Far From Winter

March 19, 2014 · Print This Article

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Butter Projects Announcement image for From Here to There: Ear to Ear

The Whitney Biennial screams. The Armory Show screams. SXSW screams. Most music festivals and art exhibitions in March will scream, elated that winter is finally over, the snow is mostly gone and we can return outdoors, see other humans before we try to escape from them again on summer vacations. To be screamed at by art and be awoken by the grandiose, and the faux political, the happy accident, the cronyism, the speculation, the over-hyped and the up-and-coming, the truly amazing and the market saturated garbage that is always in those blockbuster screamo shows seems to be an annual rite. We tend not to whisper “spring is here”, especially after this past winter, but isn’t that a better way to get bears out of hibernation? Butter Projects’ Spring exhibition, Here to There: Ear to Ear aimed to do just that: a colorful and elated return to Spring, but provoking joy rather than record breaking auction sales or trying to define contemporary art through a show. I was being whispered to and they were sweet nothings, dreamy musings by artists who were ushering in Spring by reveling in the ecstatic moment of creation, and not the art world slime that oozes out of the dealers and sharks that are trying to find the next big thing to exploit and bleed dry at the ripe age of 36. If there was a slime umbrella, if somehow an artist could show in an established gallery, free of slime, free of ooze, of political and classist vitriol, of fur coat envy and ever tightening faces, diamonds, couture, of speculative assumptions and net worth, my guess is it would be here. Art can still exist in the white cube and maintain purity, at least it better, or we should just stop and chase a career in investment banking.

 

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Jill Galarneau The Wind Has Its Reasons, paper acrylic, gouache, pencil, ink, pins, 2014

Jill Galarneau’s The Wind Has its Reasons and Swimsuit explore color and pattern within abstract and geometric shapes, evoking a combination of purpose and play. The former exists as small patterned paper pinned to the wall, in strips and shapes, woven together by steady pencil lines arcing gracefully like a kite tail in the wind. A 1950’s esque explosion of martini tinged advertising referencing the innocence (or ignorance) of the atomic age and the power of the bomb are held captive by tiny steel pins. The frenzy is contrasted by Swimsuit, which is positioned within the confines of a frame, and as such, in a much tighter condensed field. Here the possible explosion is contained as the particles build pressure in the frame, overlapping to create new shapes and waiting for a flash point. They collide together and flow over each other as tectonic plates might, segments of animated snakes in Sega games. Both invite the viewer to enjoy the materials and process in the works. While the artist retains the flatness of the paper, she also retains its lightness and delicacy, allowing the viewer to linger with the works, our eyes fluttering around the compositions, caffeinating us.

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Katy Lloyd, Untitled (Marge), polymer clay, acrylic, wool, glitter and air dry clay, 2014

Katy Lloyd’s art sits in a delicate state between image and object: in direct relation to the wall, either hanging from it on leaning against it, occupying the space in a non assertive way, as they prefer the corners, walls and floor, denying viewing in the round. Their bright colors are sometimes more apparent than their forms, the latter being thin, amorphous, flattened or deflated, yet the colors pop and swell, bleed and vibrate. They take control and often define the form of the objects. Contours in Untitled (spaghetti legs) are achieved by minimal shaping of the paper, so that the creases are quite noticeable as points of being in the object as opposed to material stress. With Untitled (Marge), wool “hair” is wrapped around a few acrylic rods to evoke the cartoon namesake’s iconic doo, a body is exchanged for tripod legs covered in both pastel polymer and air dry clay smooshed on, clenching the legs, the whole thing straddling a pile of glitter poop on the ground. Leaning against the wall with her red clay tip of her head, she is aloof, yet radiating positivity and sympathy. Being the light of the party all the time can be draining, like there is strength in weakness. Across from her is Untitled (hey buddy)(string guy)), a jumble of acrylic sheeting the artist painted and cut into strips, hangs out from a plastic loop in the wall evoking the impossible to solve tangle of Easter basket grass, in a sexy wet ramen noodle heap pouring forth, lingering on the floor in a fashionable plaid of pinks and yellows and orange that points to a stump of clay coyly hiding under and holding up the edge of the wall the work is on. Across from each other, they appear as figures in conversation, or looking for a way out of one.

