Tag Archives: exhibit

Looking back at LeWitt

All photos by Ashley Klann.

Mass MoCA’s nod to an artist who sometimes never touched his own work

For something so subjective, art has always been a highly debated topic. What constitutes art? How much does artist’s intent affect the work? Is the medium really the message?

For modern artists in the mid to late twentieth century, these questions continued to be stretched. Artists such as Warhol and Pollack tested the boundaries of what was considered art. Their replications of commercial symbols and seemingly haphazard flecks of paint would continue to spark debates for decades, leaving questions still unanswered.

Sol LeWitt was another artist to push the definition of art. His work is a complex geometric system. Bold lines, streaks, perforated waves, shapes, circumlunar patterns, points, and arcs all spread across the wall of the rehabilitated mill factor at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Some of the pieces are brightly colored blocks, some are in grayscale, and others resemble an extreme close up of a piece of graph paper used in a high school geometry class. Often simple in their appearance, it’s not until one beings to think about the system behind the art that the meaning comes off the wall.

Early in his career, LeWitt likened his art to musical or chorographical compositions; individuals, ensembles, or orchestras carry out the original material after it is designed and written. LeWitt took this concept and applied it to his work, allowing other artists to take his compositions and play.

Mass MoCA’s exhibit, Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective, features 105 of LeWitt’s designed walls, executed by  The pieces fill the 27,000-square-foot interior with screaming stripes and dynamic pairs of color that push the latex paint, India ink, acrylic, and water colors off the wall. Other wall drawings appear less finished and have been sketched with graphite.

LeWitt’s work took concepts from music, science, and mathematics, tying them together with vibrant designs to create a style ironically unique yet highly formulaic and able to be recreated.

These concepts beg the question of ownership. Although dozens of “executers” (as titled in the exhibit’s pamphlet) were involved in making the art on the walls of the museum, Sol LeWitt’s name is still the only one associated with them. They are his designs. Despite the fact that the original artist was giving up his idea, where does the execution come into play? When does it become the art of a specific individual? LeWitt said in 1967, “The idea becomes the machine that makes the art.” We’re just not used to having the individual with the concept be someone other than the individual making the art.

Moving through A Wall Drawing Retrospective, one can see how LeWitt expanded throughout his career. According to the exhibit’s pamphlet, LeWitt initially chose to work with only four colors, yellow, blue, red, and gray. His line were also limited to four basic types, horizontal, vertical, and diagonal left to right, and right to left. It wasn’t until the early 1980s that he began experimenting in their density and application to the wall.

So, how does an artist leave instructions to ensure his assistants reproduce the exact ideal piece every time? LeWitt’s used a system of abbreviated colors in his diagrams. For instance, an intense single color (yellow) would be YYYY, and a mixed hue might be RRBGG (red, red, blue, gray, gray).

Compared to all the trouble some artists will put forth to ensure the security and protection of their art, music, or writing in today’s world of easy access technology, it’s funny to think that LeWitt didn’t try. While some are obsessed with the idea of keeping their work to themselves, LeWitt was willingly giving it away.

A Wall Drawing Retrospective will remain at Mass MoCA for a 25-year period and is broken up into three floors in chronological order, spanning the artist’s career from the 1960s until his death in 2007.

An awesome blog about the preparation that went into the exhibit: http://edwardlifson.blogspot.com/2008/06/do-it-yourself-sol-lewitt-wall-drawings.html


Psychedelic Styrofoam: Katharina Grosse’s contemporary installation at Mass MoCA

All photos by Ashley Klann.

Take every hue of spray paint you can imagine, add some Styrofoam icebergs large enough to sink the Titanic, and place it on the surface of the moon. That’s as close as you’ll get to Katharina Grosse’s installation, one floor up more highly. The exhibit is currently on display at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams.

Grosse’s work is a trip into another world. At the base of the electric, painted masses of faux-rock is a layer of equally colorful dirt, spread around the giant structures. This attention to detail only heightens the realism and potential of the artist’s synthetic landscape. Splatters of paint are also on the edges of the area – on walls and windows. Clearly the artist was not afraid to make one floor up more highly exactly how she wanted.

A wooden bench sits partially covered by some of the painted dirt, giving a sense that this colorful land mass has swallowed up a civilization in its trickle across the cement floor. Random painted and tattered pieces of clothing are also strewn about the area, hidden in the Styrofoam nooks. These artifacts in one floor up more highly evoke thoughts of space travel and new worlds, or perhaps an old world with no survivors.

The only difficulty with one floor up more highly is fighting the urge to leap into the enticing world in front of you.

