THIRD SPACE, SHIFTING CONVERSATIONS ABOUT CONTEMPORARY ART @ BIRMINGHAM MUSEUM OF ART : 10 ART PIECES THAT SPOKE TO US

THIRD SPACE, SHIFTING CONVERSATIONS ABOUT CONTEMPORARY ART @ BIRMINGHAM MUSEUM OF ART

I travel to Alabama about once a year, one of my favorite places to visit while in town is the Birmingham Museum of Art.  A few weeks ago, I got a chance to experience their latest exhibition, Third Space: Shifting Conversations.  Third Space includes their visitors in the examination on the cultural crossing of Alabama and the American South’s relation to the Global South – the concept that the state of our cultural climate is not chained to a geographical location; that were are united by a connected past that defines our present. “It is an imagined place that ties cultures together by their common experiences and considers the voices of people who are often unheard.”

The exhibition opens up that dialogue with over 100 contemporary art pieces – most culled from the museums’ own collection.  A few of the pieces are on display for the first time, having been in storage, due to the museums’ lack of space. The works of art and the ideas that inspired them are meant to resonate regionally, as well as reach out on a global level. Photographs, sculptures, and paintings are just a few of the mediums represented here along with a rich multitude of artistic representation from Alabama, Brazil, Cuba and South Africa – to name a few.

“This important moment for the Birmingham Museum of Art and our collection of contemporary art extends an exciting opportunity to recognize and explore a shared human experience,” Gail Andrews, R. Hugh Daniel Director of the Birmingham Museum of Art, said. “Works of art offer ways to see the world from a new perspective, serve as points of discussion and can create empathy and respect, at a time when our country seems to need it the most.”

Your journey is tied to reference points that guide you in finding personal meaning within the art. The sections are: representation/agency/gaze, tradition/memory/history, landscape/nature/spirit, and migration/diaspora/exile.  Third Space will run for 2 years, during that time the works of art will change every 6 months, shifting your travels.  You can also use your iPhone or iPad provided at the museum to access the Smart Guide, an interactive feature that allows you to listen to different perspectives on selected works of art from voices of children, musicians, activists and a host of others from the Birmingham community.

And as we are invited to share our perspectives and interact with the art, in no particular order, here are 10 art piece gems in the exhibition that spoke to us:

