Archive for the ‘Exhibitions’ Category
(With Art on the Plains XI, we’re examining the rich landscape of the artistic upper Midwest. The juror for AOP XI, Hesse McGraw, assembled an exciting exhibition that displays the complexities of visual art in our part of the world and, in turn, takes aim at preconceptions of the Midwest and reinforces its ingenuity.
McGraw is the curator at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha. He provided the following interpretation of AOP XI for our gallery guide. He will also deliver a gallery talk this Saturday night at the AOP opening reception.)
The 47 artists in the Art on the Plains XI live and work in the global Midwest. Although their work emerges fervently from the terrain, culture and ethic of the Plains, it resists and upends the quaint color of this exhibition’s title.
Far from the provincial assurance of American Gothic, this exhibition collectively asserts unease with the flat stereotypes of our home. The image of the Plains presented by their work is a both/and Place — exotic and xenophobic, nostalgic and adventurous, homespun yet rigorous, desaturated, but no less ecstatic.
Werner Herzog’s 1977 film Stroszek gave us a weird and painfully impossible Middle America. That is still here, but this middle ground is contested, its landscapes are more surreal than pastoral, and rural depopulation has prompted a hopeful gallows humor. Rather than sink under the weight of knowing too much — having global perspective but a provincial everyday — these artists create a space of openness, belief and ingenuity. They have rejected cynicism to celebrate the authentic absurdities of life in the Midwest.
The exhibition careens through the fault lines of Middle America: shrinking cities, corporate agriculture, race and class divisions, and meat and potatoes culture. Their works graciously reveal a place whose politics are more complex than stark red and blue and where taste is a battleground.
The last three years — since the last Art on the Plains exhibition — have been a singular and tumultuous period. In the wake of the global economic collapse of 2008, our political structures have become increasingly constipated with useless oppositions and brinksmanship. Yet within this landscape, and self-punishing extremes such as Kansas’ elimination of its state arts commission — artists continue to advance the frontiers of our culture.
Today it is artists who are asking the large, substantive questions of our world. Their training — in deep ingenuity, creative agility, learning to solve problems by asking a different question — is fundamental to locating new ways out of our extant ills. We are living through an ideal moment to recognize the transformative impacts of art and artists on our world. In contrast to the extremities of our political and media landscapes, one finds radical normality in artists. Theirs is a benevolent danger, intense pragmatism and hyper-rationality.
Art on the Plains XI works to defray caustic misconceptions, even as it opens new veins of thinking through our region. These artists explode our view, granting restlessly expansive perspectives of this specific world.
–Hesse McGraw, 12.21.2011
Everyone has opinions. In a gallery setting, sharing these opinions can be an important part of the experience. We have the ability to learn new things about ourselves by sharing our thoughts on a piece of art, even if they are opposite from the person standing next to us. With this in mind, the Museum unveiled You Like This: A Democratic Approach to the Museum Collection in the Jane L. Stern Gallery with an opening reception on October 6 featuring great art, music, and lots of opportunity for discussion.
People munched on candied bacon, fresh spring rolls and artisan cheeses while enjoying the sounds of local ambient rock group, Opinions About Dinosaurs. Their sound was new to many people, but because this exhibition is experimental in its own right, it was a great match. Before walking through the gallery, there was uncertainty and anticipation in the air. People were wondering what they would see, why the Museum would choose to have an exhibition like this, and how this all came about. Visitors said the You Like This timeline, which explained each event that led to the opening, and videos featuring interviews with community curators helped explain the process more clearly. You can watch these videos in the gallery or online here. Once everyone knew the scoop, it was time to start voting and sharing opinions.
Visitors were encouraged to interact with exhibition in a variety of ways. People browsed the exhibition and filled out ballots that asked for a “I like this” or “I don’t like this” response for each piece. Others posted sticky-notes on the comment wall in the gallery about certain pieces or general reactions about the exhibition. These comments, as well as some gathered earlier in the process and posted on the labels of each piece, are an interesting and central part to this exhibition. Good, bad, or hilarious, the opinions they share spark discussions.
You Like This is the first crowdsourcing exhibition the Museum has shown. It involved handing curatorial duties over to the Fargo-Moorhead community (rather than a staff-appointed “authority”) to select the featured works of art. This meant they also had to choose how the works would be displayed in the gallery. The curators felt that since the the exhibition was unlike any other at the Museum, the experience of visiting it should be too. A sofa and lazy boy recliner were placed in the space, the pieces were hung at uneven levels (some very high, some low to the ground), and the use of frames and color blocks behind the art all helped visitors experience the art in different ways than they normally do.
