The Blanton Museum of Art will present She-Wolf + Lower Figs., an installation by sculptor Lily Cox-Richard, in the Contemporary Project space from July 27 to December 29, 2019. The installation is the first of entirely new work made for the Contemporary Project.
“We’re thrilled to be presenting new work by Lily Cox-Richard in the Blanton’s Contemporary Project,” said Claire Howard, the Blanton’s assistant curator of modern & contemporary art and curator of the exhibition. “Cox-Richard’s work methodically examines the history and meaning of both artistic and everyday materials. Her sculptural installation at the Blanton focuses on plaster reproductions of classical sculpture, raising questions about their role in perpetuating notions of physical perfection and whiteness as ideals.”
The installation responds to the Blanton’s William J. Battle Collection of Plaster Casts. Containing around 70 replicas of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures made in the 19th century, sets of casts like these were once an integral part of artistic training. The Battle Cast Collection is one of the few remaining collections of this kind in the United States and is still used for teaching today.
Cox-Richard’s installation questions the equation of the physical whiteness of classical sculptures and their casts with cultural and aesthetic standards that they were thought to embody, such as beauty, purity, and taste. Many Greek and Roman marble sculptures were originally polychromed but lost their pigmentation over time. White plaster casts reinforced the myth that these sculptures and the ancient people they represented were all white. Cox-Richard subverts this narrative by adding color to sculptures she made from 3D scans, near-perfect indices of artworks much like plaster casts.
A highlight of the installation is a colorful sculpture of a she-wolf based on 3D scans of casts taken from the bronze original (5th century BCE–12th century CE) in the Capitoline Museum in Rome. Cox-Richard’s She-Wolf (2019) is made of scagliola, a handmade artificial marble used in ancient Rome and revived in the Renaissance. By recasting the she-wolf in color, Cox-Richard envisions a different mythology—in technicolor—for this sculpture. She-Wolf + Lower Figs. also includes an intervention using casts from the Battle Collection that evokes the original sculptures’ polychroming.
Cox-Richard’s Ramp (2019) is a thirty-foot-long sculpture of seven concrete slabs that resembles a long sidewalk. Ramp visualizes the Western canon of art and civilization—founded on the models of ancient Greece and Rome—as a form of infrastructure challenged by alternative narratives. The slabs are pushed upward by an oozing substance, and their corners have been ground down to reveal a colorful aggregate including fragments of casts made using 3D scans of the Battle Casts’ heads.
“The stylization of hair, the aggregate in a sidewalk—so much information is packed into these details,” said Cox-Richard. “In translating objects into other materials, through processes like mold-making and scanning, some details are obscured, and others accumulate.”
This installation is organized by Claire Howard, Assistant Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art.
Major funding for the Contemporary Project is provided by Suzanne McFayden.
Jeffrey Gibson: This Is the Day
The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin will present Jeffrey Gibson: This Is the Day from July 14 to September 29, 2019. This exhibition is organized by the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College, Clinton, New York, and features over fifty works Gibson made between 2014 and 2018 including intricately beaded wall hangings and punching bags, paintings, ceramics, garments, helmets, and a new video commissioned for the exhibition entitled I Was Here (2018). Gibson intertwines polyphonic cultural references into works of art that are powerful affirmations of the identities we possess and embody.
“The Blanton is delighted to bring this vibrant exhibition of Jeffrey Gibson’s recent work to Austin,” said Blanton director Simone Wicha. “Gibson’s stunning garments, elaborately beaded wall hangings, and bold paintings are hopeful, celebratory works that are sure to resonate with diverse audiences. While his art is rooted in his own identity and heritage, it also demonstrates the importance of inclusivity and community. We look forward to presenting Gibson’s art to our many audiences, and for the conversations these complex works will foster.”
In his practice Gibson brings together his Choctaw and Cherokee heritage and queer identity with a range of diverse artistic and cultural influences to explore race, sexuality, religion, and gender. Gibson’s art often joins exuberant colors, patterns, and materials with text borrowed from such authors as James Baldwin and Simone de Beauvoir or song lyrics by Grace Jones, Boy George, and other musicians. The title of the exhibition “This Is the Day,” references the 1983 song of the same title by the band The The, reflecting both the celebratory spirit of Gibson’s recent work and his interest in pop culture, especially during his own coming of age in the 1980s and 1990s. Gibson’s work highlights the unexpected connections between ceremonies and performances found in Native American powwow rituals, dance clubs, drag shows, and fashion shows, underscoring the complex vitality of his eclectic sources.
