“If you build it, they will come,” lows a voice to Ray Kinsella in the film “Field of Dreams.” Incredulous but faithful, Ray, played by Kevin Costner, obeys, carving a baseball diamond out of his Iowa cornfield and,after some plot twists and life lessons, they do in fact come.
In Fond du Lac last week the Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts opened to the public. A hybrid of contemporary architecture and a Masonic temple that had previously housed the Windhover Art Center, the Sadoff Center is an impressive specimen: granite topped bars; a spacious terrace for live music; two large and gloriously lit art galleries, classrooms, workshops and a hall for lectures and performances. It’s a cultural diamond in the heart of a pragmatic industrial town – an only slightly less quixotic enterprise than trying to lure the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson out of a cornfield.
Its opening was marked by two moving and exceedingly complementary exhibitions.
The title of sculptor/ceramicist Novie Trump’s show “the Weight of Air” perfectly captures the dreamy intimacy evoked by the delicate objects comprising it. Her work is somewhat insistent at first, but ultimately lets us find our own way through the mysterious and meditative imagery.
A row of gentle white bird nests cast crisp shadows on the floor; a series of white branches dangle lightly from filament; a wall of black ceramic butterflies elevates toward the skylights. All incredibly suggestive, literally and visually, but, in the end, just out of reach. As intangible as air itself. The most exquisite and suggestive of these airy sculptural vignettes are two small white reliquaries filled with fragile artifacts. Her work recalls Christian Boltanski, but where he chooses to reveal the painful truth, Trump conceals, and lets us sift through our own memories and associations.
Trump’s quiet theater is enhanced by the ample light that pours into the third floor gallery. Cast shadows in the show become as much a part of the works as the ceramic objects themselves.
Equally dependent on light and shadow but to entirely different effect is the work of Hap Tivey. The impact of his work is most profound when descending the stairs directly from Trump’s show upstairs. Her blue-tinged natural light scheme is interrupted by the sour yellow haze of his work “Sodium Exchange.” It’s a relatively abrupt transition, but still Tivey’s work is light and quiet.
At the opening I overheard several viewers questioning what “to do” with the “Sodium Exchange”. At one point Hap came in and told them to “not to do anything” and to “let go.” Indeed they did, and the environment overcame them.
“Sodium Exchange” essentially creates two experiences on either side of a fabric membrane. The south side offers a trip through a spectrum of diffuse atmospheric light. Soft, tonal shadows cast by the viewer dance almost imperceptibly on the scrim bisecting the room. The north side bathed in harsh sodium light, reveals a more distinct cast shadow of the viewers on the opposite side, setting up an anxious, jarring and voyeuristic experience.
Tivey is a veteran light-and-space artist whose aim, as he mentioned in a lecture Wednesday night, is to “create experiences that an individual can’t not have anywhere else.” It’s a simple but profound conceit that his work lives up to, especially when the viewer yields control.
Though experience is primary for Tivey, the interactivity in “Sodium Exchange” happens to be a living metaphor for how human nerve cells transmit information, and by extension, how one perceives the very light that is functioning as the metaphor in the work itself.
The relationship between the works and the new space is exceptional. A literally brilliant way to inaugurate the Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts.
Today at the Center they’re having a screening of Baz Luhrmann’s “Great Gatsby” down the hall from Trump’s and Tivey’s wonderful environments. It seems an almost perfectly cheeky choice by comparison. I can’t imagine anything less slow and subtle than Luhrmann’s movies. Maybe an actual car crash. I hope everyone who attends the screening goes from the green light beyond Gatsby’s dock, toward the sodium and sunlight in the galleries. Their minds just might get blown.
Blown minds or not, my guess would be that such outrageous variety will be a necessary recipe for the Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts in Fond du Lac. So far it’s an ambitious and well-executed endeavor, especially the delicately curated art work. With a smashing public opening on Thursday, it seems the public is on board so far.
If you build it, they just might come.
