Tag Archives: Julien Robson

Arts

Destructing Meaning: Joan Tanner at the Cressman Center

Exploration into material, form, and process drives Joan Tanner’s donottellmewhereibelong, an exhibition of the artist’s drawings and sculptures made during the last three decades, currently on view at the University of Louisville’s Cressman Center for Visual Arts. Tanner, who was born in Indianapolis but has lived in California since the 1960s, is dogged in her pursuit of spatial inconsistencies, visual ruptures, and structures that are at once architectonic and organic, often breaking from conventional perspective.  She is seemingly unconcerned with aesthetic appeal, and the objects she creates can be compositionally unbalanced or rudimentary in nature.

“Drawing Focus #1”, 1999, oil stick, metallic powder, and ink on Strathmore, 34.75” x 27”. Courtesy of the artist.

“Drawing Focus #2”, 1999, oil stick, metallic powder, and ink on Strathmore, 34.75” x 27”. Courtesy of the artist.

In a range of four numbered drawings entitled Drawing Focus, thick rings made with an oil stick envelop smudges of earth tones and line drawings of vessels, some of which are incomplete. Drawing Focus #2 (1999) contains an elongated vase whose body is interrupted by a dripping blotch of sienna, powdered throughout by a pale turquoise. An opaque black oval has been padded around the vase, its structural integrity unsettled due to the irregular manner of its application. Here, Tanner investigates the limitations and inherencies of her selected media and, especially in works such as Drawing Focus #1, assesses to what extent spatial relationships can be stressed before they read as incoherent.

Tanner’s probing of process and material continues in a series of drawings carrying the exhibition’s namesake, standing as opportunities for the artist to identify and translate concepts, combining architectural and scientific forms that effectively distort vantage points and create perceptive disarray. 

“donottellmewhereibelong #19”, 2014, oil stick, pencil, chalk, colored pastel, 22” x 30”. Courtesy of the artist.

Such is the case in donottellmewhereibelong #19 (2014), a multi-perspective diagram populated with an assortment of browns, blues, and greens that invoke landscapes of the American west. The drawing is strikingly topographic, though viewers may find it difficult to determine if donottellmewhereibelong #19 provides an aerial or frontal viewpoint; it may not matter—Tanner provides enough incongruity for drawings such as this to operate abstractly.

With her materials as guide (the work is listed as a cellophane collage), Tanner transforms the empirical into the whimsical, the geometric into the organic. Moreover, works comprising the donottellmewhereibelong series—which can resemble charts, blueprints, or layouts—invariably map Tanner’s wrestling of ideas and the processes she undergoes to describe them.

donottellmewhereibelong is curated by Julien Robson, who has known Tanner for nearly 30 years and has worked with her on multiple projects, including a solo show of Tanner’s work at the Speed Art Museum in 2001 as well as an interview for the catalog accompanying On Tenderhooks at the Otis College of Art and Design’s Ben Maltz Gallery in 2006.

In the interview, Robson wonders to what degree Tanner’s practice is informed by political positions, to which Tanner replies such inquiries are not “off-base, but posturing a moral or political stance is not [her] intention.” If anything, Tanner maintains undertones of pacifism, as the objects in donottellmewhereibelong are subtle in the ways in which they critique the detrimental characteristics, irreversible ramifications, and destructive nature of global capitalism.

“donottellmewhereibelong #15”, 2014, oil stick, pencil, chalk, colored pastel, 22” x 30”. Courtesy of the artist.

By depicting an abstracted power plant—complete with five smoke stacks emitting an impenetrable fog—in donottellmewhereibelong #15 (2014), Tanner draws attention to environmental decay and the tangible sites spearheading climate change that are, for many viewers, frequently omitted from everyday life. In this drawing, the artist employs murky gray tones and deep crimsons to suggest harm that is both contaminating and corporeal, yet terse sections of blue imply that Tanner maintains optimism regarding humanity’s ability to correct course.

