“You cut a hole in the building and people can look inside and see the way other people really lived… it’s making space without building it.” – Gordon Matta-Clark
Industrial materials and a delightful array of dimensions provide new angles on urbanity in “Chris Esposito:Wall Sandwich,” on view now at Amos Eno Gallery at 56 Bogart St through Sunday, July 18th.
Esposito is a Queens-based artist. A born and bred New Yorker, the artist’s familiarity with the city permeates every aspect of the exhibition. Construction is one constant traversing the city’s streets, and familiar sights such as dangling shoes and lath wood, metal and cement confront urban residents at every twist and turn of the city’s winding streets. Eroding painted signage from days gone by are visible on the sides of buildings from overpasses and aboveground subway lines throughout the city, revealing varying degrees of erasure as they play out across the skyline. Fences separating properties across the city’s five boroughs range from elaborate, pointed arches to brushed chrome. All of these experiences and more infuse “Chris Esposito: Wall Sandwich” with a potent representation of how residents and visitors interact with spaces surrounding them in urban landscapes.
Works on view present a study in contrasts, with the artist embracing industrial materials and artistic processes in equal measure, forming a strange yet powerful combination. Works included in this exhibition, such as “Split/Connect” (below image, work on right,) incorporate oil, tar and steel rods, while artistic techniques like painting, collage and assemblage are utilized throughout. Lath wood and bricks form the structure supporting the artist’s large-scale work, “Wall Sandwich,”: the exhibit’s namesake. Notions of the simulacrum pervade the show as well, with paintings of wood boards flanking actual wood structures, such as with “…Only inches away…,” and “Exterior Clapboards: Detroit”, questioning how the structures which we perceive around us in cities can both reveal and occlude vibrant histories.
In revealing the interiors of structures and their intrinsic relationship to exterior walls, Esposito notes that he, “concentrates on the interior and exterior of the walls, the space in between, the endless layers of palimpsest both polished and tarnished. It is a study of the soul of New York City.” Repeating motifs jostle for attention with surprising elements, such as a metal tag hanging off a string from the central board of “Leftovers.” City residents and guests strolling through New York will notice hanging objects proliferate throughout the city, whether it’s a hanging pair of shoes on power lines or a misplaced mitten hanging off a wrought-iron fence on a snowy day. The city gives as it takes away: construction materials throughout the exhibition also allude to real estate development and a city in constant cycles of demolishing and creating new buildings throughout the five boroughs. Visitors can approach these themes embedded within the exhibition in view of their own relationship to these different aspects of city life, finding correlations to their own journeys across, below, and around structures in New York City.
The underlying landscape that supports the city’s infrastructure takes center stage in “Chris Esposito: Wall Sandwich.” Thanks to the artist’s clever compositions and keen insights, visitors are able pore over contrasting textures and surfaces presented at a range of scales and form connections between the works on view and the city’s many tangible layers of architectural histories.
Poet Rainer Maria Rilke once observed, “the purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things.” The fragile yet tenacious victory of In Longing, on view now through July 14 at CUE Art Foundation, articulates the spectacular beauty of thwarted connections. Spanning new media, installation, mixed media and sculpture, works on view by artists Alison Chen, SHAWNÉ MICHAELAIN HOLLOWAY, Raymond Pinto, Marie Ségolène and Xirin probe us to reconsider the ways in which we long and the means by which longing manifests. Curated by Anna Cahn, with support from CUE mentor Legacy Russell, In Longing foregrounds the need for a resolution which is implicitly suggested in the concept of “longing.”
Artists on view create intersectional dialogue around privilege, desire and visibility. As noted in Cahn’s catalog essay, “A central question of the exhibition asks: how is desire affected by the oppressive systems of patriarchy and white supremacy?” Participating artists also present performance around the theme of the exhibition. In Longing has been activated over the course of the exhibition by performances from Xirin and Sebastian Chacon and the debut of a performance film from Marie Ségolène. An upcoming performance entitled “what is left, if i am earth” by artist Raymond Pinto and collaborator Fana Fraser will take place on Wednesday, July 14 at 2 PM, followed by a closing reception with the curator the same day from 5 PM.
One consistent aspect of the exhibition is a denial of the male gaze as the default position of longing. Visitors enter the space to immediately encounter Marie Ségolène’s “Rouge Gorge” video and multi-media installation. The multi-sensory elements present within Ségolène’s work centers a self-longing: a passionate wish to situate one’s own sense of longing and desire within an environment alternately fertile and hostile. Loaded with an introspective and inherently queer sense of self-realization, the artist alludes to the fact that yearnings are self-directed, and can be evoked by a range of sensations which are experienced in unique ways by different bodies. “Rouge Gorge” also references visual and audible repetition, a clever yet potent means of referencing sensual ritual and return. Reading from her poetry in a range of scenes – near water, in the midst of the forest, and other natural settings – Ségolène deftly integrates action and expression.
Alison Chen and Xirin provide distinct reflections on how longing can be documented or expressed. Chen’s “In and Out” reveals the relative peaks and valleys of a committed relationship, laying bare the honest analytics of emotion and tracking how that looks in objective terms. Chen’s video, “For One Night Only,” authentically, intimately and sometimes humorously lays bare how living together with a romantic partner can manifest in small gestures and interrelated movements. In Xirin’s video, “Hope Eats the Soul,” the artist and her partner re-enact scenes from Fassbinder’s “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” (1974) in a lofty measure of how intimacy and distance can collapse into one another. With no dialogue, and scored with atmospheric music, the camera pans alternately between the duo while longing glances connect or concentrate on the middle distance between two certain points, seeking resolution. Xirin’s work traces her “undocumented emotional realms”(1) to evince a longing to be fully seen.
Raymond Pinto’s installation “what is left, if i am earth” presents geodes – crystal aggregates that appear on the outside as spherical rocks. This deceptive appearance challenges us to consider how much of what we know is taken for granted. Pinto presents a “Black queer ecology of motion”(2): asking where, and how, restraint and impulse intersect and what the implications of these actions are. The installation seemingly vacillates between presence and absence, embedded with investigations about emotion and longing and about the space allocated for Black queer experiences. Environments and power dynamics infuse SHAWNÉ MICHAELAIN HOLLOWAY’s prescient sculpture “REQUEST–>LURE–>RESPONSE–>REWARD(?) OR A COVERING FOR THE CAGE.” The artist explores a theme she calls “choreographic viewership”(3) in dialogue with BDSM desire while simultaneously questioning which bodies are included or “longed” for.
Visitors to the exhibition can view the interior of the space where Xirin, Chen, HOLLOWAY and Pinto’s works are situated from a tête-à-tête chair rounded chair able to seat two guests alongside one another, which is part of Xirin’s installation for “Hope Eats the Soul”. A letter written by the artist floats alongside one of two mixed media works Xirin presents in the space, incorporating allusions to the corporeal: scenes from the artist’s past performances are depicted in acrylic, lipstick, egg and coffee applied across canvas, accentuating the flattened presence of the artist’s two-channel video nearby. In tracing the interaction of Chen and Xirin’s video and installation work with Raymond Pinto’s “what is left, if i am earth” and HOLLOWAY’s “REQUEST–>LURE–>RESPONSE–>REWARD(?) OR A COVERING FOR THE CAGE”, a curatorial vision emerges which intertwines attraction and distance, distraction and intimacy. Binaries fold into themselves, merging instead into interrogations that push us to question how we never realized we were this close to begin with, and why it’s impossible to be closer than we even knew we were. -AL
(1) See Anna Cahn’s catalog essay, “In Longing.”(2) and (3): Ibid.
A feeling of lightness and buoyancy surrounds viewers upon entering “Traces,” a mixed-media installation by multidisciplinary artist Tulu Bayar on view through June 13th at Amos Eno Gallery. Over one hundred circular works composed of photographic film rolls, ink, and resin float weightlessly on the walls. These are presented in the space at varying heights as if rising and cresting, like a wave, and floating around the viewer. Dark rolls of film spiral, unravel, and protrude from the works with a deliberate sense of gesture and line, while vibrant colors swirl within the transparent resin. Citing influences such as calligraphy, Islamic manuscript painting, and ebru – the mesmerizing practice of Turkish marbling art – Tulu Bayar crafts a distinctive visual language that viewers can interpret and find meaning within.
Anchoring the space are four works which lie flat on plinths, offering the viewer the opportunity to peer down into their depths to explore Bayar’s works in more detail. Here, one can appreciate the materiality present and inherent to each unique work. Layered film rolls and multicolored inks sit on top of each other with a meditative stillness, as if frozen in time. “The gestural record on the surface stages a moment of existence that is no other moment,” remarks Bayar. “By containing that peculiar moment, I feel like I am able to memorialize the process.”