Guest Post by Mark Sheerin
Art needs networks, and the 20th century testifies to that. There could never have been a lone fauvist, a solitary cubist, an isolated futurist, etc, etc. The avant garde loves company, and, without it, could never have made the great strides which came along with modernity.
Now we live in a different landscape. Cafes have become corporate part-time creches and third place venues for business meetings. Cigarettes and pipes, both intellectual props, are banned. And just try paying for your triple shot latte with a sketch, it can’t be done.
The avant garde have been in retreat everywhere for decades now. So it is good news to have some networking technology which might serve as a focal point for new visual ideas. So brew your own coffee, and read on, then redirect your browser to ArtStack here.
“How do these groups of people come together?” asks Co-Founder Ezra Konvitz. “What do they come together around, what was the particular moment where you have a group of people who have all converged around an idea?”
Some journals and meeting places may still exist, but these days many artists find it just as easy to share works, inspiration and ideas online. Like any social network worth its salt, Konvitz says his project hopes to replicate the social dimension of the real world.
For those new to ArtStack, the beta-stage website is a minimal, intuitive platform on which you can post images of your favorite art and browse those pertaining to other avant garde spirits. But I jest; the site is not at all elitist.
It is instead a space where you might find super-curator Hans Ulrich Obrist’s profile along with those of well-known artists from around the globe and emerging names from the most far flung parts.
“What’s really cool now is you’ve got people from Australia talking to people who are in New York and collaborating on shows. It’s so quick now,” says thirty-something Konvitz, whose democratic start-up is the fruits of a Masters in Art History and a timely enthusiasm for new and social media.
He talks of providing young people and other outsiders with, “the inspiration to go and be an artist, to go and be a curator, to get involved with art”. You don’t need a residence in a capital of culture to participate; ArtStack brings together people from 198 countries.
Konvitz is under no illusion that his site will replace the first-hand experience of a gallery. “Of course, real world interaction is always stronger,” he says. “Being able to have a conversation with somebody, or to see something in real life, is always going to trump an online interaction.”
And yet research has shown that some 60 percent of visitors to a show at Tate Liverpool, previewed online, said that seeing the displays online made them more likely make a visit.
At a later point in our conversation, Konvitz compares visiting an exhibition to experiencing live music. Jpegs and mp3s can help make you familiar with the work, but a live experience is always something special.
Perhaps it is inevitable, but the musical comparison brings to mind the rapid rise of band Arctic Monkeys, thanks to a page on music networking site MySpace. Anecdotal evidence suggests ArtStack has hooked up artists with curators, but the art world is still waiting for the meteoric artist without gallery representation.
However, interested parties might still learn something from a check-in with the website’s trending page. Major exhibitions in major cities tend to drive traffic to certain artists. “It’s a good way to keep tabs on what’s going on in the world,” says Konvitz.
It also offers the chance to see much loved works in new contexts – 3D pieces and video are both well served. “You can see a sculpture from the front, from the back, during daylight, at night, when it was in France, when it was in New York,” says Konvitz,
“It’s nice to get more of a rounded experience of a work or to view video art in your living room.” Indeed, to visit a page on which Giotto could rub shoulders with a 21st century art student is the most rounded of experiences.
“Finding the way in which artists can have that success and connect with the people who will make a difference to them is a really important thing”, Konvitz says. Avant garde movements may be a thing of the past. But, all the same, you might watch this virtual space and hope.
Mark Sheerin is an art writer from Brighton, UK. He can also be found on Culture24, Hyperallergic, Frame & Reference and his own blog criticismism.com
With Venice still in the air and the anticipation of the Whitney hanging over us, the world is changing around me, and I cannot help but draw analogies to the art ecosystem. The squash in my neighbor’s garden is swelling. The layers of crushed acorns are growing, and I have seen the first abandoned leaves start to fall. It is the imminent bursting of milkweed pods and the reminder of the larvae they fed, however, that provides the visual catalyst for ,,, the third Minnesota Biennial that opened at The Soap Factory last weekend. A Nabokovian menagerie, ,,, is a series of butterflies.