  1. Dennis Oppenheim’s Slow Clap for Satie, 1989 (Acrylic, wood, steel, motors. ficus trees, pots, turntables, vacuum formed masks, loop recording of Erik Satie piano music)THIRD SPACE, SHIFTING CONVERSATIONS ABOUT CONTEMPORARY ART @ BIRMINGHAM MUSEUM OF ART
  2.  Jose Bedia Mpangui jimagua (Twin Brothers), 2000 (Acrylic and conte on canvas with objects) – Jose Bedia’s years studying and experiencing Afro-Cuban and Native American spirituality are reflected in the two representing men drifting together in the boat communing with and pulling their collective spiritual forces.  Is it a representation of Bedia continuing to pull the spirit and traditions of his heritage along in life?  As your eye pulls away from the boat and notices the figures on the large canvas, you have to wonder…are you staring at two figures or do they represent a blending of one?THIRD SPACE, SHIFTING CONVERSATIONS ABOUT CONTEMPORARY ART @ BHAM_Glenn Kaino, Bridge
  3. Skylar Fein See You at the UpStairs Lounge, from “Remember the UpStairs Lounge”, 2009 (latex on wood) – This is a recreation of original sign from The UpStairs Lounge,  a gay bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans.  In 1973 a fire broke out, claiming the lives of 32 men.  The fire was set intentionally, and the 15 survivors were persecuted afterwards for being at the bar. A more in depth history of the event can be heard here.  THIRD SPACE, SHIFTING CONVERSATIONS ABOUT CONTEMPORARY ART @ BHAM_Ebony G Patterson
  4. Ebony G. Patterson Among the weeds, plants and peacock feathers, 2014  (Mixed Media) – It wasn’t until we looked through the lens of the camera did we see the body scattered among beaded tapestry.  Patterson’s work explores themes of identity and class, race and gender in the media. Among the weeds draws the viewers in, revealing a heartbreaking discovery.  Too often we bypass the crushing and Patterson calls our attention to a prevailing attitude.  Third Space at BHAM_Nick Cave
  5. Nick Cave Soundsuit, 2009 (Fabric with appliqued crochet and buttons , knitted yarn, and mannequin)Third Space at BHAM_Glenn Kaino
  6. Glenn Kaino Bridge, 2014 (Fiberglass, steel wire, and gold paint) – Made from a cast of Olympic athlete Tommie Smith’s arms and fist, the sculpture harkens back to that iconic moment when, along with John Carlos, Smith raised his black gloved fist in the Black Power Salute during the metal ceremony in the 1968 Olympics.  Do yourself a favor and listen to Chenoia Bryant, Social Justice Advocate and Feminist speak on the audio companion about the larger meaning behind this piece.Third Space at BHAM_
  7. Whitfield Lovell Rise of the Delta, 2013 (Conte on wood, silver plated platters, penny, wrought iron scone ) – Lovell was commissioned by Birmingham art collectors Norm and Carnetta Davis to create this piece from of photograph of Carnetta Davis’ mother. I love the halo of silver and pewter serving plates placed around Davis’ mother.  They symbolize her mothers’ love of hosting guests in her home, while the pewter piece at her feet is reference to ‘Birth of Venus’.
  8. Kerry James Marshall As Seen on TV, 2002 (Enamel on plastic vase, plastic flowers, framed video still, wood and glass shelf with steel bracket and chain)
  9. Glenn Ligon Runaways, 1993 (Lithographs) – This series of prints are inspired by advertisements for runaways slaves from the early 1800s.  Ligon makes use of the advertisements bearing physical descriptions and personal details, wording that humanized people perceived as property, standing in opposition to the advertisements obvious lack of humanity 10-must-see-pieces-at-third-space-birmingham-museum-of-art
  10. Esterio Segura La historia se muedre la cola (History Bites its Tall), 2013 (Painted fiberglass) – Using a bound Pinocchio as a metaphor for the history of lies told us by our governments was brilliant.  Even more stinging when you think how apropos it is when applied to the lies we tell ourselves.

Another Year, Another Armory Week In The Books

Another year, another Armory Week in the books. I missed last year and was heartbroken, so I was really looking forward to all the greatness I was going to see. And then it happened, The Armory Show disappointed me. How was that possible? So maybe disappointment is the wrong emotion to convey, perhaps underwhelmed is better. I had been looking forward to this for months, weeks and days and with its one less row and sparsity of art I was underwhelmed. Thankfully, Art on Paper, Volta and Scope all pulled up the rear and made my overall experience great!

Here are my Top 10 pieces in no particular order:

I had the pleasure of attending Art on Paper its first night as a VIP, because I roll with some awesome people (Hi, Paradigm Gallery+Studio) and Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s artistry was the first capture by my trusty iPhone. She is called Olympia and was painted with Oil on canvas just last year.

My next selection found at the Armory Show focused on a common political theme I saw throughout the galleries. Mel Bochner’s “Eradicate” carried a thought I’m sure most considered in these past weeks and months.

I found a great deal of irony in my next piece, “Alternative Titles for Recent Exhibitions I’ve Seen”. Scott Reeder seemed to be picking at my brain in particular.

“Alternative Titles for Recent Exhibitions I’ve Seen”

I love it when I go to a show and the art reminds me of my childhood or just makes me giggle. Perfect example of this is Douglas Coupland’s “Towers”. A huge display of Legos, building structures and towers alike. Instantly I’m back in my younger brother’s room building some structure that architecturally will never work, but will take us hours to create.

The second display that made me giggle was an entire park of sorts by Yayoi Kusama named “Guidepost to the New World”. Who doesn’t like polka dots? You can’t help but smile and laugh when you discover this park in the middle of the Armory Show floor.

