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    RECENT BLOG POSTS

    How does Sara Angelucci assess the history and functionality of photography? | Thu. Dec. 8, 2016

    Sara Angelucci: Aviary, installation view. Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, 2016. Photo: Rick Rhodes Photography.

               Sara Angelucci’s Aviary is a series of photographs that have been digitally manipulated to represent a hybrid form of a human being with birdlike features. While the process was made possible by modern technology, the images are rooted in a historical narrative given the nature of the portraits and status of the birds. The photographs are carte-de-visites or cabinet cards from the mid-1800s to early 1900s. These were a popular way to share your image with friends and family, as the cards could fit into your palm and were made of thick cardstock so to be easily traded or mailed. The birds whose features overlay these portraits are extinct or endangered, leaving them to be a nearly forgotten memory like the cabinet cards.  

                The human interest in sharing photographs of oneself and family has been a flourishing trend ever since, and has only expanded since the camera has become democratized. In the early 20th century, Kodak’s Brownie camera allowed anyone to be the new self-appointed family photographer. The importance of the family portraits and home snapshots became an essential to scrapbooking mothers everywhere. My own mother and father have black-and-white prints from their childhood, depicting them in front of Christmas trees, playing in the yard, or dressed up on Easter Sunday. When I was a child, the tradition carried on but now had the luxury of color and digital cameras. Our family Christmas card included a photomontage of the year, and I have a shelf of scrapbooks that document my life in photos from the day I was born until the age of twelve. These photographs were taken on a portable digital camera and were easily printed out either at a drugstore or my mom’s own small photo printer.

    Sara Angelucci: Aviary, installation view. Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, 2016. Photo: Rick Rhodes Photography.

    Now, the majority of photographs taken on a daily basis are rarely printed but still widely shared online via social media outlets. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and the like are full of images from our friends’ newborn babies to breakfast at our favorite café. Unlike the intimate and special gesture of the carte-de-visites, our lives in images are ubiquitous and commonplace. Yet there is something to be celebrated about the notion that anyone can take photographs and share them with their peers, not just the upper middle class who could afford to pay for formal portraits.

    Sara Angelucci: Aviary, installation view. Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, 2016. Photo: Rick Rhodes Photography.

    The photographs also challenge value by incorporating the profiles of the extinct or endangered birds. The species were once overly abundant and seen as commonplace until hunting or deforestation drove them into near extinction. Our photographs take on a similar dynamic when a photo of a friend or family member suddenly becomes much more valuable after their death. Now, the photograph is all we have left to remember their image. During her lecture at the Halsey Institute on October 27, Angelucci briefly referenced an idea from artist Christian Boltanski that we actually die twice: once when we actually die, and again when our image has been completely forgotten by the living. When the passenger pigeons and heath hens went extinct, their photographs were all we had left to document and remember their existence.

    Sara Angelucci: Aviary, installation view. Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, 2016. Photo: Rick Rhodes Photography.

    Photography then has the substantial ability to preserve and has perhaps become undervalued by our society of handheld devices. We forget how extraordinary it is that we can permanently capture a single moment in time to keep for ourselves or share with the world. Aviary not only explores the history and functionality of the discipline of photography, but also challenges viewers to reassess their own perspective of daily life. How do we preserve special moments or loved ones? How much of our day-to-day goes unnoticed or overlooked? In the future, what will we regret not taking photographs of?

    by Jess Spence, Halsey intern

    Touchstones and Chucktown Squash | Fri. Oct. 14, 2016

     

    Through their partnership with the College of Charleston, The Chucktown Squash Scholars program affords students of Charleston’s Title I schools the opportunity to gain mentorship, leadership experience, and critical thinking skills through various activities. As one of those activities, students get the chance to analyze Fahamu Pecou’s Do or Die: Affect, Ritual, Resistance multimedia art exhibition at the Halsey Museum of Contemporary Art. Once a week for five weeks, a group of students is invited to deconstruct a different work each time to get the core of what makes the piece interesting and analyze how it relates to current society.  

    Before the first session, students got the opportunity to meet the artist—an opportunity few art enthusiasts get the chance to have. Pecou answered any inquiries the students had about what inspired the exhibit and his journey to becoming an artist.  Since the initial meeting, the students have been gathering in circle discussions.

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    Pecou with Chucktown Squash student and Karole Turner Campbell. Photo: Jaquan Leonard

    In general, getting high school students to engage in a thoughtful conversation can be challenging. Add in Pecou’s themes of police brutality, psychological violence, and resistance against oppression, and task of generating conversation becomes even more strenuous. The students certainly have thoughts on the heavy hitting subject matter, however, they struggle to find the words to express their opinions. This is where the Touchstones Discussion Method plays an integral part.

