Marion Belanger: Rift/Fault – Landscape Photographs of the North American Continental Plate at Haverford College

Northward light fills the gallery upon entering Marion Belanger’s exhibition Rift/Fault. The exhibition, currently on view at Haverford College, contains roughly two dozen pairings of photographs drawn from Belanger’s decade-long investigation into the geography and geology of an unseen tectonic boundary: the North American Continental Plate. Along the edges of the plate lies the Mid-Atlantic Rift in Iceland, bisecting and pulling the small nation apart, and the San Andreas Fault in California, which has long held a special place in America’s popular imagination.

Marion Belanger. Rift #51 (Geothermal pipes alongside a road at Hengill, Iceland), 2011; Fault #26 (North Shore, Salton Sea, CA), 2012; archival pigment print; 18.5 x 14.8 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Atrium Gallery, Haverford College.

Marion Belanger. Rift #51 (Geothermal Pipes Alongside a Road at Hengill, Iceland), 2011; Fault #26 (North Shore, Salton Sea, CA), 2012; archival pigment print; 18.5 x 14.8 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Atrium Gallery, Haverford College.

Belanger’s photographs depict bright, spare, and brutally captivating landscapes along the plate’s edges. Initially shot on 4×5 and 6×7 inch film, the negatives were scanned to produce large color prints, which are hung in pairs: an image from the Icelandic Rift above (or next to) an image from the San Andreas Fault. Their arrangement causes the exhibition to be “read” like a book. Each pairing, carefully collated by Belanger, creates a subtle parataxis between what is seen and the implication of deeper geologic movements.

The photographs document domestic architecture and infrastructure, highlighting odd silhouettes where land meets sky. Similarities between the two sites begin to accumulate. The bleached California light mirrors the illuminating, misty white skies of Iceland. The same pale light gives the spare colors their punch. The interplay between the literal subjects of individual photographs, which Belanger aptly describes as raw, empty, mundane, and ordinary, draws sharp contrast to the content of the work. Cues leading the viewer deeper are sometimes subtle (a small crack in a cement wall), and at other times overt (a gaping maw where a house once stood). In other photographs, there is no visible indication of the tectonic movements beneath the earth’s surface. Depicting a sleepy suburb or a hiking trail on a foggy morning, this last subset, when seen in relation to the whole, feels terribly haunted. As Belanger remarks in her statement, “The monotone housing developments built on top of the fault seem to deny the existence of the unstable earth below the surface. The ordered built environment ignores the actuality of the land, a dangerous disconnect.” In these shifting registers, the quiet work finds its edge.

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Help Desk

Help Desk: Serious Damage

Help Desk is an arts-advice column that demystifies practices for artists, writers, curators, collectors, patrons, and the general public. Submit your questions anonymously here. All submissions become the property of Daily Serving.

I have my work up in a solo exhibition at a well-known arts center in a large city. Last weekend during open gallery hours, I walked in to find five wall pieces and a major floor sculpture missing. The attendants had no idea what had happened or where the work was. Finally, I found someone who let me in to the offices where the work was being stored. Two pieces were broken and the rest were undamaged. Turns out, the work was bumped off the wall and taken down as a precaution during a wedding event when dining tables were set up in my space. No one informed me for over a week, and I was not aware that dining tables would be set up in the space for the duration of the show. The main curator was also laid off in the midst of all of this, and the center is not willing to move the events out of the space. I am considering a complete deinstall for the sake of protecting the work and my anxiety levels. How should I handle this situation?

Lutz Bacher. Organ Pipes (detail), 2014; tin, foam, foam core.

Lutz Bacher. Organ Pipes, 2014 (detail); tin, foam, foam core.

You have my sympathy. Your work is damaged, you can’t get straight answers, and it seems like no one is in your corner right now; that’s awful. Although I’ve had my share of mishandled artwork—including a piece returned with a boot print smack in the middle of the back, and a sculpture broken in transit and then “repaired” by a gallerist without my permission—I’ve never been compelled to go in and take my work away. But this situation? I’d be tempted.

I asked around and heard back from two artists, two gallerists, and one curator (since the majority requested anonymity, I’m going to treat them all that way). Everyone mentioned a contract. Do you have one? I hope you do, because reviewing it is the first step to resolving this situation. Gallerist Number One said, “Make sure you understand the rights and responsibilities for each party as outlined in the loan documents, the exhibition contract, and any other official documents. Hopefully you’ll be in the position to simply ask the organization to meet their self-described contractual obligations. […] Be sure to document your ongoing communications with the institution’s team regarding any promises about handling, care, events, etc.”

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Shotgun Reviews

Jillian Mayer: Touchers at Aspect/Ratio

Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Nicole Lane reviews Jillian Mayer: Touchers at Aspect/Ratio in Chicago.

Jillian Mayer. 34.11° N, -118.26° W at 53’ inches, 2015; 46.2 x 26 in. Photograph printed on fabric. Courtesy of the Artist, Aspect/Ratio Chicago, and David Castillo, Miami.

Jillian Mayer. 34.11° N, -118.26° W at 53’ Inches, 2015; photograph printed on fabric; 46.2 x 26 in. Courtesy of the Artist, Aspect/Ratio Chicago, and David Castillo, Miami.

Jillian Mayer’s first solo exhibition in Chicago, Touchers, features two photographic works and a video installation that satirically probe the loss of identity in the digital age. Social media has informed, for most of us, our daily routines as well as our identities. By recognizing—and often succumbing to—the desires of being something we aren’t, or something slightly refined, Mayer playfully analyzes certain notions of human vs. machine within technology.

As a viewer, I’m familiar with the stylistic artifice in Mayer’s previous works, including 400 Nudes (2015), #Postmodem (2013), Scenic Jogging (2010), and How My Best Friend Died (2011). Her interest in questioning and exploring verisimilitude and physicality are themes continued in the two thermochromic transfers: 34.11° N, -118.26° W at 53’ Inches (2015) on fabric, and 25.84° N, -80.17° W at 65’ Inches (2015) on plexiglass. Created by a change in surface temperature caused by contact with the material, the thermochromic images retain a vague semblance of human form—the artist’s handprint. However, the multistage, mechanized fabrication process required to transfer these images onto another substrate adds higher orders of complexity and produces a dissociative effect aimed to distance the viewer from the human component of the work.

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Print Public at Kala Art Institute and Gallery

Today from our partners at Art Practical, we bring you John Zarobell’s review of Print Public at Kala Art Institute and Gallery in Berkeley, California. The author notes, “[the exhibition] augurs not merely new developments in the neighborhood, but novel and innovative approaches to print.” This article was originally published on June 18, 2015.

Susan O’Malley. Less Internet More Love, from the series Advice From My 80-Year-Old Self, 2015; mural at Bob McGee's Machining Co., Inc., 2735 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley. Courtesy of Kala Art Institute. Photo: Bob McGee’s Machining Co., Inc.

Susan O’Malley. Less Internet More Love, from the series Advice From My 80-Year-Old Self, 2015; mural at Bob McGee’s Machining Co., Inc., 2735 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley. Courtesy of Kala Art Institute. Photo: Bob McGee’s Machining Co., Inc.

The medium of print has a long history of expanding art into the public realm, and Print Public at Kala Art Institute has boldly pushed the envelope of the role of print in the urban context via a highly inventive series of public workshops and interactions that led up to the current gallery presentation. Kala presents this project not only as a gallery show but as a long-term collaboration with its neighbors and UC Berkeley: “Print Public was conceived in collaboration with the University of California, Berkeley’s Department of City & Regional Planning as an arts-integrated approach to urban planning and community activation.” Because the project was developed and elaborated over a two-year period, the involved artists had ample opportunity to design innovative ways to integrate the local community into their projects. Most devised a public dimension designed to bring attention and visitors to West Berkeley, where Kala is located, and then collaborated with residents to produce interactive, or at least locally informed, works. The exhibition organizers call this a “place-making initiative.” Such terminology can have many meanings, but the intent in this case was for the assets of the neighborhood to be explored by the artists and then reflected back to give residents a sense of their own community. Perhaps it is not so much place making as place finding.

Read the full article here.



Interview with Erica Prince

Canadian artist Erica Prince would not appreciate the Mattel playhouse I had as a kid, filled with floral furniture, plastic appliances, and female dolls to ensure that the household was running smoothly. Prince’s version, recently on view in Philadelphia, is my playhouse’s conceptual opposite—and that’s a wonderful thing. Prince is more inspired by science fiction than by domesticity. Her sculptures, installations, and drawings have a space-age aesthetic, and the artist has a lot to say about a future devoid of gender roles and conservative boundaries.

Erica Prince. Dollhouse​, 2015; ​​installation view​.​ Courtesy Vox Populi, Philadelphia​.​ Photo: Joseph Hu

Erica Prince. Dollhouse​, 2015; ​​installation view​.​ Courtesy of Vox Populi, Philadelphia​.​ Photo: Joseph Hu.

Ashley Stull Meyers: Your most recent exhibition at Vox Populi was titled Dollhouse. Tell me about dollhouses as spaces for play or performance.

Erica Prince: There were two dollhouses in the exhibition: a giant six-by-eight-foot, empty, white sculptural dollhouse, and on the opposite wall, drawings of the interiors of the dollhouse—specific design decisions, action, and metaphor. Dollhouses are understood as gendered spaces for speculation and idealization. They are interpretive play spaces for the enactment of social and identity constructs. The empty dollhouse is a vessel or a tool for speculation about our lives. It invites viewers to project themselves into the space—to fill and activate it. It becomes a mirror.  

ASM: Did you construct the house with any specific architectural form or reference?

EP: It’s a pretty loaded framework. I was thinking a lot about Miriam Shapiro and Sherry Brody’s Dollhouse in Womanhouse, the “Room” drawings in Gerhard Richter’s Atlas, the utopian aspirations of Modernism, Jung’s model of the unconscious as the rooms in a house, and feng shui. There is also the aspect of the miniature—and the relative interpretation of scale. With a dollhouse, suddenly a small gallery seems huge—the work contains worlds larger than the sum of its parts.

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Crafting a Continuum: Rethinking Contemporary Craft at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft

Since the rise of conceptual art practices within the ever-changing terrain of contemporary art, one often encounters the silly assertion that art making has become a market of ideas as opposed to objects. This is, of course, ridiculous: A walk through any art fair or biennial reveals that there are more objects in circulation than ever before, some more thoughtful than others. While dematerialization continues, the reclaiming of craft has complicated the assumption that contemporary art is destined for abstraction. The works in Crafting a Continuum: Rethinking Contemporary Craft at the Houston Museum of Contemporary Craft propose that traditional forms of making are relevant—and at times, urgent.[1]

Peter Voulkos. Ceramic Pot (Steel Pot). 1968. Stoneware (thrown and shaped). 32.5 x 11.5 inches. Image courtesy of the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft.

Peter Voulkos. Ceramic Pot (Steel Pot), 1968; stoneware (thrown and shaped); 32.5 x 11.5 in. Courtesy of the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft.

While the objects in this exhibition do not seem to share any formal or technical common denominator, they nevertheless coalesce into a narrative about the development of craft, particularly as it came into being in the United States during the postwar period. The work of Peter Voulkos seems to offer one of the many beginnings to this story. Voulkos’ practice arose out of a significant moment in American art: At the same time that critic Clement Greenberg was tracking the self-critical development of modern art to the Abstract Expressionist painters, the G.I. Bill was transforming university art education. Fine-art departments expanded and often combined with applied art programs to hold the thousands of new students who entered into the American university system. With their gouged surfaces and weighted compositions, Voulkos’ works embodied his rejection of the traditions of refinement and “the beautiful” that structured academic craft—rejections that allowed him to foreground the significance of time and process as opposed to high levels of finish and completeness. Voulkos’ emphasis on the fertility of experimentation, improvisation, and the ambiguous relationship between intention and chance ignited a dialogue between ceramics and postwar aesthetics of spontaneity as practiced by affiliates of Black Mountain College, turning him into a leader of the West Coast craft movement of the postwar era and his studio into one of the most important pedagogical sites for the development of ceramic art. Looking at the earthy thicknesses and slashed membrane of Voulkos’ 1969 Ceramic Pot (Steel Pot)—its verticality and sculptural monumentality subverted by its humble stoneware form—one can see the beginnings and possibilities of a more open field of making coming into being and pulsating across the other pieces in the galleries. Thus, Crafting a Continuum works to map the resonance of Voulkos’s generation on contemporary craft, and to give voice to a radical spirit of technical and conceptual freedom that drives the field today.

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New York

Marte Eknæs and Sean Raspet: Calculus of Negligence at Room East

True catastrophes cannot be foreseen… True catastrophes are new information. They are, by definition, surprising adventures.—Vilém Flusser, Into the Universe of Technical Images, 1985

With the exception of a small community of daredevils, most people try to avoid disasters. There are, of course, various degrees of risk associated with everything we do that drive our precautions as well as the insurance industry. In general, the act of experiencing art has a very low physical risk factor; insurance companies do not cover the potential emotional or psychological risks of art viewing. In Calculus of Negligence at Room East, Sean Raspet negates the safety of art through a carefully constructed environment with an elevated level of potential risk, which Marte Eknæs then counteracts by implementing safety measures. The two artists’ collaboration creates a scenario that challenges the ways people—and insurance policies—respond to situations with unusual and unpredictable variables.

Marte Eknæs and Sean Raspet. Calculus of Negligence, 2015; installation view, Room East, New York. Image courtesy of Room East.

Marte Eknæs and Sean Raspet. Calculus of Negligence, 2015; installation view, Room East, New York. Courtesy of Room East.

There is not much to see in the upper and lower rooms and connecting stairwell that contain the exhibition. Or, rather, there is not much we are able to see. Calculus of Negligence features fourteen works by the two artists: eleven objects and three works that are, for all intents and purposes, imperceptible. The objects provided by Eknæs include a ventilation system connecting the two rooms, nylon-brush safety strips, anti-slip tape, and a motion-activated trashcan. Raspet’s contributions include four tanks of commercial-grade compressed air, exposed wires, and an insurance policy bought by the gallery specifically for the exhibition. Raspet transforms the space with the contents of the tanks, which contain Praxair ExtendaPak EX 49 (used to preserve fruits and vegetables in packaging and storage), MediPure Air USP (medical-grade breathable air), Zero Air (used for the standard calibration of testing equipment and Environmental Protection Agency compliance), and Oxygen-18 Isotope (a breathable air used for tracking cellular and body metabolism in medical diagnostics and scientific research). The tanks release their contents into the gallery at predetermined flow rates throughout the exhibition. Through his modification of the gallery’s air supply, Raspet calls attention to the many ways in which the chemical industry affects something as essential and banal as the air we breathe. Eknæs both emphasizes and negates Raspet’s intervention with her works Ventilation I and Ventilation II (both 2015), for which the gallery installed a ventilation shaft between the two rooms to disperse the gasses released by Raspet’s tanks. To further complicate the assumption of safety, or lack thereof, Eknæs installed Ventilation IV (2015), a ceiling-mounted ventilation screen that doesn’t connect to anything.

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