Getting back to ON THE ROAD: Our Tiffany Gallery is currently housing work by Mary Mattingly, courtesy of Robert Mann Gallery.
Mattingly’s work in the show breaks in two different directions: On one side, there’s dystopic, sci-fi-tinged fiction, as seen in the Nomadographies: constructed photographs of a fantastic entropic future where the ocean levels have risen, the terrain is either impossibly lush or impassably hostile, and people need to take to the road and travel light. (Below: photos of Mary Mattingly's work in ON THE ROAD at AAC.)
Mattingly on the photos:
I began the series Nomadographies by doing research, drawing sketches, and by imagining a possible scenario. The story evolved into a series of ad hoc and adaptive low and hi-tech solutions for the circumstances of nomadic life, goals of self-sufficiency, and depictions of a not-so-distant future when the amount of forced environmental and political refugees has increased worldwide, and new temporary communities are continuously created and recreated...Nomadographies is a pilgrimage through real and imagined terrains, a travelogue for the future.
Also in this vein is Mattingly’s video, Pangaea Ultima, which presents a world that once was and might be again: Earth is returned via some ecological disaster to a prehistoric state. A voiceover tells us about an era in which the rainforests have been leveled, turned into deserts. We see images of wandering tribes of humans inhabiting a raging, shifting, inhospitable climate. The viewer is left uncertain as to how far into the future—43 years, or centuries from now?—this cataclysm is supposed to occur.
See video below; click here if the player doesn’t appear.
On the other side, there’s documentation of Mattingly’s Waterpod project—an incredible, utopian-sounding but very real undertaking. The Waterpod was a 120 foot barge on which the artist and a team of collaborators lived and worked for five months in 2009. It was conceived as a “floating, sculptural eco-habitat designed for the rising tides,” according to the project website.
Mattingly received help from Appropedia founder Lonny Grafman and students from his Humboldt State University engineering class, Engineering 215: Introduction to Design, in which students typically “...work in teams with a client to address some real-world problem or opportunity.”
The problems Grafman’s team needed to solve included generating power, purifying water, disposing of human waste, and raising chickens:
The Waterpod visited all of New York’s five boroughs and Governor’s Island, taking on passengers at every stop. It became a site where scientists, artists, performers, and ordinary New Yorkers could exchange information, educate one another, and think seriously about what sort of future world we humans are designing through decisions we make now—and what it might take to survive there.
Mariah Anne Johnson, a DC artist whose work you may have seen at Transformer and WPA, and who will be showing at AAC in SPRING SOLOS 2011 this April, has had a novel idea: She's converted the second story "sleeping porch" of her Capitol Hill rowhouse (hey, I have one of those!) into a gallery space.
My question: Why aren't more people doing this sort of thing? (Me, I'm already busy showing other people's art most of the time as it is. But the rest of you: You have no excuse! Report to your carriage houses, sleeping porches, or rented box trucks immediately.)
Following his very poorly received show at Marlborough Gallery in 1970 (Hilton Kramer's scathing review was titled "A Mandarin Pretending to Be a Stumblebum"), Guston and his wife Musa McKim accepted an invitation to get the heck out of town, staying at the American Academy in Rome for about seven months, from around Halloween 1970 to May of 1971.
During that time, Guston completed a series of pinkish-hued works on paper, panel, and canvas that proved a compelling mix of reflections on local gardens, ruins, and architecture; Italian painting from the 14th century to the 20th; and the strange, radically altered state of his own painting practice.
Below is a video from the NGA about Guston's transformation. It features Willem deKooning's great comment re: other AbExers feeling that Guston had betrayed them: "What do they think, we're all in a baseball team?"
(If the video player doesn't appear, try this link.)
On Saturday, March 5, at 2:00 pm, Graham Coreil-Allen will be leading a walking tour through some of the least loved parts of Arlington: strange humming electronic boxes hidden from view by cinderblocks…cracked paved voids where functional structures presumably once stood…signs that no longer convey information…curiously landscaped interstitial spaces that leave the eye confused and the body stranded.
These sorts of neglected, haphazard looking surplus sites are common in any suburban or urban zone: places that developers and planners forgot, or simply hoped would not be noticed. Graham treats these places as opportunities for action. He wants his audience to reclaim and repurpose the places he calls New Public Sites.
As Graham describes his project (in oddly poetic-sounding language):
Among towers, over voids, within our fleeting reflective movements there live vistas invisible and playscapes for all.
