curating an opening exhibition

while our new space is gorgeous, a gallery is only as good as the art in it…  an inaugural show is the benchmark, setting your audiences’ expectations.   we couldn’t open with a solo exhibition.  the program is too complex and isn’t about a single artist or set of ideas.   i wanted to launch this new iteration of  the gallery with a variety of artists exploring the cultural and aesthetic values we’ve developed.   i wanted a theme with sub-themes that i could use to tease out relationships between artists and artworks.   and it wouldn’t hurt if the show’s title was catchy.

i called the first exhibition look both ways.   kind of catchy…  and open-ended enough for me to follow several conceptual threads.

today is the 16th anniversary of the opening of hosfelt gallery.   at the most simple level, the title refers to the program we’ve refined, while at the same time looking toward our future.  many of the artists we’ve exhibited for years.  others we’re just beginning to work with.  so this is a look back and a look to the future…

one of the defining characteristics of the art at hosfelt gallery is that it’s made by artists with a knowledge of history — be it visual, cultural, political or social — and an understanding of how their work fits into the dialogue between the past and contemporary culture.  that knowledge leads to artworks that are forward-looking rather than being nostalgic or derivative.  shahzia sikander’s work, which refers to traditions of miniature painting but has as its subject contemporary social issues, is a perfect example.  as are john o’reilly’s collages and rina banerjee’s sculpture.   so on another level, look both ways is about the way artists interpret history to make work about the present.

i also wanted explore the idea that making art is a practice that has both an external and internal component.    so on a third level, the show is about how artists observe, internalize, then interpret their environment.   they look both out and inside themselves.   in the fin within – a sculpture by tim hawkinson — a cast from the space between the artist’s legs becomes the tail of a merman.    something mythological and historical is re-imagined and created using the artist’s body.   there’s a nod to bruce nauman’s 1965  a cast of space under my chair, an artists’s attempt to make the invisible visible…   and of course, a fin is a rudder — the thing that enables its owner to set a course.  a “fin within” is the internal mechanism, or compass, that gives an artist’s practice direction.   but a tail fin, as my friend laura pointed out, isn’t only about steering…   it’s also about propelling…   or moving the art forward.

jay defeo’s work is nearly always about scrutinizing objects from her daily life, interpreting them through the filter of her lovely idiosyncrasy, then photographing, drawing, re-working and reinterpreting them to come up with new ways of understanding.  it’s a process like a metaphysician’s — a quest to comprehend the nature and scope of the universe.

another goal was to challenge viewers to understand the difference between what is perceived at a glance and the complex layers of meaning that can unfold with prolonged looking.  the artworks in this exhibition often seem to be one thing with a quick look and something completely different when examined with care.  look both ways is about significance changing as your point-of-view shifts.

jim campbell’s LEDs are meaningless glittering lights unless you’re far enough away to see the individual pixels merge into a single moving image…

up close, this work by angelina pwerle is made of countless tiny colored dabs of paint.

which from a distance become three-dimensional interstellar clouds.    the “painting” by emil lukas appears to be a field of shimmering color…

until you’re close, where it reveals itself to be made of thread stretched over a shallow wooden tray.

the show is an exploration of the importance of examining life from a vantage point other than the one you’re most accustomed to.  as i worked on this show, it became a metaphor for the opportunity art gives a thoughtful viewer to see the world from another’s perspective…   and possibly look within themselves at their own prejudices.

once i’d decided on the artists and works to include, i laid the show out to develop formal and conceptual relationships between art works.    sometimes they’re as simple as the form of the russell crotty globe echoing the shape of marco maggi’s drawing on a convex mirror.

or the color palette of the globe relating to the watercolor paintings of nicole fein…

my hope is that less apparent relationships — like the fact that fein, crotty and pwerle’s works, are all personal meditations on landscape — also emerge.

though made by hand, the pixelation of the anoka faruqee and angelina pwerle works relate to the digital technology used by jim campbell.

i played with the theme of mirroring by including this jay defeo photo-collage…

and her photograph of a mirror in the bathroom she’d wallpapered in aluminum foil…

and marco maggi’s convex mirror…

what is reflection but an example of looking away from yourself and at yourself at the same time?

to understand what you’re seeing when you look at maggi’s piece, you’re forced to get up close, at which point, you see yourself…  you become part of the object you’re observing.   viewing art thoughtfully means recognizing that everything you observe is seen through a lens formed by your history and experience.   on another level, this show is about self-reflection.

the intricate web of scratched drawing on the mirror echos the thread work in emil lukas’ piece and the chain link of driss ouadahi’s painting breakthrough.     perhaps the ultimate question about perspective is are you looking from the inside or out?

the works in this post are:

anoka faruqee  blue pool, 2012   acrylic on linen   56.25 x 51.25 inches

nicole fein    1051012, 2012   watercolor on paper   14 x 14 inches

1050812, 2012   watercolor on paper  14 x 14 inches

1052312, 2012  watercolor on paper   14 x 14 inches

tim hawkinson    the fin within, 1995  aluminum  36 x 15 x 15 inches

rina banerjee  she drew a premature prick, in a fluster of transgressions, abject by birth she knew not what else to do with this untouchable reach, unknowable body as she was an ancient savage towed into this modern present, 2011   female mannequin form, amber bottles, epoxy american buffalo horns, steel arm brace, banarasi indian wedding sari trim,

jay defeo    untitled (impressions of africa series), 1986   oil and alkyd on paper   50 x 38 inches

jay defeo    impressions of africa #1, 1986   oil and alkyd on paper   50 x 38 inches

shahzia sikander  end of something series 1, 2009   graphite and ink on paper   14 x 11 in

tim hawkinson    the fin within, 1995  aluminum  36 x 15 x 15 inches

jay defeo   untitled 1092, 1972    gelatin silver print   7 5/16 x 6 1/2 inches

jay defeo   untitled (impressions of africa series), 1986   oil and alkyd on paper   50 x 38 inches

jim campbell  tilted view, 2012   custom electronics, 1152 LEDs, wire, steel   72 x 60 x 38 in

angelina perwele  bush plum (6-511), 2011   acrylic on canvas   59 1/2 x 59 1/2 in

emil lukas   horizontal ring, 2012    thread over painted wood frame with nails and varnish   78 x 96 x 3 inches

russell crotty  coastal blog, 2012   acrylic, pencil & ink on paper on fiberglass sphere   24 inches in diameter

marco maggi  global myopia (utah street), 2012   engraved mirror   36 inches in diameter

nicole fein  1051012, 2012   watercolor on paper   14 x 14 inches

jay defeo  untitled 1972, 1972  photo collage   4 1/8 x 5 3/4 inches

jay defeo  mirror, 1973    silver gelatin print    3.5 x 4 inches

driss ouadahi   breakthrough, 2012  oil on canvas    78 3/4 x 141 3/4 in

all photos are by david stroud.

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