Nick Cave, Hustle Coat. Having recently moved to Atlanta makes me long for the strange variety of life displayed constantly in the streets of New York. Nick’s Hustle Coats, one in black the other in tan made me crave that variety of life even more.

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I always find that I look, search even for my favorite artist and when I find them I’m so very excited. With that being said…Kehinde Kehinde Kehinde!! I cannot shout this man’s name enough. Ladies and Gentlemen, the greatness known as Kehinde Wiley. If by chance I get the opportunity to own one of his pieces of work, I would be jealous of myself. They are real, vibrant, elegant and simply magnificent.

And now I find myself at Scope. Honestly I had never been a fan of Scope, but this year before I could fully get within the many gallery walls I was snapping pics and genuinely skipping to the next wall of fine art. On this brutally cold Saturday afternoon, I am warmed by the eyes from this painting by Roberta Coni. The boldness of her stare and the softness of colors welcomed me.

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And just like that I was not only smiling but dancing a bit too from reciting lyrical genius in my head. Mark Drew’s series of four paintings with Peanut characters and hip hop lyrics made me reminisce of simpler times.

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So I know I said that these were my Top 10 picks, but this series of painting genuinely blow my mind. No major complexity, no variety of color, just big black bold strokes of paint swirled around the canvas. I would put one in every room of my home and walk through it like my own personal gallery. James Austin Murray captivated me and believe me for a woman with several zillions of things running through my mind that is quite the feat.

James Austin Murray_Another Year, Another Amory Week In The Books James Austin Murray

Lastly on this International Woman’s Day I wanted to choose something that displayed not only our strength but also or vulnerability. No matter how hard you knock us down, women will always rise again. Kim Byung Kwan’s Ghost Backup #002 depicts Wonder Woman down at her very lowest, but she will always rise.

Kim Byung Kwan’s Ghost Backup #002 _Another Year, Another Amory Week In The Books

I can truly say that I enjoyed this weekend filled with art. Next year, let’s do it again!

Our Favorite Rooms at the 2017 Spring Break Art Show

Spring/Break is one of the Armory Week attractions I try not to miss, it unapologetically has fun with art – blocking out the cynical in favor of its dialogue driven exhibits.  This year it moved out of the Moynihan Station Post Office and into swankier digs in Times Square.  What didn’t change – is the integrity of the show, the feeling of being sent off to the races into the all encompassing line of rooms. The rooms can be a showdown of hit-or-miss aesthetics, but it affords the artist space to create a story, and that discovery is always worth the price of admission.

This year, the annual curator-driven art show, Spring/Break chose Black Mirror as its theme.   Here’s a list of the rooms we loved walking thru.

 

Hometown Hero (Chink) /Thinly Worn | Valery Jung Estabrook

I shudder to think that I almost walked past this room without meeting Valery Jung Estabrook 

Hometown Hero (Chink) featured an installation of three parts: a single channel video, a custom upholstered recliner, and a fabric-covered room furnished with other upholstered items that immediately transport you to a version of the American South. The items reveal hidden personal histories that cling to Jung’s experiences growing up a mixed-race Korean American who was taught to revere a past to which she felt no connection.

The recliner – with its looming imagery of the Confederate flag, dominates the space. It sits facing the television, acting as a physical stand-in for the [cheap] desire to return to an idealized fictional version of America – the wish to “Make America Great Again.”  Everything in that room is in direct opposition of Jung Estabrook’s honest conversations regarding race, alienation, and assimilation playing on the television with a repeating video clip featuring segments called Twinkie, Wasp and assimilation that features Jung Estabrook lip syncing while dressed as Tammi Wynette.

 

“Thinking about everything, but then again, I was thinking about nothing” | Tamara Santibanez

Tamara Santibanez recreates her adolescent bedroom in shades of white symbolizing the purity of memories we wish to retain. Her pen drawings of rock band posters and t-shirts hang among the other trappings of a certain youth – cassettes, AM/FM radio, vinyl’s, studded leather wrist bands and jeans tossed casually on the carpet make for a trip I didn’t want to end.

