4:00-5:00 p.m. Exhibition Preview Art Chicago, 12th Floor, Booths 619-20 5:00 p.m. Presentations by James Rondeau and Lisa Dorin Art Chicago, 12th Floor, Booths 619-20 6:00 p.m. Cocktail Reception Brasserie Joe, 59 West Hubbard 7:00 p.m. Dinner, Annual Meeting, and Acquisition Vote Tabulation and Announcement of results following dinner Brasserie Joe, 59 West Hubbard
The Acquisition Committee of the Society for Contemporary Art at the Art Institute of Chicago is pleased to announce the acquisition candidates for 2009. This year’s offering includes two paintings, one by Martin Barré (French, 1924-1993) and one by Rebecca Morris (American, born 1969); a digital video projection by Paul Chan (American, born Hong Kong, 1973); a suite of unique posters by Matt Mullican (American, born 1951); and a large-scale drawing by Nancy Spero (American, born 1926).
The Acquisition Selection 2009 exhibition will be on view at Art Chicago from 30 April-4 May. On 3 May James Rondeau and Lisa Dorin will present the proposed works prior to voting. Please be aware that you must be a member in good standing to vote. Couples may share a single membership vote. Absentee voting is permitted.
Over the course of his 40-year career, Martin Barré
examined modernist vocabularies of pictorial space through discrete abstract compositions. Influenced by artists such as Kazimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian, Barr made paintings that assert their two-dimensionality, creating illusion through surface rather than depth. Working in series, he consistently varied his process and medium; at one point, he used the fast pace of spray paint, and at another, he worked directly out of paint tubes, premixed with pigment. Originally trained as an architect, Barré depersonalized his gestures by utilizing a self-imposed structure that included rules altered at his discretion. Using a naming convention based on year and format, Barré gave this work the title 76-77-C-125-120, indicating that it is part of a series from 1976/77 and a subseries it is presumably the third painting in this subseries, given the inclusion of the letter C in which the canvases are 125 x 120 centimeters (roughly 49 x 47 inches) in size. Working on multiple paintings simultaneously, Barré developed each composition in this series through a structured process that included repetitively layering off-white washes, laying down a grid, and hatching. Purposefully exposing the “pentimenti, the presence of previous layers and markings,” for the artist, this process uncovered the temporality of the canvas. Barré explained, “The goal of all the interventions of this cyclic process (grid, hatchings, white-washing) is not to reach an ending but to produce the apparition of a moment that I decide to privilege, to show, to render visible, to “bring about,” to “seize” the moment when the painting appears, is revealed.”
Paul Chan is known for utilizing outdated, low-tech software and computer programs to create digital animations and video projections that interweave historical and contemporary themes of violence and destruction with wide-ranging art-historical and cultural references such as artist Henry Darger’s Vivian girls, artist Francesco de Goya’s dark images of torture, rapper Biggie Smalls, filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini, and philosopher François Fourier. A politically active artist who works across media, Chan creates projects that span traditional concepts of drawing, collage, and documentary video: from internet-based custom-made fonts and digital files of personally influential literary and philosophical texts, to a theatrical staging of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in post-Katrina New Orleans. Chan’s 7 Lights (2005/07) collapses an entire day “from dawn to dusk” into an endless loop of light and shadow, destruction and creation. The images, all of which were constructed by Chan (including the digitally animated paper silhouettes used in the first six Lights), waver between clear and abstracted shadows of nature, consumer objects, and human figures. Conjuring symbolic interpretations of the biblical stories of Creation and the Rapture, Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro, and September 11, Chan’s silent, indeterminate spaces are ambiguously ruled by a gravitational force that saves and destroys at will. Described by the artist as “light and light that has been struck out,” this meditative cycle implies an underlying spiritual tension while simultaneously suggesting a formal return to the origins of cinema, which relied equally on light and shadow to reflect reality.
Rebecca Morris paints boldly textured, abstract compositions that revel in surface experimentation. Working from above, Morris lays her canvases on the floor, occasionally pitting mediums such as spray and oil paint against each other. Formally, her paintings are deeply rooted in the tradition of modernism, exploring basic shape, line, and color, while physically they reflect a confrontational materiality, exposing varying degrees of layered, optically charged metallic and fluorescent pigments. Morris declared her dedication to a decidedly unique, contemporary vocabulary in her manifesto (2004/05): “When in doubt spray paint it gold . . . Perverse formalism is your god . . . Never stop looking at macrame, ceramics, supergraphics, and Suprematism. . . . Make work that is so discrete, so fantastic, so dramatically old school/new school that it looks like it was found in a shed, locked up since the 1940s.” Morris demonstrated a diverse system of surface treatments in this ambitiously scaled canvas. Each interior polygon reveals a distinct shape, pattern, and palette, creating a structured variety of tactile materials. Fitting together like a jigsaw puzzle or a patchwork quilt, these shards of gesture and oil rhythmically divide and compress, providing a survey of Morris’s repertoire of formal inventions.
Matt Mullican’s work considers how we conceive of and communicate with the world around us. Through diverse multimedia projects, including drawings of a stick figure named Glen, who explores his senses; performances done while under hypnosis as a character named “That Person”; and experiments with early versions of computer-generated virtual-reality systems, Mullican investigates the perception of real and imaginary worlds and the ability of signs and images to convey meaning. Since the late 1970s, Mullican has formulated a comprehensive personal cosmology, with pictorial symbols that represent both everyday objects and metaphysical concepts. Like the cultural pictograms that are used in the public realm, he boldly imprints his graphic taxonomy on various supports, such as hand-painted posters, flags, banners, stained glass, and stone. These four unique posters depict metaphysical states and notions, as well as Mullican’s symbol for “sign,” a repeating image in his cosmology. Immediately recognizable and continually changing, his abstract symbols are formatted on each poster in a standardized way, with a declaration of their subjective condition appearing at the top. The artist explained, “With the posters from the late-seventies and early eighties, I made a very conscious choice of putting my name on it. It’s Mullican’s world . . . I want that to be an issue of course, but I don?t want my cosmology to become a phenomenon that other people believe in.”
A pioneering feminist artist and activist, Nancy Spero is known for her images of and about women, a subject that she has focused on since 1974. Interweaving mythological and historical figures, archetypes, and events with contemporary issues, Spero’s politically charged, visceral work explores acts of war, violence, torture, aggression, and personal and artistic isolation, while celebrating the transcending, indestructible nature of women. In 1966 she stopped painting on canvas, opting instead for the “freer, more temporal, ephemeral material of paper” on which she would produce her most critically acclaimed work. Woman Breathing is one of Spero’s most reductive pieces, consisting solely of words printed along the undulating creases of the paper, mirroring the action of breathing that is described in the text. Using a hand-stamping technique, which she began to employ in the mid-1970s, the artist varied the pressure as she printed each individual letter. Explaining the importance of her formal process, she stated, “I have deliberately attempted to distance my art from the Western emphasis on the subjective portrayal of individuality by using a handprinting and collage technique utilizing zinc plates as an artist’s tool instead of a brush or palette knife.” Created while working on her Notes in Time on Women series (1976-79), which depicts women as protagonists cross history and cultures, Woman Breathing lyrically articulates the most basic function of existence.
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