This week, we join Brian and Patricia as they chat with Bay Area artist, doyenne, and badass Catherine Wagner following a decadent champagne brunch in her studio to ring in the New Year. For over thirty years Catherine Wagner has been observing the built environment as a metaphor for how we construct our cultural identities. She’s examined institutions as various as art museums and science labs, the home and Disneyland. Ms. Wagner’s process involves the investigation of what art critic David Bonetti calls “the systems people create, our love of order, our ambition to shape the world, the value we place on knowledge, and the tokens we display to express ourselves.”
While Ms. Wagner has spent her life residing in California, she has also been an active international artist, working photographically, as well as site-specific public art, and lecturing extensively at museums and universities. She has received many major awards, including the Rome Prize (2013-2014), a Guggenheim Fellowship, NEA Fellowships, and the Ferguson Award. In 2001 Ms. Wagner was named one of Time Magazine’s Fine Arts Innovators of the Year. Her work is represented in major collections nationally and around the world, such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, SFMOMA, The Whitney Museum of American Art, MOMA, MFA Houston. She has also published several monographs, including American Classroom, Art & Science: Investigating Matter, and Cross Sections.
Janet Cardiff’s Forty Part Motet is composed of forty speakers arranged in eight groups of five, configured as a large oval facing each other in the center of the room, and resting on stands so they are roughly just above eye level. The Motet, as Cardiff referred to it in our conversation, is a reworking of the English composer Thomas Tallis’s Spem in Alium (1570), which translates as “Hope in Any Other” and is sung in Latin by a choir of forty voices. The composition is arranged so that the choir, like the speakers, is divided into eight groups of five singers; each group consists of a soprano, tenor, alto, baritone, and bass. The groups alternate singing: first one, than another, sometimes alone, and at a few moments, all together, rising in a crescendo that breaks open the room to a place beyond the physical world. To hear the Motet in its entirety is profound. Spem in Alium is considered one of the greatest works of English music. The Forty Part Motet is equally a contemporary masterwork. It was a privilege, then, to sit down with Cardiff on November 12, 2015, to speak about her practice. – Patricia Maloney
Janet Cardiff lives in British Columbia, where she works in collaboration with her partner George Bures Miller. The artist is internationally recognized for immersive multimedia works that create transcendent multisensory experiences and draw the viewer into often unsettling narratives. Cardiff and Miller’s work has been included in recent group exhibitions and biennales such as Soundscapes at the National Gallery, London, the 19th Biennale of Sydney in 2014, and dOCUMENTA (13). Representing Canada at the 2001 Venice Biennale, Cardiff and Miller received the Biennale’s Premio Prize and Benesse Prize. Recently, the artists debuted new site-specific commissions for Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, the Menil Collection, Houston, TX, and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain.
The Forty Part Motet is on view at Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture, in San Francisco, through January 18, 2016; it is co-presented by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
by Jessica Cochran
In her recent memoir poet laureate Elizabeth Alexander wrote of her deceased husband, “he left us with his eyes on the world.” He was a painter.
Deborah Boardman (1958 – 2015), who once described herself as a “painter and…” worked in Chicago for nearly three decades. We saw her “eyes on the world” through solo exhibitions at the Gahlberg Gallery at the College of DuPage, the Chicago Cultural Center, Ebersmoore, and, most recently, the Experimental Sound Studio to name a few that were local. There were many more nationally and abroad. An educator at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago since 1997, she influenced hundreds of artists, some of whom became her collaborators.
Deborah worked across painting and drawing, installation, writing, environmental sustainability and sound/video, and she often employed dowsers to “map” her installations. Through it all, she became known for her approach to color, pattern and poetic text as vehicles for emotional content and narrative potential, as well as a uniquely gestural approach to mark making and hand lettering. Years ago, Deborah was of the first Chicago-based artists I discovered utilizing the bookform in a way that I found captivating. And as critic Lori Waxman wrote recently, newer work addressing her struggle with cancer grappled with the unseen and ineffable, articulating “what life looks like in that gracious limbo between life and death.”
Testimonial after testimonial gives evidence that Deborah’s “fierce,” visionary and “generous” creative ethic was not confined to her artworks, but also it governed the lived spaces of her life as an educator and collaborator: there are the students she engaged as her studio interns and treated like family; the friends with whom she sang joyfully in her living room and purposefully in the gallery; there were the women artists’ reading and figure drawing groups in the early 1990s; a spectacular dance party at Oxbow; “meaty” collaborations over years and years, and the concurrent friendships that burned slowly and brightly; pivotal residency and art-making trips to India to learn things like Vastu and develop exhibitions like Magic Mountain at Bangalor and Rooting: India with Akshay Rathore and Tricia Van Eck for the Kochi Biennale. Morning walk after morning walk to Albion Beach with her beloved dogs. The students she taught to write grants, not to “overpaint” and to make artists’ books. The yoga, meditations and gurus: she was a Catholic child turned seeker, spiritualist.
Perhaps the sum of the many, many contours of Deborah’s art-making life is this: in each studio visit was an implicit gift; embedded in every syllabus was an invitation; in each collaboration an emergent provocation; and in every artwork a public offering, a lesson.
My relationship with Deborah grew over six years or so through some group shows I curated, periodic studio visits and friends in common. But was in the last eight weeks of her life that she, her family and close (and by close, I mean indescribably loving) friends invited me into the more intimate dimensions of her life to begin to do the curatorial work of considering her oeuvre, to embark on a deep engagement with her work in order to develop a retrospective exhibition down the line. To begin to locate the magnitude of her influence, position her output within a broader historical and social context, and to understand the genesis of her work over decades—is a project I am coming to understand through a new and fascinating curatorial lens and as my own biggest collaboration with Deborah.
Deborah worked through her final days of treatment and hospice—finishing her memoir, setting into motion plans for a new sound installation and making her last exquisite painting with the help of those at her bedside. By all accounts her fervor was punctuated with wit and that inimitable smile.
In an artist’s book produced for a recent exhibition at 6018 North, Deborah wrote: “Xavier Le Pinchon, a plate tectonic expert, suggests that fault lines, the open spaces between the plates in the earth’s crusts are… analogous to human frailty. Because we are vulnerable, we find it necessary to depend on others for survival. It is through our vulnerability that we bond with others and thrive.”
Deborah’s work had many facets, but it is her brave articulation of her own perceived faults, frailties and vulnerabilities—her commitment as an artist to learning in public—that will demand of us and viewers of her work for years to come a deep reciprocity, a Deborah-like generosity. Through these exchanges—made possible by the “work” of her artwork—she will live on and her ideas will continue to shape the world in meaningful, collaborative ways.
Nina Katchadourian (Armenian; born 1968, Stanford, California) is an Armenian–American artist. She is known for conceptual works that explore themes of mapping, translation, and public space. Her projects have been exhibited widely, including a solo show of video installations at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in July 2008.
Nina Katchadourian was born in Stanford, California in 1968, and grew up spending summers on a small island in the Finnish archipelago, where she still spends part of each year. She received a BA from Brown University in 1989, and an MFA from UCSD in 1993. She attended the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York in 1996. She lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Nina Katchadourian has worked in many media, including sculpture, photography, video, and sound. The underlying concept is often marked by an intrinsic sense of humor, characterized by a whimsical, intelligent, ironic and systemic reordering of natural processes. Her work is simple yet effective.
The return of the Amanda Browder Show!!!
She brings back her favorite memory from episodes past…