Sophiya Khwaja | Cade Tompkins Projects

Sophiya Khawaja‘s hoops sans the cloth and thread that traditionally sit between the two wooden circles, showcase images of herself, a solitary female figure trapped – possessing – raging and navigating the landscapes she inhabits. Each become a symbol of the female encased in the intricate bindings of the world around her.

“Melissa Godoy-Nieto: Dream Journal,” curated by Ambre and Andrew Gori

Visitors were invited to share their dreams with Godoy-Nieto so she could translate them into drawings.  If you took part in the project, I hear you might be able to find your dreams roaming wild & free on Melissa’s website.

Sisyphus | Light Sculpture | Valerie Sullivan Fuchs

Sisyphus, 2009, is a palm sized video projection where the viewers capture the video onto their open hands. The video is of a woman who appears to climb up the viewer’s hand but slides back down repeatedly. Each time she slides back down, she draws a line of chalk which appears to mix with the lines of the view’s palm.

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Further Explanations into Contemporary Blackness : New Work From Azikiwe Mohammed 
Azikwe Mohammad travels from last year’s Jimmy Thrift Store, a project based around New Davonhaime, a fictional town whose name is a make up of the five cities with the highest African-American populations (Detroit, Savannah,  Jackson, Birmingham, and New Orleans).  Mohammad filled the room with thrift shops finds (elaborate chintzy lamps, old albums, neon signs and ceramic figurines) cast offs ready to breathe new life into old lives.  Assuming the personality of Jimmy, Mohammad told us colorful stories of the non-existent town until it felt relevant, until we felt like we’d benefit from visiting.
This year Mohammad was back in a less structured space with more stories to tell, a memorial to those we lost this past year in violence, a closer look into the lives of those from Davonhaime. Names and faces were memorialized on airbrushed t-shirts and iconic jewelry found in nearly every African-American home. Photographs from his visit to the cities were rolled up and placed in containers for those who felt like delving a bit deeper.
It was as if last years’ search for stories was a mere beginning into the insight into the crux of the stories he evokes through memory and representation. I remember when Mohammed had a seat out in the hallway of the first Spring Break Fair, patiently explaining his hip-hop tapestries to us.  Each year his exploration into African American iconography gets deeper and more creatively explorative.

Erin M. Riley Opens Solo Show “Simple” at Hashimoto Contemporary

Erin M. Riley Opens at Hashimoto Contemporary

Artist, Erin M. Riley’s meticulous hand-woven tapestries are intimate portraits into past experience, of both personal and communal memory. The large-scale work confronts viewers to contemplate subjects often considered socially taboo.  Frequently autobiographical, her work addresses the innate trauma of womanhood and the objectification of the sexualized body.  This Saturday, March 4th, Riley will show a solo exhibition of brand new, hand sewn tapestries entitled “Simple” at Hashimoto Contemporary in San Francisco, California.

Simple” is a culmination of her previous bodies of work and serves as an investigation into the complexity of the feminine identity. The artist explains that because of the Internet’s infiltration into our personal lives, “Intimacy is blurred, bodies exist in this surreal way, sexuality is abstract. A few specific pieces in the show are of experiences I have had throughout my life… These are the moments we prepare ourselves for with self-defense mechanisms and paranoia. I am trying to evolve from these moments but also want to acknowledge them so as not to live in denial or make people feel like they are alone.” The work physically memorializes moments of our fleeting digital life by depicting selfies, text messages, and screenshots of pornography.

The exhibition also features weavings of car wrecks and images of abuse, often accompanied with lines of text. One piece entitled “Portrait of a Father” portrays a crashed semi-truck, with the interwoven caption “you don’t deserve my forgiveness.” Riley utilizes the truck as a metaphor for “how sexual violence knocks us off our axis” and challenges the viewer to consider the inherent aggression women face in our contemporary society.

*information via Erin Riley press release

Discover: Aganetha Dyck Bee Comb Sculptures

Aganetha Dyck Bee Comb Sculptures

Aganetha Dyck Bee Comb Sculptures

Aganetha Dyck Bee Comb Sculptures don’t seem intentional, more like ornamental sculptures used to wistfully decorate English gardens that nature had other plans for.  Aganetha’s work considers environmental issues, specifically the power of the small and its impact globally.  Over the past twenty-two years, she’s collaborated with bees to further her studies on interspecies communication, her research asks questions about the ramifications all living beings would experience should honeybees disappear from earth.