“The Blanton is thrilled to present Gibson’s work during a such a significant year in his career,” said Blanton curator of modern and contemporary art Veronica Roberts, managing curator of the exhibition. “He is included the 2019 Whitney Biennial on view from May 17 to September 22 and is prominently featured in other museum exhibitions across the country from the Seattle Art Museum to the New Museum in New York. Gibson’s expansive practice will offer many points of connection for our audiences: it demonstrates exceptional craftsmanship and draws from pop culture, queer identity, Native American rituals and art forms, and art history. Presenting This Is the Day builds upon our larger mission to build a collection and host exhibitions that reflect diverse cultures and perspectives, while showcasing one of the most exciting contemporary artists working today.”
A major theme of the exhibition is ritual adornment and contemporary dress. Drawing from powwow regalia, movements associated with subcultures, and fashion, Gibson investigates how clothing can be used to communicate and transcend identity. The exhibition includes seven garments that are hung from tipi poles attached to the gallery ceiling. The longest garment is approximately ten feet tall and most are approximately six feet wide with their sleeves outstretched. They are composed from a wide range of materials including plastic beads, jingles, repurposed quilts and other textiles, as well as news headlines and images of Gibson’s previous works digitally printed onto custom fabrics. With their larger than-life size and deliberately ambiguous gender identification, they are powerful assertions of inclusivity.
“I rarely see my body represented in popular culture,” Gibson explains. “But my practice is where I call the shots, and I am trying to make the world I envision.” Similarly, the helmets weigh between 35 and 55 pounds and are ornamented with organic material such as quartz crystals, an amethyst geode, and coral, as well as found objects such as toys, charms, and cake toppers. Each explores a singular theme of death, love, peace, the ocean, and the archetype of the clown.
The form of the garments references the type of shirt associated with the Ghost Dance movement, a pacifist movement which believed in a peaceful return of land and way of life to Native tribes originating with the Paiute people in the 19th century and ending with the Wounded Knee Massacre. Practitioners of the Ghost Dance, which was a central ritual of the movement, wore hand-sewn shirts that were believed to repel bullets. At the same time, Gibson cites contemporary struggles for indigenous political autonomy. For example, Tribes File Suit To Protect Bears Ears (2018) features fabric printed with headlines of news coverage focused on the recent reduction of the size of Bears Ears public lands in Utah, which are held in common by five tribes.
This Is the Day also includes the video work I Was Here (2018), which was commissioned by the Wellin Museum of Art for the exhibition. Blurring the lines between documentary and fantasy, I Was Here is centered around Macy, a trans woman and member of the Choctaw Nation. Set on the Choctaw reservation in rural Mississippi where Gibson’s family is from, the film explores ideas related to the performance of gender identity, relationship to landscape, spirituality, and rituals. The title comes from the Beyoncé song of the same name, which Macy described as one of her personal anthems; the soundtrack was composed and performed by Tanya Tagaq, a Canadian Inuk throat singer.
The exhibition also includes ceramic sculptures, beaded panels, tapestries, weavings, abstract geometric paintings, and punching bags. Also on view will be LIKE A HAMMER (2016), a multi-media installation comprising a video of the artist donning a heavily ornamented robe in which he dances, drums, and creates a series of seven oil stick and graphite drawings, included in the display alongside the adorned cloak suspended from tipi poles. Jeffrey Gibson will speak with Veronica Roberts and Tracy L. Adler, Johnson-Pote Director of the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College and curator of the exhibition, at the Blanton on Friday, July 12 at 6 p.m.
Jeffrey Gibson: This Is the Day is organized by the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College, Clinton, New York.
Generous funding for this exhibition at the Blanton is provided by Jeanne and Michael Klein, with additional support from Suzanne Deal Booth and Bridget and Patrick Wade.
Janine Antoni and Anna Halprin: Paper Dance
This exhibition at the museum’s downtown Austin venue, the Jones Center on Congress Avenue, includes artworks by Antoni from 1989 to the present and solo dance performances by Antoni developed in collaboration with Halprin.
The Contemporary Austin presents an exhibition by artists Janine Antoni and Anna Halprin at its downtown Austin venue, the Jones Center at 700 Congress Avenue. On view January 23 through March 17, 2019, Janine Antoni and Anna Halprin: Paper Dance is a retrospective of work from the past thirty years by New York–based artist Janine Antoni (Bahamian, born 1964 in Freeport, Grand Bahama), including sculptures and photographs. The exhibition also includes a solo dance performance by Antoni developed collaboratively with the pioneering dancer and choreographer Anna Halprin (American, born 1920 in Wilmette, Illinois).
On view on the second floor of the Jones Center, Janine Antoni and Anna Halprin: Paper Dance invites visitors to experience an immersive, evolving arrangement of artworks and a series of fifteen live performances by Antoni. The works on view and performances are presented in three rotations focusing on themes prevalent throughout Antoni’s career: motherhood (January 23 – February 3), identity (February 5 – 24), and absence (February 26 – March 17). Together, Paper Dance provides an intriguing look into Antoni’s hybrid artistic practice, highlighting the ways in which she uses the body as tool and material in her performance and visual art. Through the changing nature of the exhibition and the artist’s time-based activation of the galleries, audiences will encounter a multitude of experiences over the course of the exhibition. Paper Dance is organized by Julia V. Hendrickson, Associate Curator, The Contemporary Austin, in collaboration with Andrea Mellard, Director of Public Programs & Community Engagement.
