Art(ists) on the Verge at the Soap Factory

Now through April, the sprawling, rough-and-tumble brick spaces of Minneapolis’ Soap Factory are filled with installation projects by five artists—the Art(ists) on the Verge, as it were. It is not quite fair to consider Art(ists) on the Verge as a single exhibition, as there is no curatorial or artistic conceit to cement the various projects into a cohesive entity. The works on view are the result of a yearlong mentorship project that pairs young Minnesota media artists with mentors for feedback and critique. Art(ists) on the Verge presents these five installations as evidence of a process that aims to encourage work at the intersection of art and technology, and the five artists take very different approaches. From analogies between the physical and digital delivery of messages, to the astrological landscape at the birth of Christ, each of the projects takes on a subject and expounds on it in a physically expansive way. While not all of the projects seem to have reached their final states (some could use a push further in their current direction, and others a tug back), the intensity of their interaction with research, process, and materials is evident.

Alison Hiltner, Survival Tactics, 2014; mixed media, dimensions variable. Courtesy The Soap Factory. Photo by Aaron Dysart.

Alison Hiltner. Survival Tactics, 2014; mixed media, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the Soap Factory. Photo by Aaron Dysart.

Perhaps the most inviting installation is Alison Hiltner’s dangling Survival Tactics (2014). Hung in clumps from the Soap Factory’s high ceilings, Hiltner’s semi-translucent vines drape toward the ground. Coated in fleshy silicone, these electrified vines buzz and move very slightly. Visitors are able to feel the subtle mechanical drone through their fingers and hands as they make their way through the vines. Experientially enthralling (viewers at the exhibition’s opening seemed to gravitate toward these charged tentacles), Hiltner’s installation conveys her interest in botanical communication—the fact that plants “speak” with one another through ultrasonic vibrations and other means. Through electrifying these silicone filaments, Hiltner successfully anthropomorphizes them, creating a slightly eerie but enticing ambiance. Though it’s currently hung in distinct clumps in the Soap Factory’s space, it is easy to imagine this project having an even greater impact when installed in a smaller space, capitalizing on density to create a more charged milieu.

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From the Archives

From the Archives – Help Desk: Lazy Art Critic

In case you missed it, we’re pulling today’s Help Desk from our archives! Submit your question about making, exhibiting, finding, marketing, buying, or selling art using our anonymous submission form: http://bit.ly/132VchD. All submissions become the property of Daily Serving. Today’s article was originally published on March 18, 2013.

An art critic who writes for a local newspaper recently approached me. He wants to review a recent show I installed at a local gallery. He is essentially asking me to provide him with my thoughts on my work and, after reading several of his articles, it seems as if he will just quote me at length rather than provide an actual review of my work. On one hand this appears to be an opportunity to put forth some of my own ideas (however small), but on the other it seems it will be a watered-down version of a review that serves more to fill a column than actually respond critically to a body of work. Should I indulge him in my eagerness to gain press attention or decline in hopes of a future proposal from a more attentive critic?

I applaud your sincerity and rectitude, but in this case they are somewhat misdirected. Understandably, you’d like your show to be reviewed by someone who will take the time to get to know the work and write up his or her own analysis and interpretation. Knowing that you’re not going to get it is a bit discouraging, but one could easily grow old and die while waiting for a “more attentive critic.” I don’t want you to second-guess your values but when opportunity knocks, open the damn door.

What you’ve got to keep in mind is that your own integrity is not at stake. The best you can do is work hard to make something you believe in. You’ve made the art and sent it out into the world with some background information to accompany it on its way. You’re not responsible for what other people do with that information. A local journalist who lacks imagination or initiative is not under your control.

Francesco Vezzoli. Installation view of Olga Forever! The Olga Picasso Family Album at Almine Rech Gallery.

When you’re in a quandary, sometimes it helps to do some thought experiments. Imagine a critic who always pans the work that she reviews. Would you give her the same information about your show, knowing that she might use it to underscore her various arguments about how and why your work sucks? I suspect you would, because you’d at least have the consolation that she was spending time with the work and paying attention. Now let’s try another scenario: Would it make a difference to you if the reason this critic quotes at length from the artist is because he doesn’t trust his own evaluation of artwork? What if, instead of being lazy (and perhaps somewhat disingenuous), he is simply insecure and fearful? And lastly, even though he has a record of quoting at length, can you be absolutely sure he will do the same in this instance? People do change, and we can hope that perhaps he will start with you.

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Shotgun Reviews

Walter Robinson: Sic Transit Gloria Mundi at Catharine Clark Gallery

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, Maria Porges reviews Walter Robinson: Sic Transit Gloria Mundi at Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco.

Walter Robinson. Exodus, 2014; Wood, fiberglass, taxidermy, glass, leather, sand 75 x 63 x 20 in. Courtesy Catharine Clark Gallery.

Walter Robinson. Exodus, 2014; Wood, fiberglass, taxidermy, glass, leather, sand
75 x 63 x 20 in. Courtesy Catharine Clark Gallery.

What are we to think about an Egyptian funerary boat powered by oars, piled improbably high with miniature, candy-colored shipping containers? San Francisco artist Walter Robinson has become well known for this kind of humorous, slightly disturbing disjuncture: a combination of conceptually and visually loaded elements, exquisitely realized and presented as a fait accompli. The title of Robinson’s solo show, Sic Transit Gloria Mundi, unites a vivid group of paintings, sculpture, and unsettlingly surreal installations. Loosely translated, this Latin phrase means “Thus passes the glory of the world,” reminding us not only of the fleeting nature of our existence here on earth, but that, as Douglas Huebler once said, “Things are only things.” Despite what the ancient Egyptians believed, we can’t take them with us when we go.

