Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Carla Jay Harris

There is a profound stillness in Carla Jay Harris’ photographs—her framing and shooting style emits a pervasive calm that quiets the anxiety of her subject matter. Harris’ ability to create silence amid moments of emotional upheaval is eerie, tense, and evocative. Two bodies of work portray people and places in the midst of economic and cultural change; Dirt, Dust, Sand, Concrete (2012–2015) shows Smithfield, Virginia, amid a corporate buyout, and Culture of Desperation (2012) portrays a struggling record company during lean times.

Carla Jay Harris. Teresa Cooper 1947, 2012; archival pigment print. 20 x 30 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Carla Jay Harris. Teresa Cooper 1947, 2012; archival pigment print; 20 x 30 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Carolyn (2012) is part of the Dirt, Dust, Sand, Concrete series that creates a photographic essay of Smithfield, Virginia, and its residents. (The artist was born and raised in Smithfield, and much of her family still lives there.) The town’s only industrial engine, Smithfield Foods, was bought out by a Chinese conglomerate. The subject of Carolyn, a woman well into the later stages of her middle age, presumably named Carolyn, glances sidelong, not into but at the camera, from a slightly elevated position while sitting on her elegant wood-framed and needlework patterned couch. With the smallest hint of a knowing smile, mixed with the benevolent skepticism of an old friend or family member, she rests with neatly cut and straightened hair and her sturdy arms folded.

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New York

Simon Denny: The Innovator’s Dilemma at MoMA PS1

Startup culture is ripe for satire. The tech industry’s social and economic dominance makes it a necessary target, and its penchant for jargon-heavy, wildly inflated rhetoric makes it an easy one. Mike Judge’s HBO sitcom, Silicon Valley, deftly picks the low-hanging fruit, but it hardly needs to. The elevator pitches of most weak-to-average startups on the venture-capital trail, quixotically ascribing revolutionary potential to the most banal of products, all but ridicule themselves (at least to people outside of the industry). This raises the question: Given an industry that already trades in hyperbole, is satire still an effective strategy for cutting through ideology?

Simon Denny. All You Need is Data: The DLD 2012 Conference REDUX Rerun, 2013; installation view, Petzel Gallery, New York. Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art.

Simon Denny. All You Need is Data: The DLD 2012 Conference REDUX Rerun, 2013; installation view, Petzel Gallery, New York. Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art.

The art world allows for more nuanced and challenging modalities of representation than mainstream media outlets like HBO do. The artist Li Liao, for example, took a job at the notoriously exploitative Foxconn factory in China, which produces parts for Apple products, and then exhibited his uniform, ID card, labor contract, and an iPad—the object of his labor—as a work titled Consumption (2012). While not offering much to look at, Li’s work succeeds in concretizing an experience on the production side of the technology industry, images of which can be hard to believe. Taking another perspective, Simon Denny’s exhibition The Innovator’s Dilemma, now at MoMA PS1, trains its gaze on the rhetoric of startup culture, which the artist shows to be itself one of the industry’s most important products, albeit an ethereal one. Denny’s work could easily register as satire, but it is not. It holds up a mirror, the effect and purpose of which are not easy to ascertain.

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Hidden Histories in Latin American Art at the Phoenix Art Museum

In a small, dark gallery at the back of the Phoenix Art Museum is a thoughtful exhibition of artworks with a global interest in subjects often left unspoken. A mysterious low rumbling of vibrating glass sets the stage for Hidden Histories in Latin American Art: Teresa MargollesLa Búsqueda (The Search) (2014) is an installation consisting of glass panels plastered with missing-persons posters transported from Ciudad Juárez. Margolles’ work focuses on the women murdered in one of Mexico’s fastest-growing cities, and the glass panels evoke the urban sites where families search for their lost daughters, sisters, and mothers. Each woman has a story, and a family that is desperately trying to locate her.

Graciela Sacco.

Graciela Sacco. Enfrentados (serie Tensión Admisible), 2011; photographic inlay on wood, installed on wall. Courtesy of Diana Lowenstein Gallery and Artist.

The work of the six Latin American and Latino artists in Hidden Histories personalizes the staggering statistics of displaced, marginalized, and murdered individuals, both historically and presently. Using commonplace materials, these artists attempt to give voice to those who have been silenced or forgotten. At the front of the gallery, a broken wooden barricade overlaid with an image of Argentinian protesters confronting military police juts outs from the wall. Graciela Sacco’s Enfrentados (serie Tensión Admisible) [Confronted (Admissible Tension Series)] has a fractured barrier and an air of resistance; it stands as the lone positive response to the struggle against injustice.

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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.