Thursday, June 16, 2016

Exploring Hannah Newman's Cloud

Hannah Newman, #LivingWithTheCloud, 2016, Images courtesy of the Artist.

Hannah Newman’s work was recently featured in the Re/Solve: MFA in Craft: Practice andInnovation Thesis Exhibition at Soltesz Fine Art Gallery.  I was struck by her playful use of materials to discuss interactions with technology and social media. One of Newman’s pieces in the exhibition entitled, “#LivingWithTheCloud”, utilized balloons and Instagram to visualize the interactions and relationships individuals form with technology and in this case, smart phones. Her work investigates the abstracted and intangible realities of the digital world and how those interactions become manifest in the physical world.

In “#LivingWithTheCloud” Newman challenged herself to visualize her phone cloud with a collection of balloons. She carried these balloons throughout her daily life for seven days and documented the experiential process with her phone camera. The images were posted on Instagram with, LivingWithTheCloud.

Kennedy: Was the #LivingWithTheCloud more of a specific curation of the Instagram profile?

Newman: I go back and forth on how successful that was. I had to figure out how many images people needed to understand what was happening. The duration was important. So I ended up with about 60 photos and I posted around ten per day for seven days. The most important images are the ones in the beginning because the balloons are really full and it looks really fun. And so I struggle with that.

I presented the Instagram feed using a phone placed on a podium in the gallery. The phone was a good way to put the images into the work and also make viewers interact with the work and physically do the actions I’m talking about. I thought that was the best solution that I could come up with. But what I don’t like about it was that the Instagram account became this really curated thing when the images were not posted at the time they were taken. It was more of a culling of the images and deciding what fits best and also putting them all up at once as opposed to posting them in real time. 

Kennedy: What was the span of time and why was it important?

Newman: It was one week and I knew that it would take at least one week for the balloons to start dying. I felt like three days would be too short and I’ve been thinking about the necessary amount of time for durational projects. How long does it need to happen before it becomes redundant? So I felt like a week was necessary to have moments of closure. By day six I was questioning whether I needed to continue, but I felt like the commitment was important. If I did do it again I think that I would change the Instagram account and have live updates. That way people could follow it as it was happening because I feel like that’s interesting too. Then I would have to be a bit more conscious of what images I’m going to take and then post.

K: I did notice that you have been using balloons a lot. How are the balloons significant to you?

N: I’ve been using balloons quite a bit and I see them as a visual parallel to the human attention span. Balloons represent moments of celebration in our lives. You can physically see when the celebration is in full swing and everyone is excited. As the events devolve into normal life you can see the balloons deflate. It’s also important to me that my work doesn’t necessarily last and it mimics that lifecycle. It plays into how the technology that we use is changing so fast. For instance, last year I did a project involving the Itunes agreement and that has become less relevant and its lifecycle is almost over because nobody really uses Itunes anymore. Not only are the things I’m using cycling pretty fast, but also the things they are about are changing or becoming obsolete. I think about that with the Cloud because it seems permanent, but is it really.

Hannah Newman, Always + Forever, 2016, Images courtesy of the Artist.

K: With your Instagram cloud, were you referencing the cloud in general or was it more your phone itself?

N: I started the year thinking that I was going to try to find a way to depict every single file on my cloud. I started counting all of the files that I have and then I needed to consider how to quantify those files. I felt like it made more sense to just focus on one device. So yes, I used just the apps on my phone. 

Hannah Newman, #LivingWithTheCloud, 2016, Images Courtesy of the Artist.
K: The cloud project captures the feeling of excitement with a new object and how it consumes your life. You can really see that in the beginning. I felt like as it progressed and the balloons died you become less aware of this device in your life and you see how much it takes over. Each moment it becomes more involved in your life. Is that what you were going for?

N: Well, that project turned out differently than I thought it would. When I started it I thought that the duration would become irritating. I anticipated that I would be done by day five, but as the balloons shrank it got easier.  Most of my work so far has started with other people’s texts and finding ways to bring those into the physical realm. I feel like this was the first piece that I started enacting my own texts and it became an embodiment of, “One becomes accustomed so quickly”(one of Newman’s text pieces, “Becoming”). I just got accustomed to it and it wasn’t a big deal anymore. It will be interesting as I start to pull from more texts to see if I will be enacting texts that I have already enacted. I think that would be an interesting direction for my work. I didn’t anticipate that direction for the piece, but it got less troublesome as the week went by and as the balloons got smaller.