Immersed in the sublime matter of place, grasping these moments of our daily passing, drifting through infinite sites of freedom, we test the limits of space public and cultivate situations unseen.
In the catalog for ON THE ROAD, I tag Graham as a practitioner of what LA artist and writer Trevor Paglen calls experimental geography. There’s a fine ICI exhibit (curated by Nato Thompson of Creative Time) with that same title that’s currently on tour; I would definitely recommend the catalog, which you can buy here.
Graham's work is perhaps gentler and definitely funnier than a lot of these sorts of projects--and if you know me, you know I like artists who bring the funny, especially while still tackling heavy subject matter.
See images from Graham's AAC installation below:
See a map of some of these sites in Arlington that are likely to be stops on the tour here...and for a sense of what that March 5 walking tour--which, again, will depart from the AAC galleries at 2:00 pm--might feel like, check out the video below.
It's a tour of the southeast corner of 33rd and Frisby Streets in the Waverly neighborhood of Baltimore--a site called Tinges Commons. This green screen video was created for Anarchy in the Kitchen, an exhibit featured as part of the 2010 Umami Food and Art Festival:
I first heard about Nick Lucking and Tim Ivison's SPCMKR on a Bad At Sports podcast back in January 2009. Frankly, hearing the two explain their project--which offered artists a space in which to propose, share opportunities for, and document informal artist-run residencies--inspired me to begin putting together ON THE ROAD.
It seemed obvious to me that I needed to find a way to include these guys in the show. What was less clear was how to present the SPCMKR project--particularly at a moment when spcmkr.com had been hacked beyond repair. A web terminal in the gallery was out of the question.
The solution that Tim and Nick came up with was simple: a large tape grid on the floor of the gallery, featuring hard copies of images and data and what few artifacts or snapshots remain from the residencies that made up SPCMKR. The result looks a bit like the restaging of some minimal/conceptual art project from the early 1970s--or maybe an archaeological or forensic reconstruction of some recently excavated crime scene.
Below are some shots of the install, some pics included in that installation, and the statement Nick and Tim drafted for the gallery:
Studios, residencies, equipment, and exhibition spaces are the foundations of the art world as we know it, but they are often made artificially scarce through competition and difficult financial circumstances. The program objective of SPCKMR was, first and foremost, to create a forum in which artists and cultural producers could discuss and access material resources through a loose network of exchange.
We aimed to connect artists helping artists to find the resources they needed to support travel, production, exhibition, and convivial association, whether for escapism, reconnaissance, work, tourism, or refuge. Not only did the project aim to provide the rudiments of temporary housing through a network of available spaces, but it also encouraged the sharing of tools, access to social networks and opportunities within various fields before, during, and after the exchange.
The idea for this project emerged out of a unique opportunity to visit Mexico City. Our mutual friend and colleague, Frederick Janka, offered us access to his apartment in the Centro Historico of Mexico City, under the auspices of an informal residency program for artists visiting the city. James Young, Frederick’s roommate in Mexico City, also become involved, acting as a liaison and guide for visitors during their stay. The romantic lure of working in one of the most populated, chaotic, and sprawling cities in the world, on ANY kind of project, proved to be impossible for us to pass up.
But what was also interesting to us was the nature of the invitation itself. Here we were, presented with a very impressive and very useful surplus resource that was at our disposal. In addition to the relative lack of investment required in taking advantage of this opportunity, we – in accepting this surplus – were ourselves creating a surplus when leaving our respective apartments in Los Angeles (coincidentally within four blocks of each other). In fact, since both of us were leaving to inhabit a single apartment, it seemed one opportunity had become two for other friends, relatives or invited strangers. And it is this proliferation of contingent opportunities for the sharing of resources that we wanted to examine here.
We were surely inspired by Craigslist, couchsurfing, rideshare message boards, and ye olde classified ads of all sorts. In our particular project, we sought to make something that was more directed towards artists, but also eschewed the trappings of most social media, going for the most minimal administrative and technological threshold possible: the wiki platform. But of course, we also wanted to somehow formalize and articulate the exchanges in a way that would make them more effective and rich through documentation, reflection, and mediation, as well as to highlight the system of exchange itself as a site of aesthetic production and social sculpture.