Containing some of the more overt, singular subject matter in the exhibition, donottellmewhereibelong #15 possesses a formal connection with other drawings in the gallery through the layering of various media, contradictory perspectives, and structures—in this case, the smoke stacks—that resemble geological formations above all else. Although Tanner admits that her works are not designed to function politically, it may be likely that her social, economic, and cultural tendencies seep into her creative processes. In donottellmewhereibelong, this occurs in disparate ways.

“Screen Hat”, 1990-2010, wood, Xerox, cloth, metal screen, casters, acrylic, 12” x 17” x 17”. Courtesy of the artist.

Indeed, political implications can be inferred at numerous points in the exhibition. In each instance, Tanner retains a pacifist demeanor. Screen Hat (1990-2010), a small found object sculpture of headwear floating above a two-dimensional rendering of a face, can be framed as an imagined post-apocalyptic scene. The sculpture’s parts are unclean and corroded, as if they had been pulled from the remnants of a fire or combat.

By assembling these incongruous parts into a unified form, she removes them from the meaning they may have once had. More palpably, violence is recalled in a visceral sense by certain components and the ways in which they are attached: thumb tacks puncture the sculpture’s base, nails drive into the wooden frame, a chain bears down upon the face, and a metal screen spurs from atop the hat.

Screen Hat operates as both an index and representation of destruction, as well as a moment to reflect on the consequences of a world order fueled and sustained by invasion, war, and physical dominance. Moreover, the sculpture is anchored to four wheels, insinuating that violence and the forces that extrude it are capable of mobility.

Destruction is a thematic thread in donottellmewhereibelong, albeit not always in a manner relating to discerned subject matter. After all, Tanner states in the 2006 interview that she believes “we are hard-wired toward received perceptions, impressions, and readings of the world.” Instead, as Tanner allows her work to inform itself, the destructive moment in the process becomes a focal a point. Tanner embraces the collapse of utility, formal composition, and connotation. It is as if her exploration of material and form portends a breaking down, anticipating the erosion of deduced meaning.

As a result, donottellmewhereibelong consists of familiar shapes and objects that have gained any number of possible contexts. Viewers are able to apply their own experiences in interpreting what Tanner has created, which perhaps centers their imagination as the primary focal point of the artist’s work.

The exhibition is on view through October 27th at The Cressman Center Gallery located at 100 East Main Street in Louisville.

Hunter Kissel is an arts administrator, writer, and curator based in Louisville, KY. He received a Master of Art in Critical and Curatorial Studies as well as a Master of Public Administration from the University of Louisville in 2017.

Arts

Round 2: Artist Professional Development Grants

GREAT MEADOWS FOUNDATION ANNOUNCES NEW DEADLINES FOR ARTIST PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT GRANTS

Due to the success of the inaugural round of Artist Professional Development Grants this past summer, the Great Meadows Foundation will now run this grant program three times a year. For the result of the first round, visit the UnderMain Post from August of this year. These grants are open for artists living in Kentucky and the counties of Floyd and Clarke in Indiana.

Additional information about the Shands’ collection can be found in the text Great Meadows: The Making of Here and Elizabeth Ann Smith’s You Are Here – a review for UnderMain when the text was released.

The next deadline for applications is November 20, 2016. Grants can be employed in the period January 6th through June 30th, 2017.

For further information go to www.greatmeadowsfoundation.org
Information about grant cycles in 2017

Cycle 1. 2017
Grant Cycle January 6 through June 30, 2017
Application deadline: Midnight on Sunday November 20, 2016
Notification date: December 30, 2016
Report deadline: July 21, 2017

Cycle 2. 2017
Grant Cycle May 1 through October 31, 2017
Application deadline: Midnight on Sunday March 19, 2017
Notification date: April 24, 2017
Report deadline: November 21, 2017

Cycle 3. 2017
Grant Cycle September 1, 2017 through February 28, 2018
Application deadline: Midnight on Sunday July 23, 2017
Notification date: August 25, 2017
Report deadline: March 21, 2018

Arts

Great Meadows Foundation Announcement

PRESS RELEASE

August 1, 2016

Great Meadows Foundation is pleased to announce the award of 19 grants to artists in the Kentucky region through the inaugural cycle of the Artists Professional Development Grants program. Supporting artists from across the state, the grants will enable recipients to travel to visit conferences, major exhibitions, art fairs and biennials, and to connect with professionals in the field whose expertise can help them develop their practice.

