This past Sunday we began class in the galleries, viewing Ligon’s “Door” paintings. Simply being in that focused atmosphere allowed us to gather our thoughts on identity, as it relates to text and image. It was also another chance for us to gain more historical context with which to view the work.
Back in the studio we got straight to work on three assignments: first we photographed our pillows; second we read, subtracted, and then added content to an interview with Ligon and that Jesse cropped short and printed on large sheets of paper for us. The text centered on early works as well as Ligon’s coloring book project with children. In editing the discussion we were removing Glenn’s identity and slowly replacing it with our own. Lastly, we added color to a highly exposed photograph of Paul Graham’s American Night #49 (Man With Blanket), an act is parallel to Ligon’s coloring book project, but with quite different results.
For our next class, Jesse has asked us for two things: to draw a table that seats 21 people (all of the students, the three visiting artists, and two interns); to find or invent a dish (in recipe format) for a feast. Details of this will be in and a part of the book.
A lot is happening around town this month. The Modern’s Modern ’til Midnight is Saturday, April 14th. Follow the link to check out the bands!! And the Dallas Art Fair is happening April 13th-15th. Information of the event is linked. Also stay tuned for our Teen/Artist Exhibition, which opens Saturday, May 5 (5-7 pm) and runs each weekend until My 20. Begin thinking about which Saturday or Sunday you want to sign-up to man the gallery…there must be two students committed to sitting the gallery each day the show is open to the public!
Sunday we welcomed artist Jesse Morgan Barnett to The Modern as our final visiting artist of the semester! In considering how Ligon addressed the concept of identity in a number of ways, our first day with him was lively and filled with discovering our identity in the context of other things other than our physical self. Some of the ideas we explored on day one: places we reside; our bellybutton; soap; and our birth year. When working with past artists, we have typically made about one work each week. But Jesse has instructed us to make multiple works a day in preparation for a book we are making as a class. Not only will each student own a copy of this book (made using Blurb), a copy will be exhibited alongside other pieces installed in the annual Teen/Artist Project exhibition in May. Knowing that we will be walking away with a nice quality book (about ourselves and the multiple ways in which we express our identities) in just over a month, we were very eager to start working!
Our first assignment was to create two floor plans: one of where we live now and the other our next place of residence. With each floor plan we were asked to write as much or little as we wanted about our last day at the old residence and first day at the new one. This exercise allowed us to investigate personal identity as it is tied to our location and and the memories held by architectural spaces. We were prodded to think about the events, smells, sensations, and sounds from these places and how they have shaped us, how they will continue to shape our future selves. in order to document and trace the place in time where we physically became an individual, we each had a close-up photograph of our navel taken (which will be included in a collage of navels!). We also found our group’s average birth year, which happens to be 1994.4. By taping a representation of this number on the wall, we asserted that each individual member’s birth year contributes to the average birth year of the whole – from many, one. Of course, we thought it would be fun to find the number one song that year: Ace of Base, The Sign…we promise, we won’t play it at the opening!
Next week Jesse has asked us to bring in items such as our pillow, a photograph of our family, and the coordinates of the city where we were born. During the duration of our weeks with Jesse has asked us to use a bar of Ivory soap that he has provided. While we can’t give it away now, this will also be tied to our identities and featured in our final exhibition.
If you would like more information about Jesse and his work you can check out his site, jessemorganbarnett.com, and also check out a review of one of his shows by Ben Lima, who is a professor at UT. Professor Lima also has a review of Glenn Ligon at The Modern – a must read! Also, keep in mind events happening around town. The Modern is hosting another Modern ’til Midnight Saturday April 14th (check out the bands!!). And in Dallas, Goss-Michael Foundation is showing an exhibition of British artist Russell Young’s work (closes this Sunday, April 1).
