LINCOLN, MA.- DeCordova
presents Wall Works, the newest exhibition in a series of projects designed to rethink and recontextualize the Permanent Collection. For Wall Works, on view June 11, 2011Spring 2012, six artists were invited to create site-specific wall installations in response to the Museums collection of modern and contemporary American art. In preparation for the exhibition, artists Kysa Johnson, Natalie Lanese, Caleb Neelon, Alison Owen, Justin Richel, and Mary Temple trolled the Museums database of 3,500 objects and selected an artwork to serve as a source of inspiration for their proposed wall work. The artists identified artworks that resonated with their varied interests and aesthetics and have consequently assembled an eclectic assortment of objects from deCordovas collection ranging from Teenie Harriss civil rights era documentary photographs to the quiet and poetic sculptural work of Rebecca Doughty. Sited in the Dewey Family Gallery and the Museums Café, these new installations reflect each artists own practice while creatively engaging the Permanent Collection as an educational, historical, and inspirational entity.
Additionally, the newly created wall installations reference different artistic traditions of working directly on the wall. Caleb Neelons installation draws on the history of slogans through street art, placards, bumper stickers, and buttons in his graphic portrayal of the visual language of political activism. Alison Owens subtle investigation of space emerges from the conceptual practice of Sol LeWitts architectural wall drawings, while Natalie Laneses pop-tastic assemblage refers to the tradition of murals as narrative epics. Justin Richels delicately rendered sweets and Kysa Johnsons dense chalk drawings on blackboard call upon early fresco techniques, whereas Mary Temples use of the wall as conduit speaks to the history of site-specific artwork. Working in various media painting, drawing, collage, and sound art the artists in Wall Works reflect the wide range of installation practices today and their projects collectively trace a larger history of bypassing the canvas for the wall. Wall Works is organized by deCordovas Koch Curatorial Fellow Lexi Lee Sullivan.
Wall Works is a curatorial conflation of the site-specific and historically-aware practice of artist, Fred Wilson, the artist as curator exhibition model, and the diversity of installation practices today. In his 1992 project, Mining the Museum, Wilson curated an exhibition from Maryland Historical Society's collection to critically expose the subjectivity and bias in institutional displays.
Through surprising juxtapositions, Wilson demonstrated how changes in context create changes in meaning. The popular artist as curator exhibition model, like The Museum of Modern Arts Artists Choice series, invites artists to curate their own exhibitions from the institutional vault. Wall Works stems from these museological precedents of mining the collection for new relational meaning, but by engaging contemporary installation practice creates a new space for dialogue between the collection, the wall works, and contemporary art practice.
Wall Works curator Lexi Lee Sullivan says The artist-as-curator model creates surprising and unexpected juxtapositions, which in Wall Works gives the collection a renewed energy by recontextualizing the works within contemporary installation practice. An eclectic group of works have been selected from the Collectionobjects which never would have been exhibited together under any other theme and generate a certain spark when seen in this context.
Based in Brooklyn, NY, Kysa Johnson weaves art historical compositions with the molecular structure of toxins fusing art with environmental history, to reflect upon our complicated relationship with nature. Her wall drawings speak in the language of science, and invite viewers to consider matter and issues beyond visual perception. For Wall Works, Johnson selected Chemical Brook Enters the Sudbury River, a large color photograph by the acclaimed landscape photographer, Frank Gohlke. This photograph is part of a larger, five-year project titled, Living Water, in which Gohlke photographed the length of the Sudbury River as part of an environmental activist project that culminated in a show at deCordova in 1993. The Sudbury River runs from Westborough, MA through Concord, MA and has long been polluted by chemicals from the Nyanza Corporations textile factory located in Ashland. In blow up 152, Kysa Johnson uses the actual molecular structure of the pollutants found in the Sudbury River as the building blocks for her drawing which takes its larger compositional shape from Gohlkes photograph. Seen side-by-side, the works tell a more nuanced history of the impact of industrialization on the New England landscape.
Natalie Lanese is a collage artist from Cleveland, OH who currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.