This process has gone through many changes since the first initial survey last spring. Since then, we used more surveys, community curating panels, and lots of discussion to allow the community to handpick their favorite art. At the opening, visitors saw the selections in the order the results indicated by their popularity. Now, a week later as the comment wall continues to grow and the ballot box gets more votes, this exhibition will also continue to grow and change in response to the feedback.
You Like This will run October 6, 2011 – January 15, 2012, so stop in occasionally to see how your votes are changing this reflection of Fargo-Moorhead’s favorite art in the Museum permanent collection.
Last spring, the Museum called for the community’s help in curating an upcoming exhibition. Now fall is here and it’s time to see the end result in the exhibition You Like This: A Democratic Approach to the Museum Collection. But before you see the art, there are some things you’ll want to know about this special exhibition.
The process began about six months ago with an idea to “crowdsource” an exhibition. The crowdsourcing phenomenon uses large groups of people to create new ideas and projects. The first step for our process was to create an initial survey to decide which types of art and artists the Fargo – Moorhead community calls their favorites. Museum staff worked with a group of community members to narrow down the works of art to a more manageable number using the guidelines from the initial survey. After that, the public voted again in a final survey we posted online in July. Then, we called back the community curators after the final selections were made to choose how the works will be displayed when You Like This opens.
The last two community curating meetings were spent discussing general layout ideas like color choices, framing, and organization of the art. Curators liked the idea that the voting and interaction with the exhibition didn’t stop at the opening, so they brainstormed ways to take in more votes. During the exhibition, visitors are encouraged to interact with You Like This in a few different ways:
- Ballot boxes in the gallery will allow you to vote up or down on specific works of art;
- A comment wall in the gallery will capture your thoughts on the exhibition or specific works of art;
- Interactions through Facebook and Twitter will allow you to connect with others and leave comments;
- An email address is available for you to send your thoughts and comments.
To hear more from our community curators, check out a short video of what they thought of the You Like This process.
You can probably tell that technology played a large role in this process, and it really has! The Museum learned a lot of interesting things by analyzing the data we collected, and technology also makes it easy for us all to communicate and discuss our opinions. If you don’t have a mobile device to use in the gallery, don’t worry – we’ll have a form you can take home so you can respond at your convenience. After we’ve generated enough comments and votes, the polls will be re-evaluated and each piece’s ranking will change according to the results.
The You Like This opening reception will be 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6 in the Jane L. Stern Gallery and will have refreshments, cash bar, and music by local ambient-rock group Opinions About Dinosaurs. Admission is free for members, $10 for nonmembers and $5 for students.
(The following is excerpted from the exhibition catalog for See Acts of Audacious Daring: The Circus World of Judy Onofrio, opening September 25. Copies of the catalog are available at the Plains Art Museum store. - ed.)
With See Acts of Audacious Daring! The Circus World of Judy Onofrio, Plains Art Museum initiates the ongoing exhibition series Mothers of Invention.
This series will periodically present solo exhibitions of important artists from our region who belong to a generation of women who contributed to opening up the art world since the 1970s. These women came of age artistically in the 1960s and 1970s and now are in their sixties, seventies, and even eighties. They are part of a national and international movement of women who insisted on being taken seriously as artists and courageously endeavored to break into what had been predominantly male terrain. They made art, formed collectives, started galleries, taught at art schools, and gave each other critical and moral support to dismantle the barriers that had existed against women in the visual arts. They changed the art world profoundly, altering ideas about the canon of art history and the meaning of terms such as “masterpiece,” “artist,” “gaze,” and “body,” as well as expanding what could be considered acceptable art materials, subjects, imagery, and boundaries between art forms. Their impact has spread throughout art and culture and is not confined to their own or other women’s work. Indeed, this generation deserves the accolade Mothers of Invention.
Many are, in fact, mothers, a position formerly perceived as an impediment to a woman’s potential as a creative artist. Motherhood was conventional and pulled back toward traditional expectations for females; art was considered a male domain, where creative minds and spirits were unbound by domestic responsibilities or the constraints of child rearing. While most artists featured in Mothers of Invention are mothers (as is our first artist in the series, Judy Onofrio), maternity is not necessarily the subject of their art, even though it is a significant element of their lives.