With “Traces,” Bayar deftly explores the metaphysical, the idea of oneness and the interconnected nature of beings and forms, and how individual difference resides within communal existence. This promotes an attitude of active engagement from the visitor.This lively, interactive process of “reading” reflects Bayar’s interest in the spirituality of mysticism and the teachings of Rumi. “The appearance of things changes according to emotions, and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves,” Bayar reflects, quoting Rumi directly. As we look into these works, we are looking into ourselves as well. As Bayar describes, this series embodies a “form of thinking and discovering a journey on a contained surface.” To embark on this journey with her, all viewers need is their imagination and a willingness to look.
ANTE mag is proud to shine a spotlight on the dedicated artists who are exerting an impact in the art world in 2021. From ongoing or upcoming solo exhibitions, to gaining recognition through artist talks, recognitions, awards and international residencies, these are some of the top artists we have an eye on as we move into the new year.
Below we center on the second group of artists forming our 21 artists selected for 2021. Each artist has images included with their respective coverage below, but click through to their websites linked through their name in the header to view more of their practice and familiarize yourself with your favorites!
Lead image: Medusa Green Screen, Oil and Watercolor on Canvas, 24″ x 30″, image courtesy artist Rina Goldfield.
ANTE mag. You’ve been busy participating in digital performance series (such as INVERSE) in 2020 and co-edited a book that launched last month. How do you feel your artistic practice has shifted in light of less in-person performance and more digital and editorial work happening during the pandemic?
AE. Well, I had to admit Institution is a Verb which I co edited with Elizabeth Lamb, Tsedaye Makonnen, and Esther Neff (who was the main organizer of the project and founder of PPL – the performance space that the project largely archives), was in planning long before the pandemic hit. I was also included in We Are Here: Visionaries of Color Transforming the Art World edited by Jasmin Hernandez, which is available Feb 2nd, but that also was planned a couple years before it came out… so to some people this looks like a pandemic shift in my practice, but in truth those projects just happen to be coming out now, at a time that is perfect for staying home and reading! Pre-pandemic I had been thinking a lot about how archiving (not just photos but written archives) can help elevate performance art, that’s why book ideas and catalogue contributions were on my to-do list.
As for how my performances shifted… maybe thats a more complex answer. I performed a lot on Instagram and Zoom throughout 2020. Early on (March/April) I decided that worrying about having an audience was not going to help me artistically. I decided that it was best to focus on what you CAN DO online in performances that you cannot do in a live performance. For example, I can’t spit into the faces of audience members or expect them to get extremely close to my eyeballs* (*right now) but that can happen on camera. I also showed every area of my tiny apartment online, usually destroying it in some way because I have a lot of pent-up anger. Vulnerability became more important as did looking into the camera. Normally when I perform I don’t look at the camera at all. It happens to be there to document the event, but I feel the important part is the feeling that is given to the audience in person… suddenly in quarantine it became about the feeling given to the audience through the camera. Not to say I felt like I was acting, but more like I used to camera to get my point I was also sick a lot and then went to a lot of protests. I think that coupled with living alone and not having a romantic partner… made my performances shift as I moved deeper into quarantine. Things definitely grew more abstract and darker in theme as the year went on. (I should say though I did go to Chicago for two and a half months to quarantine with my parents and nephew, and the performances were a lot happier then!)
Overall I prefer IG because it is easier for everyone to access and I can control the camera view with greater ease. The one beautiful thing about the pandemic is that i feel access to art has opened up greatly. We are all now buying work, viewing artist talks, shows and performances online and they are all being advertised on social media. NOW watching something online is not the same, but there are a lot of things I get to see online now that I never would have seen before. And there are many artist talks happening now that never would have occurred before. We were so stuck on the interviewer and the artist needing to be in the same room! -plus people are a pinch more open when they are talking to you from home. I also think because we all went through a collective trauma that is hard to explain in words, many people who once thought my way of expressing myself in abstract actions as “weird” or “not for them” now look at the work and say “YES! Drink your bathwater on camera with a half pulled down ball gown on… I feel like that too. Do you.”
ANTE mag.What are some recent, ongoing and/or upcoming collaborations that you want to share with us as we enter 2021?
AE. Aside from the books, I think I am most excited about a collaboration that I just did with University of Michigan. Students in Professor Rebekah Modrak’s Dressing UP and Down Class made these beautiful costumes that I designed and then students from the theater and music department performed a score that I created and wore the costumes from Modrak’s class. They even had beautiful customized masks! The performance was a celebration of Black femmes and the fight, resilience and love of Black people. It took place on one of the Michigan football fields and even some of the cheerleaders joined in to participate. And just as with my own practice there is a large part of it that was improvised in the moment by the performers even though a loose plan was laid out in advance. It’s entitled “You Better Be Good To Me.” The video hsa premiered as part of the Penny Stamps series they have annually on campus, but is now online. I’m super excited about this. It marks a new way of making work for me and feels more expansive than just working alone. online info: https://www.instagram.com/p/CKPYxgYFkVy/
ANTE mag. Your practice has had some incredible coverage in 2020, not limited to the fantastic NYT article featuring you that was published in June 2020 in which you spoke about social and political matters. Can you expand on how your often physically punishing work embodies both a personal and universal component? Feel free to point to a specific example/performance.
AE. For me work that includes deep labor like running to my friend Lisette Morel repeatedly for 3 hours in the summer heat is as much about acting out friendship as it is about the struggle of being a woman of color, or the fact that both of us come from families that worked jobs that involved intense labor while we never had to – hence the running with parasols and matching dresses and yet doing it for hours in the heat is exhausting. Just like trying to make it in the art world… Morel is a painter whoI have known for over 18 years. If you know that about us the work’s meaning deepens. But no matter what, the personal and the political are always present. I like the work to have multiple meanings in this way. For others the act of carrying passersby or audience members at a museum gallery for hours while wearing heels “I Carry You And You Carry Me” (2016, 2017) is a political act that shifts depending on who I carry (a white male, a Black woman… a child, etc.) At the same time, I was thinking about intimacy, friendship and breaking hierarchies when I made this piece. Sometime you carry your friends and sometimes they carry you…and sometimes they drop you, lol. And once you have your legs wrapped around an artist, the typical artist-to-audience-member/collector relationship is broken. We are two people talking in each other’s ear and they are trusting I won’t drop them. No one is better than someone else or acting out “usual” roles in that scenario. For me there is a beauty in that. I hope people take that with them and exercise it in small ways after leaving my shows. It is not social activism in the sense of telling you what to do, but rather showing you what it feels like to do it differently (meaning more freely and fairly) and what it feels like to NOT do it differently (meaning harshly tied to society rules and capitalistic ideals) – Hence the harsh acts of labor.
Lately, I have started to focus more on participatory exchanges than harsh labor so acts like demanding a group of conference participants at the College Arts Association conference to impromptu “Catch this Black body!” are starting to make having my audiences perform the labor with me just as important as my solo actions. I think they both yield similar results.
ANTE mag.What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?
AE. rest…. hahah just KIDDING! Rest? Who is She?
Seriously though, I am looking forward to being more balanced in my work life and private life in 2021… People that know I spent two years with a sign on my back that said “I Just Came Here To Find A Husband” will be happy to know I have found a loving relationship, so I plan to take time to nurture that while I make work in 2021. As for the work of making art, I plan to make works that experiment with collaborative groups of people and short films. I think making and showing this work outside of institutions literally projecting it onto buildings is what’s next for me. Making my work bigger in the world is my goal.
ANTE mag. I’m more familiar with your sculptural work but I’ve noticed that during 2020 you embarked on a series of two dimensional works on paper. Can you talk to us about this shift?
MKM. During the initial Covid shutdown and chaos of those early days here in NYC, I, like many people, didn’t really leave my apartment for a long time. And I wasn’t sure how safe it was to go to my studio, let alone finding the mental capacity and physical energy to make work. Those early days were weird and I needed to figure out how I could incorporate my studio practice into this chaotic world of home schooling children and my spouse and I both working from home all at the same time. I gave myself a daily project just to jump start my brain and break out of the worry cycle. I printed out a stack of collagable papers, based on ‘images’ I was already using with my work, of gradients and orbs. I would use the cut paper and rearrange it to create a new work each day. My only rules were to use the same papers over again, and if it got too stressful to put it away and start fresh the next day. There was no commitment. It began as a sketching exercise and then I really got into the work I was creating. They were very abstract and began to focus on color and space in a way that I hadn’t necessarily dealt with in my work before, but it was an interesting tangent. Usually my work is muted in color, lots of greys and blacks with an occasional pop of something acidic, but now I found myself using these really vibrant fuschias, oranges and blues. These collages grew out of a need to let go of what I was focusing on in the studio prior to the shutdown and just work from pure, primal feelings. Maybe the work would have ended up here eventually, but something about the immediacy and unsettling energy of the pandemic pushed it there.
