COVER TO COVER (ON LOAN FROM THE COLLECTION):
Installed at The Athenaeum Music and Arts Library, La Jolla, CA, January 11 - February 15, 2014
Cover to Cover (On Loan from the Collection) comprises two distinct yet related bodies of work. The series, Cover to Cover, was created specifically for this exhibition in response to a selection of books in the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library’s collection. I was most interested in the Library’s renowned collection of artist books. Early in the process, in order to create some friction, I chose to limit my focus to the books with one publication date, 1975, the year of my birth. The title of the show carried a triple meaning. First, it is a reference to Michael Snow’s artist book, Cover to Cover, found within the offerings from 1975. Second, is a nod to the bookish notion of ravenously reading from cover to cover. Third, the title suggests the act of covering a song. For this body of work, I cover the works of many of these artists. Covers tend to fall into two broad categories: slavish reproduction -how about Gus Van Sant’s film cover of Psycho- and inspired reinvention -perhaps Soft Cell’s New Wave reinterpretation of Tainted Love. However, the cover that I kept returning to as I made this work, and one that should be in the Rock n’ Roll Covers Hall of Fame, is Devo’s [I can’t get no] Satisfaction. Their take on the song sidesteps the rock n’ roll swagger of the original and replaces it with spastic anxiety, and in so doing crystalizes and amplifies the consumerist critique of the original. Get out your smartphone and have a listen.
With the work in Cover to Cover, I, much like Devo, attempt to create works that are simultaneously sympathetic to their sources, yet through my own emphasis and inflection become self-portraits. One common thread throughout the artist books of 1975 is a lack of interest in the art object. Artists like Allan Kaprow (who appears frequently in the Library’s collection), Hans Haacke, and Donald Celender were interested in mining ideas more than creating formal objects. For this work, I challenged myself to consider their work as source materials for physical objects. Much of the source materials pushed against the institutional frameworks of the arts, the work in Cover to Cover largely takes the form of “empty” pedestals, emphasizing the “missing” art object. Yet upon closer inspection and interaction the pedestals reveal themselves to be the art object. What does it mean to make objects in response to these books? How about doing that almost 40 years after their publication? I am curious about the status of objects in our age of Selfies and Social Networks. Finally, it is my hope that the installation within the Library further emphasizes the interdependency of the artist and the institution, while also giving the viewer a chance to see a space that may be familiar in an entirely new light.
Opaque Displays is a series of sculptures I began making in 2009. They initially sprang from an interest in how a work of art with which I had never had a direct experience, could have such a powerful impact. I set out to explore the effects of reproduction on works of art that by their very nature should be impervious to it. Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty comes to mind. It is striking that the work of this self-styled cowboy, could be domesticated by art institutions and re-presented to their visitors through still and moving images. What is lost and what is gained in this translation? Similarly, Gordon Matta-Clark’s Splitting operates in these two distinct theaters. Another aspect that unites these two works is their radical sense of craft. These two pieces arrived in the wake of Minimalism, and while they are aesthetically sympathetic, they represent an aggressive return to artist as maker -or at least not simply designer. In some ways they take the machismo of Minimalism to it’s logical limit. How does such macho work endure this sort of institutional domestication? Opaque Displays take a look at a range of artists working in aggressive manners and dealing with materials both literally and directly. My re-presentations are created in the style of the hobbyist diorama -model railroads and doll houses- in an effort to highlight both the power of art institutions and the borderline (or over the top) absurdity of what these dudes were doing.