    The Touchstones Discussion Method is a way of communicating in large and small groups that encourages everyone to share what is on their mind. With only 5 rules, the method is straightforward: read the text carefully, listen to others and do not interrupt, speak clearly and so everyone can hear you, give others your respect, and do not raise your hand. By incorporating the Touchstones Method, the playing field becomes leveled and everyone becomes equal.

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    Photo: Maya McGauley

    “The great thing about touchstones is its ability to draw out students’ inner thoughts without them feeling judged or isolated,” says Halsey board member, Karole Turner Campbell. “It’s a way to get them to engage with what they are seeing.”

    While these rules may seem elementary, the discussions produced are anything but.  Initially, the students were shy and slow to answer. Now, with three sessions under their belts, the students have dove head first into the content. Some students even share anecdotes about how the art relates to their personal lives while others reflect on seeing images of black bodies being slain in the media. With so much depiction of black deaths in recent media, the Touchstones sessions offer much more than just an hour of art. The students’ interactions with the text provides an outlet for their unique opinions, free of any judgments or hostility. When asked, the students say that they do not discuss such powerful subject matter at their schools.  With the Touchstones sessions providing a safe and open forum, these young minds can release their inner thoughts on the world in which they live.

    -By Jaquan Leonard, Halsey Intern

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    Photo: Maya McGauley

    Emmett Still | Thu. Sep. 22, 2016

    In his body of work DO or DIE: Affect, Ritual, Resistance, Fahamu Pecou uses artwork – painting, drawing, photography, installation, video, and hip-hop music – as a vehicle to directly comment on the delicate and dangerous experiences that black people in modern America face in their day-to-day lives. In a society where judgment, violence, and hatred towards minority citizens systemically exists, it can be tempting to relate such prejudices through the illustration of bloodshed and cruelty. DO or DIE functions in a different way and serves an altogether different purpose, attempting to avoid the fetishization of black death by instead highlighting themes of pride, hopefulness, and transcendence through the reverence of one’s African ancestry and the acknowledgment of the importance of true, historical roots. By incorporating traditional Yoruba/Ifa spirituality into his artwork through both figures and symbols, Fahamu Pecou offers a body of work that primarily serves “not [as] a story of death, but [as] one of life.”

    However, the short film titled Emmett Still enhances and ultimately completes the exhibition by serving as the most direct reference to this “spectacle of black death,” both visually and audibly. The title itself explicitly references the brutally violent death of a young black man from Chicago, Emmett Till, who was ruthlessly beaten and lynched in Money, Mississippi after allegedly flirting with a white woman. His mother insisted on an open-casket funeral, intending to showcase not only the racism and brutality experienced by black people, but also the discrepancies and limitations within the American democratic system itself. The event served as a major catalyst for the American Civil Rights movement and, as demonstrated by the title of Fahamu Pecou’s short film, continues to resonate within American society as we seek to address issues of racism and inequality.

    Opening with the lyrics, “Strange fruit / Raining down in this garden of Eden / Eaten premature it’s the love that we needin’ / Flesh ripped apart it’s like a struggle just bein’ / A troubled skin just to be in / Oh God the struggle we be in,” the song “Strange Fruit” pairs with the initial scenes of the video to present a young, black man in a typical urban environment. After finishing a game of pick-up basketball with his friends, the man begins walking through a neighborhood – likely walking home – when he unexpectedly encounters a presumptuous police car at a stop sign. The video’s beats and imagery intensify accordingly, with lyrics of “Emmett Still” describing a sense of tension and rigidity in the context of the scene: “The way we move in the world, we constricted / The sense of pride in our hearts, they undid it / The threat of death on our backs, we run with it / The tragedy and the pain we one with it / But politicians try to convince us it’s all unscripted.” The man, exchanging an agitated glance, continues on his way as the officer behind the wheel continues to stare provocatively towards him. Soon the policeman approaches and accosts the young black man without cause, before unjustifiably shooting him after he attempts to run away in a state of confusion and fear. As a back-drop and compliment to the unjust shooting and the lyrics, excerpts from James Baldwin’s historic speech, “The American Dream and the American Negro” from 1965, permeate the entire scene and draw attention to the fact that for hundreds of years, black individuals have been subject to prejudice, violence, inequality, and degradation in a country that undoubtedly owes its existence to African-Americans, “the people who built the country.”

    Pecou directs the film away from this “spectacle of black death” when, following his death, the young black man awakens surrounded by practitioners of the Yoruba/Ifa religion. At the core of this spiritual practice is the respect and reverence of one’s ancestors, the people whose hard work and strong mentality paved the way for African-Americans years ago and whose spirits resurface consistently in daily life. Rather than continuing to perpetuate images of black death, Fahamu Pecou challenges the dominance of death by emphasizing the liminality of life and death and the infinitude of the human spirit. The lyrics of “Flight of the Ancestors” verbalize this cyclical spiritual life: “Different ways to the math / Many paths to the same sum / Salute my ancestors / Until I became one / On the shoulders of giants / I stand in defiance of those that ain’t one with the one / I’m like African drums / Back in the slums / Changing the energy / Engaged with the enemy / Till my frame is a memory / A hum.” Through these exalting lyrics, Pecou clearly establishes the connection between Emmett Still and the rest of DO or DIE, both of which reframe the spectacle of black death within the aura of spiritual transition and infinitude.