The porcelain figures are placed the bees in enclosures serving as a canvas, the bees are in effect her partners in the creations of the beautiful honeycomb sculptures. The figurines covered in the bee’s honeycombs are meant to show how intertwined our two species existences are, and start a conversation begin about our behaviors towards bees.  Leading to questioning the ramifications all living beings would experience should honeybees disappear from earth.

View “Guest Workers,” a short film on her sculptures after the pictures.

Aganetha Dyck Bee Comb Sculptures

Aganetha Dyck Bee Comb Sculptures

Aganetha Dyck Bee Comb Sculptures

Chess • Tableau, beeswax, honeycomb, found figurine, 2008. Photo credit: Peter Dyck.

Aganetha Dyck Bee Comb Sculptures

Aganetha Dyck Bee Comb Sculptures

Veiled Lady • Figurine, beeswax, bees, circa 2007-08. Photo: Peter Dyck

Aganetha Dyck Bee Comb Sculptures

 

Catch it: Aganetha Dyck [Website]

Photos courtesy of the Aganetha Dyck website

F is for Frieke Janssens

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Do you remember this photo series by Frieke Janssens?

Photographer Frieke Janssens controversial series, Smoking Kids, saw children ages 4-9 dressed in outfits that evoked particular periods of cigarette culture.  While the costuming and posing of the children evokes perhaps a certain glamour that some still find in the begone ‘Mad Menesque’ era, visually you are forced to see the ugliness of smoking when juxtaposed with the youth of her subjects. These photo narratives question whether or not the fascination for cigarettes is as enticing when viewed on children. Now, the cigarettes used in the photos were actually fashioned out of cheese, candles and incense – though I doubt that will make most comfortable with the subject matter.

A lot of Janssens’ work tackles addiction and social change. The uneasiness the viewer experiences while looking at her photography parallels that of our society’s approach to tackling these long standing obstacles. We’ve allowed ourselves to view many of these as acceptable modern societal norms – and she challenges that.

Her latest series Animalcoholics goes surrealist as it imagines alcoholics down to their base selves, after loss of self control and self consciousness has reduced them to their primal selves.

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Frieke Janssens_Smoking Kids Frieke Janssens_Smoking Kids

Link up: Frieke Janssens Website / Instagram @friekejanssens_photography

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Genre: Photography

Discover: Tsurubride the art of Meghan Willis

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Brooklyn based artist, Tsuru Bride (Japanese word for crane), aka Meghan Willis, celebrates women’s strength and sexuality through her work; and I love her semi-super hero dossier. “By day I work in the apparel industry, and by night I explore the art of undressing, movement, and sensuality through embroidery,” she writes. “I aim to tempt the viewer to follow the delicate stitching that caresses the bodies I reveal through thread.”

Her work is hand embroidered on linen, leather appliques are stitched often creating colorful illusions, then hand painted with acrylics. Check it out these conversation starters…

 

Tsuru Bride-tart

Tart, Stretched Canvas, 8″ x 10″

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Open Closed, 10″ x 11″

Tsuru Bride-tug

TUG, silk organza, Liberty print, and leather appliques 10″ x 12″

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Double Exposure No. 5 (Tita), 8″ x10″

Tsuru Bride-double-exposure

Double Exposure No. 3 (Nina), 8″ x 10″

Tsuru Bride-rift

Rift, 9″ x 17″

Tsuru Bride-coy

Coy, 10″ x 15″

 

Discover More:

Tsurubride Instagram

Tsurubride Website

photos courtesy of Meghan Willis website.

Steffen Dam’s Cabinets of Curiosities

Steffen Dam

Danish artist, Steffen Dam’s grandfather, born in 1893, was a passionate amateur in the field of natural history.  As a child, Dam enjoyed pouring over his grandfather’s library of scientific books full of illustrations of specimens.