Speaking about the inaugural program, Al Shands, founder of Great Meadows Foundation, says: “we are thrilled that Kentucky artists are so ambitious in terms of what they want to see, who they want to meet, and how they see these grants benefitting them.” Julien Robson, Director of Great Meadows Foundation adds: “We received 36 very good applications for this inaugural program and are proud that, with these 19 grants, we will be able help a total of 20 artists fulfill travel projects that will expand their horizons, help them build new connections, and support their growth as artists.”

Grantees were selected with the advice of an external reviewer, a professional in the field from outside the region. The amount of support given in the 19 grants totals $40,768.-, with individual awards ranging between $1,000.- and $4,980.-. Grantee artists will be enabled to travel to American cities like Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Pittsburgh, as well as to Cuba, Denmark, France, Mexico, Italy, Korea, UAE, and the United Kingdom in pursuit of their proposals.

Grantee artists in this inaugural cycle are: Kayla Bischoff, Louisville; Mary Carothers, Louisville; Dave Caudill, Louisville; Valerie Sullivan Fuchs, Shelbyville; Brian Harper, New Albany; Kenneth Hayden, Louisville; Jacob Heustis, Louisville; Amira Karaoud, Louisville; Jonathan McFadden, Lexington; Elizabeth Mesa-Gaido, Morehead; Neli Ouzounova, Bowling Green; Letitia Quesenberry, Louisville; Stacey Reason and Andrew Cozzens (collaboration), Louisville; Kristin Richards, Louisville; Nathan G. Smith, Louisville; Skylar Smith, Louisville; James Robert Southard, Lexington; Richard Sullivan, Louisville; and Sarah West, Mount Sterling.

Artist Professional Development Grants is an ongoing program of the Great Meadows Foundation and will have deadlines three times each year. The next cycle will beannounced at the beginning of September, 2016 on the foundation’s website and

Facebook page. www.greatmeadowsfoundation.org

Great Meadows Foundation is a grant giving foundation, launched in 2016 by contemporary art collector and philanthropist Al Shands. Named for the home that Al and his late wife Mary created, the vision of Great Meadows Foundation is to strengthen and support the visual arts in Kentucky by empowering our community’s artists and other visual arts professionals to research, connect, and participate more actively in the broader contemporary art world. Artist Professional Development Grants are focused on supporting and forwarding the careers of Kentucky artists. This grant program promotes the growth and development of visual art in Kentucky by helping improve the skills, resources, knowledge, and connections of artists. The grant program aims to further artists’ careers by encouraging them to engage with the broader art world and raising the bar for art being produced in the region. Developing artists’ awareness of and participation in the national and international art world, Artist Professional Development Grants aim to strengthen the level of discourse and practice among artists in the state.

For more information, visit: http://greatmeadowsfoundation.org

Arts

The Great Meadows Foundation has launched!

Yes, it is here and yes, it is in support of Kentucky artists.

Great Meadows Foundation is a grant giving foundation, launched in 2016 by contemporary art collector and philanthropist Al Shands. Named for the home that Al and his late wife Mary created, the vision of Great Meadows Foundation is to strengthen and support the visual arts in Kentucky by empowering our community’s artists and other visual arts professionals to research, connect, and participate more actively in the broader contemporary art world.

The initial program, Artists Professional Development Grants, will provide visual artists in Kentucky with grants for travel outside the state, both nationally and internationally. This program encourages artists to engage critically with the international art world and thereby to enrich the art environment we live in. Awardees for the first summer cycle will be announced in August. While that deadline has passed, we hope you will stay tuned for an announcement of our next.