 

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Jonathan Rajewski, Untitled  (installation view – 5 works), mixed media on rubber, upholstery fabric, linen, sewn leather and fabric, 2013 – 2014

 

Jonathan Rajewski’s abstract paintings (all Untitled) are much darker than Llyod’s and Galarneau’s works. Using gunpowder, caulk, and concrete on surfaces such as leather and rubber, the application is often thick, crusty and textured. They seem heavier with their sometimes murky colors, yet there is still a true play and discovery in the works through line and material. They become free flowing, less attached to solid compositions, giving them a certain lightness of being. Two smaller panels on the wall exhibit the most control within a sprawling composition of washed out colors and meandering line. The rest of his paintings lean against one another in a stack that is meant to be freely flipped through by the audience. Forgetting that interactive directives like this are almost always problematic in their execution, especially since there is no written indication anywhere that this is the artist’s intention (I lucked out by being told by one of the exhibiting artists) the true beauty of the works were revealed one by one as I discovered surfaces and textures both unexpected and lavish. Each painting got better and better, so the fear of dropping one didn’t hold up to the desire to keep going, digging deeper into the pile.

 

Here to There: Ear to Ear celebrates the ephemeral by means of a lifespan; the works sitting in the complacent knowledge that they may become as out of touch as a Renoir tomorrow, and thats OK, you here now and that is all we have anyway. Often at openings, the art is seemingly in the background setting the scene, bringing people together. Sometimes its just about the scene. Always alone while together, in ones own head and space while amongst others. When art touches us on this level, it succeeds. It doesn’t always have to scream to do this: it can lean its head against the wall and pretend its not listening, or hide itself in plain sight waiting for private discovery — a one on one conversation. The art seems to exist with the true joy and terror of being in the company of others, or the moment of waking up when two realities collide, one ending in death to acknowledge the other’s eventual death. Knowing this, yet taking that deep inhale, and existing permanently in the moment before the forced bodily exhale.

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Here to There: Ear to Ear Opening Night, Butter Projects, March 14, 2014

Here to There: Ear to Ear opened Friday, March 14, 2014 with an opening reception from 7-10pm. The exhibition runs through April 18, 2014. Free and open to the public.

During the run of the exhibition, Butter Projects will hold open hours Friday from 1-5pm and Saturdays from 1-3pm. Additional hours can be made by appointment, to schedule, email butter.projects@gmail.com

 

About Butter Projects

BUTTER projects is a studio and exhibition space founded in October of 2009. Housed in a storefront built in 1915, the space was conceived to be flexible and open to a multitude of creative endeavors. Our mission is to engage with the community and participate in the promotion of the arts in the Metro-Detroit area by providing a place to make, discuss and exhibit artwork. Butter Projects is run and operated by Alison Wong and John Charnota

Butter is located at 814 West Eleven Mile Road, in Royal Oak, Michigan. Parking is available behind the building. For more information visit www.butterprojects.info or contact butter.projects@gmail.com

 

Jill Galarneau http://jillgalarneau.com/ lives in Brooklyn and received an MFA in Painting from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2006.

Katy Lloyd http://katylloyd.com/home.html lives in Pontiac, MI and received an MFA in Painting from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2012.

Jonathan Rajewski http://jonathanrajewski.info/ lives in Hamtramck, MI and received a BA in Philosophy from Michigan State University in 2009.

 Thanks to Alison Wong, John Charnota and Katy Lloyd for their assistance.

Adapting the Umwelt: Art Orienté objet

March 17, 2014 · Print This Article

Art Orienté objet, Que le cheval vive en moi, 2011

Art Orienté objet, Que le cheval vive en moi, 2011.