As the project evolved, I began keeping the collages as finished works, gluing them down instead of reworking them the next day. There are a few that are digital prints of small editions from the earliest days, but now most of the works are uniques. I’ve begun making small sculptures that relate to the ideas of space within the collages. It’s going to take me longer though to figure out the sculptural works.
ANTE mag. Early last year you had your work on view in the West 10th Window, which read as an installation. Can you talk about your sculptures and your process in terms of responding to a solo show or a space where you have freedom to create an installation (versus being included in a group exhibit)?
MKM. It was a nice challenge to make work for the West 10th Window. I wanted to use the space in its entirety and it reads as a diorama or a small stage in that format. By thinking about it as an installation, I could experiment with flatness and spatial perception within the window. Recent works had been addressing sculpture and the correlation between flatness and depth within landscape and playing with how our eye perceives that, so I wanted to continue with that tangent. I like finding ways to make sculptures that have width but no depth, the surfaces flatten or grow as you walk around it. The Window was a place where I could experiment with this and create those layers of subtleties. And material-wise, I wanted to go between surfaces and forms that were abstracted yet familiar with materials that were referential to raw sculpting materials like plaster and clay. But then they get all mixed together, so a “rock” is just a blob of clay, and a curved piece of aluminum with wallpaper can read like a mesa or mountain-like form. It’s always exciting when you’re invited to create whatever you’d like. It’s followed briefly by a moment of panic of what that project should be, but then production mode takes over.
I was also there installing for a few days and I got to meet a few of the residents and the super of the building as I occupied their laundry room with all of my tools and wallpapers for the week. I would pop in and out of this hole in the wall. It was one of the more fun, non traditional spaces I’ve had the chance to show with.
ANTE. In my conversations with artists lately I’ve noticed a spirit of innovation, either in response to lens studio time due to more demanding schedules at home or even a lack of studio space. How have you seen your practice innovate in response to quarantine?
MKM. I think we’re all still in survival mode and as artists that’s making work with whatever you have around in whatever place you can. It makes me think back to being in highschool, when you had to work in your bedroom and you’re sleeping in your bed with sketch pads all around. Only now I have an even smaller apartment with an entire family. I split my time between working in my bedroom and working in the studio ( I count my blessings I still have a studio available). Since I can’t get to the studio as much as before, my bedroom floor or the kitchen table is my new workspace. I also think that if the quarantine hadn’t happened I might not have produced the work that came out of it. From those super dark days came this really colorful work that is an exciting departure. Artists persist no matter what, we’re wired for that. It’s not always easy but it seems like everyone is finding a new way to create or present in these weird times. I like hearing stories from friends who are making work in their bathtubs or creating these awesome video projects that never would have happened without quarantine and isolation.
ANTE.What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?
MKM. I currently have an exhibition, “Echo Echo,” on view (opened Jan 16th) at Gold/Scopophilia Gallery in Montclair, NJ of work I created throughout Covid times, and another two person show with Douglass Degges at the Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute, PrattMWP Gallery in Utica, NY opening Feb 5th. Additionally, I’m really looking forward to purging a lot of old things that I’ve been holding onto and realize I don’t need anymore. I want to keep working on these new tangents and spend a bit of time revisiting the work I had to abandon when quarantine hit. I think going back into those pieces with fresh eyes and new directions will uncover some good things.
I’m honestly just hoping for more time there, and feeling comfortable having people over again.
ANTE.Tell us more about your practice as an artist and the mediums/disciplines you work within (ie – painting, collage/works on paper, etc.)
RG. I make two-dimensional works. I mostly use oil paint and watercolor on canvas. I also make works using ink, acrylic, gouache, watercolor, and pencil on paper. My work is figurative, but of imaginative subjects. I am interested in themes of mythology, loneliness, origin stories, and embodied experience. A lot of my pieces reference collage, but they are not collages. My surfaces are (almost) always a single surface that I’ve worked in a variety of ways. In addition to surface, I am interested in color.
ANTE.In your paintings you evince a methodical and meticulous approach to your process, carefully creating the Milky Way in your “Mother Earth makes the Milky Way” work, for example. How did you develop this particular attention to detail in your work?
RG. It feels important to me to find joy in my practice. I love getting lost in minutiae; my pleasure in that process is why detail shows up so much in my work. I think I’ve always worked this way. Even much earlier, more abstract fabric work included lots of tiny stitches, or painted pinpricks.I get into primordial imagery — snakes, water, stars — and I love the idea of capturing cosmic forces with tiny marks. The contrast in scale feels resonant.
ANTE.You sometimes adopt pop imagery in your work and references to everyday life, while contrasting these elements against nature (Worm with its Lover, Pizza, comes to mind.) How do you mine imagery in your practice to bring together disparate elements in your work?
RG. A lot of my ideas come through language first: phrases like “Worm Climbs Mountain” and “Giving Birth To Yourself Over And Over Again Through Your Head” are starting places. Imagesthen arrive through intuition or osmosis, floating against the frameworks of the phrases. Like everyone, I soak up the visual culture that surrounds me: the digital languages of memes and photocollage; religious imagery; ads; “fine art” painting. All of these sources percolate, and I try not to be too fussy about what imagery I use.Some of the juxtapositions are rooted in online visual culture, especially stock photos. Pizza is apop image, but so is the Apple screensaver galaxy. With “Worm with its Lover, Pizza,” I wanted to make a really lonely painting of a worm with its lover, comfort food, floating in a screen-inspired “galaxy.” I hope the galaxy here is a kind of simulation of a romantic destination.
ANTE. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?
RG. So much!
I’m working on several Goddess paintings. In particular, I am working on two new Medusa paintings, one of her transformation into her snake-haired form, and another of her going on vacation with her boyfriend, a stone head. I am also working on a painting based on a phrase I love from the Odyssey: the “rosy-fingered Dawn.”I’m additionally working on a series of works on paper called “Giving Birth To Yourself Over and Over Again Through Your Head.” This phrase was inspired by myths of head-births, including Athena springing from Zeus’s head and Medusa birthing Pegasus from her severed head. The works have departed significantly from this source material, though. The imagery includes fibonacci spirals, chromosomes, DNA helices, nigella seed pods, and pacman. The process of making them has a lot of components, and includes paper marbling, gouache, and watercolor. They are fun to make! I feel like this could be an infinite series for me, which aligns with the works’ themes of repetition, recursion, and infinite looping.Finally, since the pandemic began, I’ve returned to drawing as a fast, expressive practice. I’ve made hundreds of sumi ink and watercolor drawings. Most of them are really bad. But I hope to gather a selection of them into an artist book.
ANTE. Your commitment to your practice is evident in your participation with Materials for the Arts (2018) The Laundromat Project’s Crate Change program fellowship (2017) and your most recent 2020 artist-in-residence position with the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. It is evident your work speaks to a wide audience, can you speak about your vision for your practice and the audiences you attract with your work?
DO. I think my practice attracts a diverse audience because it speaks to the soul, it sparks thoughts of humble beginnings, especially for people of color who immigrated to the United States. I was able to experience this while in residence at Children’s Museum of Manhattan. I was able to have had conversations with children and parents from places like India, Africa, China, Russia, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. Everyone had a different appreciation for my art making process like mixing acrylic paints, cutting shapes out of paper or vinyl tiles, or adding cyanotype solutions to a vinyl tile. It’s all about stimulating the mind through combinations and experimentations.
At Materials for the Arts, I addressed the loss of my father and created a memorial through the use of their objects inside their warehouse, I made cyanotype prints using their jewelry and crocheted doilies on bedsheets, sculptures out of books and furniture legs. I juxtaposed imitation flowers bursting out of speakers, vinyl tile collages. During the Create Change program with the Laundromat Project I had children and their parents painting lightbulbs as a form of recognizing the light within themselves. It was a response to gentrification and the number of families that have had to move out due to the increase in rents. By painting a pattern and/or writing their name and the years they have been living in Harlem, marks their resilience in being able to continue to live in Harlem despite the significant increase in the cost of living, thus the “Give Me The Light” Project was born.
The found object is sometimes the realism and I study objects to find a way into the practice, it’s similar to jumping rope. You have to pay attention to your timing of when the rope is about to touch your feet to know when you need to jump.
ANTE mag. You hold a BFA from SUNY Purchase and an MFA from Hunter College (CUNY). Can you speak to the professors and mentors who have influenced your practice as it developed along the way over the past 15-20 years to where you are today?
