10 December, 2010

10 Dec - The Art of Perception

LAUNCHPROJECTS - I am reading Robert Irwin's biography as slowly as possible. There is so much to it - it is subtle and complex and inspiring, much like Irwin's work itself. Learning more about Irwin's work and approach to life and art is shifting the way I consider and describe the highly complex and outwardly minimal paintings of LAUNCHPROJECTS artist Phil Binaco.

Philip Leider wrote in an exhibition catalog for a 1966 Irwin exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of art, "what Irwin manifestly wishes to do is to slow the viewer down, to prepare him, in effect, for an encounter. A certain measurable duration of time is necessary before one can even see what there is to be seen, so that the viewer will either see it the way Irwin wants him to see it or he will - quite literally - not see the painting at all".

This catalog excerpt is quoted by Weschler in Irwin's biography, then he goes on to describe witnessing a couple literally "not see" one of Irwin's 7-foot dot paintings hanging in a museum. Standing next to it at the Philadelphia Museum of Art "a couple walked into the room. The young woman, gesturing with a sweep of her arm, sighed in mock exasperation 'See, this is what I mean.' Her friend smiled knowingly... and the two moved quickly on. They had literally not seen a thing - one does not, one cannot in that amount of time. She was just sick and tired of having museum walls cluttered with empty white canvases."

Engaging, slowing down, allowing the energy and the beauty of what appears upon first blush to be "nothing" to reveal itself to us is a luxury that many of us choose not to take. There are certain artists - Phil Binaco, Robert Irwin, James Turrell, Agnes Martin - whose work we will literally miss if we do not take the time to wait and truly look. With time and attention these paintings open, they vibrate and "blush" as art critic William Wilson described in a Los Angeles Times review. They give back to us. In Weschler's words "engaging the picture, we in turn engage the wonder of our own perceptual facilities. As in so much of Irwin's later work, for a few moments, we perceive ourselves perceiving."

Pictured: Robert Irwin, Phil Binaco, Agnes Martin

07 December, 2010

7 Dec - Oscar Munoz and Cali, Colombia

LAUNCHPROJECTS - I am currently reading a great biography of Robert Irwin written by Lawrence Weschler. I will blog in detail about the book when I finish it, but reading Weschler's thoughtful words and interactions with Irwin reminded me of meeting him in 2007 in conjunction with The Disappeared Collaborative Project in Santa Fe.

This project originated as a single exhibition curated by Laurel Reuter at the North Dakota Museum of Art and consisted of twenty-seven living artists from South America who have made art about "los desaparecidos" or the disappeared. As the original exhibition press stated "these artists lived through the horrors of the military dictatorships that rocked their countries in the mid-decades of the twentieth century". The Lannan Foundation invited Reuter to New Mexico to discuss the exhibition and the result of the conversation was a collaboration by nine arts organizations throughout the community, including the Center for Contemporary Arts (where I was the Visual Arts Director and Curator at the time), SITE Santa Fe, the Lannan Foundation, and the Santa Fe Art Institute. The organizations presented exhibitions, lectures, films, and workshops.

I decided on behalf of the Center for Contemporary Arts to curate a solo exhibition of works by Colombian artist Oscar Munoz. Munoz is one of Latin America’s most significant artists working today, more so now since his video piece Re/Trato (pictured above and included in the CCA exhibiton) was later selected by Robert Storr for Think with the Senses Feel with the Mind: Art in the Present Tense for the Venice Biennale and by Sarah Lewis and Daniel Belasco for SITE Santa Fe's current Biennale, The Dissolve.

Ben, another CCA board member, and I traveled to Cali, Colombia to meet Munoz and get a first-hand look at his work, life, and tour Cali. We arrived to find a teeming art community amidst an otherwise impoverished and ramshackle city. This was due in large part to a small exhibition space founded by Munoz, Lugar a Dudas (Place for Doubts) in which he inspires younger artists with group exhibitions, film screenings, artist talks, and an extensive art library. Within the 36 hours we were in Cali, Munoz coordinated 14 studio visits with emerging Colombian artists. The artists were inspiring and extremely talented, each creating unorthodox and frequently political work that placed their lives in jeopardy to express their discontent with the Colombian government. Many of the artist's medium was cocaine because it was more readily available and inexpensive to use than paints or charcoals.

Lawrence Weschler states in the exhibition catalog "The challenge in these societies is to find a way of reclaiming the dead and honoring their presence in a manner that nonetheless stil allows room for, indeed, creates room for the living." Lugar a Dudas and Oscar Munoz' approach to his work, his city, and the potential of its youth was just that. Utterly inspirational.

Pictured: Me, Ben, Laurel Reuter, Oscar Munoz and others at Lugar a Dudas, Re/Trato video still