This past Saturday we made our way to Dallas to view works at the Rachofsky House, the Dallas Museum of Art, Nasher Sculpture Center, and the Gallery at UT Arlington. After a drive through the rain we arrived at the Rachofsky House for a tour with Thomas, the Director of Educational Programming, with their current installation, Portraits and Not. In the show we saw works from Janine Antoni, Mark Grotjahn, and Troy Brauntuch.
While at the Rachofsky House, Jaime said that his favorite works were Mark Grotjahn‘s because he liked the complexity of the lines and colors used; it reminded him of Piet Mondrian’s work. After time spent observing and discussing this fantastic collection, we visited the Dallas Museum of Art to view the Mark Manders exhibition. We were unable to photograph works in this exhibition, but images of the artist’s work can be found www.markmanders.org. While spending time with a work titled Nocturnal Garden Scene, many of us shared that the work provoked emotions of sadness and melancholy. Other works in the exhibition had an eerie, dark feel and made the group rather contemplative. It is very easy to imagine these works as part of a narrative, though an ambiguous one. Adding to the work’s dimension is the wall text, which features the artist’s own words about the impetus behind this body of work.
Following the DMA, we headed across the street to the Nasher Sculpture Center to view an exhibition of works by Elliot Hundley. You can view his work at www.andrearosengallery.com/artists/elliott-hundley. We were captivated by the artist’s intricate use of mixed materials, which range from magazine cutouts to magnifying glasses, canvas to straight pins. A good quote from the show that helped us understand Hundley’s process is:
“Hundley conceives of his mixed-media collages as theatrical landscapes. First orchestrating photo shoots with friends and family members who pose as characters from the Greek drama, he then uses the resulting photographs as the underlying basis of large-scale, multi-panel compositions. From these, he builds out layers upon layers of additional images and materials, such as smaller versions of the photographs and strings of letters spelling out passages from Euripides’s text. Hundley and his assistants affix most of the pictorial elements with pins – hundreds of them in a single work – creating a dizzying intensification of presence and depth. Accompanying these striking wall reliefs are large freestanding sculptures; like the reliefs, they take inspiration from passages in Euripides’ play and become essential figures in Hundley’s fictive world, inhabiting both the environments of the photographs and the exhibition installation.”
To round out our day we then drove to the Gallery at UT Arlington to check out our previous visiting artist Ruben Nieto’s work, which are installed with artist Kana Harada’s sculptures. It was great to see the size in which Ruben is working; many of the paintings are larger than life-size, often formed from multiple canvases placed together in diptych or triptych format.
Kana Harada works with black and white soft foam to create organic plant forms that evoke a tranquil and serene atmosphere in the gallery.
We spent a good deal of time sitting beneath these pieces as they hung overhead, suspended by clear fishing line. The shadows each piece produced were calming and quite mesmerizing after a long day of viewing art.
It was a treat to see such a variety of work in a variety of different media (in a variety of institutions) in just a few short hours! We are now prepared for our next visiting artist, Jesse Morgan Barnett, who we will work with following Spring Break. Stay tuned for more details!
Also of note in the Metroplex, The Age of Impressionism, just opened at the Kimbell and is well worth visiting. And artist Trenton Doyle Hancock will be speaking at the Nasher Sculpture Center March 31st at 1pm.
Our last day with Ruben brought the opportunity to look at some last works by Glenn Ligon. We saw and discussed neon works such as Rukenfigur, which is made of white neon letters painted black on their fronts, then flipped to face the wall. Another neon in the show is inspired by a line in Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities:” It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Knowing that Ligon drew his inspiration from this literary source, we were able to understand where America was in 2008 (during the creation of this piece): a stock market crash; the war in Afghanistan; and the election of President Obama. Depending on your viewpoint these were the best and worst of times. Some other works we saw were Warm Broad Glow (Untitled) 2006, and Untitled, 2008. In discussing Warm Broad Glow (Untitled), we discussed the changing role of race in America. Also a piece inspired by literature, this neon is made of words appropriated from Gertrude Stein’s novel about a woman of mixed ethnicity. After our discussion we had time to explore the galleries and choose our four pieces in the exhibition – not an easy thing! Our plan for the remainder of class was to take these works and do a work on a final, larger re-contextualization piece with them.