The flashiest, brightest butterflies do not need to fly past us to catch our attention. They overwhelm all of our senses. The Basketball Team‘s Sgt. Moore wafts the smell of whiskey throughout the gallery. The looping, Reichian patterns of Nate Young‘s Untitled (Soul Clap no. 1) echo in the silence of the distant companion video Untitled (Soul Clap no. 2). The shuttering of the 16mm projector pulls us into Stefanie Motta‘s Seeing. The drone of the prepared keyboard inside 7-Sided Room with Painted Floor by Andrew Mazorol and Tynan Kerr permeates the galleries and intensifies the rarefied air inside the room.
Some of the butterflies stun us visually. The mountain of fabric of RO/LU‘s Here There Then, Here There Now is inescapable, and Broc Blegen‘s larger than life cut outs of Scrooge McDuck comics, from Allen Ruppersberg, Big Trouble, highlight the bleak portrayal of ego and money in the public art world in the cutout prints on the walls behind them. If taste and touch feel left out, the popcorn from Jess Hirsch‘s reikiwave makes its way throughout the biennial in the greasy hands of visitors, and Adam Caillier and Michael Mott gently enfold us in the absences and presences of Negative Air Room.
Other butterflies are camouflaged, hiding right in front of us, disguising themselves or only revealing their beauty on closer inspection. Allen Brewer and Pamela Valfer‘s mediations of each other’s work are subtle; the twin pieces of The Two Darrins flicker between paintings and the moire of screen mesh. The seemingly static shots of Scott Nedrelow‘s three and a half hour Leaving the Atocha Station invite long-term, real-time reading of the novel’s pages. Infinite Field, Peter Happel Christian‘s collection of altered photographs, stacks of glass, carefully placed tools, is a layered reflection of the interiority of image making. The most obviously camouflaged moth is Ben Moren and Daniel Dean‘s Untitled (Selections From the Permanent Collection), a walking video tour through an alternate exhibition, a second exhibition that reveals itself on top of the biennial.
Some of the butterflies are still nestled within their cocoons. The ongoing dance, music, and other performances are as integral to the biennial as any of the static work, revealing themselves slowly, the chrysalis growing transparent before freeing the fully formed winged creature we anticipate seeing. The opening was full of anticipation as those first butterflies opened their wings, taking flight before a full house, continuously beating their wings in the vinyl LP catalog supplement.
Thinking of all of these butterflies and the weight in the air, I cannot help but wonder about all of the other insects I am missing. Mosquitoes and mayflies have come and gone; earthworms continue to transform the soil beneath our feet. The plants and rocks are as necessary as the rain and sun. When we venture out into the wilds, we can bring our butterfly nets, but what other tools do we need to help us see what is there? Do we need a microscope or a rain coat? Does the art ecosystem change as the external world does? Squirrels begin their annual collections, and geese call to us from their veeing south. There will be a tiger in town tonight with its promise of warmer climes. As it passes, will we understand the beauty that surrounds us more clearly?
,,, is on view at The Soap Factory until November 3rd.
Last Saturday turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year in San Francisco. For anyone who doesn’t know, summer doesn’t arrive in this city until after Labor Day. Cashmere scarves and knit sweaters are all the rage in July, and by September the temperature and trends shift to hot days filled with sangria, tank tops and maxi dresses. I enjoyed the weather with a stroll through the galleries in downtown Union Square.
A couple months ago I wrote about the 49 Geary building in San Francisco’s Union Square, but the neighborhood is home to other galleries in separate buildings. After living in this city for several years, I realized that this would be my first time to some of these spaces. Passing through the hoards of tourists and a peaceful protest for Syria, I arrived at Gallery Paule Anglim. And what luck I had walking in and up the stairs, as Ms. Anglim herself was walking down the stairs and out, clearly in a rush to get away from the uncomfortable indoor heat this climate change has caused.