Says Hendrickson, “The museum is thrilled to showcase a glimpse into the depth and breadth of Janine Antoni’s powerful work over the last thirty years, to tease out some key themes throughout her career, and to bring to Austin this unique take on an artist’s retrospective. While Antoni is primarily known as a sculptor, performance manifests itself in many of her processes. Paper Dance unites her physical art making with live performance, showing the importance that the body has had to the artist. Audiences will be able to experience, alongside the artist, connections between objects, movement, and space, gaining insight into the experience and memory of their making.” Adds Mellard, “The intimate performances Antoni developed collaboratively with Anna Halprin build on the choreographer’s legacy and offer the public a unique opportunity to see the visual artist in action, interacting with her own legacy through past works. It is an honor to invite Antoni back to Austin and to present this unique, hybrid project, which is both deeply affecting and reveals great insight into her process.”
The exhibition at the Jones Center consists of a wooden dance floor and thirty-nine wooden art crates containing thirty-eight works of Antoni’s sculpture and photography from 1989 to the present. As visitors enter the space, they will see the dance floor, along with an arrangement of crates, which also serve as seating during the live performances. Through three separate thematic rotations, these crates will be reconfigured, unpacked, and packed by the artist and art handlers both during and in between performances, so that the space—and artworks on view—changes over time, allowing for a new experience for those who return throughout the exhibition.
Each thematic rotation begins with the crates installed in a rough oval (imagined by the artist as a “nest” encircling the dance floor). During each performance, Antoni will remove a few artworks from the crates, so that a total of twelve to sixteen works are progressively revealed during each rotation. For example, during the first thematic rotation, motherhood, the nest of crates and their accompanying artworks will eventually be rearranged into tableaus, with works on view such as Umbilical, 2000, a cast sterling silver sculpture of a spoon with negative impressions of the artist’s mouth on one end and her mother’s hand on the other, and If I Die Before I Wake (mother’s hand meets daughter’s hand in prayer), 2004, a translucent porcelain nightlight similarly depicting each of their hands meeting in common prayer, close in size but distinguished by the signs of age that mark the hand of the mother.
The score of the Paper Dance performances derives from a 1965 dance work by Halprin, Parades and Changes, featuring dancers interacting with brown paper while performing the act of dressing and undressing—elements that recur in Paper Dance. A video excerpt of Halprin’s Parades and Changes is on view in this exhibition, connecting Antoni’s body of work to Halprin’s influential expansion of the boundaries of dance and performance to encompass social issues, build community, and foster personal healing.
Inspired by this historic performance by Halprin, within the museum gallery will be placed long rolls of brown paper, which Antoni will use during her performances as she wraps and tangles her body in and out of the paper’s folds, alternately clothed and nude as she moves through the space. The crumpled brown paper will be left following each performance, so that a pile of these relics will grow through the course of the exhibition. During museum open hours, visitors may walk among the crates and view the artworks; they may also encounter the artist and art handlers working behind-the-scenes to rearrange crates and artworks between performances.
Says Louis Grachos, Ernest and Sarah Butler Executive Director & CEO of The Contemporary Austin: “Moving and surprising, Janine’s works reflect many of the directions of contemporary art over the last thirty years in a deeply personal way. I couldn’t be more pleased to present this thoughtful and dynamic show, and I encourage the public to make repeat visits to experience the exhibition as it evolves.”
Janine Antoni and Anna Halprin: Paper Dance follows a previous collaboration between Antoni and The Contemporary Austin. In 2015, Antoni was invited with the dancer and choreographer Stephen Petronio to present Incubator, an exhibition of collaborative and solo video, sculpture, and photography that was co-sponsored by The Contemporary and testsite, Austin, and exhibited at testsite. Antoni first presented Paper Dance publicly in 2016 as part of the exhibition Ally, featuring collaborative projects between Antoni, Halprin, and Petronio at The Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia. Early versions of Paper Dance were performed by Antoni between 2013 and 2015 at Halprin’s Dance Deck in Northern California, an important contemporary dance site since the early 1950s.
Tickets for the Paper Dance live performances are free with museum admission; advance tickets are recommended at thecontemporaryaustin.org/paperdance.