Onofrio and others were interested in inventing their lives in ways that contradicted societal expectations. Amid the constrictions of the early twentieth century, Sigmund Freud had declared that “biology is destiny”: women created babies while men created art and culture. Much about Freud’s ideas and research has since been discredited or called into question.
Mothers of Invention proves that women can be mothers and artists, nurturing and creative; these terms are not mutually exclusive. Our series points primarily to the fact that these artists have been influential on all of us–as viewers, as art lovers, as artists of all genres and genders. They have given birth, in other words, to the expanded art world that we live in today and sometimes take for granted.
Plains Art Museum is proud to recognize this generation of women artists at an advanced stage of their careers. Our goal is to acquaint new audiences with their work and to remind those who may have seen their earlier art that they are still active, still vital, still experimenting. Not conceived as retrospectives of an artist’s work, the exhibitions in Mothers of Invention will be singularly shaped by the approach of the curator of each project, who will collaborate closely with the artist. These women and their art deserve continuing critical and popular attention and ongoing visibility, which solo exhibitions and catalogue publications can ensure. The Mothers of Invention series thus strives to prevent the erasure of these women from the art historical record, something that has happened repeatedly over the centuries and requires diligent art historians to recover, as we have appreciated recently with rediscovered artists such as Artemisia Gentileschi from seventeenth-century Italy, expanded research on the nineteenth-century American Mary Cassatt, and, closer to home, new documentation on twentieth-century Minnesota artists Wanda Gág and Clara Mairs.
It is fitting to launch Mothers of Invention with the big, bold work of Judy Onofrio, specifically her sculptures that explore the enthusiasm and metaphorical potential of circus acrobats, magicians, and animal trainers.
Onofrio is an iconoclast, breaking rules of the art world right and left, championing outsiders and claiming territory for self-education, women’s expressions, and the value of folk art and common objects. Based in Rochester, Minnesota, and now in her early seventies, Onofrio performs her own “acts of audacious daring” in her work and career. An ardent and largely self-educated student of life, material culture, and art, Onofrio has forged a dynamic career, with dozens of solo and group exhibitions and one of the highest honors for an artist based in Minnesota–the McKnight Distinguished Artist, awarded in 2005.
Judy Onofrio’s art expresses a generous spirit that reaches out to viewers. She embraces a populism of image and material that offers a good deal of pleasure and makes her work particularly enjoyable to broad audiences.
Today, her over-the-top inventive use of materials and labor-intensive methods resonate with younger artists who have discovered the rich associations of folk arts and crafts.9 At the same time that she revels in materials, Onofrio offers philosophical wisdom in physical form. Shouldn’t we all attempt acts of audacious daring, like the acrobat in the sculpture of that title? Isn’t that what life is for–living to the utmost? Who among us doesn’t feel like we have jumped through a ring of fire, or would like to pull off a magic trick, real or metaphorical? Sometimes life calls for such boldness. In Onofrio’s oeuvre, extraordinary figures stand in for all of us facing the many challenges of life. May we be brave enough to approach our own challenges with the confidence and aplomb of Onofrio’s characters.
This past Sunday, we had a rollicking opening reception for our new exhibition See Acts of Audacious Daring: The Circus World of Judy Onofrio. Hundreds showed up to see this incredible exhibition for the first time, eat circus food, and enjoy a magic show, balloon animals, and face painting. Our staff and volunteers got decked out in clown costumes, plus a stilt walker and acrobats entertained the crowd. It probably goes without saying, but it was a lot of fun.
Big thanks to Dave “The Bulldog” Arntson at Milestones Photography for the photos. Click the thumbnails for a larger picture and more information.
As we prepare to welcome the new exhibition, See Acts of Audacious Daring! The Circus World of Judy Onofrio September 25, there’s been excitement in the air at the Museum. With the opening reception complete with circus performers, peanuts, popcorn, and a pet show, not to mention the chance to see Judy Onofrio’s imaginative mixed media sculptures right here in Fargo, who can blame us? In fact, there’s even an opportunity to travel to the artist’s studio/home lovingly named “Judyland” in Rochester, Minn for a personal tour. So this leaves us wondering, what’s the woman behind the art like? If you’ve seen any promotions for her exhibition, you may be expecting extravagant colors, textures and lots of sparkle, but you may be surprised to know that her other recent works feature unorthodox materials (like animal bones) as the main material.