Regardless of the weather, which is never a topic of conversation in SF until this very month, it was a delight to see paintings by Pamela Wilson-Ryckman in an exhibition titled GPS. From the exhibition statement: “Precise knowledge of location gives one the illusion of control but knowing exactly where you are doesn’t necessarily mean you are in a good place. Rather than location it is often the experience of place that matters. How much information does one need to reconstruct a memory or sense of place? The answer is – not that much, imagination fills the gap”. I was most interested in Geppetto’s Jacket (2013) and it’s glaring painterly techniques, creating so much dimension of space for that “imagination”.
Out the door and on to the next, I visited for the first time Dolby Chadwick Gallery. As soon as I walked in, the speakers on the gallery desk were playing fun reggae music that fit perfectly with the tropical feeling in the air. It was a relaxing Saturday in the gallery – if I had to work I would be playing the same music! Guy Diehl’s awesome exhibition A Dialogue with Tradition sported realist paintings of still lifes that any art nerd could really appreciate. Some objects include books and postcards of historical works of art. From the exhibition statement: “…his work is first and foremost “art about art,” the lynchpin of his paintings is their references to other artworks”. After taking the postcard for the exhibition, I realized that my new favorite thing would be taking pictures of art and its exhibition postcard.
And once again, I was off to the next space I had never been to before until that day, the lovely two-story John Berggruen Gallery. Two shows were up: The Grand Anonymous by Linda Ridgway and the other of Important Works on Paper from the Past Forty Years by Chuck Close. I fell in love with Ridgway’s But the secret sits in the middle and knows (2011) – a bronze wall sculpture of blackened flowers – for its transcendence above kitsch. Sadly, it was already sold.
When I walked down to the main gallery level, I felt like I had walked into an old world Soho: 4 giant Chuck Close watercolors. But I’m a sucker for mixed media collage, so Study for “Keith”/4 times (1975) got me all riled up with excitement.
Finally, I stopped into Caldwell Synder Gallery and its ridiculously hip show by Marta Penter. The space itself goes on for days and it perfectly compliments Penter’s muted paintings of American culture just being alive and chillin’ and laughin’ and lovin’ and wearin’ jeans and listen’ to tunes. I’m reminded of Levi’s and Gap and wonder if she’s collaborated with either company, as they’ve been headquartered in San Francisco forever.
Like I had mentioned in my 49 Geary post, it’s hard to disassociate the art from the status of Union Square as the high-end shopping district of San Francisco. Several galleries in the city started off in the downtown area only to later move out to other less commercial areas. I, for one, love the play between art and commerce and luxury brands and cultural demand. I don’t mind that my art stroll can be stopped by seeing a fabulous abstract work of art in a window, or a fabulous contemporary Bang & Olufsen sound system. In the end, they’re both going to end up sharing space in someone’s living room.
Something we don’t do enough of here at Bad at Sports is trumpet the successes of our various contributors. It sort of happens piece meal, sometimes, but considering that the project is and always will be an artist run type thing – our collaborators are more then just the deep thinkers, aesthetes, and vulgarians you know them to be! Such is the case with our Tom Sanford and his new show at Kravets|Wehby in NYC.
“Café des Artistes” consists of 13 paintings. 10 paintings are images of notable New Yorkers and help define the cultural milieu of the city.
The show includes new portraits of Marcus Samuelsson, Diane Von Furstenberg, Walt Fraizer, Bill T Jones, Tina Fey, Woody Allen, Nicole Eisenman, Michael Bloomberg, The RZA, & Jonathan Lethem, and they are featured along side three “New York Genre Paintings.”
|(left) “The Writer (Jonathan Lethem)” 2013, oil on board, 36” x 24”. (right) “The Clarinettist (Woody Allen)” 2013, oil on board, 36” x 24”|
|(left) “The Mayor (Michael Bloomberg)” 2013, oil on board, 36” x 24”. (right) “The Painter (Nicole Eisenman)” 2013, oil on board, 36” x 24”|
Maybe you should go see them?