Towards the end of class we all said our goodbyes to Ruben. He is very knowledgeable about Ligon’s work and explained the idea of re-contextualization clearly to us. Some great pieces resulted from our efforts!
This Saturday we are heading to Dallas and Arlington for our Teen/Artist Project Art Tour. We will get to see Ruben’s work at the Gallery at UT-Arlington as well as visit the Dallas Museum of Art, Nasher Sculpture Center, and Rachofsky House.
Lastly, The Modern has weekly podcasts uploaded from artist lectures and if you were unable to make it out when Glenn Ligon was in town; his podcast is now available. I would recommend also checking out Kehinde Wiley (who has a piece in the Modern’s permanent collection) and artist Alexa Meade.
Glenn Ligon, Warm Broad Glow, 2005. Neon and paint, 36 x 192 in. (91.4 x 487.7cm). Sender Collection
Rukenfigur, 2009. Neon and paint, 24 x 145 in. (61 x 368.3 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee
This past Sunday we looked at more of Glenn Ligon’s work and re-contextualized his imagery and text (itself already appropriated by the artist) to form our own work. By the end of the day, we all had quite a few works finished or nearly completed. Here a few more finished products from the class:
For the first hour we went into the gallery and discussed works that address imagery from the Million Man March , held in Washington D.C. in 1995. The gallery is set up in a way that allowed us to be a part of the march. Ligon’s large silkscreened reproductions of news photos of the march are hung without stretchers; the canvas is loosely nailed directly to the wall. The effect is that when one stand before Screen, it seems as if you are looking into the crowd. You are a participant in the scene. The same is true of Untitled (Speech/Crowd #2); the men in the march are facing us, implicating us in the event. The works’ ability to draw the viewer into the scene allows a great deal of dialogue to happen between the image and the viewer. We start to ask ourselves what type of event is being depicted and who is in attendance. Without knowing the source of the images, we aren’t certain if this event happened last year or last week. This ambiguity is a part of the power of the work.
When exploring these works on our own we realized that these images were breaking from the abundance of text in the first portion of the show – now there is representation! In the next gallery we were confronted with images of appropriated coloring books. Up until now most of the work we saw of Glenn’s was black and white, but these works were filled with vibrant colors that caught our attention right away. We learned that Ligon asked a group of small children to color images pulled from coloring books made in the 1970s for African -American children; these images were meant to instill a sense of cultural pride and identification within the kids. Once the children colored images of leaders such as Malcolm X, Sojourner Truth, and Isaac Hayes, Ligon noticed that many made the skin and hair color of these historical figures the wrong color: Hayes’ blond beard and Malcolm X’s garish makeup do not “match” reality. This ambiguity – cultural confusion or naivete – was interesting to Ligon and he made these coloring book pages the subject of large paintings on canvas. Some examples are Boy on Tire (Version 1) and Harriet Tubman (Version 2).
Next week is our last week with Ruben and we will be wrapping up our work with him.
In and around the community, The Modern is having its First Friday this Friday, March 2nd, from 5pm to 8pm. Gallery 414 in Fort Worth is having an opening reception for artist Clyde this Saturday, March 3rd, from 6pm to 9pm. His show will go on from March 3rd, to April 1st. More information on these events is linked.
Art Credits: Glenn Ligon (b. 1960), Plate 57. Boy on Tire (Version 1) #1. 2000. Silkscreen ink, oil stick, and gesso on canvas, 48 x 36in. (121.9cm x 91.4cm). Marieluise Hessel Collection, Hessel Museum of Art, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York
Glenn Ligon (b.1960), Untitled (Speech/Crowd #2), 2000. Silkscreen ink, coal dust, ink, and glue on paper, 40 × 54 in. (101.6 × 137.2 cm). Collection of the artist © Glenn Ligon; image courtesy the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles; photograph by Ronald Amstutz
During our second weekend with Ruben we reviewed what it means to re-contextualize a work of art. This means that we take an existing work of art and apply the concepts within it to our own work, allowing these concepts to serve our own ideas and ends. Here is a link discussing appropriation and re-contextualization in art for understanding.
