The circle and the square. This phrase recalls Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man notebook drawing, in which he exemplifies the proportional relationship that the Roman architect Vitruvius asserted as optimally connecting man to the structures around him.
It would be difficult to find a young artist more sincere and intentional than goetz. She works in many different media—this show includes 16mm film, watercolor paintings, a sculptural installation and performance. Playing the art field like this is common for student artists, of course. goetz, however, differentiates herself in that the media are all put at the service of her ideas, rather than the other way around.
Artists are a resourceful lot. In their hands, common materials become artifacts charged with new significance. Often this transformation is powered by an artist’s imagination or vision of metaphorical possibility. Other times it comes from sheer necessity—one uses what is at hand, almost regardless of the material itself.
Western artists typically use found or discarded materials to revel in their materiality or to implicate the wasteful systems and habits that caused the materials to be discarded. There’s a whole disorganized era of “recycle/reuse” art. But this term is a luxury of the First World, a place where an infinite amount of stuff is made infinitely available, while dropping a plastic water bottle into a bin is still held as some kind of noble act.
The title of this exhibition is apt. Anatsui isn’t recycling stuff into other stuff. He’s taking whatever materials are available to him to carry the content that he wants to express. Themes of traditions and folktales, protest against violence, the strength of community, and, most of all, the optimism inherent in the communicative act, all persist throughout each decade of his career and in each medium he chooses. And he encodes meaning most frequently in a writerly way.
Say the word “click” out loud. It’s only one syllable, but its sound has a beginning, middle and end. There’s a duration, albeit brief, before its harsh, terminal consonants. Despite that fact, photographs are commonly thought of as moments of frozen time. The camera’s click doesn’t elapse, it just occurs.
That said, many of Sharp’s images look like regular photographs. Blurred outlines, light discrepancies, or other long-exposure clues are rarely present. In some, odd luminosities and hyperreal details could give the sense that the image isn’t in the simple “click” family of exposures, but never demonstratively so. They aren’t about their process. Instead, they speak to Sharp’s curiosity about seeing in a way that the human eye simply can’t. And they represent, for Sharp, how time might be experienced similarly.
UPDATED: 10:48pm Monday, Nov. 21.
The Durham City Council passed a resolution Monday night to devote up to one percent of the proposed General Capital Improvement Project (CIP) annual budget to the installation of public art at CIP sites and other locations around the city, including a priority area downtown and along "gateways" to the city. And it's been a long time coming.
The percent-for-art program was flagged as a high-priority section of Durham's Cultural Master Plan (CMP) as early as 2004. Once the city created a board to oversee moving forward with the plan, the program took second-tier status. The board designated a task force to create a temporary public art policy for the city to use in the meantime, and a consultant developed a plan after examining what other community percent-for-art programs looked like. Things were moving right along toward City Council consideration when the economy tanked.
"In talking with the CMP board and the Public Art Task Force, and internally with the City," explains Josh Parker of the Cultural Advisory Board, as well as the TBL Group, a diversified community development and invest firm, "We just felt like trying to bring forward a program that looked like it was asking to spend money—which in fact it wasn't necessarily doing that—but even had the appearance of that was probably not a good idea when we were dealing with massive budget shortfalls. So we sort of put it on ice for about eighteen months."
While on ice, the resolution was further vetted and crafted. Which was time well spent, according to Parker.
"We’re ending up with a pretty strong document that we know we can execute on. And that’s why I think it’s felt like it’s moving a bit slow through the City but there has been this piece by piece progress, just to have assurances that the policy makes its way to the Council agenda."
Kim Rorschach, director of the Nasher Museum of Art, has served on the task force. She's thrilled the resolution is now in place.
"The policy sends a message very broadly that art is valued in this community," Rorschach says. Whether someone is going to Full Frame, or to something at Duke, or to DPAC (the Durham Performing Arts Center), we care about the experience that they have, and we want to welcome them in terms of visiting the city and its atmosphere and ambiance. And I think public art has a role to play in that."
"We’re trying to think about public art as broadly as possible. It might be a sculpture on a plaza, or outdoor mural paintings. Just as an example, we saw a preliminary project proposal in which sewer grates all around the city could be painted according to a certain theme by a certain group of artists. And then there could be a map to find the sites."
After waiting patiently for years, the Cultural Advisory Board will waste no time, meeting the morning after the vote to talk about next steps, the first of which is to determine the scope and selection process for a Public Art Committee that would be the first body to see public art project proposals.
The approval process, however, is fairly set. The Public Art Committee would flag proposals to pass along to the Cultural Advisory Board, and an internal city process would weigh in as well. In addition to considering any project's educational possibilities, the Cultural Advisory Board would seek public input, particularly from neighborhoods and businesses close to a proposed site. The final decision on a proposal would rest with the City Council, which would vote on it at a public meeting.