Today Dam, a highly skilled glass blower, uses his affinity for natural history to create his imaginatively wonderful backlit “Cabinets of Curiosities”.

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Mimicked oceanic specimens in glass cylinders seemingly containing liquid and air bubbles become optical illusions; the translucent character of the glass object in the cylinder imitates sea life. His specimens aren’t actually objects found in nature, rather a quirky re-writing of the biological world.

“I have been working with glass for 25 years. Initially I was blowing glass, but over the years casting, grinding and techniques from other crafts emerged. My aim is to describe the world as I see it. One could also say to describe what’s not tangible and understandable with our everyday senses. My cylinders contain nothing that exists in the ocean, my specimens are plausible but not from this world, my plants are only to be found in my compost heap, and my flowers are still unnamed.”

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*photos taken by HAHA MAG

Shifting Consciousness with Chiharu Shiota

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"The Locked Room" 2016, KAAT Kanagawa Arts Theater, Yokohama, Japan, photo by Masanobu Nishino “The Locked Room” 2016, KAAT Kanagawa Arts Theater, Yokohama, Japan, photo by Masanobu Nishino

‘A sleepy mystery intertwined with beauty’, is how I like to think of Chiharu Shiota’s intricate large-scale installation pieces exploring the relationship between body and mind. Her work feels like being let into remnants of someone else’s dreams.

She tethers her memories to objects with lengths of tangled, crisscrossing black threads, securing them in a physical realm. Here we are offered the questions, the quandaries of an woman who dreams herself in and out of reality without ever really leaving the suspension of time.

It’s rare to see Shiota’s installations come towards the U.S., although (claps) her 2017 exhibition calendar has a solo show booked for Feb 21 2017 – Aug 6 at the SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA / U.S.A.

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Conscious Sleep, Venue: Cockatoo Island, 22th Biennale of Sydney, photo by Paul Green

Conscious Sleep, Venue: Cockatoo Island, 22th Biennale of Sydney, photo by Paul Green

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“When I dream, I feel the dream as reality. I can’t distinguish between dream and reality. When I wake up, I have the feeling I’m still dreaming.” -Chiharu Shiota

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I found a pretty amazing time lapse of “After the Dream” being installed at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery during the ‘Lost in Lace’ exhibition in London back in 2011.

DISCOVER: THE COMING UNDONE OF ANA TERESA BARBOZA

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Textile Artist, Ana Teresa Barboza is onto new things – embroidered landscapes and plants. But I’ll be forever attached to her series, BORDADOS, where she explores the art of embroidering the body and skin.

It’s visually intoxicating to imagine the grabbing, the pulling of oneself apart into threads to rearrange your fabric; stitch yourself back together in a way more suitable to breathe.

She makes it seem a natural course of thought, that one could exist in a space that allows nature to emulate canvas, where we can weave ourselves anew with needle and thread. These works are primal representations of structures torn from within or adorned throughout.

 

“Working with my hands, it’s something I’ve always done since childhood… and the incredible images that textiles can produce. I feel the fabric gives familiarity to the image, it pulls you in to stop and admire the details.”* – Ana Teresa Barboza

 

Artist Links: Ana Teresa Barboza Website

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bordados

 

*quote taken from interview with Barboza at Textile Artist.

Explore another artist who takes needle to skin, in our interview with  Eliza Bennet’s “A Women’s Work is Never Done”.

 

Discover: Yoan Capote

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Self-portrait (each one of us) 2002 to 2008 | Concrete and cast bronze |175 x 50 x 50 cm | Yoan Capote

 

Cuban artist, Yoan Capote peeks our interest with sculpture work that creates harmony between materials that stand in stark contrast in the face of their duality.  It might be what draws you to his work; but Capote mentioned in an interview that the materials don’t determine his work. “Ideas are critical to my deciding which materials to use…Whenever you have something interesting to convey, you look for the ideal way to express it.”*

His visual metaphors are striking; the chords of his work strike emotional tones of compassion, a connect with our humanity, and a sight into our fragility.  One of our favorites pieces is Self-Portrait.  In Self-Portrait, Capote used molds of real bones with provenance from different dead people; then, he reproduced each one of them in wax, adjusting them and creating the representation of a new subject in that sculpture. The weight of the concrete is used like a symbolic element. Equilibrium is a metaphor of struggle and resistance. Gravity reminds the spiritual weight that everyone supports and talks about fragility of our own life.