K: Was your piece more of an observation of those moments or critical?

N: I would say both; I definitely had the same experience. I feel like my work is both an observation and a critique, but I see myself implicated just as much as anybody else.

K: What were the reactions you experienced with the balloons?

N: A lot of people wanted to take pictures. It was interesting that people wanted to participate with their phones. I mostly received a lot of questions from people and curiosity. As the project moved on and the balloons got smaller people didn’t talk to me very much. I think it was a lot harder to tell what they were or they were also weirded out. For the most part I didn’t acknowledge it unless other people did. I let them take the step to decide what they wanted that interaction to be. By about day five people didn’t want to acknowledge it and so we just ignored it.

K: Was it your intention to have that interactive element with the project?

N: One of my primary thoughts about the project is that it has a performative element, but not overtly. I did a lot of research into social practice to see if I wanted my work to be involved with interaction. I feel like for the most part it felt stilted and awkward. It didn’t feel like people wanted to participate and mostly people were being polite. I felt like one of the questions I asked myself was, “is this performance art, is it social practice, or a long extended photo shoot”? I don’t think I would call it social practice because I’m more interested in my own experiences. That’s what I can talk about and what I can present to a viewer confidently. I’m interested in my interaction with the digital as a social practice.

K: You mentioned the importance of text in your work. I noticed a few moments where you felt the need to hand write digital texts. What about text and handwriting is important for you?

N: I think of text as being a parallel to the digital and I think of performing text with my hands as a way to mirror performing digital things in this silly way in real life.  One of the things I feel I experience in life is that I spend so much time on the computer and I just want to do something with my hands. I think that there is a lot of unconscious thought that happens when you do things with your hands. Doing that with both language and digital formats is a way for me to make myself spend time thinking through something with my body. A majority of the time its more testing the limits of my attention span. How long can I stay engaged and what does it mean to try to reverse that in your work? A lot of my work is about endurance. Not only is it about my attention span, but it’s also the viewer’s attention span.

When you’re presenting multiples you need to know how many is enough and how many is too much? At what point is the content lost in the multiples? I think each piece has its own tipping point. A lot of my work is repetitive and experimental, but the viewer doesn’t see that because a lot of the times the repetition is just for me. I need to experience the repetition to process my thoughts and what I want to tell the viewer. 

You have to be okay with not showing all of your work. To me that’s important. A lot of times you see artists that have a romantic view of hand labor in opposition to the digital. And it’s really beautiful, but does that really matter? And so that’s something that I try to keep in mind to prevent romanticizing my own labor.

Hannah Newman, Emails By Hand, 2016, Images Courtesy of the Artist.

K: Do you see yourself continuing along the same thematic trend?

N: I think so. I believe I was thinking about a lot of the same things earlier, but making ceramic objects that were not communicating those ideas. So I came to grad school to figure out how to make my objects communicate my thoughts.

I’ve been thinking a lot more about how I use language to explore the digital. I read somewhere that you can only understand old technology when new technology comes into being.  So I say that I’m trying to explore the digital through language, but maybe I’m trying to explore language through the digital. For instance, what will be special about email that we don’t see now or other applications that are moving so fast? Will we have time to understand them or do they get lost? I think it’s a very generative place to make work from. Right now it feels sustainable, but we’ll see.

Hannah Newman, #LivingWithTheCloud, 2016, Images Courtesy of the Artist.

Make sure to keep an eye out for Newman’s upcoming exhibition, A Portrait of Place, at Portland Community College’s Cascade Gallery in August. I look forward to seeing the exhibition and how her work develops in the future.

Related Posts:
Polina Tereshina at Soltesz Fine Art Gallery
Danielle Wyckoff: Emerging Dissolving

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Featured Piece With 60 Inch Center

Fern Wiley, Participation, 2016, Image courtesy of Littman Gallery.