Amidst the rocky landscape and towering peaks of white Styrofoam is a giant concave wave of glass fiber-reinforced plastic covered in drips of fluorescent acrylic paint. The potential motion of the curved piece is illustrated through the paint, making it look like it was created while in motion, rocking back and forth.

The museum provides a unique atmosphere for this equally unique work. The museum is located in a rehabilitated factory building, meaning wide, open floor space, high ceilings, and little distraction. Windows fill the walls on both sides of the installation, allowing natural light to flood the enormous room.

Grosse’s work also benefits from the space’s three different vantage points, allowing the viewer to get a better understanding of this enormous display. From the two balconies on the upper floor, the crags of foam and dizzying multicolored patterns can be seen in their entirety.

Toward the back of the long main room is the staircase to the rest of the installation.

The stairway leads to a room covered floor to ceiling with more electric spray paint designs. The only white space that remains are vertical doorway-sized patterns across one wall, giving the feeling that perhaps the space continues beyond what we can see. More tattered, painted clothing is left on the floor. Gleaming rays of paint lead into the next room where the lower floor is visible.

Farther from the edge of the upstairs is another board of brightly colored fiberglass, this time lying convex on the hardwood floor. The piece resembles a wing and juts out from another flamboyant pile of painted rocks and Styrofoam boulders. This mass runs into the edge of the overlook, continuing into the formation on the other side, giving the entire installation a sense of growth and motion to the upper floor. One floor up more highly is unlike anything you’ve seen before.

Grosse’s other work is just as explosive and colorful, exploring unconventional mediums and testing combinations.

For more information on the artist, check out her equally contemporary website, katharinagrosse.com.

one floor up more highly will be at Mass. MoCA until October 31, 2011.

Out of the Woodwork: New Gallery Opens at Clark

Check out the latest cover story of The Scarlet – Clark University’s student newspaper: Woodwork.

Toying with Memories of Childhood: The exhibit all about toys

The Show About Toys. Exhibit compiled by Clark University students Amanda Kidd Schall and Stephanie Richardson. Traina Center for the Arts, 2nd Floor Gallery. Worcester, MA. All photos by Ashley Klann.

Victoria Krinsky
Shoe Lace Pendant

With time, our once prized toys get put away and forgotten, because we feel we’re too old. Barbies are nostalgic, as are their fake smiles and flimsy accessories, but it’s nice to give them a new life, to recreate them within a new arena. This is an old shoe from one of my dolls, and I like to keep it close around my neck to remind me of simpler times.

Molly Burman

It’s interesting the things that w hold onto throughout our lives. When I look back, Ruffles is the thing that’s been in my life the longest. Despite her appearance, Ruffles is a dog. She’s been living with me since I was bor. I now see her as a wizened old lady who came to college with me. She is threadbare and ripped all over. It was important to me to show how 21 years aged the stuffed animal. It was also crucial that I photograph her in her natural habitat – my bed. I hope that this piece reminds everyone to get in touch with their roots.

Stephanie Richardson
Hello Dolly

Sure, she’s kind of creepy and naked, but why? What’s her story? Where did she come from? Was she loved and cared for, or was she prematurely replaced by a Malibu Barbie and donated to Goodwill? I’m interested in stories such as these and what they mean in a lager social context.
This photo was one of the first photographs I took with my toy camera. Working with plastic cameras requires a spontaneity and surrendering of control that I have difficulty realizing in other aspects of my life. It is both liberating and exciting to create these beautifully imperfect images.

Sampson Wilcox
Space Zamboni

To me, toys are living objects to engage with, and help one detach from reality. They are a vehicle that puts me in a self invented world of reflection. I have always identified with ships and vehicles in general, and the endless imagination behind fantasizing them into existence. This piece touches on a few specific points of nostalgia for me, as well as a more recent theme of cleansing I have tired to bring into my work. Zambonis rejuvenate a rough surface of ice, leaving a smooth plane to glide on.

Hugh S. Manon
Le Regard

Steel, Plastic, Spray Paint
Unmodified found object of unknown origin. Possibly a factory mold used in making toy owls.

Phoebe Cape
Building Block Building

This piece looks at the world through the simplicity of a child’s perspective. It also alludes to the ever-growing complexity of our adult lives, as simple childhood building blocks become part of a multifaceted structure.

Olivia James

This piece is made from a combination of various wires, clay, leather and thread. I let the materials guide my creation, working with the limitations and abilities of each. At the end, these is an element of surprise that emerges after seeing what developed out of these materials that once were disjointed but now depend on each other.

Gifted Children
By Messy

Toying with memories of childhood: Two Clarkies put together exhibit to question the role of toys

Seniors Stephanie Richardson and Amanda Kidd Schall are compiling an exhibit bound to take you back to simpler times, but with a new lens. Their upcoming show involves toys and seeks to bring many facets into question, such as topics of gender, politics, aesthetics, nostalgia, and identity.