Small-scale or temporary projects, or maintenance of existing public art, could be fast-tracked, however. "It could be that if it’s under a certain amount and there’s not public money and it’s just the lease of some space, the City Manager might be authorized to make those decisions on his own. But any meaningful public art is definitely something that the Council would have the final say on," Parker explains.
Locations for temporary art exhibitions specified in the resolution include CCB Plaza, Central Park, Five Points, the Civic Center Plaza, the grounds of the Durham Performing Arts Center, City Hall, the Hayti Heritage Center, the Durham Arts Council, the Carolina Theatre, and Durham Athletic Park.
The CIP, which runs the fiscal decade 2012-21, covers everything from large-scale projects like the Human Services Complex and the new County Courthouse, to public schools, refurbishments to the Museum of Life and Science, and IT infrastructure. After hovering in the mid-$30 million range for several years running, the CIP line in the 2011-12 budget is $46,962,324.
The percent-for-art program won't kick in until fiscal year 2012-13, but that doesn't necessarily mean citizens should anticipate $470,000 for public art. The "up to" in "up to one percent" gives the Council leeway in determining the annual allocation.
"The percentage really just asks the manager not so much to consider a number each year relative to the CIP, but to make sure that public art has a budgeted number," Parker notes. "It’s to make it a part of the budgeting process. And I think that’s really where it provides transparency to citizens. It’s not arbitrarily tied to some budget line item. It’s something that citizens can really advocate for to be funded."
“It is not (it seems to me) by painting that photography touches art, but by theater,” Roland Barthes wrote in Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. The French theorist’s book investigates the relatively young medium through the question of why certain individual images fascinate him.Flanders Gallery through Nov. 29 would likely have been in Barthes’ book. And its complex theatrical power makes it worth a special trip to camp out in front of for a half-hour pondering where America is, and where you are in it.
The name Burk Uzzle might not ring a bell, but you’ve likely seen his photographic work. You know the official Woodstock album cover, with a couple embracing, wrapped in a dirty blanket? Uzzle, a Raleigh native, shot that.
Although Flanders is large for a gallery, it’s not big enough to comprehensively reflect upon a photographer who’s been shooting for over a half-century, as Uzzle has. Consequently the overall show feels a little odd. I kept double-checking the wall tags to make sure I was still looking at the work of the same photographer. But even if you can’t connect each series back to the same eye, the exhibition is a wonderful dip into Uzzle’s work, ranging from his civil rights-era documentarian work for Life magazine, which hired him at age 23, to more recent artistic burned-book prints.
The pay-homage image, however, is entitled “Red, White, and Blue” (2007) and is part of Uzzle’s “Just Add Water” series. A quintessentially American landscape photograph, it features an Exxon station and self-storage sheds in the foreground, nestled into a razed, ruined hill topped by splayed, orphaned pines, power lines, a highway-visible Exxon sign, and Bernard Coffindaffer‘s semi-ubiquitous trio of crosses.
Diaphaneity. When was the last time you encountered that word? Perhaps never. But you likely embody it almost at all times.
It's hard to locate the image in each painting as you walk among them. Because of the density of their arrangement, you're too close to make out the human figures without a real effort of attention. Each painting reveals just enough of a figure (asked if the figures were all female, Howard impishly answered "yes-ish") to make you feel like you're alone in an ambivalent crowd, but they're also pictorially indeterminate enough to seem naturally occurring like trees, prompting curious exploration of the space. You have to figure out how to experience this: as individual paintings or as a whole installation.
Although it’s not always activated in painting, scale is one of the most interesting aspects of an artifact. Monumental garden sculptures by Henry Moore turn you into a child wandering through the looking glass, while gazing up at Louise Bourgeois’ gigantic maternal spiders can leave you feeling meek or apologetic for the rest of the day. If those were tabletop pieces, your emotional reaction to them would be smaller, if not absent.
Each painting is more than a yard square, which isn’t in itself large. But the faces are five or six times life size and, hair-to-chin, fill the rectangle of the canvas. Charlton brings out the drama of the monumental in this enlarging and framing, amplifying the tension between the intimacy of the image and its globally public presentation online.
But make no mistake; these works aren’t about the Internet. They’re about people—Charlton’s daughters and their friends—trying to capture an image that represents them to the world. Existence is inherently dramatic, online and in reality.
The first Game On Raleigh will be held tonight at the Busy Bee Café’s Hive in downtown Raleigh from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., a self-described “Battle of the Bands” for video games that offers Triangle gamers samples of what local developers have to offer.
Ten developers, ranging from such veterans as Spark Plug Games to newer groups such as Pangolin Games, will show off games specially developed for the event, with titles ranging from Ninja Hamster Rescue to Bust-a-Marble to Sushi Boy Thunder. Gamers in attendance to the free event will pick their favorite from these, and hopefully gain some new insight into the variety of small-scale game developers in the area.