In a 2007, Art Orienté objet, a French collaborative group comprised of Marion Laval-Jeantet and Benoît Mangin, began a series of body modification experiments intended to communicate with animals outside of language.  “Basically the project was to artistically adapt Jacob von Uexküll’s Umwelt theory, which argues that the meaning of an environment differs from one animal to another in relation to its sensorial system” (Marion Laval-Jeantet, “Self-Animality,” Plastik: Art and Science, June 2011). The project began with an investigation of cats — what eventually culminated in a single piece, Felinanthropy, where Laval-Jeantet put on a pair of cat-like prosthetic hindquarters; by transforming her status as a bi-ped, she was able to change the hierarchical relation between herself and the cat. A subsequent experimental work led Mangin to put on a prosthetic giraffe head and engage giraffes in a zoo — exploring the giraffe’s ability to recognize Mangin not as a human, but as something almost giraffe. More recently, AOo embodied an equine perspective; Leval-Jeantet built up a tolerance to horse blood by injecting a small bit of the animal’s plasma into her system over the course of a year. She subsequently staged a horse blood transfusion performance with her partner Benoît Mangin.  What remains of Que le cheval vie en moi!, is the  “relic,” a small, innocuous petri dish, with human/horse blood. In the following interview, originally conducted for Paper Monument where an affiliated essay, “Humanimals” was published, I asked Laval-Jeantet a few questions about this work. All answers have been translated into English by Basia Kapolka.

Art Orienté objet, Felinanthropy, 2007.

Art Orienté objet, Felinanthropy, 2007.

Caroline Picard: What were you anticipating the affect of injecting horse plasma into your blood steam would be? How did you expectations measure up with the reality of your experience?

Marion Laval-Jeantet: In a certain way, I knew what to expect from the injection of the horse plasma since I had received injections of the horse antibodies one at a time during the preceding months.  But it was still difficult to imagine what the effect of receiving all the antibodies at once would be. In actuality, my body’s reaction was much more unruly than predicted.  I think the families of antibodies increased each other’s effects, so that the final reaction was very complex, affecting even my metabolism, my endocrine glands, my nervous system, as well as my sleep and appetite.

CP: Also, did you use the blood of one specific horse? Did your relationship with that horse change at all?

MLJ: I used the blood of three specific horses that belong to the laboratory I worked with.  You couldn’t say I established genuine contact with the horses.  On the other hand, I wasn’t specifically familiar with the horses before the experiment. The experiment changed my psyche so that I saw the horses differently after it, with a different appreciation. A familiarity.

CP: Can you talk a little bit about your horse-stilts? How did your experience of your own body change?

MJL: The stilts were mostly there to allow me a different way of communicating with the horse who was present during the performance. I was a little afraid of horses, actually. And it seems like horses attitudes change completely when your eyes are at the same height as theirs. With the stilts, my eyes were the same height as his, and I could see that the horse was calmer. It was also a way for me to be aware of the reversal of roles between me and the animal. And naturally, it was a way to distract myself from the possible anxiety that might arise because of the infusion. Because I was on stilts, I could only think of the goal: to join with the animal, and not of the psychological problems that might come out during the performance.  Experiments with prosthetics always affect your fears about your body, and in the performance it was necessary that I have a strong sense of a double transformation,  mental and biological.

CP: Do you feel like your “self” has been forever altered? In other words, there is an idea I believe I, at least, take for granted: that is that my self is continuous and sustaining throughout a linear experience of time. This assumption is challenged by ideas of drastic plastic surgery, transplants and cloning, for instance–the self as it was defined before is fundamentally no longer the same self it was before. It seems to me your work poses similar a question: how can a distinctly human self sustain its identity when it has become, also, part horse?

MJL: Your question about fundamental change is completely fair. At the moment, I have a very strong sense that my body, and also my identity were deeply changed by the experience.  In a physical sense, it’s true.  I will always have within me biological markers that bear witness to my meeting with the horse. The problem is that the external physiological effects seem to have only lasted a few months, and were strongest in the first four weeks. So today, even if there are some delayed reactions or long-term consequences, I can say that the transformation remains more in the mental structure than in the physical one.  I have the sense of not having been completely human for some time. The experience changed my inner self forever. But this is also the case with previous strong experiences I’ve had, like my introduction to the pygmies of Gabon. Who made me see death.  Each of these experiences makes my thoughts and my existence more complex, the more they change them. I believe deeply in the adaptation of the human body. More than in homeostasis. Existence itself is a permanent transformation, a constantly-evolving system. You speak of changes made to the body, but I think grief, for example, shakes up identity much more. My aim is not so much a transformation of my essence, as the wish to respond to an eternal frustration: to finally feel the animal otherness in myself, but also to stop thinking from a purely anthropocentric point of view. Already, the pygmies succeeding in making me feel the spirits in the forest, during a trance. I think that I am less and less purely human, which is to say that I am fundamentally more and more human, in the utopian sense of philosophical humanism.