As the foundation develops, it will expand its scope with other types of grants and we look forward to keeping you abreast of these programs as they come on line. Future programs will be publicized through the GreatMeadowsFoundation website’s newsfeed, on Facebook and through Twitter.

We encourage you to forward information about Great Meadows Foundation, its website, and programs to colleagues and other visual arts professionals around Kentucky and help us raise awareness of this new support structure within the state.

Sincerely,

Al Shands, Founder

Julien Robson, Director

Photo Credits: Verana Gerlach and Edward Winters

Read Also: A Review of Great Meadows: The Making of Here

Arts

not-your-grandmothers’ Nude Show

Heads up, Lexington! Just when the winter’s cold and grey was starting to get your seasonal affective disorder riled up, along comes a blast of heat and light, courtesy of the Lexington Art League’s new exhibit ARTIST:BODY.

Drawn from artists and private collections in the region by guest curator Julien Robson, the show is a selection of self-portraits, most of them nudes. No, this is not a replacement for the long-running LAL annual exhibit, The Nude, which was put out to pasture a couple of years back for a well-deserved rest. ARTIST:BODY is something else again, and definitely not-your-grandmothers’-Nude Show.

Photos courtesy Guy Mendes

Board member Haviland Argo felt compelled to make two things clear: “There are representations of nudity in this show.” And, “There are NO representations of sex in this show.” He added: “It is not a show of titillating images and objects. It is a thoughtful explication of the artist’s complicated relationship to the body.”

The images to be found in ARTIST:BODY are more of the in-your-face variety, provocative but also poignant, occasionally whimsical, and sometimes funny, even with death looming. Anette Messager gives new meaning to the term Bearded Lady. Shinique Smith turns work clothes into a bound-up version of the Venus of Willendorf. Leslie Lyon’s idyllic three-panel romp ends with an unexpected inversion. Julius Deutschbauer’s beefy real self against an impressive bookshelf is as good as it gets. Annie Sprinkles’ inventive Bosom Ballet is followed up by a more documentary tone in her Beats Cancer Ballet. And Martha Wilson and John Coplans remind us that time takes its toll on us all.

Robson, formerly a curator at Louisville’s Speed Museum, says, “Artists have increasingly employed themselves as both the subject and object of their work. This type of art can be seen as a form of self-portraiture that addresses identity…and how an artist deals with the nature of beauty, desire, sexuality and mortality.”

Louis Zoellar Bickett, What I Read, Inkjet Print

Louis Zoellar Bickett, What I Read, Inkjet Print

Robson purposely mixed works by international art stars like Kiki Smith, Cindy Sherman, Francesca Woodman and Sam Taylor-Johnson with regional artists to put them in a broader framework. Hence, we are fortunate to have Louis Bickett showing us what he’s reading-in-the-raw, Mare Vaccaro contemplating her lovely self-portrait-within-a-self-portrait, Carrie Burr’s form pressed into a large pile of Forbidden Black Rice, and Chris Radtke’s dual self-image made up of wooden boxes and broken glass.

Also on display, in effect, are the collectors, the largest of which is the 21c Museum Hotel Foundation. To see its contributions to this show gives Lexingtonians some idea of what they’ll find at the new Lexington 21c, which opens with a ribbon cutting on February 29th at 3 pm.

ARTIST:BODY features 27 artists, including Thaniel Ion Lee, Cynthia Norton, Gabriel Martinez, Rene Pena, Hannah Wilke, Xaviera Simmons, Penelope Slinger and Mark Boyle.

There is much for the eye to contemplate, and for the mind to see.

Besides producing high quality exhibits, the LAL has been building wider support for artists in Kentucky, with its Community Supported Arts harvests and sales, (some of which are still available on their website) as well as their periodic auctions for collectors, both of which have benefitted area artists.