    A sense of hopefulness emanates out of the closing scene in conjunction with the cyclical nature of the spirit in the track “GOD,” which presents the newly awakened and initially confused young, black man following his ethereal experience with the Yoruba/Ifa practitioners. His ultimate realization of his power through his ancestors and his history are demonstrated through the lyrics: “Bold claims / Bent on my destruction / Kanye told you, I’ma show you / You can’t tell me nothing / You can break my body / But can’t claim my spirit / I grow exponential / And I know your fear it / And I know you feel it / In the air you feel it / You can try / But you can’t kill it.” Following “GOD,” Pecou includes an excerpt from an interview between the hip-hop artist Kanye West and the BBC reporter Zane Lowe, in which Kanye West comments on racism, classism, and self-hate, the latter of which he claims is the most detrimental of the three. Modern day intellectuals and artists like Kanye West and Fahamu Pecou fight for the eradication of this self-hate and self-deprecation. The lyrics of Fahamu Pecou and the words of Kanye West advocate for the embrace of self-confidence rather than self-hate, positivity instead of negativity, and hopefulness instead of despair for black people in the 21st century. Such closing lines direct the viewer back to the title of the exhibition, DO or DIE: Affect, Ritual, Resistance. Each word of the title has a specific, intended meaning that inspires black individuals to rise above the injustice, to persist through the judgment, and to resist the limitations placed upon them in order to change the current state of black existence. By actualizing his intellectual concepts and his beliefs through visual and musical artwork, Fahamu Pecou creates a space that promotes individuality, encourages equality, and advocates for an understanding of different races across all spectrums of society in our progressive, modern world.

    -By Mati Gibbs, Halsey Institute intern

    InterSessions: The Art X Hip Hop Dialogues™ | Tue. Sep. 20, 2016

    On September 9, Fahamu Pecou presented InterSessions: The Art X Hip Hop Dialogues™ with guests Killer Mike and Dr. Arturo Lindsay. In case you missed this open conversation on art, hip hop, and racial issues facing the nation, you can view the entire event here

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    This event was put on by the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art in conjunction with Pecou’s solo exhibition, DO or DIE: Affect, Ritual, Resistance, on view August 26 – October 8, 2016. Recent InterSessions can also be viewed on Pecou’s website. The event was also co-sponsored by the First Year Experience at the College of Charleston.

    Special thanks to the College of Charleston and its Office of Marketing and Communications.

    Fahamu Pecou’s Procession | Thu. Sep. 1, 2016

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    After the shooting of Walter Scott in North Charleston made headlines in April 2015, Mark Sloan, Director and Chief Curator of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Arts sent the newspaper cover to Atlanta-based artist Fahamu Pecou with a note: “We’re ready for you.” Walter Scott and the other black Americans persecuted by the police is not a new phenomenon. To use the artist Fahamu Pecou’s words, the spectacle of Black Death that has risen to the surface is a result of multiple forms of disguised terrorism and racism since the birth of the country. Unfortunately, the dialogue over such persecution has still remained hushed. In large part, it is a fear of change and discomfort amongst Americans that presents open discourse, especially within the art world. Pecou is one of several artists who are working to start a dialogue and overcome those fears.

    Pecou initially produced work that exploited the mass media and culture of spectacle by adopting a persona called “Fahamu Pecou is the Shit.” He used himself as a tool in his artwork, which was vibrant and equally spectacular to match the nature of our media culture. After being contacted by the Halsey Institute, however, Pecou began to work on a completely new body of work that encouraged him to push his artistic boundaries. The collection presented in the “Do or Die” exhibition is provocative but in a much less invasive manner; the gestural drawings, gold-leafed large-scale paintings and elusive dancing projected into water are simply beautiful.

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    Photo: Jess Spence

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Pecou began working on a body of work with the desire to heal a space, that space being the city of Charleston and the suffering that has occurred on the peninsula. Thus, his first piece was the “New” World Egungun costume. In Yoruba culture, the Egungun serves as a central figure in the ritual to both memorialize ancestors and call upon their wisdom and blessings. Death is not an eternal end in the Yoruba culture that informs Pecou’s work, and it is understood that our ancestors and God are omnipresent in our daily lives. Pecou used the Yoruba ritual as a model for a procession to mark the beginning of the exhibition. He led the procession as the anonymous Egun as a way to heal the historical suffering that has occurred on Calhoun Street and Charleston as a whole. We marched past Gadsden’s Wharf, a major port for the slave trade. We marched past the site for the new International African American Museum. We marched past the Mother Emanuel AME church where nine black citizens were massacred in June 2015. Finally, we marched into the Halsey Institute and welcomed the space with the compassion of the people of Charleston.

