makeup done. These were initially printed in a smaller scale as editions of 8. As she worked on The Notion of Family, Frazier came to think of Momme, in which she and her mother are seemingly shown in their barest, most unadorned states, as a kind of thesis statement for, or central axis of her entire practice. By increasing the scale of the image in Momme, Frazier further amplifies her attention to visibility. The details of their facial expressions and body language become more apparent, the physical traces of their lived experiences intensified by proximity.

Frazier earned a BFA from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and a MFA from Syracuse University. She also attended the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program and was named a Guna S. Mundheim Fellow for Visual Arts at the American Academy in Berlin. Her work is currently the subject of an exhibition at the Centre de la photographic Genève, Geneva Switzerland. Newcomb Art Museum of Tulane, New Orleans, LA (2019); Renaissance Society, Chicago, IL (2019); Musée d'art Moderne, Luxembourg (2019); Frost Museum at Florida International University, Miami, FL (2019); CAPC, Bordeaux, France (2016); Carré d'art, Nîmes, France (2015); Aperture Foundation, New York (2015); The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2013); Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA (2013); Contemporary Art Museum, Houston, TX (2013); and The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY (2013), among others. Her work has been included in recent group exhibitions at Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX (2019); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA (2019); Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI (2018); LUMA Arles, Arles, France (2018); The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY (2018); and the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA (2017). Frazier was the recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant (2015) and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2014), among numerous other honors. Since 2014, she has been a professor of Photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

For more on LaToya Ruby Frazier please visit:

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Échale Sávila, 2019 (12 min.), Directed by Caitlin Díaz, Super 8, Regular 8mm, Mini DV transfer to digital

Guided by the music project Sávila, this film finds the band interviewing their mothers as they speak on themes of Mexican-American identity, resilience, inter-generational healing, and beauty shot through the lens of a super-8 camera.

full exhibition documentation here.