Hello Readers! I know its been a long time, but I recently wrote a piece for the art criticism blog 60 Inch Center. Check out my review here, of Fern Wiley's solo-exhibition, Participation, at Littman Gallery. Also, be sure to keep an eye out because I have some exciting new projects in the works.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Rowland Ricketts: The Museum of Contemporary Craft’s Last Exhibition

Rowland Ricketts: Work Time installation shot. Image courtesy of Museum of Contemporary Craft. Photo: Matt Gaston '15

An installation with cascades of indigo textiles draped above the exhibition space functions as the center piece to the Museum of Contemporary Craft’s most recent and final exhibition, “Rowland Ricketts: WorkTime”.  Ricketts uses centuries old Japanese methods and natural indigo dyes to create large scale contemporary installations and designs. Unlike modern indigo production, Ricketts prefers to use slower and more natural methods to honor the quality of traditional indigo practices. I originally came across Ricketts’ work at a panel discussion at the College Art Association Conference in 2014. I was eager to see his work in person after his memorable artist talk. Seeing “Rowland Ricketts: Work Time” did not disappoint, but unfortunately news of the Museum of Contemporary Craft’s impending closure has overshadowed the exhibition.

On February 3rd, 2016 the Pacific Northwest College of Art sent out a press release announcing the closure of the Museum of Contemporary Craft. PNCA’s reasoning for the closure states that the, "vision of transforming the museum into a dynamic, student-centric educational resource was not fully realized. In the meantime, the financial cost to the college has remained high." The museum’s collection will be absorbed by PNCA, who will open the Center for Contemporary Art and Culture.

I was deeply disappointed to hear the news of MOCC’s closure especially considering my academic passion and dedication to crafts inclusion and importance to the contemporary art world. MOCC also functioned as a leader in Portland’s notable craft community. My own interest in contemporary craft stemmed deeply from the Portland’s craft artists. I see the closure of MOCC as a direct result of the long asked question, “Is craft art?” Even in a city that held one of the nations largest and oldest institutions dedicated to craft, this argument continues to develop. Daniel Duford wrote on the news of MOCC’s closure and craft’s importance, “For all the academic patois and MFA art speak around “radicality” and “criticality” it is in craft where the voices of women, indigenous cultures and working people are first heard.” This argument rings true and was evidenced in MOCC’s previous exhibition “Alien She” which highlighted the influence of the Riot Grrrl movement on contemporary craft artists. Artists in this exhibition discussed issues of race, gender, sexuality, and commercialism all through the radical medium of craft.

In light of MOCC’s upcoming closure, I am left wondering about craft’s future in Portland. Who will carry on the legacy? Make sure to stop by for MOCC’s final exhibition, “Rowland Ricketts: Work Time.”

Related Articles:
“PNCA Answers Some Questions About Closing theCraft Museum”- Barry Johnson

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Liz Robb- PDX Window Project


Liz Robb, Réttir (detail), Icelandic wool, 2015, image courtesy of PDX CONTEMPORARY ART.

I stumbled across Liz Robb’s work while walking the streets of Portland in the PDX Window Project, housed by PDX CONTEMPORARY ART. I have always enjoyed the idea of utilizing the gallery window to entice and surprise people walking past and going about their day. The PDX Window Project allows unknowing passers by to interact with contemporary art as well as allows the art to interact more directly with the city environment. I came across Liz Robb’s work in much the same way. I was just leaving another gallery, admittedly disappointed in the work that I saw. I was not expecting to come across Robb’s textile sculptures and I was pleasantly surprised.

Liz Robb, Sauðfé, Icelandic wool, wood, 2015, image courtesy of PDX CONTEMPORARY ART.

Liz Robb, Réttir, Icelandic wool, 2015, image courtesy of PDX CONTEMPORARY ART.

 “I respond to the inherent energy of the materials and how they interact and form my decisions, balancing the tension between my control and relinquishment of control through the process” –Liz Robb

Robb created the textile sculptures during a two-month fiber based textile residency in Iceland with The Icelandic Textile Center. One of my favorite facts that I discovered while researching her work is that she used yarns mostly found at grocery stores and gas stations and they were woven on over 100 year-old looms. I also enjoy that Robb is invested in the meditative processes of working with textiles. She states that the repetitive motions of dying, weaving, wrapping, and compressing foster a connection between the subconscious of the mind and the body. I too have noticed the meditative quality of textile and craft based arts, but Robb is one of the few artists that I have come across who uses this process to inform her work.

