EXPAND//FOLD//COLLAPSE// Sculptures by Marta Chilindron: A Conversation with Great Hall Exhibition Curators, Susanna Temkin and Katharine Wright

The following is a transcript of a conversation between IFA PhD candidates Susanna Temkin and Katharine Wright and Master’s student, Caroline Barnett. Temkin and Wright are the co-curators of the Great Hall Exhibition program for the 2014-2015 academic year. The interview took place on October 27, 2014.

Marta Chilindron, Cube 48 Orange, 2014, acrylic, dimensions variable: closed: 48 x 48 x 48 in., Courtesy Cecilia de Torres, Ltd.

Marta Chilindron, Cube 48 Orange, 2014, acrylic, dimensions variable: closed: 48 x 48 x 48 in., Courtesy Cecilia de Torres, Ltd.

CB: So, tell us a little bit about the show. What can we expect to see?

ST: We’re going to be installing a total of eight works by the artist Marta Chilindron, three of which are large-scale. Chilindron creates manipulable sculptural works using transparent and multi-colored plastic-based material. For the show, we are installing works throughout the Great Hall. We wanted to make as much use of the space as possible, so they will be in the vestibule, the lobby space, and on the marble table on the platform right below the staircase. But, right now things are tentative. We’re giving this interview before we do the installation, so we will have to see how everything plays out.

CB: It’s appropriate that the installation is in flux – expanding and collapsing like the title.

ST and KW: Yes!

CB: What were the challenges of curating a show in the Duke House? I imagine it has a lot of limitations.

KW: One of the challenges is the nature of the space…there are a lot of things you have to work around. It’s a place of major circulation; everyone who comes in and out of the building has to go through there at some point – there are classrooms, offices, our lunch room. So that really hinders where you can exhibit things.

ST: This is not a traditional exhibition space. It’s challenging: we had no walls, we had to really respect the building, people have to be able to use it, it’s not climate controlled, etc., etc.

KW: But that’s why Chilindron’s work is so exciting because it dictates that kind of movement and manipulation of space; it can fill it or contract as need be. For example, right now we are involved in discussions about the work, Green Pyramid (2006). Depending on how we choose to install the piece, it can stretch from a hexagonal shape with a diameter of eight feet to a much more condensed, triangular form that uses about half of the floor space.

CB: You can’t change the lighting, can you?

ST: Yes! The building staff will help with spotlights. However, one thing that is important about Chilindron’s art is how the nature of the materials she works with – transparent acrylics and other plastics-based media – interacts with the light effects of the space. I’m really excited to see how the works we install near the staircase will reflect light filtering in from the Duke House’s skylight. For students, I think it will be nice to see how the works change throughout the course of the day or with the weather, for example.

CB: Are you two continuing the program into the spring?

KW: We’ve been tasked with organizing the spring exhibition. I should explain that we’re co-organizers and co-curators of this year’s Great Hall Exhibitions, but Susanna has taken the lead on this show in the fall, and I’m going to take the lead in the spring. We’re still in the process of negotiating what the next exhibition will entail.

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Challenging Gridlock for Gridwork: A Trip to Harlem for Early Charles Gaines

The current exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem, Charles Gaines: Gridwork 1974-1989 (on view through October 26, 2014), encompasses an era of the artist’s work before he began confronting social content and identity head-on, as in the 1993 exhibition and publication, The Theater of Refusal: Black Art and Mainstream Criticism, which examined racial determinism in the artworld at that time. Despite the fact that the exhibition catalog and wall texts at the Studio Museum explain Charles Gaines as an artist who explores the “relationship between aesthetics, politics, language and systems,” the political and racial implications seem absent in this period of his oeuvre, or at least buried deep within systematical and conceptual thinking.

Charles Gaines Motion: Trisha Brown Dance, Set #1, 1980–81 Collection of James Keith Brown and Eric Diefenbach Courtesy Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects Photo by Robert Wedemeyer.

Charles Gaines, Motion: Trisha Brown Dance, Set #1, 1980–81. Collection of James Keith Brown and Eric Diefenbach. Courtesy Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects. Photo by Robert Wedemeyer. Image courtesy the Studio Museum.

One familiar with the aim of the Studio Museum – as well as Gaines’s more contemporary works – might anticipate a different body of work, one that confronts more evidently the “influence or inspiration from black culture,” as per the Museum’s mission statement. Rather, methodology and conceptualism – an influence likely stemming from Sol LeWitt, a major influence in Gaines’s career – come to the fore. The walls of the first room of the exhibition are lined with artworks featuring massive grids, among which are the key series Regression (1973-74), Color Regression (1978), and Numbers and Trees (1986-89). The impressive scale of a majority of the work is tempered by the delicate, precise handwriting that embellishes their grids and margins. But the monumentality of Gaines’s work has less to do with its physical size than the painstaking process that produced it. As the shapes and colors in the Regression drawings vary, it becomes apparent that each is driven by arithmetical operations, building upon each other and constructing systems similar to self-referential fractals.