Arts

Insight in the Details

Walking into Louisville’s Zephyr Gallery for Project 7, curated by Julien Robson, one is immediately met with a shelving system of black notebook binders, arranged in such a way that they form a wall framing a single doorway. It is here, by stepping through the annals of the artist, that one enters the Archive. This collection allows the viewer a glimpse into the art and artifacts of Louis Zoellar Bickett, a well accomplished Lexington-based artist who has been collecting and cataloguing so-called ‘mundane’ yet fascinating objects from his daily existence since 1972. He calls us to reconsider the notions of voyeur and collector through the presentation of his Archive.

In the liminal space past the bank of binders, the viewer stands face-to-face with a screen showing the artist’s head. Here, Bickett’s mouth slowly opens and closes, silently screaming the names of 9/11 victims (9:11, 2007). A sobering moment, this piece also serves another purpose: it is an orifice that swallows the visitor deeper into a more personal and revealing space of the artist. For it is past this screen, the viewer may either climb the stairs to a room filled with self-portraits and collected specimens, or advance past the screen wall to Daddy’s Bedroom (2001-present). Both paths proceed to place the viewer in a role of voyeur. For now, let us climb upward. At the top of the stairs, 10,000 selfies lie hidden away within an iPad, exposed to the gaze of the viewer one at a time, and under the viewer’s control as one flips through them, ad infinitum. These intimate headshots, showing varying degrees of severity and levity, bring to mind a statement regarding voyeurism by Annette Messager, “I want the viewer to have the impression of discovering terrible secrets when what is involved is a ridiculous image, even if this image always touches us in the end.” We are indeed touched, and intrigued, and encouraged to continue to explore. (At the same time, does this work not challenge us to question popular reality tv, over-sharing via social media, and how we view ourselves and others?)

The adjoining upstairs chamber reveals larger, almost overwhelming self-portraits on facing walls and specimens to either side. The images maintain an ever-consistent pose on the part of the artist, yet with interchanging hats (Every Hat I Own, July 31, 2008) and religious texts (What I Read – The Holy Bible, What I Read – The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an, January 4, 2008). The specimens, located on the two remaining sides of the room, encompass both personal and environmental documentation. The eye-catching Backbar (A Piss a Day in 2003) brings to mind Duchamp with a Kentucky twist. Within 365 liquor bottles, many of them bourbon-branded, is encased urine of the artist, all with varying degrees of color, teasing the viewer that the liquid might be potable. The Archive boxes which housed these bottles surround them, an ever-present reminder of the catalogued nature of the items. Across the room is a cabinet with glass doors, filled with glass jars, reminiscent of a wunderkammer, or cabinet of wonders. Hermetically sealed yet allowing transparency for easy observation, the Roman red wax-sealed jars hold soil and water samples from places such as Eudora Welty’s grave, the Appomattox County Courthouse (VA), and the Gulf of Mexico. Is it not through both introspection of self and of experience with the outside world that one constructs identity? Louis’ Archive certainly addresses both of these perspectives – in this room and in the bedroom below.

Returning to the moment in which we were swallowed by the artist via the screen in 9:11, we now continue into Daddy’s Bedroom. One cannot help but be enthralled by the ‘curiosities’ that fill this room, creating a sense of intense intimacy and social critique. Who is this ‘Daddy’? The term is called into question as signifying both a father-figure and an older man in a gay relationship. The visually depicted definitions coexist and overlap in layers of constructed meaning through the objects collected. But let us take a step back and look at the room as a whole – there is a 1940s red twin-sized bed, a nightstand, a desk, a bookcase, a small curio cabinet, a dresser with hutch, six chairs of varying sizes, multitudinous framed pictures, books, more jars of environmental specimens, and assorted artifacts such as prescription bottles, garbage contents, trophies, and the ashes of a beloved dog; all belonging to or related to ‘Daddy’ and all carrying specifying tags of the Archive. Through the readymade items themselves, subtle details construct identity, whether through a book of Mapplethorpe, a soil sample from Oxford, Mississippi, a drawing of David Bowie, or a pair of glasses labeled, “becoming someone else.” Some items are noted as “momento mori” such as an etched mirror and photographs. Other photographs have slang terms written across the lips of the subject, serving to challenge speech acts of racism and homophobia. The collective result of all of these items is to place the viewer in the place of voyeur and to challenge societal prejudices, all while documenting the experience of life from an individual perspective which is at once transparent and varied, personal and historical.