DO. I was fortunate to have some incredible art professors throughout my time in Purchase College. I will always remember artists like Leonard Stokes, Murray Zimiles and Judith Bernstein. They encouraged me to reinvent my process of making art and push the process further, add more steps and examine the effect it has on the piece, then for the next piece take less steps out, and then look at the two and notice the differences, what does it say to you? Or l would focus on how I am using perspective or be mindful of who I chose to include into my paintings. Instead of famous icons I would pay attention to West African rituals that I could juxtapose into my paintings.
At Hunter, I worked with artists like Nari Ward, Juan Sanchez and Paul Ramirez. They pushed me to further develop my vision of the objects I choose to work with, to use the materials and make many things out of it to reveal the possibilities. Sometimes less is more or it needs density to get a message across to the viewer. Not everything has to count to make it a successful piece and yet sometimes it does. I develop the rules behind what and how materials can be activated. I felt as if I was working from the inside out. To be open to suggestions, yet use what you feel will help you along the way of realizing an artwork.
ANTE mag. Can you speak about viability and representation in your work, and the vision you bring to your practice as per your artist statement noting that your work, “illustrates..the Dominican American experience, masculinity, vulnerability, the supernatural, family and spirituality”?
DO. I think the Dominican American experience recognizes the challenges of adapting who you are within the confines of the United States. You have to recognize who you are, your worth and stand by it unapologetically. I think my practice talks about deep abstract feelings that are challenging to put into words and more effectively addressed through the combinations and the treatment of the materials. I am interested in the ownership of what I make. There is freedom behind creating your own rendition of things versus honoring someone else’s. For me, there’s a limitation to working with the readymade, like the vinyl tiles. I can only produce patterns with what is there. It addresses one side of the effects of aspirations behind materialistic artificial objects that evoke monetary wealth. At times, I think about my mother’s style of working as a beautician, she wanted hair to have flare, she wanted the customer to be excited about how they looks, so she was very patient and cognizant of hair and the materials she needs to achieve a specific look and get inventive when things don’t go her way. I think there is a lot of value in recognizing your parents skills and recognizing how some of those characteristics become a part of you. The best part is that I am elevating those traits and passing it off to my son. I think that the evolutionary aspect of inheriting your parents’ skills is always interesting to see in how it manifests itself in the quality of the work. I do want my work to be aesthetically pleasing, however, I want to trigger a memory, make a connection of sorts that is relevant to you. I want to make your cells tingle with a good vibration.
ANTE mag. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?
DO. I am looking forward to using objects that have been affected by another person, for instance, cigarette butts, shattered glass from car windows. I am interested in finding a shining light in these objects that have a harmful effect, yet is used to keep calm or been broken to infringe on someone else’s property.
Editor’s Note – Ortiz most recently exhibited in a solo show with Empty Set gallery in the Bronx, through Jan 7, 2021. The show, titled Heaven and Earth, is visible on the gallery’s instagram – @Empty.set.gallery
ANTE mag.Can you introduce our audience to your practice? And can you speak to whether/how your work invites and encourages collaboration?
LRS. My practice is built around the idea of doing rather than making. An activity is interesting to me, aside from its result or product. It’s not that the result is not relevant to me, but the question I ask myself is not “what do I have to do in order to get xy result?”, but rather “i wonder what the result will be if i carry out xy activity”.I began noticing or understanding this about my work when I was experimenting with sculpture in art school and started videotaping the process of building something until it became much more about the process than the sculpture itself. I started staging performances in which I gave myself the task of climbing through one of the huge rooms at the Art Academy Düsseldorf on a specific axis, for example the diagonal, or along the ceiling. It wasn’t about the acrobatic act, but about the attempt at something that the space wasn’t designed for, an autonomous relationship of the body to (architectural) space, that could also fail, and sometimes did. This was around 10 years ago, but I remain excited by the choreography or the pattern of a process or procedure. A sequence of actions or movements or markings that is the result of a certain plan or idea. This is true for both my algorithmic drawings which use a grid as a structured space for patterns to unfold, and for my performance based work which extends into video as well as into dance and choreography.
The question about collaboration is an interesting one. Although much of my work is designed to be solitary, it is also made for collaboration. When I work on my grid-based drawings or series of drawings I experience time in a heightened way. My attention is directed at observing the visual information that is happening in the grid. This is a solitary process. I become a kind of observer of my own activity, and there is an inner monologue which comments on the sequence of “events” as if I was watching a play. Sometimes I write these comments down and sometimes they find their way into performances or artist books.
This aspect of not being in control of aesthetic choices while in process, of letting chance, random numbers, or outside determinants shape the process is why collaboration is particularly interesting to me. It carries the appeal of the unknown. This is especially true for my choreographic work. Choreography allows me to let go of the linear path that I pursue in my drawings and thus invites collaboration. I love working with dance makers; my world expands by learning someone else’s movements or approaches to movement and space. I also think that the times we are in inspire connection and collaboration on many levels.
ANTE mag.Your practice seems to embrace a wide realm of influences, from theoretical physics to themes of repetition and spatial dynamics. Can you speak to some of the more potent influences on your work and how they inform what you consider when you make work?
LRS. Learning is a strong impetus for my work. I like to dive into a certain area of knowledge for a while. There was a phase in which I was very interested in meteorology. Besides learning about the evolution of the earth’s atmosphere, what fascinated me was the way that meteorologists use data to draw conclusions about the future and how, even if they understood every kind of reaction on a micro and macro level, the sheer number of factors is too large and the scale on which reactions take place too small to really lift the mystery of the weather.
The idea of scale was the main formal principle of my first artist book in which an algorithmic system was repeated page after page but the scale of the grid went from one square being bigger than one page to one page containing a 224 by 224 square grid. When turning the pages of the book the first page and the last page resemble each other, similarly to how an image through a microscope can resemble the sight of star dust through a telescope.
One paper that has influenced my work in different ways by stage artist and evolutionary theorist Rod Swenson is called “Autocatakinetics, Evolution, and the Law of Maximum Entropy Production: A Principled Foundation toward the Study of Human Ecology”. The ideas developed in this paper have influenced the way I think about my work. His paper speaks about order and chaos in thermodynamics and at the same time he applies these principles to other areas like, for example, tornados or cities. He describes them as self-organizing systems. His thoughts inspired me to think about choreography in new ways: a choreographic system which is both rules-driven but unpredictable and allows for both chaos and synchronicity, and also for individual moments. A tapestry of movement, sound, visual elements, and perhaps language in which no one inside or outside of the performance has the full picture, the score being divided between the participants who are operating on cues.
I also draw influences from books about history. I find it extremely interesting and helpful to learn about the past and to be able to see the connections from my point in time. Understanding some aspects of the past empowers us to recognize patterns in the situation we find ourselves in and perhaps understand the roles we occupy. I often draw parallels between things I learn about, and my own work. For example I could compare a dancer’s coincidental position in a choreography to the position any one of us could be occupying in the course of events in a family, a community, a city. This is likewise true for the patterns in my drawings. But I don’t use these comparisons or metaphors as material or scripts. I just see it happen like in a complex mirror and hope that others are inspired or challenged to see something too.
Usually when I read, there is something behind the details that communicates to me a broader idea. And I relate this idea to my work, sometimes to work that already exists. Learning, reading, and working, and also experiencing life as a complex web of relations, of causes and effects, of intersecting timelines – all these things are to me different facets of an interrelated experience.
ANTE mag. I’ve been particularly interested lately in the drawings you feature on your Instagram page that feature repetitive drawings in geometric, linear fashion. These seem easy to access in a moment in which many of us are sequestered at home and repeating our daily lives with little variation due to the pandemic. Can you talk about the genesis of this series and how it is evolving?
LRS. I have been making these kind of generative drawings for about eight years and when I first started using a grid and filling it with simple color sequences it felt like I had discovered a huge playground. It promised so many possibilities. In these drawings I impose a specific rule, using an invented alphabet of lines or shapes, and without knowing what the end result will look like, I fill the page or canvas (or sometimes a wall or a roof) in, like you say, a linear fashion. In some ways I am like a computer, working through the commands of a program or instruction set. Of course, I am a very bad computer and I make mistakes. The mistakes somehow become part of the work even though I have an urge to conceal them. This causes a friction that I find interesting. I like the idea that these drawings are relatable during these times of the pandemic. The repetitiveness of making them resonates with a life of less transit and more seclusion. While the parameters often change, I usually come back to the same rule or algorithm. It is all about repetition and slow growth. I think that that is how the series is evolving, too. I come back to the beginning, and then I go a little further. At the moment I am experimenting with integrating random numbers into the sequence in order to make the pattern less predictable and more opaque.
ANTE mag. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?
LRS. First of all I am looking forward to 2021 in my studio! For all the things that 2020 has been, it has gifted me with the kind of time and focus in my studio which I hadn’t had in a long time. I’m curious to continue experimenting with virtual performances and the layering of screens and places. I’m grateful to ANTE mag and Radiator Arts for creating a platform for virtual performance this past December! There are several projects I’m excited to work on, a residency at MH Project on the Lower East Side and a show at Simultanhalle in Cologne where I want to show a choreographic work. In general, I feel that this will be a year of connecting different parts of my work and bringing people together whose work I admire.