Liz Robb, Torfbærinn, Icelandic wool, wood, 2015, image courtesy of PDX CONTEMPORARY ART. 
“I utilize the power of the materials to construct architectural frames from which to build weighted objects in space” –Liz Robb
Liz Robb, Huldufólk III (black), Icelandic wool, reeds, 2015, image courtesy of PDX CONTEMPORARY ART.
Robb’s description of her sculptures accurately defines my experience with them. One piece in particular, Huldufólk III (black), stands in front of the other pieces and is suspended from the ceiling. The long black tassel has certain buoyancy despite its large size and the inherent weight of the fibers. Her sculptures hold a totem-like quality. The sculptures also study the relationship between chaos and order. Compact and detailed grids unravel and cascade into a heap on the ground.

Liz Robb's Window Project will be up through February 27th.

PDX Contemporary Art
Tuesday - Saturday
11 am - 6 pm
925 NW Flanders
Portland, Oregon 97209

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Ayumi Takahashi: I, You, Me

Ayumi Takahashi, I You Me, 2016, Installation view, Photography courtesy of Duplex Gallery.

The vacant expressions of mysterious characters make up Ayumi Takahashi’s array of portraits in her exhibition “I, you, me” at Duplex Gallery. The character’s stories are told through planes of joyful colors and whimsical patterns.

Ayumi Takahashi, Milada, acrylic gouache on wood, 2015, images courtesy of the artist.

Ayumi Takahashi, Mona, acrylic gouache on wood, 2015, images courtesy of the artist.

Ayumi Takahashi, Lane, acrylic gouache on wood, 2015, images courtesy of the artist.

Takahashi’s background in illustration informs her work in this series of portraits. She stepped away from the representational quality of illustration by cutting and cropping and focusing on pattern and color as a form of abstraction. She creates abstracted shapes to form the patterns in each character’s portrait. Her pattern making usually takes shape in the background or in the character’s clothing. Patterns are Takahashi's way of telling stories.

Ayumi Takahashi, Daily Paintings, gouache on paper, 2015, images courtesy of the artist.

Her pattern making is deeply connected to her textile work which includes a history of scarf making. The fabric designs have very similar patterns to those worn by the people in her paintings. Her fabric work has taken a back seat while she has focused on her work as an artist. I look forward to seeing how Takahashi uses fabric in the future or if she will combine the two practices.

Ayumi Takahashi, Artist interview, image courtesy of Duplex Gallery.

Takahashi is inspired by the emotional reaction people have towards color. Overall, she is driven by the mood of the color palette she chooses for the paintings. The bright and joyful color palette starkly contrasts the vacant expressions and mysterious edge to the characters in her paintings. This is the contrast that draws me to her work. I could stare at each portrait for hours trying to piece together the character’s story. Takahashi presents a wide variety of portraits and each is a vastly different character from the next. They are all connected through her style of pattern and color.

Ayumi Takahashi, Daily Paintings, gouache on paper, 2015, images courtesy of the artist.

 When you go to the Gallery make sure to check out her artist book, Are You Me. The book serves as Takahashi’s portfolio, including her illustration and textile work. The book is one of the most creative artist books I have seen lately with intricate folds, flips, and planes of patterns throughout.

"I, You, Me"-Ayumi Takahashi
January 7th, 2016
Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm
Duplex Gallery
219 NW Couch Street,
Portland, OR

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What I Know Is

Erin Mallea, Particularly Adapted, 2015, vinyl.
Nine artists participated in Prequel and "What I Know Is" served as the culminating exhibition for their six-month artist incubator program. Prequel is structured to provide a space for local emerging artists to critique and create new work. During the six-month program each artists was set with the task to define and revise what it is that they know. The exhibition was up for one week at S1, an artist run project space and gallery. Visiting this exhibition was my first introduction to Prequel as well as the S1 art space. I enjoyed the diversity in art practices among the participating artists included in the exhibition. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for these artists work and seeing how it develops throughout their career.  I also look forward to seeing the artists involved in the Prequel's programming in the years to come.