Louis Zoellar Bickett has encompassed three main areas in his work: it is at the same time autobiographical, a document of history, and social critique. Depicting both an introspective perspective and objects from one’s surrounding environment, history is documented from Louis’ lens. But what is the documentation of history besides a subjective recording of events anyway? No human can ever be purely objective. Here, we are seeing history through both Louis’ lens and our own, layering our own perspectives and better seeing his as well.

So what of a collection such as the Archive? It is an ever-growing, ever-developing being; it is also a means to create a presence beyond one’s mortality. As Annette Messager noted, “Collecting is a way of struggling against death. A collection is always more and more beautiful, bigger and bigger, always incomplete.”

Louis is indeed a collector, an archivist, and a preservationist of experience. Most importantly, however, through these roles he a catalyst for us all to rethink how personal and societal identity is constructed.

Arts

Louis Zoellar Bickett: The Archive

Louis Zoellar Bickett: The Archive, Curated by Julien Robson

April 3—May 30, 2015, Zephyr Gallery, Louisville, Ky,

Louis Zoellar Bickett: The Archive was the seventh exhibition in an ongoing series of special curatorial projects at the Zephyr Gallery in Louisville, KY that examines the creative activity of regional artists, activists, designers, thinkers and tinkerers. Independent Curator Julien Robson’s turn at the reins presented a solo show of one of the area’s most prolific and unique artists. Previously, as curator of contemporary art at the Speed Museum, Robson was instrumental in formulating and cementing what many already believed, that Louis Bickett is perhaps the most inventive artistic mind in the area.

Robson’s exhibition at Zephyr was a compact, yet vital and succinct selection of work from Bickett’s immeasurable output. Upon entering the gallery visitors encountered a floor to ceiling bookshelf made from 2×4’s that spanned the width of the room. Filled with black ring binders wrapped in plastic, this bookshelf, monumental in the small gallery, serves as a self-made monument in memoriam to Bickett’s own life. The binders comprise The Cultural Memorabilia Volume Project, an ongoing mixed media collection of documents from the artist’s life from 1972 to the present that includes photographs of friends, family and strangers, along with daily receipts and letters. It is a detailed record of the day-to-day experiences of his life. The shelf was not set against a wall, but rather was cleverly constructed in the middle of the room in order to function as a fulcrum.

When passing through the doorway in the shelf one entered an exhibition that skillfully presented a portrait of this artist as an archivist, timekeeper, and documentarian.

As with much of the work in the show, including Daddy’s Bedroom, The Cultural Memorabilia Cabinet, and the self-portrait projects, Bickett’s work is generally regarded as one large archival project in progress. The ongoing construction of this archive can also be seen as an ongoing construction of Bickett’s own identity as an artist, a Lexington resident, a traveler, a collector, a sorter, and a creator of typologies. The work that Robson selected and its arrangement throughout the exhibition presented a clear narrative of an artist with a considerable and complex story to tell.

Bickett belongs to a notable class of artists like Fred Wilson and Mark Dion who have used the museum as muse in their practice. Robson deftly took advantage of this feature within Bickett’s work with the inclusion of Daddy’s Bedroom, which I feel is among one of the more crucial works in understanding Bickett’s archival process. In this bedroom installation, consisting of a vintage red metal-framed bed with photographs and heirloom objects neatly placed throughout a series of antique shelves and drawers, Bickett has systematically tagged every item in sight. The written label that accompanies each object describes various details about its significance and provenance, from whom and when it was acquired into the Archive. Lining the walls of this bedroom scene are additional relics chronicling the artist’s life combined with artworks created by close friends. The room, taken as a whole, serves as an open diary or, as Robson points out in the curatorial statement, an autobiography that will be complete only, “through the final tagging of the artist’s body in the morgue.” This connects well with the anthropologist turned artist Susan Hiller’s own observation of Freud’s personal archive. She noted the way he would display his collection as though it “was basically from a tomb, connected with a dead body or vanishing civilization.”

