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

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Land Mine Notes 06-06-06

Land Mine:

1. To Mine the Land for natures’ resources. Dig, excavate, and extract for a deposit of ore, minerals, or precious metals.

2. An explosive device buried under the earth’s surface with the intention of injuring trespassers and marking territories.

3. Mine as a possessive pronoun. It refers to something that belongs or relates to the speaker or writer. Land that is owned, controlled or possessed.

Land Mine is an organized exhibition inside the Aldrich Museum that was loosely tethered to Anselm’s Kiefer’s work as a way to think about artist’s today who are working and using the land as a means to talk about human pain, emotion, and truth. The work communicates an intense emotion about a human and visceral feeling. As the curator aptly put it, “truth must be mined and human history easily eludes us.” By following these three artists, Laleh Khorramian, Wangechi Mutu and Michael Zansky, as people who use the idea of ‘land’ to communicate their ideas, and by bringing them together, a viewer is able to see a contemporary perspective of the physical world.

“The works of art in Land Mine gain their strength from the literal and metaphorical relationship between land and the human body”(Hough).

Wangechi Mutu, an artist who has born in Nairobi, studied undergraduate at Cooper Union, received graduate studies at Yale, and currently lives and works in New York. Her work explores the “contradictions of female and cultural identity” and makes reference to colonial history, contemporary African politics and the international fashion industry”. She draws from the aesthetics of traditional craft, science fiction, and funkadelia. Figures in Mutu’s work are distorted and mangled forms that still maintain a particular poise. Collaged elements combine to generate images of violence disease and suffering through the utilization of the female form.

Aside from figuration, and also within Mutu’s body of work, are less figurative and more circular composed forms from the artist’s “from tumors” series. A viewer can perceive them as either volatile molecules, sea urchins or planets. The exterior linear components look like shards extruding explosively. It is as if the form is blowing up or bursting with a sudden release of energy. These images clearly give vent to an intense emotion that is apparent suddenly to the viewer. Land Mine is an opportunity to focus on these peculiar editions in relation to the idea of the land in an explosive aesthetic.

Laleh Khorramian, was born in Iran, studied at RISD and the Art Institute of Chicago, received her MFA from Columbia University, and currently works and lives in Manhattan. Her work is uniquely lyrical (they are wildly enthusiastic and emotional about something). Her giant compositions look like topographical maps of newly charted lands. Like a map, viewers can experience an inclination to focus in on a finer detail. The captivating terrain is evocative and diverse – studies in depth of field, miniatures derived from abstract landscapes.
The abstract landscapes come from painting on top clay sheets that are smooth and slick. The surface looks liquid-like. Using this quality to her advantage, Laleh then concentrates on detailed sections of the overall canvass. Zooming in, she makes video animations out of enlarged segments of the painting. Direction notations for these digital compositions can be observed from up close. Overall, the work functions as a massive motion picture. A viewer can explore a haphazard time line of events from the point of view of the director. Korramian;s imagination circles intently moving towards encounter, yet ready to veer off into enticing nooks and small discoveries.

Michael Zansky, born in Bronx, New York, Michael went to school in Boston at Boston University. He now currently works and lives in New York as an artist and set designer for the television series Law and Order. Zansky’s works within Land Mine are selections from two independent, yet conceptually linked series: History as Ruin and Giants and Dwarfs.

The former is a sequential narrative combining figuration and abstraction in a series of 200 carved wooden panels reliefs (note: a selection from the series is on display). History as Ruin can be seen as an extensive schematic analyzing the workings of the universe and the course of human events in attempt to excavate the strata of thought to reveal a continuum. Zansky once said, “History is only an accretion of myths we must constantly recreate the history that has created us”. By outlining a history of human thought he employs a reductive process to forge a breath of vision that envelops science, mythology, philosophy, psychology, literature, music and art history. There are earthy hues and scorched shades that give the work an archeological feeling. Viewers are intended to have the sensation that they are discovering monumental artifacts that have survived an unknown era and civilization.
Giants and Dwarfs is a series made at the same time as History as Ruin. It covers similar ideas and themes but differs conceptually and physically. Conceptually, Giants and Dwarfs suggest multiple referential representations. For instance, Giants can represent intellectual titans who appear sporadically throughout time who challenge rigid belief systems and change the course of human history with revolutionary new ideas (Leonardo, Galileo, Newton, Einstein to select a few). They stand on the shoulders of their forbearers and peer into the distance for knowledge, while others shrink because they are constrained by a false belief system or lack of curiosity. There is also the literal link to astronomical terms forever expanding supernovas (Giants) and tiny dense black holes (Dwarfs). Likewise, Giants are the more vulnerable goliaths felled by a small stone and slingshot, or the dinosaurs that become extinct and replaced by smaller, more adaptable life forms. In the works, movement and lenses are critical for viewers to consider detailed clinical examination, variable ways of seeing, and the observation of the movement of bodies. Concepts like, growth and decay, expanding and contracting, impetus and energy and change and transience are at play. In totality, the works of Michael Zansky are most notable for their ability to embody and convey timely discovery and exploration.


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