The Art of Pushing Paper

Paper has been in use for over two thousand years, first as a surface for important writings and then becoming more commonplace for printed materials available to the general public. As the uses of paper have evolved, artists have turned to paper for drawings, prints, and paintings; pushing the medium further by folding and deconstructing paper into three-dimensional objects or using paper pulp. Barrett Art Center’s current exhibit explores the medium of paper as an artistic medium through a national juried show, Pushing Paper.

Paul Wong, master papermaker and former artistic director of Dieu Donné, served as the juror for this national exhibit selecting 45 artists from 700 submissions. Wong described the process in his juror statement: “I looked at the intent of the exhibition and didn’t want to exclude in my selection any media that was submitted, hoping to represent the best of what I found exemplary, albeit attractive to my vision.”

BAC_PP_Leah Hamel_Memory is a Ghost
Memory is a Ghost, Leah Hamel’s paper re-creation of a bed and coverlet;

As you enter the first room in the exhibit, you cannot miss Memory is a Ghost, Leah Hamel’s paper re-creation of a bed and coverlet; or Emanuelle Schaer’s, paper mâché sculpture, An Isolated Perspective. Thom Williams repurposed folded photo paper for Catch The Wave. There are also a number of smaller pieces exhibited salon style that deserve attention, for instance, Christine B. Miller’s narrative graphite drawing on paper featuring skulls and hands, brings to mind outsider artworks.

BAC_PP_Thom Williams_Catch The Wave
Thom Williams, Catch The Wave

In the next gallery room, Michelle Samour’s piece, Eye Aggregation, was created using pigmented abaca fibers. The sculpture features layers of the fibers bound together in circular shapes, resulting in an object that appears feminine, including the glass case that could belong in a boudoir.

LMR blog Abundance II (1)
Jessica Elena Aquino’s wall-mounted paper sculpture, Abundance II,

Jessica Elena Aquino’s wall-mounted paper sculpture, Abundance II, was created with recycled paper towels. The organically shaped piece rises up the gallery wall like a cyclone.

Tayler Allen-Galusha received the Juror’s Award for Boundless, an installation that takes over the far gallery wall. What appears to be a castle door and brick archway has been created with a set of deconstructed National Union Catalogs.The door is shut and locked, perhaps to safeguard the secrets held within. In his artist statement, Allen-Galusha commented that, “books are much more than just the paper and glue that makes them, they are places to be, puzzles to solve and portals to knowledge.”

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Lennox Commissiong’s portrait, 2pacalypse

The back gallery continues the exploration of paper. One of the standouts in this space is Lennox Commissiong’s portrait, 2pacalypse, made with mosaic-size color aid paper. The artist on this series: “These African-descended men lived by strong ideals, faced great adversity, and refused to bend to the demands of societal power structures… My homage in small dots of color represents the many lives they have touched across various races and cultures and their political legacies.”

Curator Paul Wong commented on this exhibit: “Paper can be a material we take for granted in our daily routine; something that is becoming invisible; or at best, where we appreciate and collect it in the form of these aspiring artistic expressions.”

This article was originally published in the Poughkeepsie Journal Enjoy! magazine August 24, 2018.

Pushing Paper was on exhibit at Barrett Art Center through September 22, 2018.

All artworks are courtesy of the artists and copyright remains with the artists.

 

The Art of Eco Materialism

Unison Arts Center and SUNY New Paltz students have collaborated to create installations responding with ephemeral sculptural installations using an Eco Materialism theme. Inspired by Linda Weintraub’s forthcoming book, What’s Next? Eco Materialism & Contemporary Art, this exhibit responds to the urgent environmental neglect we witness in the world today. The exhibiting artists present their artworks as thoughtful responses, including the selection of materials.

The exhibit, What’s Next, also provides an ideal opportunity for a summer stroll with time to pause and consider each of the 29 stations where work has been constructed onsite, many times with items sourced from the Unison property. Michael Asbill, Visiting Lecturer at SUNY New Paltz involved students in his Collaborative Constructions course in this exhibit. Amanda Heidel, participated as a student and commented, “Starting with reading and interpreting Linda Weintraub’s text to form a proposal, to developing a list of artists to invite to respond to the text, contacting artists, reviewing of proposals, preparing the site at Unison, and assisting artists with installing their work, students were involved in every aspect of mounting this exhibit.” Visitors to the site will experience artworks that are about process, while some project a utopian viewpoint of beauty. At the gateway to the installation pick up a walking guide to get additional information on the artists’ process in approaching Eco Materialism in their pieces.

