lumber room

Monday, October 25, 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.