Monday, March 06, 2006

When ideas collide

So it often happens that there are waves of thoughts which occur in all aspects of culture, including, of course, the art world. Its like when three galleries in Chelsea are all showing works somehow involving maps, or that there are a lot of shows which involve drawn patterns. (I've seen both of these waves, among others over the past few months).

And so too, it has happened recently to me. It is probably more likely to happen when there is a specific curatorial theme to which the works are responding.

After some well founded procrastination (house hunting) we finally made it to Smack Mellon to see the Site 92 show. A promise of both Almondine and Grimaldi's ensured G would be right there with me. Besides he had seen the proposal I had submitted and was equally as intrigued as I (he brought some extra ire to the mix as well). The open call for works requested that works respond to the site of the new Smack Mellon space at 92 Plymouth Street in Dumbo. My proposal came back with the requisite form letter not long after it was sent in. So it was with equal parts shock and curiosity that I read the press release regarding the show:

"Between its operation as the boiler building and its new function as a gallery, living things and organic materials had taken over 92 Plymouth. Funghi and mineral deposits clung to the structure; pigeons nested in the coal trough. Taking into account this past, Danielle Dimston creates shelf mushrooms made out of cardboard that cling to the metal columns. Carey Ascenzo'’s installation also inhabits the brick wall with tiny red hand-knotted wire balls. The small dots are found clustered in various groups around the wall like an infestation of insects or crystal formations."

You see, my proposal included not just something similar to Danielle's works, but, ahem, almost the exact same idea. And as for Carey's works, I had proposed a number of other pieces which were startlingly similar. See more about the proposal here.

It's not entirely surprising that this kind of thing would happen, especially given that if you did some research you would learn that corrugated cardboard was invented in Dumbo, and the infestation theme is a pretty big concept. The thing that strikes me is that the curators would dismiss my proposal without so much as a mention of the fact that they had selected some other works that might appear similar, but that they made the decision to go with the other works because blah, blah, blah. That's all I'm asking for here, a little consideration...

Did they really think that I would not go to see the show? Did they think that maybe I wouldn't notice the similarities? In all fairness they could have selected one of my suggestions to include instead of dismissing the entire thing out of hand. I generally give the benefit of the doubt since I (obviously) have no idea what goes on behind closed doors, but this is just strange.

So we did go see the show, and I had hoped that the shelf mushrooms would at least be really supremely detailed and intricate - but they weren't. I thought they looked pretty good on the rusty columns - just as I had imagined they would.

The little red infestation was really hard to find, but there they were in the brick, looking sort of like an infestation.

I don't want to disparage the artists (I like Danielle and Carey's work), the work was interesting, so enough about that, and on to some other works in the show.

Wade Kavanaugh & Stephen Nguyen created a beautiful craft paper work thatmimickedd the beams in the space, but it also had overtones of wood. There was a strange strength and fragility in the mass of craft paper.

Karen Dolmanisth's work was a tactile investigation of architectural mass. She used sticks which had been deftly carved to build a small sheltering structure which swirled around one of the columns. Enmeshed in the piece - trapped or finding refuge? - were cultural detritus.

Luisa Caldwell's candy wrapper piece was so festive, decorative and delicate in such a massive industrial space. It swayed gently with the drafts coming through the building, and reflected fragments of light. The piece took detritus and celebrated it and created a beautiful sculptural piece which defined space in an interesting way.

Claire Watkins created a fascinating investigation of suspended energy, by utilizing a magnet to attract a number of needles tied to the columns by long threads of red. (There's a good picture of it in the link).

So the curatorial thesis of 'site specificity' seemed quite broad. Some of the pieces responded to the location of the space, some of the works responded to the shape and size of the space, and some of the works responded to the concept of site specific in itself.

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1 comment:

esm said...

This was posted on another day:
"did you look at danielle dimstons mushroom from underneath? they were not just pieces of cardboard stuck on the columns. On the underside of each mushroom was a detailed drawing. She made an interesting point by obscuring the intricate drawings and by making the viewers look for the beauty."
and the answer is, sadly, no - I really wish I had - her work tends toward delicate intimacy and it seemed to be missing on this work. but i guess it was there all along! i wish i had seen it, because even though i liked the work, this would have been a real treat. thanks anon for pointing it out!