ANTE. – Can you tell ANTE readers more about your practice and the disciplines you work within as an artist?
RS. I am a multidisciplinary artist working in video, photography, painting/printmaking, ceramics, and poetry. Lately I have been mainly focusing on video. I recently transformed my painting studio into a film set and that has been my artistic playground. I have been developing a kind of DIY experimental filmmaking process where I basically do everything myself…the design, shooting, lighting, editing. I worked in the film industry before this so I had some experience in that realm and it’s been exciting to apply those skills to my own vision. My current video projects involve improvisation and character work exploring my alter ego. I get to the studio, put on a costume and some music, get into character, and start shooting. Sometimes I have a clear vision; sometimes I collect footage based on what I am excited about visually and piece it together later. I get really excited about specific props, like my assortment of miniature crystals or my Leonardo di Caprio pillow, and I build work around these objects. Letting myself be playful has been a big part of my process. The external covid world has been so harsh — I really needed a space where I could escape and feel safe and cushioned by warm colors and soft fabrics and my imagination.
ANTE mag. I’ve been impressed with how you’ve developed your artistic practice to acclimate to the restrictions resulting from the 2020 pandemic, including creating evocative animations and digital paintings for your Instagram page. Can you talk to us about some of the themes you worked with in 2020 and how the pandemic and surge of Black Lives Matter protests had an impact on your work?
RS. When the pandemic hit, I was kicked out of my studio at RISD and I turned to digital paintings and animations as an outlet. That was such a difficult moment and I used drawing to process everything I was feeling. I made digital paintings of isolated women sprawled on the couch watching 400 episodes of Love Island, cartoons snuggling, a sad girl making one last toast to Bernie Sanders. Some paintings are comedic and some lean directly into feelings of hopelessness, solitude, loss, transformation. The animations always occur at night with sparkling stars — it has something to do with night being a symbol of the unconscious or the underworld, a space where profound change can occur. I found lots of comfort in sharing these images on social media since I was missing connection in real life. During the surge of BLM protests across the country, I wondered what the artist’s role could be. Direct activism is much more of an urgent necessity than visual art. However, I do feel that it is important to address the situation in my artwork. I thought the burning cop car painting would be good to put out in the world as a visual representation of dismantling the oppressive racist systems that are ingrained in our society.
ANTE mag.Can you shed light specifically on Ashley, your performance art alter-ego and how you’ve envisioned these performances transitioning from 2020 into 2021?
RS.Ashley, my alter ego, is a spiritual woman who is desperately seeking meaning in her life through absurdist measures. This character was born directly out of my own search for meaning and purpose. Over the years, I have turned to alternative healing to get through difficult times. I would find myself chanting mantras I found on blogs, using debilitating nostril breathing exercises to connect with the divine feminine. I both genuinely enjoy these practices and recognize that it’s all getting filtered through a white millennial feminist branding that makes it full of hilarious hypocrisy. Spirituality is hot right now. I am fascinated by how it plays out in capitalist society, technology, on social media, in sexy mysticism-themed tattoos. A major theme of the Ashley project is seeking answers outside oneself and the absurdity of this impossible, never ending task. I grew up Jewish, and I think that being surrounded by religion in my youth influenced my interest in faith and an obsessive questioning of existence. Ashley is surrounded by her spirit guides, her wildest fantasies, her psychological regressions. She has an angel guide who lives in a miniature locker. She is haunted by her love for 90’s Leonardo diCaprio. As I move forward, I’ll be exploring some of Ashley’s shadow side, her weaknesses, and her flaws. This character has been an outlet to work through things that I’m going through, but in an exaggerated way. It’s cathartic.
ANTE mag. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?
RS. This fall, I spent time constructing a film set in my studio which set the stage for Ashley’s world. Now that the set is constructed, I can dive more deeply into creating within that space. I have lots of work to do before my thesis show at RISD this spring. I am amassing materials in the form of video, paintings, writing, and ceramic objects that all belong in Ashley’s world. I am thinking about how I can use humor as a tool to draw people into deeper questions and ideas. I have a vision of transforming a gallery space into Ashley’s world, with purple walls, accompanying video and sound installations, and physical art objects. Overall, I am very excited to take this project as far as it can go.
Lives and works between Amherst, MA and Santa Fe, NM
ANTE mag. Thanks for chatting with us, Ligia! To start us off, can you explain a bit about your practice and the disciplines you work within? Do you ever combine/overlap different mediums when making artwork?
LB. My work is based in sculpture and interactive engagement. But, I also use video, photography, textiles, a wide range of drawing methods, and installation techniques to examine found narratives in the hopes of highlighting the contrast between the ritualistic and mundane, the performative and the genuine, and to ask questions about how we, in our bodies, practices, and institutions, locate ourselves in these spaces. Each of my projects wrestle with issues of functionality as well as narrative, relying on our inherent understanding of household objects, clothing, and tools. My work fully embraces the overlap between mediums as I allow the story I am trying to tell dictate the overall form each piece will take.
ANTE mag. Would you walk us through what considerations and influences you take into account when making new work?
LB. My research around each narrative initially guides the project’s structure. For the last ten years, I’ve been interested in sites that go beyond the physical characteristics of a space or architecture. I attempt to engage with the historical, political, economic, environmental, and social stories embedded in each place. For example, I have drawn upon narratives from classical literature, American comic books and films, fairytales, and documentation of Victorian séances. However, I do not consider myself to be a storyteller. Instead, after first using these found narratives to create shared understanding in my work, I then subvert this initial sense of familiarity, leaving the viewer suspended in an in-between space that highlights the roles and characters we all play in everyday life. I use sculptural objects in multimedia performances and installations to actively engage and immerse viewers. However, the desire to “try on” different identities does not equate itself in my work with a need to become someone or something else. Instead, by recreating these roles, I intend to push against the boundaries of the body in the hopes of enacting an understanding of exactly what makes each body separate from everything else.
ANTE mag. How has your practice evolved as a result of 2020’s lockdown during the pandemic?
LB. The pandemic has been challenging. Initially I did not have access to my studio which is outside my home. In many ways I feel that my own well-being is tied to my daily practice and I find myself adrift if I can’t work regularly. In those early days, I created a space for myself in our basement and tried to work on small pieces. However, it was hard to find meaning in those works in the face of the immense pain and suffering being experienced across the world. Slowly, my home practice has grown and I am only now beginning to unpack the evolution of the works that I have created during this period. Although all of these pieces have ultimately resisted any kind of resolution and remain unfinished, they are evidence of an ongoing inquiry that have given me a sense of accomplishment.
ANTE mag. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?
LB. In early 2020 I was awarded an Artist Research Fellowship from the Smithsonian to do research at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. I want to spend time looking at the Astronomical Photographic Plate Collection which holds hundreds of thousands of photographic images of our universe from as far back as the 1870s. In particular, I am interested in exploring the observations of Henrietta Swan Leavitt, one of the first women “computers” who worked at the Harvard College Observatory from 1895 until her death in 1921. I will use this fellowship to investigate the work and processes of Henrietta Swan Leavitt by tracking variable star clusters on glass plate photographs held in the collection from the 1890s to the 1970s. I hope this will result in a sculptural multimedia installation that will use the medium of kiln-formed glass as a means of reflecting upon shifting celestial light patterns. Harvard is currently closed to visitors until May 2021. I am hoping that by this summer the vaccine will have been widely distributed and I will finally be able to begin working on this project.
We spoke with artist Zac Hacmon to mark the occasion of his solo show, Dispositif, at SLAG Galleryin Chelsea during the Fall of 2020. Our discussion ranged from discourse around boundaries – their formation and documentation – and the use of scale to elicit responses from the visitor. As we toured the show we naturally discussed the non-neutrality of architecture and industrial design, and how abstracted forms can still recall the lingering effects of these intentions. The interaction of these works with one another, their industrial appearance contrasted with the aesthetic approach of the artist to the materials at hand, and the expectation and denial of utility in these works composed of ceramic tile all call to mind the readymade and found object in art-making. We plunged into the show and questioned Hacmon on some of the perspectives he has adopted over the course of his practice, inquiring as to how these viewpoints have impacted his work and, particularly, this suite of sculptures on view at SLAG through Oct 18, 2020.
ANTE Mag. Thanks, Zac, for walking us through your exhibition. We discussed the concept of “profanation” as it relates to your work; could you elaborate a bit on that concept and how it informs your practice?