Enjoy! Moira Williams Matters of CareMoira Williams exhibits Matters of Care, featuring a stack of cannon-ball size soil filled with positive bacteria. The artist has researched Mycobacterium vaccae, known as the ‘happy bacteria’ living in soil and invites all who pass to take one home to share. Beth Haber’s installation To Be Written shows four paired slate tablets placed on podiums supported by the remains of four ash trees in a compass formation. Visitors have the opportunity to write messages, which will then be wiped clean by the natural process of rain, wind, or over-writing, suggesting that we have the power to start a new movement that considers nature first.

Enjoy! Susan Togut's Emergent Wisdom (1)

As you meander further down the path you might be drawn to the sound of water where Susan Togut’s Emergent Wisdom is installed above the Unison pond. Togut’s statement reads, “this environment seeks to evoke an appreciation for change, transformation, uncertainty, the magic of the unknown as in creativity, and the ephemerality of life.” Most of the pieces in the show focus on the transient, from the materials, used that naturally change over time, to the concepts presented in each piece. Jan Harrison and Alan Baer created Halcyon, a mythical nest-world for endangered and bird-like creatures that floats above in the tree limbs. The artists stated this is a “refuge and a place of rebirth in the global world of the sixth extinction, the Anthropocene.”Enjoy! Jan Harrison and Alan Baer's Halcyon

Exploring the exhibit heightens our sense of awareness towards the natural world. Perhaps this will extend our views on Eco Materialism as a life practice and new art movement that could change our world for the better, ensuring that we have a say in what’s next.

This article was originally published in the Poughkeepsie Journal Enjoy! section July 27, 2018.

 

Vagabond Time Killers

The annual summer exhibit at The Wassaic Project was inspired by a 1901 photo discovered by Wassaic Project co-founder Jeff Barnett-Winsby. The photo shows young adults posing holding a banner that reads, “VTK.” Handwritten on the back of the photo were the words, “Vagabond Time Killers, 1901, Wassaic NY.” The photo inspired the name of the exhibit, Vagabond Time Killers and this photo is on display at the entry of the 7-story grain elevator/gallery. The faces of the young adults in the photo show delight in the forest setting – allowing us to imagine the story we could weave about how this merry group met upstate at Wassaic every summer for summer fun.

The exhibit riffed off the feeling of freedom, the great outdoors, and the adventure of imagining something new. The first floor included Margeaux Walter’s Digital C-prints. Walter described the process as originating from large-scale installations inspired by consumer culture and domestic scenes. The patterning created by staging a floral printed tablecloth with plates filled with pastries and four diners posed in a four-cornered directional map created an embellished, balanced universe. In Bloom

Visitors could follow the music and sound coming from the back of the gallery, where Minhee Bae’s silk organza artworks hung like welcome banners to a world of experiential art. Haley Lauw and Erik Pedersen’s installation of “Junk Mouthpieces” paired with a loop of samples from the Music Masters basement created an environment inviting visitors to proceed upstairs. The installation of musical instruments continued on each floor and was viewable through cutouts seen as you climb the stairs.

Eleanor Sabin’s neon work “Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire” was installed a few levels above – the neon flame burned from logs placed in typical campfire fashion – the burned wood is a fitting melding of contemporary and historical. VTK-neonFLAMEContinuing upward, Jen Hitchings’ work is all about interpreting the summer camp out. “Red Forest” shows a camping scene with a dangerous sloping geography painted in neon blues and oranges. VTK-RedForest

Continuing up to the next level, Matthew Gamber’s images are inspired by “transcendentalist thought in the New England Landscape.” The artist created the images with a large format camera, printed as three-dimensional anaglyph prints that could be viewed with the 3-D glasses available in the gallery.

Upwards on level 6, see Tatiana Arocha’s captivating installation, “Impending Beauty.” TatianaArocha5The artist has reimagined the entire small floor as a parlor, perhaps inspired by the 1901 photo when parlors were a means of civil discourse. The walls have been papered in a moody dark forest scene with birds and forest plants – the settee has an elaborate snake coiled, ready to strike. The table has been set for tea with a tea set that has also been elaborately decorated with the dark, flora, and fauna of the jungle. The artists’ work is influenced by her native country, Columbia, along with the symbolism of 19th Century opulence and what it took from nature.

For the hardiest visitor reaching the top floor, Elias Hansen’s installation, “Looking Down the Tunnel for the Way Out” VTK-Elias-Hansentook over the entire space. The glass viewers placed in front of the windows invited viewers to look down over the scenery below – the glass created a funhouse viewpoint of the scenery below, reinforcing the idea of being in another world. VTK-glass-lens

Traveling back downstairs through eight floors of the grain elevator, visitors could appreciate the works placed on each landing by collaborative artists, Ghost of a Dream, where they used several iterations of romantic travel posters with cut out words, Forever. GhostofaDream03The artists shared this additional information about this work in their interview: “The stairwell allows for a slow and intimate reading of the work as the viewer ascends or descends the stairway. Repetition is a thread that runs through all our work, from drawings to installation. We feel that when you are dreaming about something you think about it over and over, sometimes for years.”