A dedicated and passionate artist, Onofrio said in an interview with KSMQ, “I’ve always had sort of a ‘collage mentality’ of putting things together, I’ve always collected.” This trait runs in her family. Her father, who was a three-star admiral, brought home exotic souvenirs from his international travels,and her great-aunt Trude was an artist and childhood role model to Onofrio who collected beads, jewels, trinkets, and other materials to use in her art. A lifelong artist, “I’ve basically been doing art since my feet hit Earth,” Onofrio surrounds herself in her craft and has explored many different themes where her imagination can soar.
If you want to hear more from Onofrio, join us for an Artist Talk at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 25 followed by the opening of See Acts of Audacious Daring! The Circus World of Judy Onofrio from 2 – 5 p.m. Admission is free to members, and $10 for nonmembers.
The final vote for You Like This, a crowdsourcing exhibition of the Museum’s permanent collection, came to a close last Tuesday, and our community curators met on Wednesday, August 3, and had the opportunity to discuss how that art should be hung in the gallery. The session began with presentations from Museum Director and CEO Colleen Sheehy and Director of Curatorial Affairs and Interpretation Megan Johnston. The two spoke on different creative exhibitions they had worked on and gave examples of how an art gallery doesn’t always need to be a traditional, static environment. They encouraged the community curators to think about intentionality, rhythm, juxtaposition, narratives, and even the use of colored walls to aid in delivering their message.
The next thing to decide was, “what exactly is our message?” We had originally planned to have three community curating sessions with the last one designated to the curatorial elements of the exhibition, but we had so many ideas it was difficult to focus them into a theme. Some curators wanted to take a step further and be more hands-on with the details of the installation, a request that Museum staff was happy to oblige. After that was settled, the curators had more time to brainstorm broad ideas.
One of our curators thought it would be best to go around the table so everyone could voice one idea they thought should be involved in the display. Here are a few examples the group generated:
o Highlight the crowdsourcing element and clue people into the process
o Have some walls white, and others a solid color
o Delineation; something unexpected like displaying works at different angles and on different surfaces
o Incorporate the community’s comments from the online survey into the exhibition
o Allow visitors to continue to vote (interactive)
o QR codes – sent to a discussion board and forum
o Different groupings of art using room dividers – “traditional” and moving to a funkier, more experimental area
o Using vinyl, stats and percentages in the display
Museum staff and some of the community curators will now use this information to organize and install the exhibition. Be sure to check out the exhibition October 6, 2011 – January 15, 2012 in Jane L. Stern Gallery and see what the Fargo-Moorhead community has generated through this crowdsourcing process.
Have you been following the You Like This process? Please leave your reactions and comments below.
(The following is a guest post by Loretta Cantieri, an artist and instructor at Minnesota State University Moorhead. Cantieri was guest curator for the exhibition Collectors Humble and Extraordinaire: The Herb and Dorothy Vogel Gift.)
“I do not like it, Sam I am, I do not like green eggs and ham.” – Dr. Seuss, Green Eggs and Ham
Questions have arisen in regards to some of the work in the exhibition, Collectors Humble and Extraordinaire: The Herb and Dorothy Vogel Gift. Some wonder if it is truly art and others believe it is art, but are puzzled.
Sometimes an artwork does not meet our individual standards of aesthetics or our idea of what artwork should be. This often happens with contemporary and abstract work, so do not sweat it, you have lots of company. The lack of recognizable imagery, the imagined lack of artistic skill or the use non-tradtional materials and methods have all been commented about in the Vogel guest book.
It might help to move backward to move forward.
Since the early Renaissance, traditions developed in Western art which have included accurately depicting recognizable images (such as gods, goddesses, saints, sinners, portraits, kings, dead rabbits, and dogs to name a few) and along with this was a narrative or a story to be understood in the painting or sculpture. Change has been a constant characteristic in artworks and so have disagreements. Painters have disagreed about the appropriate handling of the paint, how to make brushstrokes (visible or invisible), use of colors, and correct subject matter. Regardless, for about four hundred years viewers could recognize the subject matter. By year 500 (late 19th to early 20th century) dramatic changes happened. The Impressionists broke up the brushstroke, the Fauves turned faces blue and orange and the Constructivists sought purity by painting rectangles or squares.