The exhibition included new work from: Travis Beardsley, Brittney Connelly, Dakota Gearhart, Kello Goeller, Genevieve Goffman, Lara Kim, Erin Mallea, John Whitten, and Emily Wobb.

Travis Beardsley/TravB./yahtrav, SunnyD2k15, 2015, performance and textiles.

Travis Beardsley's piece for the exhibition included a performance/fashion show that took place during the exhibition opening. Beardsley's fashion show took on the persona of the amateur fashion designer and model. The garments he designed were displayed on a garment rack as evidence of the performance throughout the exhibition. Beardsley's work examines of the duality between the digital and the real experience. He combines elements of textile, craft, and digital technology in his practice.

Erin Mallea, Mise en Scène, 2015.
Erin Mallea's practice involves a personalized research and field study regarding the absurdity of invasive species. This piece in particular examines the unexpected presence of the palm tree amongst the expected evergreen landscape of Portland, OR. From Mallea's perspective, the palm tree embodies an element of desire and escapism. Her installation creates a tropical environment complete with an Airwick air freshener, plastic coconuts, and Hawaiian print shirts. I was sure to take a postcard that she printed to remember my visit.

Lara Kim, Untitled (Body), 2015, memory foam, human hair, chili pepper flakes, dust. 

Lara Kim ‘s sculpture was an attempt to make an identity by filling a void with materials including memory foam, her flesh, hair, and blood (red chili flakes). Her work analyzes themes including gender, mixed identities, race, and binaries. Kim sculpts from everyday objects and often uses materials purchased with food stamps from local Asian markets. I especially enjoyed the delicate mounds of red chili flakes that curved through the memory foam and hair. Kim recently completed her BFA in sculpture at the University of Oregon.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Polina Tereshina at Soltesz Fine Art Gallery

Polina Tereshina, Safety orange with white and pink,
Acrylic on paper and vellum, 2015, courtesy of Soltesz Fine Art Gallery

This post is mostly a recommendation of Soltesz Fine Art Gallery in general as I look forward to each of their upcoming exhibitions. Melissa Soltesz is always inviting and conversational which is refreshing in comparison to most gallerists. Melissa is also very passionate about offering accessible prices for the art on view. If you’re an introductory art collector, I highly recommend stopping by Soltesz. This gallery opened in the past year and focuses on contemporary art from emerging artists. They usually specialize in paintings and works on paper, but their warehouse like space has provided opportunities for large installations in past exhibitions. Soltesz Fine Art Gallery is slightly off the beaten path of Pearl District gallery hopping, but is definitely worth checking out.

At their most recent opening I had the opportunity to meet the artists included in the exhibition who were eager to talk to viewers and answer questions. Polina Tereshina is a Seattle based artist and one of the most recent additions to Soltesz Fine Art Gallery. I was instantly drawn to the saturated colors and heavy paint application in Tereshina’s paintings. Tereshina is inspired by passing feelings and fleeting moments of human interactions. She attempts to preserve moments of obscure awkwardness.
Polina Tereshina, Black Out,
Acrylic on paper and vellum, 2015, courtesy of Soltesz Fine Art Gallery

Polina Tereshina, Skin Monster,
Acrylic on paper and vellum, 2015, courtesy of Soltesz Fine Art Gallery

Her figures are removed from their environment and placed within a gray shallow void to confine the brief moment. The figures are painted on paper and covered with a layer of vellum. This material brings a hazy and mysterious quality to the paintings. Tereshina further obscures the figure by spreading thick and tactile layers of paint over the vellum. Tereshina admits that she will still paint faces on her characters even though layers of paint will eventually obscure their faces. She states that for specific interactions that she recreates, the character’s faces are equally important. When I saw her paintings I was initially mesmerized by the physicality of her heavy paint application, but Tereshina’s humorous characters and stories have left a lasting impact. I look forward to her eventual solo-exhibition at Soltesz Fine Art Gallery.

My Pick:
Polina Tereshina, Shit Show,
Acrylic on paper and vellum, 2015, courtesy of Soltesz Fine Art Gallery

Related Posts: Danielle Wyckoff: Emerging Dissolving