Month: January 2015

“State of the Art” Addressed

posted by – 01/30/15 @ 4:57pm

As a Northwest Arkansas native, I can’t help but to share the love I have for the Natural State. Crystal Bridges Museum, Alice Walton’s controversial new mecca of American art, is located in the retail dynasty’s hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas. During my last visit home, I made the short drive to the museum to see their latest exhibition, State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now. This particular show had created quite the buzz for Crystal Bridges around the country, certainly the most notable since they opened doors for the first time in 2011. The show sought to display the landscape of American contemporary art. This included works from over one hundred artists, from all four corners of the country. The jurors made a point to discover those artists whose work had “not yet been fully recognized on a national level” (http://crystalbridges.org/). It seemed that nearly everyone I spoke to in Nashville had heard of the show, and had already formulated their opinions based on the venue.

Ialu wood, steel, plastic and electric motor 57 in. x 78 in. x 108 in. 2011, John Douglas Powers

Video of \”Ialu\”

As I coasted down the scenic drive leading to the museum entrance, I was eager to make my own evaluation. Once I had inhaled the natural beauty of the Crystal Bridges campus, a delightful patch of Ozark forest a world apart from Manhattan, I entered the State of the Art exhibition area with high expectations. Immediately I realized that this collection of works was in a separate sphere altogether from the collection of 18th century portraits and busts in the hall adjacent it. I entered the show through a hallway cloaked in a crocheted installation piece by artist Jeila Gueramian. The womb of thread evoked a sense of childish wonder, and marked the entrance into the space much like the rabbit-hole into Alice’s Wonderland. Soon I heard the dull screech of John Douglas Powers’ Ialu that was all-too-familiar. I had seen a piece by the same artist that was displayed during a recent show in Vanderbilt University’s Space 204 gallery, the alma mater of the now Knoxville-based artist. It was easy to become entranced by the mechanized structure subtly swaying to and fro in front of projected video. The hypnosis I was afflicted with while looking at that piece lasted throughout the show. Whether it was the wall-sized quilt of artist Gina Phillips or the patiently rendered carbon pencil drawings of Adonna Khare, beautiful digitally recorded video or old-master style painting, the work begged the viewer to stay and marvel at the devotion to quality these artists displayed in their work. It wasn’t about shock-value for these artists; it was about the intense dedication of time that many of these artists had poured into it. Along with Powers, the Nashville connections continued as the Tinney Contemporary’s very own Pam Longobardi displayed her meditative three-dimensional works of reclaimed ocean refuse and mesmerizing paintings. Longobardi was also selected to give an artist lecture during the exhibition. Continuing through the show, I began to make note of the value of craftsmanship the curators had shown in their selections. Some pieces bordered on neuroticism, but the effect on the viewer was one of powerful appreciation. After hours in the space, I found myself wishing for more time to stand among these works.

Pam Langobardi 

"Ghosts of Consumption/Archaeology of Culture (for Piet M.)"

 

"Ghosts of Consumption/Archaeology of Culture (for Piet M.)" found ocean plastic,steel pins 110" x 75" x 5"

 

As I pulled away from the museum, I struggled to concentrate my thoughts on any one particular piece. The show had ripped open the curtains of the contemporary art scene for this young art student. I think that the state of art, not the art market, was on full display at Crystal Bridges. It was interesting to me that such an expansive view of the art landscape would find itself nestled in my small corner of the state. However, it may rather be even more fitting that this work from artists who live and work out of the spotlight was displayed in a place nearly as inconspicuous as they are. Perhaps we should take note of the wonderful things going on in not-so-obvious places.

 

Carla Ciuffo’s Stasis: Heavenly Bodies

posted by – 01/05/15 @ 6:25pm

There is an air of mystery in the captivating pieces currently hanging in Tinney Contemporary. We were lucky enough to learn more about Stasis: Heavenly Bodies from an exclusive Q & A interview with the artist, Carla Ciuffo.

 

Part of the mystery in Ciuffo’s work possibly comes from the medium she used to print her images on.


M: You’ve worked with printing your images on many different surfaces, why did you find printing Heavenly Bodies on acrylic to be the best medium?

C: I really wanted to enhance the negative space in the images – so the art wouldn’t be confined. I also wanted to “project” them as far as I could without using traditional 3D methods. The acrylic creates depth, and expands the negative space. It’s clean, minimal, and allows the images to “float” a bit away from a wall.

 

Texts also heavily influenced the elements that work through her pieces.


M: As many of your works involve lyrical imagery, what narrative pieces inspire you the most? Are there particularly poets, authors, or playwrights that you found especially stirring in relation to Heavenly Bodies?

C: Perhaps. I am a voracious reader. Non-worldly stories influence me. Neil Gaiman, a favorite. There was also one book I was reading when I began working on Stasis, The Lace Reader, by Brunonia Barry:

“There is lace in every living thing: the bare branches of winter, the patterns of clouds, the surface of water as it ripples in the breeze…. Even a wild dog’s matted fur shows a lacy pattern if you look at it closely enough.” ― Brunonia Barry, The Lace Reader

“I’ll pit my God against your god any day, I say to the Calvinists. It’s not their god I’m praying to…. The God I’m praying to is neither male nor female. My God is the one who exists apart from all of men’s agendas, the God who takes you away when there is no possible place you can go.” ― Brunonia Barry, The Lace Reader

 

The illustrative manner of this body of works is evident throughout the collection and many of Ciuffo’s other works. However, Stasis appears more monochromatic in comparison to Ciuffo’s more colorful bodies of work such as Thrill, Pandora’s Box, and, Cloud 9.


M: How was creating Heavenly Bodies different and/or similar from past works?

C: When I began working on Stasis, it became an exercise in restraint. I began stripping away color. I was searching for the essence of an emotion – the emotion that was driving the work. Stasis became a neutral, non-judgmental place of refuge. A place with infinite possibilities but remaining an “in between” space. I like to call the series “life in between”.

…The most difficult work, for me, is paring it down to its simplest form. That’s Stasis.

 

Though Ciuffo worked to construct an image in its simplest form, she doesn’t necessarily expect everyone to experience the same feelings from viewing it.

 

M: What would you like for viewers to collectively feel and take from Heavenly Bodies?

C: That is entirely up to the viewer. I’ve enjoyed people sharing their viewing experiences with me – and they are all different. One common collective emotion that people seem to feel is a calming feeling. But – with a dash of uncertainty.

 

The artist uniquely defined Stasis: Heavenly Bodies for us, the way she herself views the collection.

 

M: How would you best describe Heavenly Bodies in your own words?

C: Finding positive in a negative space. A moment of total and absolute stillness in a non-judgmental atmosphere. A refuge of sorts before taking the inevitable next steps back into life.

 

And we have much to look forward to from Ciuffo…

 

M: Finally, are there any new projects that you are currently working on? If so, do you feel comfortable sharing with us any details about them?

C: I am working on a new collaboration for a much larger installation. It would bring “Stasis” to life. The images are of tiny, mostly androgynous pod people – that reside in a garden. Let’s just say those are the “seeds” of the project