One body of work we viewed on Sunday is Runaways, a series of lithographs done as if they were written in the early 19th century about runaway slaves. Here, Ligon has placed himself in the role of “runaway” by asking his friends to write a runaway description of him. It is really interesting to things of a “portrait’ of someone being written, rather than pictorial. Another series we saw is based on jokes by black comedian Richard Pryor. When Black Wasn’t Beautiful #1, combines comedy with social satire and to biting effect. We all had mixed emotions about this work, as these were offensive jokes; but this is a large part of the point of the work. We learned that Ligon took eight years off from these painting because he felt he had gone too far; these jokes were contraband in Ligon’s household as a child and he still feels their power as an adult. It is reassuring to know that even he, the artist, is unnerved by them at times.
Untitled (Conclusion), was one of the last works we studied. We felt overwhelmed by the large, flat, rich-black canvases before us and tried desperately to read the stream of words on each one. This failure to make out the text induces a sense of frustration and mad us even more curious about its significance. The struggle to read and stay focused on the line of words coupled with the harshness of the black also brought up feelings of oppression.
After discussing these works, we made our way back to the studio and made more progress on our pieces from last week We also began new works that re-contextualize what we just saw. Here are some images of work from last week and progress of new works this week.
In the community Ruben is having an opening reception for a show at UT Arlington this Friday, February 24th. A show just opened up this past weekend at the 500x gallery in Dallas featuring 71 Texas artists, and The Modern will have Katie Peterson talking for the Tuesday Evening Lecture next week, February 28th. More information about all of these events is linked.
Glenn Ligon (b. 1960), Runaways, 1993 (detail). Suite of ten lithographs. 16 × 12 in. (40.6 × 30.5 cm each). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of the Peter Norton Family Foundation
Glenn Ligon (b. 1960), When Black Wasn’t Beautiful #1, 2004. Oil stick, synthetic polymer, and graphite on canvas. 30 × 30 in. (76.2 × 76.2 cm). Collection of Susan Hancock
Sunday was our first day with Ruben Nieto and we got right to work. He introduced us to the idea of recontextualisation, removing text or image from its original context and placing it in a new setting in order to give it different meaning. Ruben explained that we would be using this idea with artwork created in response to the Glenn Ligon: AMERICA, which just opened at The Modern. In the galleries, Ruben shared with us the historical context surrounding the works in the exhibition. Some specific works we saw were Untitled (I Am a Man), Untitled (I Do Not Always Feel Colored), and No. 417 (Sweetheart). We learned of his upbringing in the Bronx and of his enrollment in the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where he developed as an artist. A memorable quote from Ligon:
“When I first started making art, painting was one of the few spaces in my life where I felt free. I was into abstract expressionism – with an emphasis on expressionism. I had a crisis of sorts when I realized that there was too much of a gap between what i wanted to say and the means I had to say it with.”
After some time spent in the galleries we chose a work that we felt inclined to re-contextualize, making it our own. Back in the studio, students used magazines, oil pastels, paper, scissors, comic books, charcoal, and pencils of all sorts. Next week we will post a few images of finished pieces.
If you were not able to make it to the Tuesday Evening Lecture with Ligon and the show’s curator in conversation, the podcast will be on the Modern’s website within the next couple weeks.
For arts-related happenings in the Metroplex, try to make it out to the Dallas Museum or Art’s Late Night this Friday, or attendLeonardo Live this Saturday at the Modern at 11am and 2pm. More information of these events are linked.
Artwork credit: Glenn Ligon (B.1960), Untitled (I Am a Man), 1988. Oil and enamel on canvas, 40 × 25 in. (101.6 × 63.5 cm). Collection of the artist © Glenn Ligon.