Paper Monument was recently interview on the Bad at Sports podcast.

Top 5 Weekend Picks! (3/14-3/16)

March 13, 2014 · Print This Article

1. Beneath the Paving Stones, the Beach at Gallery 400

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Work by Matt Brett, Houston Cofield, Colleen Kiehm, Melissa Myser.

Gallery 400 is located at 400 S. Peoria St. Reception Friday, 5-8pm.

2. From Utopia at SideCar

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Work by Clare Britt.

SideCar is located at 411 Huehn St., Hammond, IN. Reception Saturday, 5-10pm.

3. Spring Undergraduate Exhibition at Sullivan Galleries

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Work by 300 SAIC undergraduate students.

Sullivan Galleries is located at 33 S. State St. 7th Fl. Reception Saturday, 12-6pm.

4. Mary’s Room at Aspect/Ratio

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Work by Martin Murphy.

Aspect/Ratio is located at 119 N. Peoria St. Reception Friday, 6-8pm.

5. Personhood at Paris London Hong Kong

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Work by Kyla Mallett.

Paris London Hong Kong is located at 845 W. Washington Ave. 3rd Fl. Reception Friday, 5-8pm.

Object Revelations: One View of Twin Cities

March 13, 2014 · Print This Article

Winter is not yet over, but I have already felt the urge to start spring cleaning. I want to air out the bedroom and beat the rugs, to scrub the floors and clear the clutter hidden behind the heaviest winter clothes in the back of the closet and the last summery jars of canned vegetables in the far reaches of the pantry. My house is heavy with things, and I am ready to clear them out. I am ready for objects that play multiple roles, that open the doors to new thoughts, new worlds, new seasons.

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Brian Thomas Daly, via White Page Gallery

EVEN IF IT KILLS YOU by Bryan Thomas Daly at White Page Gallery is an attempt to move away from the “library of Alexandria” he had amassed around himself, a purposely object-full attempt to transcend the physicality of the collections that maintain our place in consumer society while reinforcing the belief in our individuality. The modified vinyl and record covers revel in their identity as objects that contain the depths of content we know exist in their grooves. Daly levels their value, eliminating their use through his playful, spirited modifications. The work was made as part of a residency in the gallery, and it is in conversation with the objects that fill the corners, hallways, and studio spaces in the other half of White Page Gallery. The finished and in progress pieces, the raw materials, the tools, the giant, decades-old, fire hazard of a boiler all bear witness to the diverse studio practices, the collective experience of working and making decisions together. They are a testament to exploration and the opening of horizons.

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23-string banjo, via Paul Metzger

Objects were also at the forefront of the first Sound.Art.MIA event at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Paul Metzger‘s sublime performance was mesmerizing. His 23-string banjo was inescapable as the visual locus of his plucking, strumming, bowing. Similarly, the Body/Head performance was centered around their guitars as objects, as unfamiliar extensions of their body to be explored by pushing, pulling, swinging, and hefting them through waves of feedback and mountains of sound. The video projected behind them distracted from their performance, pulling attention away from the objects they lovingly cradled, stroked, and manhandled. The night culminated in minutes of Kim Gordon exploring the crackling, scratching soundscape of the length of her output jack, flooding the room with the slightest adjustments of the very place her body flowed out into the rest of the room.

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The recent few days of thaw have transformed the monochrome snowscape into the grey rainbows of exhaust-filled slush and ice. The receding snow reveals more than the objects hidden beneath it. It reveals the forgotten body of the city that surrounds us. It unleashes the vast symphony of drips and rushing torrents that arise from the barely visible stormdrains, and it opens windows onto the vast water system that has silently been working beneath our feet throughout the winter. It embues the objects that surround us, that care for us, with a new life, an unfolding wonder that will continue to expand as the weather warms and as I make more room for it in my less cluttered house.