“Recently, Amanda and I have both been thinking a lot about how space and objects demonstrate and influence a person’s identity,” Richardson said. “Looking more critically at toys seemed like a fun way to explore this idea further.”

Their themes are far-reaching, but under the microscope of adolescence, take on an interesting role. “It’s important to reflect on how objects influence our perception of ourselves the world. The marketing and design of consumer products like toys reflects and influences society’s values,” Richardson said.

According to their statement, the display will explore the individual’s relationship with toys, and how they function as more than a plaything. By asking questions such as why or how a certain toy infuriates or pleases an individual, the coordinators are asking us to rethink what role toys have in our lives. Richardson and Schall are calling on students to, “Destroy, create, display, sculpt, alter, draw, and submit your toys!”

Like the majority of individuals, Richardson and Schall both had very memorable childhoods involving toys, and the memories still remain. “I am interested in looking at the past to find clues as to why I turned out the way I did,” Richardson said. “My mother fell into the consumer trap where she believed that buying my brother and me lots of toys would make us happy so we had a quite a large amount of playthings.”

Gender is one of the many topics the two have set out to rethink within the realm of childhood and toys. “I can look back on my childhood and see a clear distinction between my toys and those of my brother,” Richardson said. “He had matchbox cars, I had Polly Pockets. He had plastic army men and I had two American Girl dolls. He got a BMX bike for Christmas and I got a jump rope. I even had girly, pink Leggo’s that emulated his ‘boy-colored’ ones.”

This exhibit is coming at a time when others are also questioning the role toys have in children’s lives, though Mattel’s reconsideration isn’t as positive. The makers of the super-couple Barbie and Ken have decided to celebrate Ken’s 50th birthday by giving him a new look.

According to an LA Times article, “…in a new reality TV show, ‘Genuine Ken: The Search for the Great American Boyfriend,’ eight clean-cut real-life contestants vie to be judged worthy of Barbie: a guy with style who knows how to listen, cook, surf and spoil the material girl with displays of affection.” Mattel is seeking to loosen up the confined personas of Barbie and her “Great American Boyfriend” in order to boost profit for Ken’s half-century birthday.

“The Barbie doll is an obvious example of a toy heavily charged with meaning,” Richardson said. “My Barbies were busty, thin and fashionable. I wanted to be like them and have a steamy romance with Ken. It’s silly, but there’s totally something to analyze and consider there. Her unattainable appearance is normalized and idealized.”

It can’t be denied that gender roles and other conventions are enforced by toys. These objects take on a large role in a child’s life; we get attached and spend a lot of time with them.

“These play items and experiences are only a fraction of what has influenced the development of our identities, but all the same, their significance cannot be denied,” Richardson said. “By reflecting and challenging the hidden or blatant meaning that is hidden or obvious in toys, we can locate societal norms and find out more about how they have influenced the development of the many aspects of our identities.”

The opening reception will be held Tuesday, March 1st at 5 p.m. and the exhibit will remain open in the 2nd floor lounge until March 25th.

Stepping into Simpler Times: Norman Rockwell’s America at the North Carolina Museum of Art

Even in a modern time where identities and definitions are rapidly changing, the iconic American scenes depicted in Norman Rockwell’s illustrations capture a timeless innocence and unabashed part of our country’s character. The artist’s work covered the Saturday Evening Post for decades as prices increased, fonts changed, and good and bad times came and went. Throughout his work with the publication, Rockwell’s numerous depictions of charming everyday America undoubtedly shaped how we are viewed and how we view ourselves.

Triple Portrait. Image courtesy of ncartmuseum.org

In his lifetime, Rockwell produced over 4,000 original pieces as the nation’s premier illustrator.

American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell was featured at the North Carolina Museum of Art just in time for the holiday season, allowing visitors to reexamine American ideals with the lens of the 21st century. The exhibit featured a vast array of the artist’s work spanning over six decades. American Chronicles includes 40 original works of art and a complete set of 323 Saturday Evening Post cover tear sheets, spanning 47 years.

In the main room of the exhibit, copies of the Saturday Evening Post lined every wall in simple wooden frames. Many still had mailing addresses from across the country stuck somewhere noninvasively. When faced with that many weekly issues, one really gets a scope of just how many covers Rockwell had to churn out in his time.