“In this day and age, it’s getting easier and easier to put a quality game together,” says Ben Moore, a spokesman for Mighty Rabbit Studios, who put together the event and features the game Saturday Morning RPG in competition.
“The younger population out here is into arts and music, but the Triangle has such a cache when it comes to technology that it’s easy to put out something that combines art and technology, and maybe creates something with a deeper story than usual.”
Moore says that part of the goal of Game On is to help introduce some of the smaller game developers to Triangle gamers, and build interest in their projects.
“With the down economy, while the game companies are financially sound, they’re not hiring,” Moore says. “A lot of companies have an interest in making more than just an entertaining iPhone app, and have some great ideas, and so they’re interested in getting their name out there.”
And in the long run, Game On hopes to bring attention to the fact that the homegrown game development market in the Triangle is worth noticing.
“There’s two or three big companies that get all the attention, but there’s 40-plus game studios in the area, and if you tell people that, they say, ‘Wow, really?’” Moore says.
“Part of our goal with this is to build more of a community amongst ourselves and help support each other. This is one for the little guys—our way of saying that we’re here too.”
Here's the trailer for Sushi Boy Thunder:
Although summer doesn’t end until the fall equinox in late September, August’s Third Friday in Durham uses the public impatience with the season as a springboard into fall. Tom Elrod already described some of the bounty of visual arts in an earlier post, but that was only the half of it.
Whiteside uses a large vocabulary of lines, forms and gestures to construct his unpopulated scenes in india ink. Sometimes his images are wrought, almost etched; in other pieces a layered wash and contour approaches watercolor technique.
“The Duck Blind” depicts a still pond reflecting its perimeter of cattails and an ominous, obtrusive blind. Neither hunters nor prey are visible; only the tangled, empty scrub trees along the shoreline. But the tangles more than step forward as the subject. A wilderness of leaves and growth rendered as hectic curlicues, the dense undergrowth sums to an animate complaint against the hunters’ presence.
In Durham Friday night at the Stedman Center, Irish artist Susan MacWilliam presented some of her latest work in a lecture entitled “My Adventures in the Supernormal.” She developed her most recent work while in residency the Rhine Research Center in Durham this summer. MacWilliam has been working for more than 10 years on subjects surrounding the “paranormal” and “parapsychology.” Her interest, she says, is not so much the paranormal per se but the people who study it and the many types of apparatus they've created in order to run tests or communicate with the dead. Thus, skepticism or “proving” that ghosts exist is hardly the point of MacWilliam's work.
MacWilliam began the lecture by explaining and showing some of her past work, which intentionally sets out to distort and garble sensory perception: films which are sped up to simulate the overflow of information in a Parisian paranormal laboratory; devices which require the viewer to stand in strange, awkward poses to look inside them; interviews with overlapping, almost incomprehensible dialogue suddenly made silent by the unintentional appearance of the subject's cat. MacWilliam's work is subtly witty, as much an anthropological study of paranormal investigators and their unique technology than anything else.
The Rhine Center, founded by famed parapsychology researcher J.B. Rhine, was noted for applying the techniques and methods of early 20th-century behavioral psychology to paranormal research. Its immense archive includes the results of laboratory experiments, newspaper clippings, personal correspondence between Rhine and other noted researchers and much more. MacWilliam's films, which have come out of her residency, reflect the more scientific and academic surroundings of the Rhine.
One film which she premiered was a simulated a lab experiment, featuring no video but only a number of stills: The cutting was rapid but repetitive, as a researcher went over the tests and the data again and again; the soundtrack was quiet, featuring only the crackle of a tape deck and some distant, faint horns; the overall effect was of a more sterile, controlled environment than some of the chaos she exhibited with the amateur researchers.
MacWilliam has built a body of work around a topic which disinterests respectable scientists but fascinates a lot of ordinary people. The tension between parapsychology's supposed mysteries and the artificiality of so much of it underlines her work and ultimately allows for a humanist exploration of an interesting but not well understood subculture.
Also in Durham Friday night was Meg Stein's art installation, “The World's Only Piano,” at The Space, located at 715 Washington St. In a room lined with white sheets, a piano, crafted out of paper, sits atop a hill of sand. Behind it is projected a running horse, but the image is partially blocked by a chandelier of broken mirrors, which reflect slivers of the horse around the room. There is a low, unsettling musical accompaniment, and visitors were allowed to fill a small vial with some of the sand beneath the piano. The post-apocalyptic vibe of the installation, and the encouragement to literally take some of it with you (and presumably, bring the piano crashing down) was an eerie follow-up to MacWilliam's investigations, as it felt like walking into a paranormal nightmare space which was itself was falling apart.