Zac Hacmon. The concept of “profanation” is based on my recent research which follows the structureof religion and its apparatus. If we talk about the “profane” we must define the sacred first, for something to be sacred it means it was removed from free use of men and from the sphere of human law. Therefore to profane means to return things to their free use and to their pure state. Following this hypothesis, in my work I wish to profane our socio-political structures and the way they form in our built environment.
ANTE Mag. I see. During our conversation I was also struck by your remark “to play is almost a political act”: would you elaborate on that and how it affects your approach to your work?
ZH. It is based on a recent text I started to work with by Georgio Agamben. The text describes the act of play as a political task and it continues the discussion we had before, about the “profane” and sacred. If play breaks up the unity of the myth and rite of which the sacred is powered by then the myth disappears but the rite stays. Same can be addressed with my sculptures in this “Dispositif” show at the Slag Gallery. There is an element of failure in the sculptures, they lost their original function as an architectural structure but they also got a playful element to them that can be activated by touch and movement almost like a toy.
ANTE Mag. I would like to hear your views on the formal qualities of your sculpture as relates to space for inclusion and exclusion – could you provide some context for how sculptures on view at SLAG Gallery relates to boundaries or thresholds?
ZH. The industrial materials I use for my work range from private spaces, domestic and home to the public realm and institutions, by doing that I try to create a hybrid of one over the other and question their coexistence. I use the grab bars in my work in order to create potential for individual access and also to call attention to aspects of regulation mediated through contemporary architecture. The sculptures can be conceived as ruins all together but the ruin is being commoditized and repurposed.
ANTE Mag. Elaborating on the above question, can you provide some context for how your ideas around public versus private space is reflected in your practice?
ZH. Privacy is the higher form of intelligence as we wish to cultivate the self and the being. In contemporary society privacy is long gone, as we live in such a technologically advanced system that we are not even aware of our privacy being gone and violated. In relation to my work, I try to employ this conflict and the duality that I see in our structures, conflicts between function and dysfunction, between public and private.
ZH. The use of readymade is very critical to our time even more than it was 100 years ago when it was presented by Marcel Duchamp. These days, we’ve already crossed the line of no return in terms of the global effects of pollution. Before my Fine Art studies I attended a product design and industrial design degree but in my fourth year I decided to quit when they asked me to design a remote control for air conditioner or a cellular phone, as I didn’t want to be part of the waste industry. I think that through my use and manipulationof the readymade I create an antithesis approach which profanes our acceptance of consumption.
ANTE Mag.Can you discuss the role of the readymade and your work? Is the use of industrial materials in any way political, and why or why not?
ANTE Mag.Finally, can you share some of your upcoming projects with us?
ZH. I am currently working on building Capsule no 4 and Capsule no 5 at my LMCC studio. The “Capsules” are part of an ongoing project of creating alternate, autonomous and inaccessible spaces that invade and penetrate the white cube. The “Capsules” will be part of a group show at the Cathouse Proper Gallery which will take place in November 2020. This work will be site-specific installation for the entrance of the gallery; you will encounter these portals right before you enter the exhibition space. For 2021, I am working on a collaboration with the RDJ Refugee Shelter, in West Harlem (which is a shelter for refugees experiencing homelessness in NYC.) For this project I plan to work together with the shelter residents to create an installation at the shelter space for Fall of 2021.
MaryKate Maher is one of those conceptual juggernauts whose work you discover and instantly wonder how you haven’t run across it sooner. Her awareness of the nuances of structure and the volume of forms create lyrical and compelling sculptures and installation work. A thoughtful artist with a strong record of exhibitions who also just so happens to be an alumna of both Skowhegan and MacDowell, Maher proves through her practice to create gradual crescendos, impressing her admirers with a criticality and subtlety that holds precious secrets for all who encounter her work.
We touched base with Maher to gain a more in-depth appreciation of her practice in light of her selection as an Open Call winner, learning about her background in painting, her ruminations on balance and the careful, tenuous relationships binding individual components to the whole.
ANTE.Thanks for chatting with us MaryKate. Can you tell us about your practice and specifically the tension between the organic and industrial latent in your work?
MaryKate Maher.I have a background in painting and drawing that has transitioned over time to include sculpture and elements of photography. They influence each other in ongoing conversation. This dynamic between structure and tonality, color and line serves as a useful aesthetic corollary to the organic/industrial duality. I find industrial landscapes beautiful and sad. In their pristine states, the industrial dominates the organic, cutting through it, confident and domineering. In its dilapidated state, one sees the organic reasserting itself, softening the borders. That juxtaposition interests me. I don’t go out looking specifically for it but it seems to find me, catching my attention when something seems “right”.
For example, one moment I keep trying to recreate occurred about two years ago when I was driving home from my studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn. It was sunset and I was driving near Kingsland Avenue, which is a very industrial route. There is this large white holding tank (oil or fuel). On this particular evening the sunset was reflecting perfectly onto the tank so that both the tank and the sky had the same pink and purple gradients. The industrial was acting as a mirror for the organic. I didn’t have my camera with me and I kept trying to pull over in traffic to either take a picture with my phone or figure out what I wanted from that moment. It was rush hour-hectic and I missed my chance. I drive by there all the time trying to re-catch that experience, but I haven’t seen it again. I’m not sure what I expect from seeing it again but the gradients I saw from the light that day have found their way into my work.
ANTE.You specifically mention cairns as an influence in your practice. Can you speak to the impact that and other natural phenomena have on your work?
MaryKate Maher. Rocks and cairns have been a fixture in my work. With cairns, you have something very organic with a touch of the human added. The most basic human gesture. I think about how that gesture would feel to someone wandering alone through the wilderness. Is it reassuring? Is it spooky? There’s also a sort of game to making rocks, which do not on their own lend themselves to stacking, balance one on top of the other. In my work, it turns into manipulating weight and balance in ways that emphasize awkward and precarious arrangements. I’m not interested in picture-perfect compilations. I tend to stack and pile using chunks of concrete and other fabricated forms, wedging something into another form. There is a deliberateness to this action which is weird, imperfect, and provisional.
Nature isn’t pristine. It creates all sorts of bizarre conglomerations like “plastiglomerates’ which are a literal fusing of plastic pollution with organic debris to create a new form of rock – a direct result from human pollution. In my personal collection I have an oyster shell which has fused itself to styrofoam like a barnacle. Its a perfect riddle: what is overtaking what?
I also love the tradition of the Scholars’ Rock and Odin stones where natural formations are so thoroughly aesthetified that they come to read as sculpture. Other phenomena like Fata Morgana and mirages, light refracting on the horizon creating interesting effects: all of these influence my work in some way. When I can travel and explore I collect all these feelings and moments from different places and bring that back into the studio. I love geology and seeing famous collections, like that of Roger Caillois, and Standing Stones in Britain. There is a power to all of these objects and for centuries people have tapped into that.
ANTE.Recently you have shown at venues such as Triangle Arts Association and the Brooklyn Army Terminal. You’ve also shown at outdoor sculpture venues. Can you walk us through the positive aspects of both gallery and public/outdoor sculpture exhibitions?
MaryKate Maher. My studio is pretty messy most of the time and venues that are more of a traditional gallery space are ideal for seeing the work in that clean, open space. You can control the presentation, the lighting, all of those things. You can play with scale and formality. There aren’t many “unknowns” thrown into the mix. Outdoor sculpture is usually just one work and it has to stand up to other criteria like weather, scale, and durability in addition to it being a finished work. It’s a fun (and stressful) challenge. It’s like being a director: making sure everything is happening on schedule and organizing all of the components, renting equipment, hiring help, etc. Working outdoors can have perks that can’t really be created indoors, and it’s always a big learning experience. Last year, I was curated into a sculpture exhibition in the Poconos along a local hiking trail. All of the works that were included had to address the natural world and couldn’t interfere with the natural environment there. It took me a long time to figure out what to create. It had to stand out against the camouflage of the woods, but also meet my standards of refinement. I had been working on and off with large blocks of livestock salt but had only ever shown the salt works in an indoor setting. I ended up creating a totemic form that stood out against the earth-toned surroundings. Salt is elementally of the earth, so it’s soft and organic in its own way, but compressed in this form it becomes rigid and structured. I knew the rain would erode it and that animals might eat it, that it might kill the grass underneath. I envisioned it melting away in this beautiful spire-like form to create an entirely new sculpture (which didn’t happen). As the exhibition progressed over the twelve months of the show an evolution occured: morning dew ensured a permanent wet, sweaty gloss to the salt, rain eroded the edges making it eerie and otherworldly, and deer and racoons came in the night to lick the blocks thereby leaving divets and marks, but the sculpture never changed the way I thought it would. All of the moisture kept eroding my anchors and epoxies and those blocks are so damn dense they take forever to melt. The animals did create an impromptu performative aspect of the work. Eventually it just became a ruin. It was still a cool piece, but there are a lot more “what ifs” with outdoor work. I find that when I’m invited to make outdoor work, I try to go as large as the budget can go and when I’m invited to show in a gallery setting I can scale up or down as needed.