The exhibit also made it known that Rockwell was not always the well-known, respected artist he is today. Many critics loathed his sense of idealistic, sentimental America, calling his work bourgeois. Some refused to call it art, saying his technique was put to banal use. In his later years, however, Rockwell received much acclaim, and recently art critic Peter Schjeldahl said of Rockwell in ArtNews: “Rockwell is terrific. It’s become too tedious to pretend he isn’t.” Rockwell’s ironic work Art Critic showcases his humor toward the initial dismissal of his work.

As the years of issues cycle through in rows on the wall, Christmas covers come and go (some more celebrated than others), war-themed covers reappear, and during the Depression, illustrations were more simplistic. One thing that remained was the relatable, humble tone of Rockwell’s work. He wasn’t trying to appeal to one group above another. He was not trying to make America into some superficial idea. His work was about the traditions and the people carrying them out.

One of the more famous series is the Four Freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. Certainly these ideals still manifest themselves in today’s culture; another running theme of Rockwell’s work also found in the past and present America is that of advertising. Much of Rockwell’s work was used in marketing different products. From toothpaste to cereal to war bonds, marketers knew they had a potential goldmine on their hands when it came to Rockwell’s classic illustrations. They appealed to many and made strong statements with memorable images. Along with tens of thousands of other eager, patriotic citizens, President Roosevelt also thanked the artist for his work. Rockwell also did many illustrations for Boy’s Life magazine and other affiliations with the Boy Scouts of America.

Some of my personal favorites from the collection on display were of the process itself. To the untrained eye, Rockwell rarely placed himself in his work, but with a careful reexamination, his likeness can be found in many of his illustrations. Less inconspicuously, the artist painted himself working on a self-portrait cover of the Saturday Evening Post while looking at himself in the mirror. Triple Self Portrait remains a well-recognized work and has been highly discussed. The painting references the greats: Durer, Rembrandt, van Gogh, and Picasso.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibit, there were a few things unconsidered. The crowds were much too large the day I visited, and many of the visitors were elderly and handicapped. Meandering through the exhibit was a little difficult. For some reason, the North Carolina Museum of Art also deemed all sketching and photography outlawed. Maybe it’s just me, but any museum directly inhibiting the creation of art just seems bizarre.

American Chronicles will travel to 12 national venues through 2013.

Flipping your perspective: Bob Trotman’s Inverted Utopias

Take the values, simplicity, and everyman innocence of Norman Rockwell’s cover illustrations for the Saturday Evening Post, shake them around and throw them on their heads. Add a touch of modernity, calamity, stress, and the stereotypical American dream workforce attire, and you’ve got Inverted Utopias.

Stu 2004. Photo by Ashley Klann

Giant wooden figures grasp for the sky with half of their torsos still submerged beyond the floorboards. Their expressions range from fear to tranquility. Other figures are completely out of normal position, their bodies upside down, or gnarled in other positions. Ties flail wildly as men in suits are in suspended animation, falling from the ceiling. Housewives in aprons kneel, holding platters of food. Many of the figures are larger than life-size, but still not huge (think Freud in Red Square), making them even eerier.

Another section of the exhibit features a line of busts with removable mouths and eyes, all in different expressions. Their wooden heads are screwed together with metal with some gaping open at the seams.

Trotman’s attention to detail in the sanding and finishing of these human figures is amazing. Each one looks life-like despite all the contortions and disconcerting gazes. They’re comprised of many kinds of wood, including poplar, basswood, and pine. The finishing is wax, paint and tempera, giving the statues a soft tone.

Girl, 2002, paint and tempera on white pine, poplar, and basswood, with small amount of wax. Photo by Ashley Klann.

Inverted Utopias is definitely clever in its social commentary. The quintessential successful business model is completely thrown awry, skewing images of our model of triumph. The models in the exhibit are powerless and confused, like they’ve been tossed into a void of self-reflection too deep to handle.

Trotman said of his work, “I’m sure we can all call to mind the idealized, utopian version of American life as offered by Norman Rockwell in the pages of the Saturday Evening Post,” he says. “With my wooden figures, I’m making an inverted version of that picture, a dystopian America, where ambiguity replaces certainty.”

The exhibit serves as an inaugural event to a section of the NCMA devoted to putting a spotlight on local artists. Trotman is from Winston-Salem, NC and his work has been featured in museums across the country. In his artists statement, he says, “As a figurative sculptor my concern is the exploration, interpretation, and representation of the human body as a primal medium for projecting thought and feeling: in the expressive language of its poses and dress, its gestures, its facial expressions, and in its disposition in relation to its surroundings. Of the many possibilities open to me, I am most interested in expressions of alienation: alienation of the self from society, from the physical environment, and even of the self from itself.” Inverted Utopias holds true to this sentiment, causing the viewer to reflect on what values our society holds and those we hold, ourselves.

For more of his work, check out his website at www.bobtrotman.com.