What is a viewer to do? Where is constancy and tradition? Frankly, the 20th century was difficult for both artist and audience. Early on, abstraction became part of modern art’s vocabulary and by the ’60s, artists painted on found objects (cardboard or pipes), sculpted with peanut shells or wire, and eventually came to believe 500 notebook pages of gestural watercolor “drawings” were art. Concepts and non-tradtional materials became the new traditon. Also, drawing was no longer seen as a prepatory medium, but rather an essential process equal to painting. Why did they break the rules? Why should we look? How should we look?
We are caught in the “I-Don’t-Get-It Aesthetic,” an expression coined by art critic Jerry Saltz. What if art is not user friendly or it makes us feel agitated or uncomfortable? The late curator and founder of the New Museum, Marcia Tucker, said “If people gave art just the same amount of courtesy, respect, and time that they gave new people they meet, I suspect things would be a lot better.”
So to better enjoy life and your contemporary art experiences it is best not to rush to judgement. One would not tell a new acquaitance, “you are strange” or “you are not a real person.” The art may be enigmatic but be polite and allow the perceived uncertainites and inadequecies to enthrall you. This newly fueled curiosity may invoke learning about aesthetics, artists and society, or politics and history. Your journey may not be predictable or linear, but you could learn a lot about yourself, the visual world, and the complexity of relationships.
Some questions to consider:
- Can it only be Art if it is made to survive the next millennium?
- Does everyone have to understand it for it to be good?
- How does the iconography of contemporary art differ from the art of the Renaissance?
- What if an artist formally trained in different mediums and visual elements like proportion, volume, light and color does not use his or her training in an obvious way?
- Can your emotions or response be part of the piece?
- Can the ideas and processes an artist uses be art or visible in the artwork?
- How do uncertainty and unpredictability influence the artist?
Our crowdsourcing project and exhibition You Like This: A Democratic Approach to the Permanent Collection moved on into phase two during the month of June. After we compiled the results of an online survey from phase one, we brought in a group of “community curators” to analyze those results and offer their opinions on how to condense down our permanent collection into a manageable number for a final vote on the specific works of art that will comprise the final exhibition.
The community curator meetings were full of debate and enthusiasm. Aside from crunching the data from the survey, the curators were also asked to help define their own role in this process and discuss what they would like to see in the gallery at the end of this process. They had a number of fantastic ideas and things to consider once this project finally becomes an exhibition. Here’s an overview:
- The curators expressed concern that certain categories of art may not be represented in the final vote because of their low level of support in the initial survey.
- There was plenty of discussion around keeping gender balance in the selection of artworks.
- A couple curators wanted to see some “old friends,” works in our collection that haven’t been shown in a while. Others wanted “surprising” pieces, ones that may not have been shown often but would be exciting nonetheless.
- The majority of the discussion – and the most passionate – surrounded the opportunity the curators have in terms of the interpretation and presentation of the You Like This show and project. The curators discussed the use of innovative ways to allow viewers to comment on works of art, different approaches to arranging works on the wall, and the use of other local talent (musicians, writers, architects, etc.) in the interpretation of the exhibition. They stressed that they’d like to offer viewers the opportunity to view works in an unconventional way and lend the opportunity for viewers’ self exploration.
- Curators also recommended using comments from the You Like This process in some way in the exhibition, either through audio or text.
The second curator meeting was a little more straightforward. After listening to their recommendations, Museum Collections Director Mark Ryan pushed our collection database through a few search parameters and presented the curators with an overview of the resulting works of art. They voted on each work individually and also discussed the overall presentation of works for the final vote.
The result? Seventy-five works of art that will be voted on by the public, with the top vote getters making the cut for the exhibition. Voting is now open, so head over, vote, and be sure to leave your comments as well.
Artist Jon Offutt (above) puts the finishing touches on his new creation: a giant picnic table that will be part of our Big Country: FMVA Scale the Plains exhibition. Big Country, opening next week, is comprised entirely of large-scale works by 13 FMVA artists. Offutt, who usually spends his time creating blown-glass objects, jumped at the chance to create this picnic table and bring to fruition an idea he’s had for some time.
So, why a big picnic table? Well, remember what it was like when you were, say, five or six years old and sitting at a table with your family? This is Jon’s attempt to recapture that feeling – your feet dangling over the edge, your eyes barely able to see the objects on the table, etc. The effect is convincing: