From the Archives

From the Archives – An Interview with Anne Lindberg

Today from the archives we bring you an interview with artist Anne Lindberg, who often works with drawing, photography, sculpture, and installation, “always seeking to push the boundaries of what is considered a drawing.” Lindberg has a solo show opening soon at Haw Contemporary in Kansas City. This article was written by  and originally published on September 18, 2012. 

Anne Lindberg. Parallel 34, 2012; graphite and colored pencil on cotton mat board; 104 x 58 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Carrie Secrist Gallery, Chicago.

On a visit to the Nevada Museum of Art this summer, I first encountered the work of Kansas City-based Anne Lindberg. Tucked in a small, irregularly shaped gallery, Lindberg’s luminous installation immediately caught the eye, where individual threads created volume and marked space in a way that belied its virtually imperceptible constituent parts. Her large-scale graphite drawings also on view in the gallery invited close inspection, the subtle shift in hand-drawn lines creating a palpable sense of movement within the confines of two dimensions. I had the opportunity to speak with Lindberg on the occasion of her exhibition, sustaining pedal, at Carrie Secrist Gallery in Chicago.

Allie Haeusslein: I understand that after receiving your B.F.A., you served as a curatorial assistant at the Smithsonian Institute in the Department of Ethnology. How did your close work with textiles influence your approach to materials, pattern, and color?

Anne Lindberg: As a curatorial assistant, I had the rare opportunity to help unpack and notate objects from the Lamb Collection of West African Textiles that was being given to the museum. I was charged with making a drawing of a section of the objects, counting threads, identify if the threads were Z or S spun (which determined the likely gender of the spinner), make notes on provenance, and repack the item for storage. That work at the Smithsonian, first of all, helped me to decide that I wanted to be an artist rather than an anthropologist or museum professional. I feel that this work honed my tendency to work with very fine delicate elements in accumulation and as a method to build intensity and meaning. I entered a graduate program at Cranbrook Academy of Art immediately after leaving the Smithsonian, and began an investigation of concepts to visualize and materialize space, spatial qualities of architecture and light.

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San Francisco

Value/Labor/Arts: A Primer

“When is it okay to work for free? Is it acceptable as long as you’re working with—or for—another artist? What is an artistic service?” These are some of the questions raised by Shannon Jackson, director of UC Berkeley’s Arts Research Center, in her introduction to Art Practical‘s latest issue, Valuing Labor. She notes, “These are just a few of the hundreds of questions circulating for artists working in the 21st-century economy, a scene in which the very old question of art’s financial contingency arguably has a different kind of urgency and opacity.” Today we bring you just one of the many features in this issue, a primer put together by Jackson and co-organizer Helena Keeffe that serves as an overview of the topics that will be presented at the Arts Research Center’s day-long Practicum titled Valuing Labor in the Arts, to be held on April 19, 2014. 

Anna Gray + Ryan Wilson Paulsen. 100 Posterworks, 2009-2013; printed poster; 11 x 17 in. Courtesy of the Artists.

Anna Gray + Ryan Wilson Paulsen. 100 Posterworks, 2009-2013; printed poster; 11 x 17 in. Courtesy of the Artists.

1. Occupational Realism, by Julia Bryan-Wilson

“Performance as occupation” participates in the rising tide of discourse regarding the interconnection of contingent labor, artistic value, and precarity. Precarity is one name given to the effect of neoliberal economic conditions emergent in the wake of global financial upheaval, recession, and the reorganization of employment to accommodate the spread of service, information, and knowledge work. It designates a pervasively unpredictable terrain of employment within these conditions—work that is without health-care benefits or other safety nets, underpaid, part-time, unprotected, short-term, unsustainable, risky.

2. Five Things I Learned, by Alexis Clements

Reimagining the world seems like everyone’s favorite marketing slogan and pastime these days. And starting from scratch is great in some instances. But the reality is that most of the time it’s not only impossible to start from scratch, it’s undesirable, as you can end up walking down well-trod paths. Beyond finding that a lot of writing about arts and labor focused on the visual arts marketplace, I also found that few writers mention the past at all in their writing on the topic, save to throw in mini-lessons or interpretations of historical theories, particularly those of Karl Marx (I often prefer Arendt on labor, if we’re going for historical theory).

Read the full article here.



Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Anna Valdez

The words “yo no soy Romantica,” or “I am not romantic,” are written in large orange cursive letters on a flat blue background; the text is partially hidden by the green cactus planted in a bright pink pot in the foreground of Anna Valdez’s illustration Yo No Soy Romantica (2013). Whether or not the artist intended to indicate the cactus as the speaker of these words is unclear. Perhaps it’s entirely purposeful and the cactus needs to assert that it is not romantic, seeming to say, “and would you please stop making me out to be?” Or maybe it’s the image, with its eye-straining colors, that isn’t romantic, or perhaps the way the words are written.

Anna Valdez. Yo No Soy Romantica, 2013; digital drawing, animated GIF file. Courtesy of the artist.

Anna Valdez. Yo No Soy Romantica, 2013; digital drawing, animated GIF file. Courtesy of the Artist.

No matter what (or who) the words reference, the artist is pointing to a code as old as painting itself: the use of objects as symbols for ideas, emotions, and people. In the case of Yo No Soy Romantica, the cactus portrays its accrued cultural associations and meanings—western desert spiritualism, American cool, tangible exoticism, and so on. Anna Valdez cleverly uses subject and object to point critically and humorously to the overuse of cacti as a romantic symbol of cool—one among many signs—on Instagram and Facebook, and in fashion and lifestyle magazines. Valdez continues the tradition of Dutch still-life painters from the 16th century to engage objects as symbols and to point to specific motifs that contemporary consumer and lifestyle culture have adapted to signify individual style and measure of success.

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New York

Borna Sammak: All Dogs Are Pets at JTT

All Dogs Are Pets, Borna Sammak’s current solo exhibition at JTT, presents sculpture, painting, and video full of glowing references to 1990s American suburbia. Trafficking in the humorous young boys’ fare of canceled Nickelodeon cartoons, Sammak’s pieces are composed of sometimes repurposed, sometimes refabricated objects you might find at a Wal-Mart or strip-mall store. His work draws from the cultural garbage can, creating an aesthetic of overload steeped in a nostalgia for the cheap consumer items of our culture’s recent past.

Borna Sammak. All Dogs Are Pets, 2014; installation view, JTT, New York. Courtesy of the artist and JTT.

Borna Sammak. All Dogs Are Pets, 2014; installation view, JTT, New York. Courtesy of the Artist and JTT.

Sammak’s “paintings,” for example, are cacophonous collages of kitschy iron-on T-shirt decals. On one such canvas, Sammak multiplies two horse-decal prints into a herd of equine doppelgangers surrounded by the meaningless ends and beginnings of common T-shirt catchphrases. The work is an allusion to @horse_ebooks—a spam Twitter account that gained a cult following in the last few years for its unintentionally poetic, non-sequitur tweets designed to promote e-books while evading spam detection. Like the @horse_ebooks tweets, the sentence fragments on Sammak’s T-shirt canvases (“HAD A NORMAL LIFE”/“Proud to be Everything”/“Your are Jealous”) possess all the absurd, darkly existential humor of a robot poorly attempting an imitation of a human.

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Antonia Wright: You Make Me Sick: I Love You at Spinello Projects

If Antonia Wright ever tires of being an artist and desires a career change, she might find success as a stuntwoman. In a number of videos in her show You Make Me Sick: I Love You at Spinello Projects in Miami, she has transformed her body into a projectile, hurling herself through glass, piles of books, and into oncoming cars. The feelings of danger and vulnerability are common themes in the exhibition, but Wright also craftily weaves elements of humor and whimsy into a show that negotiates the boundary between performance and video art.

Antonia Wright. Suddenly We Jumped (2),2014 (video still); single channel video, 00:14. Courtesy the artist and Spinello Projects, Miami.

Antonia Wright. Suddenly We Jumped (2), 2014 (video still); single-channel video, 00:14. Courtesy of the Artist and Spinello Projects, Miami.

In one of the standout works in the show, Wright documents herself being catapulted through a sheet of glass. Suddenly We Jumped (2014) consists of a two-channel video installation documenting the same performance with the use of super-slow motion. In the first video, Wright’s naked body appears gradually out of a black abyss; lying flat and baroquely lit, her body continues in flight toward the camera, and she suddenly—and effortlessly—crashes through a sheet of glass. Shards of glass splinter away, reminding the viewer of the danger involved in this act. Wright soon reaches the apex of her voyage, falling prostrate back from where she came. The slow motion of the video dramatizes the performance, heightening the tension before the impact and revealing every single crack in the glass on the exact moment she hits it. The second video in the installation focuses solely on her face rupturing the glass from a side angle—reiterating the violent nature of the act.

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Everyday Problems: Ketut Teja Astawa’s Contemporary Balinese Paintings

Ketut Teja Astawa’s bright, bold acrylic-on-canvas paintings are complex and humorous. Using traditional Balinese style, iconography, and language, Astawa reinvents the ancient wayang (or shadow puppet) tradition within a modern context. He imbues his painted narratives with references to everyday problems, such as fruit shortages, aggressive village birds, and even the 2002 Bali bombings.

While Astawa’s exaggerated figurative paintings and humorous narrative style are unique to him, the way in which he fuses the traditional with the contemporary is markedly Balinese.  In his book Balinese Art, cultural historian Adrian Vickers notes that in Bali, “tradition… does not mean an absence of change, and individual expression comes from the manipulation of pre-set forms.”[1]  It is in Astawa’s very manipulation of such pre-set, established styles and iconography that his artistic gift and interest lies. I was lucky to meet with Ketut Teja Astawa (and receive translation assistance from Sudipa Yasa) at the Tonyraka Art Gallery in Mas, Ubud.

Ketut Teja Astawa, Boomerang, 2013; acrylic on canvas; 150 x 150 cm. Courtesy of the Artist and Tonyraka Art Gallery. Photograph: Ellen C. Caldwell.

Ketut Teja Astawa. Boomerang, 2013; acrylic on canvas; 150 x 150 cm. Courtesy of the Artist and Tonyraka Art Gallery. Photograph: Ellen C. Caldwell.

Ellen Caldwell: How did you start painting, and what got you started with your art?

Ketut Teja Astawa: I started painting ten years ago [at the] Denpasar School for Art.

EC: Had you painted before that or just started in school?

KTA: I started from childhood, when I was seven years old, maybe.

EC: Did anyone in your family also paint or teach you?

KTA: No, just me. The others make buildings and they are carpenters, Bali-style.  My father is a farmer and my mother has a small arts shop.

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#Hashtags: Institutionalized Critique

#museums #historicity #institutional critique #detournement #appropriation

The exhibition Take It or Leave It: Institution, Image, Ideology at UCLA’s Hammer Museum is an effort to comprehensively document the artistic modes of appropriation and institutional critique that emerged in American contemporary art of the 1970s–1990s. While related, these are two distinct forms—appropriation being the art of repurposing images and forms from an established, original context to a new, transformative one, while institutional critique is generally defined by installation-based art practices that appropriate and détourne forms and images from within institutional contexts such as museums and academia. Artists associated with institutional critique include Andrea Fraser, Fred Wilson, Renée Green, Martha Rosler, and Adrian Piper, all of whose work is included at the Hammer. Within the period of the exhibition’s scope, these artists had practices that were boundary-pushing and provocative. Nonetheless, that era is more than twenty years in the past, and the edginess and discomfort associated with these artists has largely given way to sanctification. As the critique generation enters the canon, it’s appropriate to ask whether the form of institutional critique can evolve to remain relevant and keep pressure on institutions that remain problematic and change-averse.

Andrea Fraser. Museum Highlights: A Gallery Talk, 1989. Single-channel video (Betacam SP NTSC), color, sound. 30:00 min. Courtesy of the artist.

Andrea Fraser. Museum Highlights: A Gallery Talk, 1989; single-channel video (Betacam SP NTSC), color, sound; 30:00. Courtesy of the Artist.

The first work I saw at the Hammer was Andrea Fraser’s Museum Highlights: A Gallery Talk (1989), a performative lecture and collection tour at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It’s a fitting introduction to the exhibition’s larger issues. In this work, Fraser, in the guise of a docent, articulates the unspoken class privilege that underpins American art museums that are invested in a Neo-Classical ideology imported from Europe. Fraser’s casual noblesse oblige is jarring, her distinction between the haves and have-nots blunt, but her tone differs dramatically from that of today’s tycoons who tend to favor more inclusive and populist rhetoric while disinvesting in culture as a public benefit. By comparison, one might even feel a kind of nostalgia for the targets of Fraser’s critique. Fraser’s own ascent to the highest levels of the art world has paralleled that of institutional critique as a discipline. As her profile has risen, the forms of her critique have shifted, from models rooted in her body and in specific sites to works that engage the global networks of back-room deals and questionable funding sources that underpin contemporary art markets worldwide. Like the medium of institutional critique itself, Fraser is embedded in and supported by the very institutions she critiques. As such, her often stark analyses are themselves circumscribed by the targets of her criticism, softening her impact. This is a challenging condition shared by many of the artists in the Hammer show because they must be inside the institutions in order to critique them from within, but their criticisms are also instrumentalized and dampened by the institutional context.

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