The 9:11 videocreated in 2007, was a wise addition, as it’s likely one of the more significant works in the context of both the exhibition and Bickett’s oeuvre. It presents a tightly framed image of Bickett’s face repeatedly opening and closing his mouth. Each time he opens his mouth a name of a 9/11 victim emerges. He completes the nearly 3000-person list in 3 hours, 33 minutes, and 52 seconds. It is significant because his work typically records his own experiences, but here he is mending his identity with those who experienced the tragedy and perished. As the individual names appear on screen it is as though he is saying, “I am a paramedic, a firefighter, a police officer, a business man, a business woman, a janitor, and a citizen from each of the 115 nations that lost their people.” This work continues with his themes of death and in memoriam, but rather than referencing his own life and mortality he creates a memorial to others. Within the lexicon of artworks inspired by the casualties of war it is his Guernica.

The show presented several images of Bickett in a series of self portrait projects: In the Dream I was Beautiful and Everyone Loved Me (10,000) Selfies (displayed on an Android Tablet) and Every Hat I Own (19 images displayed on a video monitor of Bickett wearing, for example, baseball hats, snow caps, ski masks, bandanas and a keffiyah). Robson made large format photographs of What I Read (The Holy Bible) and What I Read (The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an) both from a self-portrait photo essay of Bickett holding various selections from his personal library. Robson’s decision to present these two images as a diptych was a perfect demonstration of Bickett’s method of presenting multiple identities, revealing the totalizing nature of his self-portrait projects and the archival impulse that is central to all of Bickett’s work.

The show was fittingly punctuated by Backbar (A Piss a Day in 2003), an installation of 365 bottles of urine contained in wax sealed liquor bottles. Much like the daily food and other purchase receipts that Bickett keeps in The Cultural Memorabilia Volume Project, this work represents a kind of daily portrait of the artist. It isn’t simply the bodily waste of the artist, but a liquid record of his specific food and drink consumption for each day over the course of a year.

Bickett is systematic, sentimental and nostalgic. He and his work are inseparable from each other: dark, humorous, empathetic, compassionate, often engaged in exploring the area between propriety and transgression. He exposes the very nature of all archival materials as being found yet constructed, factual as well as fictive, public and also private. Through his feverish archival impulses he helps to preserve cultural memory, rescuing objects before they vanish, while also exposing the nature of the archivist’s fascination with mortality and death. All of this was well captured in the Zephyr show and was one of the best installations of the Archive that I have seen.

Arts

You Are Here

 

A Review of Great Meadows: The Making of Here

When a book is truly exceptional, it can transport its readers elsewhere. For a moment, physical place and imagined location are unhinged — the reader is no longer bound to their sofa or chair, but can wander freely through another world. The mind is at once absent and present: taken from one location and placed in another. Great Meadows: The Making of Here acts as a portal not only to The Shands’ residence and collection, but a testament to the tenor within its walls. Indeed, it is more than a book — it is an extension of the Shands’ life and home.

Al Shands is an Episcopal Priest and author, as well as an award-winning filmmaker, with over thirty-five documentary films to his credit. His late wife, Mary Norton Shands, an activist in cultural affairs, co-founded and was first President of the Kentucky Art and Craft Foundation (now KMAC).