Discover more on Yoan Capote: Website

 

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yoancuffs

New Man 2014 Real handcuffs, cast bronze and stainless steel structure | 221.5 x 61 x 46 cm | Yoan Capote

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*quote comes from Capote interview with Phyllis Tuchman
– description of Self Portrait and photos from the artist

Nicomi Nix Turner: Writhing & Withering @ Paradigm Gallery

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Nicomi Nix Turner’s latest solo exhibition, Writhing & Withering, just opened at Paradigm Gallery + Studio

Turner is usually recognized for her intricately detailed black-and-white graphite illustrations that evoke surreal understandings of the connections between nature, alchemy, mythology, decay and birth.  Here’s a little peek into her latest collection where she tackles a new technique—finishing her works using beeswax, resin, and oil medium that gives the work a dreamy, otherworldly feel.

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In her artist statement for Writhing & Withering, she explains, “Fruit plays the protagonist consumed by both the fearless and ignorant alike.”  Fleshing out tangible realms for her protagonists to flourish in is where Turner’s work turns gorgeously dark and romantic.  In her imaginative places, conjuring desire is left out to rot, worn in defiance, caught sweetly passing the lips and, left dangling from mouths in the midst of subtle revelations.  The works feast on the symbolic devices Turner has carried throughout earlier works – an offering sacrifice for renewal.

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In this realm, “the consumption of fruit leaves mortality withering – holds the eater writhing in hallucinatory suspension.

It recalls me to scenes out of Christina Rossetti’s poem, “Goblin Market”, where fruit is also the protagonist.  The young character Laura, eats the goblins’ fruits and grows older afterwards, but it isn’t by learning and getting wiser.  Laura has eaten the fruit and now she knows its taste, but it damages her in a way. Her craving for the fruit becomes like that of an addict, she writhes as her inability to be satisfied causes her to become completely debilitated.

“I ate my fill, yet my mouth waters still”, Rossetti’s Laura, says desperately and listlessly to her sister – who ultimately becomes her savior.  The problem with the fruit in “Goblin Market” is expressed by Laura herself: “Who knows upon what soil they fed their hungry thirsty roots?” The distinction between good and evil blurs when the juices of the fruit also become what sustains Laura in the end …to take and to give.

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Turner, in turn, explores the cultural and ideological meanings of fruit in celebration of nature and abundance while acknowledging its darker side.

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As you walk around the gallery during her latest solo show at Paradigm Gallery + Studio in Philadelphia, the eyes of the women she has drawn into existence hold your gaze with their eyes, boldly defying you to write another ending for them.

The show’s strength is due in part to the her connection with these women. She knows who they are. The realness of their lives are validated in the details: the wisps of hair that halo about their heads, the crazy pattern work that adorns their clothes, the eyes that take you on explorations of women whose mysteries you want to know.

If their stories still elude you, Turner has evoked her tale into tangible grabs as three-dimensional sculpts of striped fruits grow outside the canvas and further your descent into her story.

“Writhing & Withering” uses devices that carry weight regardless of its subjects’ innate gifts or abilities, all while securing us, the viewer, in a visual inability to be sated.

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†a version of this article was first published on the Paradigm Gallery + Studio  website

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“Writhing & Withering” works by Nicomi Nix Turner
November 18, 2016 – January 7, 2017

Opening Reception
Friday, November 18th • 5:30pm – 10:00pm

Closing Reception
Friday, December 16th • 5:30pm – 10:00pm

Location
Paradigm Gallery + Studio / 746 S. 4th Street, 1st Floor / Philadelphia, PA 19147

Social Media
Instagram: @_fernbeds_
Twitter: @fernbeds