aldrich~LIVE: notes as a docent trainer @ The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
Docent Notes
Harry Philbrick, Richard Klein
Bill Schott

Kysa Johnson, Elana Herzog & Michael Schumacher

Beginning March 11, 2007
Elana Herzog & Michael Schumacher: W (E) AVE
Kysa Johnson: Blow Ups—Spores, Pollen, and Pollutants

Kysa Johnson’s artworks combine science and art in order to allow a viewer to see the unseen. Beginning March 11, 2007, she will exhibit several framed works at The Aldrich Museum, in addition to a large-scale site-specific wall drawing. This wall drawing will be seen on a prominent wall in the Leir Atrium. This wall is immediately to the left of the viewers as they enter the building. The wall is 15’ x 15’ in size and has been covered in a matte black paint. Kysa’s drawing will consist of a series of enlarged microscopic images rendered in white chalk. Looking at some of Kysa’s previous work, one could describe her style of drawing as delicate and repetitive. This wall drawing will integrate drawings of spores that float through the water and air—the type of image one can only see if analyzed underneath a microscope. The sample of spores will be taken from the Hudson River. The pollutants, such as benzene, ethane, hexane, and methane, will be rendered as a traditional chalk drawing.

In many ways, the works reflect or contrast the ideas of a heightened landscape or an industrial landscape series. The microscopic images’ execution visually reminds us of pointillism. It is both abstract and representational. Abstract in that the images are unfamiliar; representational in that they are accurate renderings of what is visible to the eye when aided by a microscope or a similar device.

Since the work will feature white marks on a black background, there are several connections to make to this method of working. The chalk drawings of the classroom and the work of teachers around the world may be brought to mind, some may think of the paintings of the Hudson River School, or the chalk drawings of Joseph Beuys, Carolina Pedraza, or Cy Twombly. A viewer could also connect this work to the methods of artisans in the Renaissance, who would find disease and toxins visually appealing topics to render. All of these art-historical ideas can be used to enhance the viewers’ understanding of this work, which considers the blackboard as an art object and brings to our attention the sub-atomic-particle decay pattern as aesthetic.

Ultimately, Kysa values her interest in nature and her fascination with it. What is a pollutant? She is taking what is around us and depicting it. This work reminds us again about how the Internet has influenced our understanding of reality. In a matter of minutes one may gain access to imagery that can then be plugged into an artwork. An artist dealing with science has information at her/his fingertips.

How does the brain manage this type of information? Consider how the Internet as a system influences human thought processes. This enhanced level of technology allows for reinterpretation and indirect mismatch and misplacement. Consider, if you will, the watercolor and pen and ink drawings of Steve Mumford. His work is very different from a photograph. What is this difference? Both are equally valid and good ways to document reality. However the techniques of editing and reporting information are very different.

It is akin to a visit to The Aldrich Museum. If you come during one series you see a snapshot of the institution. Whereas, if you come on an ongoing basis, you become privy to the institution’s ever-changing emphasis on contemporary artwork. The diversification of work over time is the only dominant theme.

Richard Klein on Elana Herzog and Michael Schumacher

W (E)AVE is a collaboration between visual artist Elana Herzog and audio artist Michael Schumacher. Both are new to collaborative works and are excited to see how this project will unfold. They fell into a conversation sometime in 2006 and became interested in each other’s practice. Both acknowledged a degree of randomness within their technical process and determined that they should collaborate.

Michael is a musician, classically trained at Julliard. He has in the past created room pieces and designs for installations dispersed through a series of spaces. He makes installations where sound comes from multiple points, angled in different directions. The audio typically includes sounds gleaned by listening to the world, sounds that are all around us..

Spatial relationships for sound are intriguing. Consider how with sound, as opposed to sight, we can hear around corners. Activating space with sound is an art in and of itself. Sound makes a viewer more aware and ultimately active versus passive. While most cases of listening are passive, active listening requires sounds that grab and hold our attention. This can be done in a variety of ways. Initially, the sound must get our attention—for instance, an unusual or abrupt sound can surprise and pique a listener’s interest, thus activating a different consciousness and awareness. This practice of activating viewer awareness is central to making art. Traditionally, museums have focused on visual artwork. By exhibiting sound artists in a contemporary art museum the viewers are encouraged to expand their concept of art.