Great Meadows presents an intimate look in to the making of the Shands’ residence, and provides a comprehensive backstory to the architecture, collection, and collectors. The book avoids a pedantic introduction — readers are instead encouraged to “dive right in” through excerpts from A Career and Selected Projects by the architect, David Morton. Part of Morton’s allure is his simplicity: he comments that the Shands’ residence was graphed by pocket calculator, pencil, and paper — no computers or technical drafting aids. The completed project is prodigious yet modest: Great Meadows can accommodate up to one hundred and fifty guests for dinner, but at the same time, remain intimate enough for two people.[1]

Small yet powerful gestures contained within the book’s pages hide in every nook and cranny — “easter eggs” for the reader to stumble upon. In between two pages of Morton’s excerpts is a copy of Reverend Shands’ penned speech from the opening reception of Great Meadows in September 1988, printed on the same delicate paper and typeface one might encounter in a bible. Before he began collecting with his late wife Mary, Shands founded an Episcopal church in Washington D.C., and these inserts, which continue throughout the book, stand as physical reminders of his history.

Spearheaded and edited by independent curator and contributing author Julien Robson (previously affiliated with the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Speed Art Museum), Great Meadows boasts essays from critics, curators, poets, and artists — all whom have connected, in some time and place, with the Shands. This includes but is not limited to such figures as Peter Morrin, former director of the Speed Museum, Glenn Adamson, author and critic, Alice Gray Stites, current director of 21c Museum Hotels, Maya Lin, sculpture and landscape artist (and designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C.), and sound artist Stephen Vitiello. Each essay is specific to the book — they are documents of their respective authors’ connection and relationship with Alfred and Mary Shands.

Perhaps the most poignant essay is authored by John Yau, renowned poet and writer. Although the book is lined with vibrant color photos, “In Time, With Al Shands” is even more vivid — Yau’s imagery is a transformative journey, allowing the reader to silently accompany. Indeed, I forgot where I was for a moment while reading his words; I was observing a conversation between friends, weaving through the beautiful architecture that makes one feel as though they are both inside and outside at the same time, and slowly coming to understand the relationship between the art, the home, and the collectors.

Blurring the lines between art object and book, Great Meadows features stunning high-resolution photographs in addition to architectural drawings and artist sketches. Capturing the essence of site-specific artwork is no easy feat, but the photographers convey both the texture and presence of each installation. The office, home to Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing #1082 (2003) is presented through fifteen images, varying in size and scale. The proceeding blank page is representative of the white space above the office door, only visible just before exiting the room. Truly, these small details are what render this project an “index of experience” rather than a book.

Entire pages of Great Meadows are devoted to a single color. The intensity of Anish Kapoor’s yellow concave disc, Untitled (1999), can be partially experienced on page sixty-five through a full-color experience – sans its warping of sound, which is only evident through encountering it in Rev. Shands’ first-floor walkway. It is as if every angle of the home is carefully documented, acting as a record of the artworks’ interaction with the architecture, and vice versa.

Each work, both inside and outside of the residence, is carefully selected and thoughtfully placed to engage with both the architecture and the viewer. Indeed, Rev. Shands is a mindful collector; you will find no large art storage area within the walls of Great Meadows. Although some works migrate throughout the house from time to time, they each have a space and that space is documented throughout the book’s bright pages.

Perhaps this is why the making Great Meadows is so important: the book will serve as documentation of site — a physical reminder of what was — when the artwork is separated from the home upon the passing of its owner. Rev Shands has bequeathed his collection to Louisville, Kentucky’s Speed Art Museum, and one day it will make the journey to its new permanent home on South Third Street. “A vital part of the collection is the way that you share it with others,” he states in the book’s conversation with Alice Gray Stites.[2] Indeed, the entirety of Great Meadows: The Making of Here fulfills that very statement.

Great Meadows: The Making of Here is available in limited edition through Hatje Cantz.

[1] David Morton, A Career and Selected Notes in Great Meadows: The Making of Here (Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2014), 12.

[2] Al Shands, “Excerpts from a Conversation with Alice Gray Stites” in Great Meadows: The Making of Here (Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2014), 121.