The show at Triangle Arts was a really beautifully curated exhibition by Annesofie Sandal who I had recently met while exhibiting work at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. It was a nice connection and both of those shows were great to be involved in.
ANTE.Can you tell us more about what you’re working on recently and what direction your practice is moving toward?
MaryKate Maher. The pandemic has really thrown a wrench in things for me. In February/March 2020, I was in residency at the Wassaic Project. I was exploring all sorts of new ideas and thoughts, testing out new materials and processes. Within 5 days of returning to NYC, the city completely shut down. Many of those ideas that would have had the chance to possibly cultivate into something interesting suddenly seemed moot. So they’re all on the back burner for now. My brain – and body – just don’t have the energy at the moment to tackle them. Instead, I’ve been focusing on works on paper and collages. There were too many unknowns and a lingering lack of structure present in my day to day, so I created a project with set parameters. I printed a bunch of images and photographs that I had been working with and cut them all up. My task is to create new collages from the same cut papers by rearranging and reusing the pieces. Then I take a photograph of the ones I like and turn them into a print. There is a nice immediacy about working this way as well as permission to put it all away on the days when it feels frustrating. The completed works are turning out pretty well. The original images included lots of gradients and abstractions of light, and they create these interesting depths and spaces. They are very abstract and surreal, but I’m digging it for now and just rolling with it. There is a lot of repetition because the same forms show up throughout the work, but it’s helping to create this concise series. They’re also helping me think about ways to translate that into sculptural forms.
ANTE.What’s one specific work you’ve made in the past three months, and what about it is inspiring you consider new concepts and formal evolutions in your work?
MaryKate Maher. The collages I’ve made during the quarantine. These branched out from work I was doing right before the pandemic but the previous work wasn’t really there yet and needed to be pushed further. Being stuck in my small apartment, with my family, all of us on top of each other, I would sneak away and sit in my window sill and stare out at the world below. Listening to the intense quiet, watching the sunsets, seeing the birds going about business as usual, spying on neighbors using their roofs for exercise. I thought a lot about light, space and bodies. The colors I was working with were magentas, pinks and reds and they felt bodily and intensely oversaturated. Color has been moving into my work in a way it wasn’t before. My neutral palette is evolving for sure from this recent work. As I start to get back to the studio, I see the work continuing in this direction as I figure out what it means: cut forms, saturated colors and finding new ways to create space through flat planes.
(Lead Image: Prussian Blue (head), 2019, resin, concrete, brass, gold leaf, prussian blue flashe, 16 x 12 x 8.5in)
Encountering “Elements of Perturbation” atThe Border Project Space, a solo exhibition by Magdalena Dukiewiczcurated by Jamie Martinez, the materials forming this installation present a dizzying dance on the senses. From the earthy inhalation of sod greeting visitors to the visceral transluncency of the installation, the tent-like structure anchoring the space presents a show that serves as a veritable movable feast for the senses
Artist Magdalena Dukiewicz has presented that rare feat of marrying circumstance and concept: an installation based on the impossibility of permanence placed firmly in dialogue with a time of upheaval. This show arrives in the most ephemeral and mercurial time period in recent memory, when a viral pandemic has uprooted the lives of citizens of the world. Thus, an exhibition reflecting in part on the transient nature of immigration is placed in contrast to a time period holding citizens the world over in a shared uncertainty, yet clearly placing certain immigrants into situations of increased vulnerability (for examples, see increased vulnerability of immigrants held at detention centers in the US, and the recent announcement by the current US President that ICE willdeport students who do not attend in-person classes at universities this Fall.) The artist has managed to presciently respond to one of the most dire moments for immigrant rights in recent memory.
The artist herself reflects on the domestic and social roles prescribed to her as a child growing up in Poland. She recalls spending time in a temporary play structure she built with her sister when she was young. Dukiewicz notes, “The concept of a house is based on a portable playhouse made of textiles that I had as a child and explores how “playing house” and practicing social roles at an early age has been adapted in my adult life. ” She also reflects on how materiality is embedded, for her, within the conceptual realm they engage in dialogue with. Thus in order to create a conversation around uncertainty, materials like sod were incorporating – even surprising the artist, when seedlings of grass began to appear in the temporary installation structure.”The use of impermanent materials and incorporating and dissolving my DNA with and within them add to the idea of temporality and imperfection,” she reflects. “[Specifically] the house, like the other pieces, will transform, eventually collapse, then disintegrate and disappear, but the process and its traces are my way of leaving an imprint in the world. “
The Ph.D.-candidate artist, who holds an MFA from the Academy of Fine Arts (Warsaw, PL) and an MFA, Complutense University (Madrid, ES,) produces her works in a site-specific manner, considering how specific spaces and spatio-temporal considerations can demand necessary alterations and adaptations. Within this conceptual framework, the artist was also forced to reconsider the pandemic interrupting access to this solo exhibition. Confronting the pending feeling of hopelessness encountered by us collectively as a society, she provides a space that instigates a moment of rumination—an individual and collective reflection—for the human species to “regroup, rethink and adjust to a new reality.”
Closing on Saturday, July 11 at The Border Project Space in 56 Bogart, Brooklyn in socially-distanced visitation from 5-8 pm, “Elements of Perturbation” mounts a multi-sensorial dialogue around the places we are allowed to enter, inhabit, and exist, and how identity and location continually inhabit a relatioship of tension with one another.
On first impression, Ventiko’s Phos Hilaron: From the Masses Rise the Saints installation transports visitors to an altered state of Indiana. On view at Schwitzer Gallery, CCIC, 1125 East Brookside Avenue, Indianapolis, IN through November 29, the project draws from religious source imagery to transport viewers to an art experience for the masses.
Corn hangs suspended from the ceiling, forcing the viewer through – all the while upending expectations the viewer may have of Indiana and its people. Once through the corn, the viewer is confronted with a scene reminiscent of a sacred Roman Catholic grotto. Candles are arranged delicately on an altar, draped with dark velvet and gold trim, and sacred relics used in the photographs on the same candles are displayed alongside them. As Santa Geri Berry, the Patron Saint of Inquiring Minds notes, “transported through the lines upside-down corn stalks and feeling immersed in them reinforced associations with the harvest, suggesting a very different sort of sacred realm, just as the Saints are very different from any usual idea of a Saint and a very different image of people from Indiana. I couldn’t help making a connection with Sukkot; it was like an altar in a Sukkah: a bringing together of a Jewish space with a Catholic type practice.”
The references are intentional. Ventiko, the artist who organized Phos Hilaron for this Indianapolis iteration of the project, grew up Jewish in Indianapolis and first made a Sukkah out of corn stalks with her temple youth group when she was in high school. Returning to Indianapolis to expand upon Phos Hilaron: From the Masses Rise the Saints, this iteration focuses not just on the beauty of difference and individuality, but emphasizes homogeneity is not harmony: rather, that harmony is respect and inclusion of all. (The first iteration debuted at Chinatown Soup in Manhattan during the first 100 days of the Trump administration and featured a cross section of 100 urban creatives.) Over a four week period Ventiko photographed 59 ‘Saints’ from Indianapolis in intimately customized sets, helping them visualize their ‘Saint’ concept. The entire project was a collaboration between the artist and the Saint. The mythology of the Saint and the vision of the artist culminated in the installation, and also resulted a more intimate piece: a book. Organizing artist Ventiko reflects on her gratitude that so many creatives were excited to participate in this version of the project. “I am grateful to have been blessed by the beauty and power of so many wonderful Saints,” reflects the artist.
Artists who participated in the project have expressed the impact of their encounters with the artist as she was setting up the project. Santa Akilah, The Patron Saint of Patience, remarked, “When I first went to the photo shoot I didn’t know what to expect. As soon she started taking pictures I felt so comfortable and safe. She was able to capture my inner goddess in the picture.” Ventiko herself comments on this process of photographing her “Patron Saints”: “I see myself as a catalyst for the exaltation of the beauty of difference and elevation of the preciousness of individuality rather than one constructing or constricting the identity of any ‘Saint’ or person. It is a respect for difference, including freedom of thought, as well as idiosyncrasies that will ultimately lead to the unification of the human race and foster in a time when we all can work towards solving our global crises rather than consistently focusing on pettiness and being manipulated by propaganda.”
