Friday, February 11, 2011

Art Alchemy & The Void

WC Gallery, 908 Talbot Avenue, DePere, Wisconsins, 2011

Our friend, the environmental sculptor  Roy Staab, rants incessantly about museums and curators caring more about dead artists and dead art than living artists and their work. He wants art to be free and alive and mostly for living artists to be supported (financially and psychically) and taken seriously. It takes effort(s) to accomplish what Roy wants. Last week our Digital Processes students visited the WC Gallery (allegedly the smallest gallery in the Midwest) just off  the kitchen in Dr. Stephen Perkins' home in a residential neighborhood not far from the Shopko store in DePere, Wisconsin. His day job is as a curator of art and professor of museum studies at the Lawton Gallery at University of Wisconsin Green Bay. By painting the walls of his small water closet metallic gold and inviting artists from around the world to exhibit, he has sparked dialog and opportunities for interaction. It is a sort of art alchemy.

Dear Artist Ray Johnson

A current exhibition of Ray Johnson works at WC titled Should An Eyelash Last Forever (Ray Johnson Works on Paper) runs January 22-July 29, 2011. The show includes 15 photocopy works neatly framed (for $60) and installed with an audio loop of a Ray rant. A Venice Lockjaw button sits on a pedestal on the back of the toilet. Though the show contained the works of a dead artist meticulously documented in a small catalog featuring an essay by Dr. Perkins, the gallery seemed alive with possibilities and the lingering aura and mystery of Ray Johnson. In a gallery talk, Dr. Perkins described his correspondence with Johnson via the U.S. Postal Service and telephone in the early 1990s just a few years before Johnson's suicide performance piece on Friday, January 13, 1995.

Johnson's enigmatic art process, which includes "Paloma-izing" his collages or otherwise reworking them to achieve an alluring patina, was documented lovingly in a film by Andrew Moore titled How to Draw a Bunny (2002). Moore and collaborator John Walter construct their movie as a film-noirish detective story. The camera enters the lives of Johnson's network of friends and attempts to assemble the pieces of a puzzle to the steady beat of jazz drummer Max Roach. Moore's skill for enlivening slow declines also manifests itself in his recent still photographs of the ruins of Detroit, Cuba and other places in the process of disintegrating just as Johnson was.

Living Curator Mary Jane Jacob

Curators like Mary Jane Jacob of Chicago wait for connections and directions to emerge in large-scale projects involving entire communities, living artists and in under-used and sometimes ignored or misunderstood public space. In a lecture titled The Collective Creative Process at Lawrence University on Tuesday, February 8, 2011, Jacob described her practice of observation, co-generation, action and integration. She urged artists, curators and community to establish clear aims, to trust the process (solutions will emerge!), to be fully present and to be sensitive to moments of insight. These methods evolved from her many projects in Charleston, in schools and sometimes galleries. Working within the system of art schools (she works for The School of the Art Institute), art institutions, publishers (she's edited a number of books published by the University of Chicago Press), she maintained a calm demeanor during her two days at Lawrence University. Amidst the overly-rational, carefully programmed culture of 21st century America, she granted permission to linger in the void and observe.

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