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Lalla Essaydi: New Beauty at Jenkins Johnson Gallery

From our sister site Art Practical, today we bring you a review of Lalla Essaydi’s photographs now on view at at Jenkins Johnson Gallery in San Francisco. Author Danica Willard Sachs notes that in Essaydi’s work, “the effect of the ceremonial fabrics and calligraphy is to flatten the women into almost abstract images that retreat into the background like furniture.” This article was originally published on February 24, 2014.

Lalla Essaydi. Bullets #5, 2009; chromogenic print; 48 x 60 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco.

Lalla Essaydi. Bullets #5, 2009; chromogenic print; 48 x 60 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco.

Lalla Essaydi’s highly staged tableaux employ the domestic spaces of her native Morocco to challenge the Orientalist imaging of Arab women. New Beauty at Jenkins Johnson Gallery brings together sixteen photographs from the artist’s two most recent series, Harem Revisited and Bullets Revisited, which expand her investigation of the harem as an architectural and social structure of confinement for women in Islamic culture.

Essaydi’s large-format chromogenic prints, all shot in the isolated space of the harem in palaces and homes around Marrakech, are visually alluring. The pictured women glint with gold clothing and jewelry made from bullet casings, or are swathed in intricately adorned fabrics in saturated hues. For the models’ poses and groupings, the artist references an art-historical lineage that includes 19th-century painters Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Jean-Léon Gérôme, and Eugène Delacroix, twisting familiar imagery into disconcerting scenes.

Read the full article here.


Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Wendy Given

Mythos: fantasy, fiction, legend, saga, parable, fable, narrative, invention, fabrication, yarn. The conceptual distance between myth and the concrete manifestations of mythology is a potentially endless—yet meaningfully orderable—list of synonyms. But with each word the gap shrinks, as mental images of processes and then objects emerge, even if just as puns. Wendy Given is bridging the gaps between the abstract idea of a mythos and its textural and visual components—the story.

Wendy Given. Gaest No. 11, To Lucybelle, 2012; C-Print; 20” x 20” inches. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Wendy Given. Gaest No. 11, To Lucybelle, 2012; C-print; 20 x 20 in. Photo courtesy of the Artist.


Given’s work includes photography, sculpture, and installation, often combining all three to create imagery for mythologies and stories. These stories simultaneously capture and unite the literal and abstract components of the processes of mythmaking. She pays particular attention to the natural world and provides placeholders for the components of stories—characters, settings, objects, rituals—and in so doing constructs nearly identifiable narratives. It’s important to note that Given is neither illustrating existing stories nor inventing new ones—her practice does something in between. Her works are not quite archetypal, but they hold just enough familiarity to stimulate the imagination.

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BP Walk through British Art at Tate Britain

Can you remember the last time you were really excited about seeing your local museum’s pre-modern permanent collection? Familiarity is the antagonist for the seasoned art viewer, and growing weary of a permanent collection becomes inescapable. Perhaps this is excusable in the case of a small collection in a provincial museum—but quite a different thing when the collection bills itself as the nation’s definitive authority on British art.

Installation view; BP Walk through British Art; Courtesy of Tate Britain. Photo: A. E. Driggs.

Installation view; BP Walk through British Art. Courtesy of Tate Britain. Photo: A. E. Driggs.

In 2000, a well-needed schism occurred at the Tate Gallery in London. The result was the birthing of the internationally focused, contemporary Tate Modern. Taking residence in a massive, ultra-cool former power plant, it immediately became (and continues to be) the most visited gallery in the world. What then was left at the original site—with its staunchly English-looking galleries—became Tate Britain. “Able to return to its original function as the national gallery of British art,” the art guardians of all things British doubled down on what they knew. The gallery thus suffered from its remit of being too British and unyielding on keeping things as they should be—or rather, as they always have been. Precedent is the opposite of cool, and Tate Britain reveled in its gray soul, treating visitors to a convalescent home for art.

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New York

Michelle Segre: Symptoms of Escape Velocity at Derek Eller Gallery

The constructions of Israeli-born artist Michelle Segre—towering webs of yarn, wire, and organic matter—resemble dispatches from another planet or totems of some long-lost civilization. Unfinished and roughly made, her work still evidences painstaking attention to detail, a ritualistic practice in which all the constituent elements impart shrouded, mystical meaning. A small show of her most recent work, currently on view at Derek Eller Gallery, expands on her long-running obsession with Neolithic idols, craft techniques, and Surrealism. The three monumental pieces included in the exhibit seem to occupy a middle space between the earthly and the otherworldly, the familiar and the unknowable.

Michelle Segre. Symptoms of Escape Velocity, 2014; installation view. Courtesy of the artist and Derek Eller Gallery, New York.

Michelle Segre. Symptoms of Escape Velocity, 2014; installation view. Courtesy of the Artist and Derek Eller Gallery, New York.

Through the glass doors of the gallery—located on an unassuming, industrial block near the West Side Highway—Segre’s mythological assemblages assault visitors with their vivid colors and overblown scale. Segre, who began producing these idiosyncratic sculptures in the 1990s, takes an intuitive, highly personal approach to materials, integrating found objects with papier-mâché constructions, tangles of yarn, and scraps of iron and wire. While her formal vocabulary varies, certain key concepts and motifs make regular appearances: fungi, paganism, comestibles, the cosmos. Themes are meditated upon, picked apart, and then brought back into the fold years later. This constant recycling of both forms and materials lends Segre’s work a sort of cosmic grace, conjuring associations with reincarnation or the first law of thermodynamics: that energy can never be created or destroyed, only changed in form. Her fascination with outer space and repurposing objects recalls Carl Sagan’s avowal that “the Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be.”

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