The project is successful on many levels, as reflected in these personal and meaningful reflections from participants. By opening up new avenues of communications for creatives in the Heartland, Phos Hilaron functions as a grassroots confirmation of the talent present in the vibrant city of Indianapolis. Bringing community together and thwarting expectations that outsiders may have of the area captures the double success of both re-affirming and introducing local talent to each other and to a wider audience. “From day one, I knew this cutting edge, contemporary photography installation would take Indianapolis by storm. After hearing the various layers Phos Hilaron presented in NY and adding special dimensions for the Indianapolis chapter, I envisioned a communal based project that would uplift an entire state,” remarks Tony Quintana, The Patron Saint of Growth. Others including curator Maria Behringer have commented on the measure of warmth and acceptance this project has brought into their life. “Ventiko’s concept of community and inclusivity surrounding her Phos Hilaron project is exactly why we wanted to collaborate and bring her exhibition to Indianapolis. Her strong work ethic and creative process can easily be seen through her photography and the final Altar itself. We completely trusted her vision through the entire process. We are extremely grateful to have collaborated with her.”
To make this project a reality Ventiko collaborated with the Indianapolis-based curators Quintana-Behringer. Ventiko’s studio was in the CCIC building (https://circlecityind.com/), a creative hub in downtown Indianapolis where Quintana-Behringer are located. Santo Aaron, The Patron Saint of Technodeath describes working with Ventiko: “It was serendipity how we met. The chance encounter of coming into a space and meeting another creative that was on the hustle and making something huge and fantastic honestly inspired us at Soundspace to do better. Instead of this being an empty office having Ventiko here made it feel more like a home.” Two weeks into the project Soundspace (https://sndspc.com/) moved in to share the space which is Soundspace Beta and soul connections flourished. Ventiko looks forward to expanding the exhibition to London in 2020 as there are many more Saints to canonize their, bringing the project to a new community ready to embrace their inner Sainthood.
Produced by The Hive, an interdisciplinary art community based in Brooklyn, NY, “The Spaghetti-O Incident” dissects cultural references from Guns n’Roses to Martha Rosler in an examination of gendered expectations and hetero-normativity. Curated by Yasmeen Abdallah, Kathie Halfin and Ameta Wegryzn, the exhibit – occurring at 1218 Prospect Ave in Oct 2019 – features a range of interdisciplinary artists including Julia Blume, Victoria Calabro, Kat Cope, Pei-Ling Ho, Sarah Dineen, Vyczie Dorado, Ariel Kleinberg, Alison Owen, Muhajir Subuur Lesure, Jean Carla Rodea, Jordan Segal and Yasmeen Abdallah. Works on view range from performance to photography, installation to sculpture. Examining the expectations placed upon women – as artists, homemakers, cooks, and human beings – “The Spagetti-O Incident” doesn’t shy away from provocative and subversive works questioning and thwarting ideas of identity and performativity.
Gender is digested through performance that takes place in a residence: the living space provides a non-neutral scenario for the exhibit loaded with valuable context. The white cube is denied the privilege of sterilizing these powerful works on view by Kat Cope, Pei-Ling Ho, Sarah Dineen, Yasmeen Abdallah, Jordan Segal & more. The weight of the body and gender in domestic spaces, such as the kitchen, is keenly felt in this artist-curated show. Many artists reflect on ideas of food, meals, and the domestic sphere, with dishware by Jordan Segal seemingly dissolving into itself, reminiscent of cake frosting or, more morbidly, melted skin. Kat Cope’s work similarly addresses the topic of skin: specifically, clothing as a type of armor that adheres to and protects the skin. Cope notes of her fiber-based installations that “like layers of skin, layers of fiber are resistant to tearing and puncture.” Blending together elements of fashion, protection, and performance, Kat Cope’s work lies at the boundary of representation and installation.
Intrinsically linked with these ideas of gender and inequity are the experiences of the body as a home one inhabits. Performances by Vyczie Dorado, among others, display the full force of yearning and attachment that artists have to the corporeal. Connection, longing and expectation cradle the exhibition, with “The Spaghetti-O Incident” proving a necessary, essential exhibition for our contemporary moment. Intersectional feminism and bold experimentation combine to make this exhibit one formidable presentation in this Fall New York Art season.
Occasionally an art exhibit meets a space perfectly suited to its concept; this is happily the case with Trill Matrix, on view through Jan 19th at the Abrazo Interno Gallery, Clemente Soto Vélez Center. Trill Matrix, conceived as a site-specific exhibit for the Center, is curated by artist Elizabeth Riley and features works by contemporary artists Nancy Baker, Jaynie Crimmins, Christina Massey,Elizabeth Riley, Christine Romanell,Linda K. Schmidt and Etty Yaniv. These artists frequently exhibit collectively: while each is firmly rooted in their own unique artistic practice, their dialogues and discussion form interstices linking the works on view in Trill Matrix. Showcasing a blend of sculpture, mixed media, and installation works, Trill Matrix showcases ways in which contemporary art can tease our senses. From texture to color, volume to light, Trill Matrix teases aspects of reality into new, uncharted territory for all who visit. On view at the The Abrazo Interno Gallery (107 Suffolk Street) through January 19, make sure to visit during the show’s final days – if you can, catch the closing party on Sat, 1/19! Free and open to the public – come and celebrate art while also celebrating the network of women artists behind the works, a perfect way to close out the Women’s March events in NYC!
In Trill Matrix, “trill” alludes to a moment in hip-hop culture where the words “true” and “real” blended together to suggest authenticity and cultural ascendancy. Playing off this idea of reconciling two distinct words, artists on view in the exhibit remix disparate mediums to form new hybrids. Strips of fabric gathered together form a soft-sculpture-turned-light-installation, while works composed of glass and aluminum fragments hold court with another work re-claiming electronic wires and plastic into a single immersive sculpture. The network these works forms invites closer inspection, often bringing the visitor to realize a greater understanding of the beauty that lies in waste.
Christina Massey is one of the exhibiting artists whose works present the meeting point of upcycled materials and careful composition. The artist’s Crafty Collusions series brings together fragments from upcycled craft beer cans with a blend of other materials, cleverly juxtaposing the male-dominated industry of craft beer with the “femininity” of crafting. Massey reflected on the work involved in bridging the gaps while making mixed media artworks. “The materials in themselves bring certain complications, where one material doesn’t easily adhere to another,” noted Massey. “A certain amount of experimentation has to be done to find the right glues, mixture of paint, thickness of thread, etc., but I love that experimentation, that’s where you discover new things that maybe you didn’t realize were a possibility. That can be very freeing… just allowing yourself to manipulate, play and learn, admitting that the material is going to have a certain mind of its own.”
Elizabeth Riley‘s artwork, “Prototype 2 – Canopy”, slows down new media by imprinting video stills onto paper and fusing these frozen scenes with aluminum, paint and duralar, a form of acetate. Fusing different modes of representation and interpretation, Riley questions our subjective experience of reality – whether through new means of looking and questioning or by forcing the viewer to re-think what they are observing in her mixed-media works.
Artist Jaynie Crimmins similarly plays with both ideas around reality depicted through material and notions attached to craft. The artist shreds promotional mail she receives – catalogs, flyers, etc – into minute pieces that she then re-arranges into abstract geometric compositions. Reminiscent of the cardinal directions and visually capturing a format found in the most ancient cultures, Crimmins compiles works with muted color tones and fantastic textures to witness that one woman’s trash can become the world’s treasure.
Linda K. Schmidt‘s work embodies another style of geometric abstraction, with strips of semi-sheer fabrics in block colors meticulously arranged to form striped patterns. Evoking stained glass windows or dress-making patterns, Schmidt brings color field painting and craft together in one transcendental visual form. Suspended from the floor, larger than life size, these installations induce a sense of wonder in visitors encountering her installations at Trill Matrix.
Works by Nancy Baker display a skillful assimilation of sublimation into striking visual compositions. Recalling networks of neurons, or perhaps a private eye’s visuals connecting elements of an investigation, Baker’s installation for Trill Matrix ventures as many layers deep as the visitor is willing to explore. A New Yorker by birth, Baker also plays off the idea of linked infrastructure such as that found in the NYC subway; yet, her compositions incorporate found language indicating our current social anxiety and uncertainty.
Artist Etty Yaniv plays with color and texture to reference abstracted nature through sublimely arranging upcycled materials into organic, yet repetitive, patterns. Blending networks of cords and cables into fragments of materials from discarded paintings and used plastic, Yaniv draws out the inherent beauty of detritus. Her work plays with notions related to unity and disparity, tracing harmony and dissonance through her playful use of scale and masterful composition.
Christine Romanell‘s work brings mathematical formulae and data analysis into the visual arts sphere. Applying color to patterns derived through mathematical equations, yet identifying where math also traverses organic and non-repetitive functions, Romanell’s installations make visual the corners of rationale and analysis where making sense begins to break down: with beautiful results.
Don’t miss the final days of Trill Matrix! Make sure to witness for yourself this stunning survey of the possibilities present within a mindful collection of connected yet disparate mixed media artistic practices.