Michael Schumacher had a Berlin residency in a gallery space where he composed a sound performance, developing something radically different. As opposed to creating a sound work with a finite beginning and end, his work was a constant performance. It has 57 self-generating voices and it generates new sounds by using a computer program. The computer creates a composition within a parameter of possible permutations and the results are always different. This was turned into a permanent sound piece for (is this the artist John Simon, Jr., who has exhibited at The Aldrich? If so, let’s say so) John Simon, who lives at the top of the Chelsea Hotel. In John Simon’s apartment, this work repeats every day, 24 hours a day. It is somewhat experimental and 40-50% are found sounds. At night the volume lowers, but during the daytime the apartment is filled with ambient sound.

Elana Herzog staples found fabric and textiles to the wall. Once it is fastened, she takes the material and removes sections from the piece by tearing. Most of the work is done beforehand in the studio, where the artist staples the fabric to sheetrock. Then she installs the sheetrock with the stapled fabric into the exhibition space. Her materials include plywood, sheetrock, pins, staples, and patterned fabric. Her process is somewhat aggressive, as she uses a contractor’s pneumatic staple gun to keep the fabric attached to plywood. The act of tearing away the unstapled components of a bedspread or rug design is also physical. Weave and pattern are essential to this work, as the elements and flower motifs within the design suggest where to staple. When finished, the fabric looks as if it is either subsumed or emerging from the wall. There is a visual coming and/or going. Her work grows out of feminist art of the 1960s and 70s and it incorporates high and low aspects of art craft by turning carpets into painting.

The collaboration will incorporate synthesized sound, traditional instrumentation, piano, and violin. The audio will be processed to a point where it is less immediate, with the intent that it will mimic the new wall construction. Metaphorically, the sound’s primary function is to envelop us and cause us to embrace the space in a new way.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Have you seen the new website?
Check out what's happening at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
Docent Notes
Jessica Hough
Bill Schott

Arturo Herrera, Dario Robleto & David Abir

Beginning March 11, 2007 at The Aldrich Museum
Photograph as Canvas (curated by Stephen Maine)
David Abir: Tekrar
Elana Herzog & Michael Schumacher: W(E)AVE
Kysa Johnson: Blow Ups—Spores, Pollen, and Pollutants
Arturo Herrera: Castles, Dwarfs, and Happychaps
Dario Robleto: Chrysanthemum Anthems

Arturo Herrera: Castles, Dwarfs, and Happychaps

Jessica began her presentation with works from Arturo Herrera’s exhibition.

JH: A key theme that exists in both Herrera’s and Robleto’s work is the idea of collage. Can you name artists that successfully employ collage?

Docents: Schwitters, Cornell, Picasso, Rauschenberg

JH: What comes to mind when you think of collage?

Docents: Shock, combining readymades, odd juxtapositions, Surrealists, and the Exquisite Corpse.

JH: Photomontage is economically inexpensive (time and materials).

Arturo was born in Venezuela in 1959. He currently lives in Berlin, and exhibits at the Sikkema Jenkins gallery in NYC. ( For this exhibition we will be showing a site-specific mural in the Leir Gallery with pounced dry pigment, silkscreen prints, and potentially a work to cover the edifice of Old Hundred, The Aldrich Museum’s administration building facing Main Street. In Ingrid Schaffner’s highly recommended text, “Recortes El arte de Arturo Herrera,” Arturo Hererra (Centro Galego De Arte Contemporanea: 2005), she discusses the struggle to engage the real world with modern painting, and collage as a visual language. For this exhibition there will be two sets of thirteen prints on display. All in all, there will be twenty-six of the series of sixty-five original silkscreens to view. The series was inspired by Disney cartoons and the backgrounds on each were commissioned, giving Arturo a surface to improvise upon. This process allows Arturo to utilize chance in his work. He is comfortable with giving that control to his assistants. On top, Arturo’s hand implements different materials—paint, pencil and mixed mediums. Overall, there is “nostalgia” in this collage. This nostalgia is very important because it develops a relationship with the viewer. It is a conceptual collage as well as a physical collage assembling individual memories.