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Notes from the Street: Charles Simonds at the IFA

On October 7, for this year’s inaugural Artists at the Institute lecture, Charles Simonds delivered an energetic and astute summation of his career to date. He began with his earliest Dwellings—miniature architectural structures, made of clay, sand, and small bits of wood—which in the early 1970s seemed to emerge organically from the gutters, broken walls, and empty lots of downtown New York, springing up wherever the city’s crumbling infrastructure afforded a place for their putative inhabitants, whom Simonds dubbed the “Little People.” Simonds’s rich practice, which incorporates elements of sculpture, architecture, urban planning, craft, performance, conceptualism, narrative fiction, and social engagement, has taken many forms in many places since those early breakthroughs. Yet even today, viewers seem perpetually drawn back to the original Dwellings, which remain landmarks of his artistic practice and of the downtown scene though they exist only in photographs and in memory.

Dwelling, East 6nd Street, New York, 1974, clay, sand and wood. Photo courtesy www.charles-simonds.com.

Dwelling, East 6nd Street, New York, 1974, clay, sand and wood. Photo courtesy www.charles-simonds.com.

There are many reasons for this consistent focus on Simonds’s early work, not least the powerful charm exerted on us by things that are gone. The Dwellings’ loss helps establish them as a kind of founding myth—both for Simonds’s mature work and for the narratives he wove within it. But at play here is also the art world’s typical exhaustion with itself, the self-disgust that has, since Duchamp, drawn art irresistibly toward things it hasn’t yet absorbed. For that reason viewers may think that the Dwellings’ natural habitat is the city, and the white walls of the museum can showcase only taxidermied specimens, removed from both context and life.

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Painting the Infinite: Roman Opalka at Dominique Lévy

The show at Dominique Lévy is Roman Opalka’s first U.S. exhibition after the artist’s sudden death in 2011. Divided between two floors of the gallery’s Upper East Side brownstone building, Roman Opalka: Painting ∞ provides a synopsis of the artist’s career by showcasing over twenty five works in different media. Although Opalka’s art may at first appear modest, this show proves its uniqueness and complexity. By focusing on the artist’s inimitable technique, Roman Opalka: Painting ∞ offers insight into his scrupulous and orderly approach to Conceptual art.

Second Floor Installation View of Roman Opalka: Painting ∞ at Dominique Lévy. Courtesy of Dominique Lévy. Photo credit: Guillaume Ziccarelli.

Second Floor Installation View of Roman Opalka: Painting ∞ at Dominique Lévy. Courtesy of Dominique Lévy. Photo credit: Guillaume Ziccarelli.

Opalka, who was born in France but raised and educated in Poland, began his artistic career in Warsaw during the late 1950s by experimenting with the “phenomenon of disappearance.”[1] The gallery’s third floor, devoted entirely to Opalka’s earlier works, presents the effects of these experiments with two of his 1963 black-and-white Chronome paintings and the series Étude sur le Mouvement (1959-1960), made with black ink on paper. As one walks around the room, the artworks reveal themselves as precursors to Opalka’s later work in their conscientious method of execution and monochromatic aesthetic. The smudges of ink in Étude sur le mouvement, though visibly influenced by gestural works of the American Abstract Expressionists and their European counterparts, the Tachists, reveal his fascination with repetitive patterns. Across the room, two tempera paintings from 1963, Chronome II and Chronome IV, present an intertwining of black and white spots, creating a nearly monochromatic surface.

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Chromes at Home at Room & Board

An oft-forgotten fact about Ad Reinhardt, the American artist best known for his black monochrome paintings, is that he was an avid photographer who made a practice of presenting his pictures in slideshow format. Throughout the 1950s and ‘60s, he showed hundreds of slides from his travels to his colleagues and to Hunter College students in rapid-fire succession. Reinhardt grouped images by formal and compositional qualities irrespective of geography or culture, hoping to overpower viewers’ capacity for identification and to induce a new way of looking. Long attention spansReinhardt thought, were in increasingly short supply. In the face of a mounting onslaught of modern distractions, only time and patience would reward the diligent observer.

Details from the series “Northwestern Chromes” (2014).

Detail from the series “Northwestern Chromes” (2014), image courtesy Samuel Budin.

In terms of photographic technology, a lot has happened since Reinhardt’s presentations, but his ideas about an image’s ability to condition and edify its audience are not out of date. Last Saturday evening, a living room slideshow also sought to provide a counterpoint to the normal circumstances of contemporary art production and consumption. It was a festive conclusion to photographer Samuel Budin’s month-long stay at Room & Board, an “experimental residency” run by IFA doctoral student Julia Pelta Feldman. For a month, Budin lived at Feldman’s home in Williamsburg; while saving a month’s rent (no laughing matter in New York), Budin worked closely with Feldman to finalize the exhibition Northwestern Chromes and Other Chromes, a two-part documentation of his travels in the Pacific Northwest.

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