This essay is an expanded version of the original publication for the Poughkeepsie Journal Enjoy section Friday, August 25, 2017. Vagabond Time Travelers is up through Sunday, September 24, 2017. The Wassaic Project is located at 37 Furnace Bank Road, Wassaic, NY.

 

Art & Catalytics

In science, catalytics speed up a chemical reaction while undergoing no permanent change. Recently this premise is actively being tested at the Arts Mid-Hudson gallery – two Hudson Valley curators Emilie Houssart and Xuewu Zheng are launching a series of artistic dialogues through group art exhibitions. Houssart explained that this is facilitated “by getting artists together so that we might ‘collide’ with each other in interesting ways.”

LMRblogJinkookAltogether, eight artists are exhibiting work that could be wildly diverse without this premise. For instance, in Jinkook Hwang’s “Sushi Nam Yeo” series, rice is seen as the object of happiness and love, stemming from his cultural background. In “Couple Sushi,” the artist draws a man and woman resting on a bed of rice that has been magnified to signify its importance in his life.

 

Hayoon Jay Lee, Silent Witness (detail)
Silent Witness I, (detail) Hayoon Jay Lee

Hayoon Jay Lee also creates work responding to food, which can be seen in many of her performance pieces and artworks. Hayoon said, “I try to communicate the tension points surrounding personal conflicts and social inequities. However, a central core and a function my work is an active collaboration by artists to inform and support underserved communities.” Hayoon exhibits “Silent Witness I,” where viewers can consider the artist’s rendition of a beautifully rounded spoon, filled to the brim with rice and contemplate the idea of what is enough.

 

Emilie Houssart and Xuewu Zheng both use their artistic practice to make sense of contemporary culture. With Zheng’s practice of rolling and tying newspapers, the work reflects his fascination with history and the idea that we create a new history as we live our lives. Zheng’s practice can be summed up in his succinct statement about his work: “My goal is to take the treasures of the people in my left hand and the masters of yesterday in my right hand and to clasp them together. I then want to blend them to create the Zheng Xuewu of today.” His installation “Century Text” placed in the center of the gallery features thousands of pages rolled and tied, reminding us that history is made up of thousands of tiny details from each day.Xuewu Zheng, Century Text

Emilie Houssart, Spaces
Spaces – Emilie Houssart

 

Houssart’s work “Spaces” responds to the different perceptions of value in society. Similar to Zheng, Houssart has a darkly humorous approach to contemporary culture, adding it all into the mix and allowing everything to exist side by side in a vaguely chaotic presentation.

Marieken Cochius exhibits her recent ink and shellac drawings on paper. The artist may be influenced by the natural world: her abstraction of color and bold line stands out as a direct emotional response articulated with paper and inks. While Cochius presents ethereal line and shading, Leigh Williams exhibits “Vessels,” two forms that can be viewed as positive and negative space. The hand-built wood-fired clay has delicate colorations that defy their dark, organic shapes.

Joe Radoccia’s larger than life portraits show a dignity and gravitas in each face. Each portrait features underpainting in the background that adds to the depth and nuance of each face. Radoccia places the soul of each person on display using a grand scale and the direct gaze of the subject.Joe Radoccia, 'Joe Weber'

Sumi Pak examines human emotions of happiness, sadness, fear, and curiosity through his daily portraits of his cat, Kopi. Pak’s gestural line and colorations describe the ordinary life of his cat, and perhaps our own lives as we go about our daily business.


This essay was originally published in print:  the Poughkeepsie Journal – March 10, 2017 Sumi Pak, Getting to Know You   

Art & The Armory

Every year I head to the spring art fairs in New York City – including Volta, Scope, NADA, ADAA, and The Armory Show. This year the trend I noted was – gasp – textile! They were everywhere and the trend was seen in the gallery booths from around the globe. The textile artworks at The Armory had a variety of approaches – from sewn fabric strips arranged in color patterns to silk-screened silk panel (Robert Rauschenberg!) to some pieces that appeared to be inspired by the quilters of Gee’s Bend.

Several artists have taken up creating tapestry editions such as Kiki Smith’s artwork manifested as a Jacquard tapestry. The deer in the forest is the main image that you will notice in “Fortune,” a series on the seasons. The tapestry features borders that have a collage effect, the earth under the deer’s hooves is another world below the forest floor.

Although Kiki Smith‘s work is fairly recent (2011), another item of note about all the textiles was that some of them had been created decades earlier – in the 1970’s and 1980’s, as seen in Robert Rauschenberg‘s work.

For all the artists that I saw at The Armory Show, looking at the work and wondering when their art would be featured here, I wished I could tell them to continue making your work regardless whether it is fashionable for that season – be patient – your time will come.