In addition to these works, Arturo plans to display a large scrim on top of the edifice of The Aldrich’s administration building. This exterior faces Main Street and will be easily viewable from the road. The proposed concept incorporates spliced segments of lines from familiar characters overlaid by layered abstraction. It is a visual experience.

Dario Robleto: Chrysanthemum Anthems

Jessica discussed another exhibition opening this March, with work by Dario Robleto. Dario is 34 and lives in San Antonio, Texas. He also uses collage as a medium of choice, but Dario’s work ends up taking a much different form. A central element to his work is the description of the materials implemented. For example: in one work, A soul waits for a story survives, he uses bone dust, fragments of uniforms, and shrapnel from the Civil and Revolutionary wars. (Robleto’s interest in the Revolutionary War makes Ridgefield, with its Revolutionary War battle locations, a very appropriate venue in which to view his work.) The works comment on the way wars have impacted people with pain and suffering. Again, in Ingrid Schaffner’s text, she discusses how collage “splices bits of the real world into pictorial space.” This mixing and sampling of material is akin to making music. Considering music is imperative to understanding the work.

The process of collecting materials and then taking the pulp of a Civil War-era letter, or smelting the lead from a medal, gets to a very raw essence within art-making. Therefore the title and list of materials is integral to considering the work. For instance, in one piece there is a bullet with teeth marks in it. During the revolutionary and civil wars, it was a customary medical procedure to amputate a limb. Often, bits for the patient to bite down upon were rare, so instead, a bullet would be used. This is how the term “biting the bullet” came about. This style of art-making is akin to the precursor to modern chemistry, alchemy. Through the transmutation of material matter, Dario believes that the essence of the maker/moment is transformed into the new form. It retains the essence even though it takes a different shape. He views it as a meditation on healing and that the pain is still conveyed. In addition, he archives the original by taking a digital photograph before altering any object. However, he will not alter any item that has overt historical significance.

Some docents asked if he was working with any artifacts/ relics from the Iraq war. Not to anyone’s knowledge.

Jessica continued by saying that other works, known as reliquaries—bones or hair from a deceased person—are artworks of relevance. In addition, there is another branch of artwork, known as Trench Art. Trench Art is a broader range of work crafted during times of war, with war materials, or by soldiers in action, or off the battlefield when wounded. For more information, please see a recent exhibition at D’Amelio Terras-, entitled Fear and Tenderness in Men.

David Abir: Tekrar

Lastly, Jessica Hough discussed the sound installation by David Abir. This installation will be on view in the Sound Gallery and will model an enlarged version of the interior anatomy of a human ear. David Abir is an Iranian American who has crafted sound accompaniments to exhibitions by Shahzia Sikander and Sherin Neshat. This installation is his first solo exhibition. There is much excitement. He is crafting a moody soundtrack along with a physical structure that is an immersive space with synchronous lighting. As the music shifts, so will the lighting of the project space. Tekrar, the Farsi word for repetition, refers back to the musical structures implemented in this work.

Friday, December 15, 2006

lost light

if you do not come, these do not matter,
if you come, these do not matter.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

“Art,” like truth, as Pierce (1934) indicates, is “the opinion which is fated to be ultimately agreed upon by all who investigate.”

Monday, October 23, 2006

Contemporary Art is a creative reflection of the world around us.

It can help to contextualize learning.

Contemporary art can help viewers to discover and connect, and think in new directions about ideas in relation to our own lives.

Viewing contemporary art increases our ability to derive meaning from how others perceive the world around them.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Pachyderm Pages were lauched!

Check them out Here:
Aldrich Pachyderm