By Invitation: notes on midwestern conceptualism

March 12, 2014 · Print This Article

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Photograph of the artists who participated in the January Show
Photograph by Seth Siegelaub, 1969. Taken from Moma.org
From left: Robert Barry, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, and Lawrence Weiner.

“In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art. This kind of  art is not theoretical or illustrative of theories; it is intuitive, it is involved with all types of mental processes and it is purposeless.”  –  Sol Lewitt, “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art”

Sol Lewitt goes on to write that conceptual art frees the artist of trade, skill, and any semblance of feeling. Instead, the responsibility of the conceptual artists is to leave the viewer with a kind of mental entertainment or novelty, some bit of cognitive candy, like solving a sudoku, or discovering that the vase you are looking it is in fact two human faces peering into each other.

It should be noted here that Lewitt would likely take me to task for confusing the perceptual and conceptual with that last example. In any case Lewitt is not my main concern and while parts of his text propel me occasionally they can do no more here than to haunt a certain regional tendency, what I am calling midwest conceptualism.

“When an artists uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair.”

What I have observed in the midwest is a kind of social conceptualism. Artists here do not arrive at an idea so much as invite each other into an elaborate system of responses that reveal the idea to everyone involved slowly and deliberately. Midwestern conceptualism enacts a human, read also as intuitive, structure that disperses authorship and catalyzes collaborative relationships best described as hospitable in that there is evident an element of hospitality.

An anecdote: the practice is always encountering interruption.

The studio is interrupted by the invitation. The invitation is interrupted by the curatorial frame. The frame is interrupted by the space. The space is interrupted by the viewer.  And so on and so on.

Hospitality too is a kind of interruption, the knock at the door, the footsteps of the guest as they cross the threshold, echoes breaching the silence of the home. What follows is the clamor of hospitality as one sets oneself aside in service of a guest.

Hospitality is implicit in the service industry of art. An artists is invited by a host to make work for or take part in an exhibition or program. The artist in-turn invites a host of collaborators to occupy, program, or inhabit the space that has been allocated to them. Thereby creating a platform that extends the opportunity and the resources provided to their social network and various communities. Whether home or abroad artists from across the region are fond of making social spaces, forming temporary collectives, and opening up the individualistic terrain of the exhibition.

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Material Exchange, InCUBATE, and Adam Bobbette

“I still insist on the social roots of the problem. “The group” forced to compete in an individualistic antagonistic self-interested (Adam Smith you Scottish Bastard) world. For example: “having a show” is a one or two man endeavor. You need impact and gestalt. The whole thing is epistemologically individualistic. That’s that. One reason for the collapse of A&L [Art & Language] was that it moved from the journal (which was a “group effort”) to gallery shows which suddenly meant 15 or 14 out of the 16 people were standing around pretending they knew what was going on. There’s nothing wrong with leaders, it’s just when others see them leading and you following that we get screwed up. Again, these problems are social, not “merely psychological.” – Mel Ramsden in a letter to Joseph Kosuth, extracted from “1975” by Joseph Kosuth.

The nature of any given network and the quality of the relationships therein is a matter for critical faculties and human insight alike. How else is one to understand a practice that is both experiential and contextual if not with the mind and heart, that is with cool headed analytics running alongside lived experience (intuition again). Given that this kind of conceptual practice is social, invitational, and hospitable, the way towards understanding such a practice must come from a committed audience member. It is not enough to pass off some quick judgement after having poked one’s head into the room. One has to set oneself aside, to give time to the work, it is as if the work is a knock on the door interrupting a busy host.

The relationship between host and guest, organizer to artist, artist to viewer, is one of reciprocity and generosity. Each becoming, at times, more or less the host or guest of the other, never fully inhabiting the other’s place within the network but instead moving between hubs. This elaborate courtship proposes a way of being together and a context to occupy.

“There’s nothing wrong with leaders, it’s just when others see them leading and you following that we get screwed up.”