The museum will also present a range of exhibition-related programs, including an Artist Talk on February 5, 2019, in which Antoni will discuss how her past work continues to reveal itself when experienced through improvisational movement, and Open for Discussion on February 19, 2019, a group conversation about motherhood, identity, and absence, in which the public is invited to participate. Additionally, on March 6, 2019, the museum will present a rooftop film screening of Spirit Labour (directed by Hugo Glendinning and Adrian Heathfield, 2016, 41 min.) that follows the creative practice of Janine Antoni and her collaborations and conversations with the dancer and choreographer Anna Halprin and the writer Hélène Cixous.
Vincent Valdez: The City
The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin will present Vincent Valdez: The City in its Contemporary Project gallery, opening on July 17. Acquired by the Blanton, The City paintings are comprised of two works: The City I, a large, four-part canvas portraying a group of men, women, and a toddler in Ku Klux Klan regalia on a bluff above a glowing metropolis; and The City II, a single canvas depicting a pile of mattresses amongst other discarded trash.
“Expanding knowledge and human understanding is among the university’s core values and central to the Blanton’s mission,” said Blanton Director Simone Wicha. “The university serves as a platform for complex inquiries into societies past and present, and at the Blanton we cultivate these conversations around great works of art. A leading Texas-based artist, Vincent Valdez is committed to exploring some of the most persistent and challenging social issues of the day. His works from an earlier series, The Strangest Fruit, are among our most-utilized teaching resources at the Blanton. I’m confident that the presentation of Valdez’s powerful paintings, The City I and The City II, will also engage important and timely dialogues.”
The Blanton has developed programming around The City that includes an opening day conversation between Vincent Valdez and Maria Hinojosa of NPR’s Latino USA. In September, the Blanton will welcome scholars, artists, students, and other members of the public to Facing Racism: Art and Action, a symposium that will feature keynote speaker Dr. Kellie Jones, Associate Professor in Art History and Archaeology and the Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia University. Dr. Jones has curated exhibitions such as Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties, which was on view at the Blanton in 2015 and included work that helped inspire Valdez to make The City. Twice-monthly, the museum will host more intimate conversations in the exhibition gallery that invite consideration and discussion of The City from diverse disciplinary and social perspectives. In addition, the Blanton will provide opportunities in the gallery and online for visitors to respond to and learn more about the exhibition.
“In advance of presenting Valdez’s work to the public,” added Blanton director Wicha, “the Blanton brought together over 100 leaders and thinkers from across campus and the greater Austin community who have helped us to enrich the dialogue around this work. In addition to these collaborators, we are also indebted to the generous funders who helped the Blanton acquire this work—UT alumnus Guillermo C. Nicolas and James C. Foster, UT alumni Jeanne and Michael Klein, and Ellen Susman who immediately understood the potential impact of having this powerful work on campus.”
Valdez’s The City confronts the ongoing ubiquity of racism in the United States. The 30-foot long City I painting uses a grisaille palette to evoke historical photographs of a past era. However, symbols from contemporary life including Nike shoes, a glowing iPhone, a Chevrolet truck, as well as a modern cityscape, mark the painting as firmly set in the present day. “These individuals could be any Americans,” said Vincent Valdez. “There is a false sense that these threats are contained at the edges of American society, in small town landscapes or in the American South.”
The urban setting of The City also suggests the physical components of structural racism. “The designs of many American cities today still reflect segregation,” explained Valdez. “The plotting and location of train tracks, city dumps, land claimed through eminent domain, junkyard locations, city jails and police stations, storage and industry sectors, underfunded schools and housing, even down to the placement of parks and trees.”
The City was inspired by Gil Scott-Heron’s 1980 song, The Klan, and Philip Guston’s City Limits, a 1969 painting of cartoonish Klansmen that he saw in the Blanton’s presentation of Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties in 2015. “For centuries, artists, writers, and musicians have dealt with questions of identity, fear of the ‘other,’ and the threat of violence,” elaborated the exhibition curator, Veronica Roberts, Blanton curator of modern and contemporary art. “Although The City I offers a symbolic representation of American society, in many ways, I see it as a contemporary history painting, helping us to reflect on the ways the past continues to inform the present.”
The Blanton’s showing of The City follows its acquisition and exhibition of two paintings from Valdez’s The Strangest Fruit series, which refers to the overlooked history of the lynching of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the American Southwest during the 19th and 20th centuries. “Vincent Valdez is a virtuosic painter tackling some of the most challenging aspects of American identity and culture,” said Roberts. “The Blanton’s commitment to Valdez’s work reflects our larger mission to support significant Texas and Latino artists among the diversity of perspectives and histories we share in our modern and contemporary art galleries.”
The City was acquired for the Blanton’s permanent collection with support from Guillermo C. Nicolas and James C. Foster in honor of Jeanne and Michael Klein, with additional support from Jeanne and Michael Klein, and Ellen Susman in honor of Jeanne and Michael Klein.
Major funding for the Contemporary Project is provided by Suzanne McFayden.
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