Two years and many residencies later ( and after months of spam attacks and uninvited modifications to the SPCMKR website) someone finally deleted the whole site, possibly as a kind of middle finger to our attempts to block their abusive solicitations to buy Air Jordans, handbags, generic steroids, and viagra. Despite the premature ending of the site, SPCMKR has lived on through a number of roundtable discussions and exhibitions such as ON THE ROAD.
The installation created for AAC is our way of making a diagram of the detritus from the last two years and to consider what worked and what didn't - how we might regroup the site and restart the idea, which we still feel is relevant, perhaps even more so today as arts funding is cut and artists are pooling their collective resources to get through the downturn.
The artifacts included in the installation are a cross-section of ephemera, photographs, e-mail exchanges and web data, providing a heterogeneous picture of the all the domestic, artistic, mundane, and ephemeral moments that went into the project, and perhaps, somewhere amongst the wreckage, a reason to continue doing it.
--Nick Lucking and Tim Ivison, from their statement for ON THE ROAD @ AAC.
One of the benefits of curating PARTY CRASHERS has been that I’m now more or less back in communication with my twenty-something stoner-y comics-loving former self. I completely lost track of that guy for awhile there.
As a result of that, Jesse Moynihan’s brilliant webcomic FORMING has been mandatory reading for me every week for many months now.
What the heck is FORMING? Even after I explain it, you likely will still be asking that question: It has something to do with a supernatural/alien being named Mithras coming to Earth in the year 10,000 B.C…and the cloned hermaphrodites running OPERATION: HEAVENLY SWORD…and The Third Age (aka “The Age of Total Bullshit”)…and Noah, Lucifer, Lapetus, Nommo, Zeus, and…well, look, just start reading it, okay?
Two things grab me about this webcomic: First, I’m pretty sure Moynihan is invested in the spiritual content of his story, and that it reflects his genuine belief in what he terms a “super reality.” Moynihan “just believes in everything”—and for me, a guy who believes in next to nothing, that’s kind of fascinating.
Second, however seriously Moynihan takes the narrative he’s advancing, his gods, demi-gods, and possessed severed dog’s heads all use contemporary-sounding sarcasm and curse words. As Moynihan explains it:
The first collected volume of FORMING should be available in print soon by NOBROW books and distributed in this country by Adhouse—the same fine folks who brought you AFRODISIAC and DRIVEN BY LEMONS, the creators of which appeared in--you guessed it--PARTY CRASHERS.
I'm typing in this little box again, so that can only mean that we managed to open ON THE ROAD without incident. The AAC's current show features ten artists working away from the studio--in unconventional artist-created residencies; in public art projects meant to engage audiences on their own terms; and in derelict, remote, or informal public spaces that challenge our sense of how or where we should live. How about them apples?
The show has a catalog; come by and pick one up. We should have a pdf of it available on the website soon. In the meantime, read a little bit about the artists here.
I don't have a full set of installation shots yet, but I do want to give you a couple of highlights--like, for example, this giant 8' X 12' X 12' piece that we built onsite for Michael Ruglio-Misurell, an artist who splits his time between Berlin and NYC:
Ruglio-Misurell finds unexpected order in lots, alleys, and basements--and creates post-disaster chaos within the confines of pristine gallery and museum environments.
For ON THE ROAD, Ruglio-Misurell presents Project #15, a bulging, sagging, biomorphic tent structure jutting out of a crudely built staircase.
While the piece to a certain extent functions like traditional sculpture, playing free informal curves against rigid geometry, it also turns the gallery into a squalid, improvised shelter, festooned with rags.
The inside of the tent/sculpture is stocked with shopping bags filled with authentic found Arlington County garbage.
Here's a view of Michael's piece framed by Jess Perlitz's To Lie While Being Supported by Something (2011), a curving steel structure built around three air raid sirens.
The piece snakes in and out of the building's walls, appearing to become part of the infrastructure.
Perlitz has left one siren strapped to a furniture dolly, and a large bass drum plunked down in the middle of the gallery. She invited gallerygoers to move these components as needed, creating a militaristic cacophany on the go.
More images and more artists to come. Thanks to my intern Kristin Bruch for taking these pics.
Jeffry Cudlin is an artist, curator, art critic, and musician living and working in Washington, D.C. He currently serves as Professor of Curatorial Studies and Practice at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. He formerly served as the Director of Exhibitions for the Arlington Arts Center. His reviews have appeared in the Washington City Paper, Sculpture Magazine, and the Washington Post.