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    Photo: Jess Spence

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The procession is just the beginning of Fahamu’s time in Charleston. The Halsey has arranged a discussion series to bring school students into the gallery to experience the art first-hand. He’s also coordinated an intersession event with Killer Mike and Dr. Arturo Lindsay, called Intersessions: The Art X Hip Hop Dialogues™ , to share a conversation with the greater public. However, the efforts made by Pecou cannot be the lone driving force for change in our community and need a reciprocated interest from us all. Even if you do not come see the exhibit, I encourage you to keep an open mind, be curious and remember to try and see the world from someone else’s perspective every so often.

    Photo: Jess Spence

    Photo: Jess Spence

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    By Jess Spence, Halsey Institute intern

    In a World of Influence | Fri. Jul. 8, 2016

    Erwin Redl’s current show at the Halsey, entitled Rational Exuberance, showcases his ability to transform spaces into living works of art. Redl’s work forces viewers to enter an exhibit and confront a familiar space in unfamiliar ways, which installations have strived to do for decades.

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    Redl may be described as an artist who works in light, installation, and sometimes event prints. Art making after the “Digital Experience” has driven him to create works through many different media that challenge the viewer in how they see the work as well as how they interact with it. The manipulation of space, in regards to installation, has long been a shared concept between other artists that have worked with light. Redl has often spoken about his minimalist aesthetic and how large of a role it plays in his compositions, so it is interesting to consider the work of artists who pioneered the use of light and the manipulation of space when attempting to understand his methods.

     

    Dan Flavin was an American installation artist who worked with fluorescent light fixtures in the 1960s. His work was often site specific and incorporated lights that varied in scale depending on the place that it was set. These installations ranged from filling up a hallway with many multicolored lights, to employing one light in a single corner and using shadow to manipulate the rest of the room. Manipulating a small space to seem infinite, even if only in a corner, provided onlookers with one single focal point and enabled them to experience the room in a new way.

     

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    While Flavin used light in corners and hallways to make some of his most impactful work, others like James Turrell are known for working on a larger scale, hiding all traces of the light source.

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    Turrell is known for producing light tunnels, as well as light projections, which create spaces that appear thick and heavy but are only enhanced by light. The pairing of giant light forms with large spaces, presents the viewer with a work of art that seems larger than life. When one enters his spaces, it’s as if they are entering a world untouched by man. They enter a world of pure light, waiting to be seen and felt by others who have entered that other worldly realm. Turrell presents

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    his viewers with an alternative to the busy world humans find themselves in today, inviting them into a mesmerizing abyss of color.

     

    Erwin Redl produces a similar effect with works such as his Fade series, as well as his current installation at the Halsey Institute of Cubes. Works like these invite the viewer in, and by being in the room with the piece they become a part of it. Cubes is a piece that is dependent on its viewership; the space changes and comes alive when people enter and partake in the scene. This dependence allows Cubes to become more than a piece of artwork; it becomes an engaging environment.

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    During an artist talk, Redl was asked why there was no music playing along with the installation. He responded that adding music would have “dated the space,” allowing too much context to be given to it. For example, if it was accompanied by a Baroque orchestral piece, the viewer could understand it as juxtaposition with the present digital age. If the pieces were paired with electronic music then it would be understood as a work that was meant to have a modern, even futuristic context.

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    With no music, it’s understood that the cubes stand alone, not tied down by any time period, but as a part of the same space that the viewer inhabits, and it is up to those viewing them to apply their context. A large part of Redl’s aesthetic derives from the minimalists and their pared down approach when making art. In Cubes as well as with his Ascension Circle, he made sure that there are no wires hanging about and that the entire work looked as simple as possible. This attention to restrained structure is shared with minimalists like Fred Sandback. Sandback’s works with colored acrylic yarn in white spaces, while seeming simple in their execution, implore the viewer to not only see the work but also to discern the rest of the form with their minds.

     

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    Sandback was also an advocate for people experiencing his works by moving around them, stating that people should seek to actively engage through the space as they walk. Questions of form arise when people don’t understand how something was created. In Redl’s work it could be the question “What powers the fans at the bottom of Ascension?” while in Sandback’s work it could be “How does the yarn stay connected to the floor or the ceiling? Are they using adhesives?” The answer remains the same; the viewer was not necessarily meant to know what goes into the installation, but rather to enjoy and experience the piece as it has been presented to them, even if it boggles the mind.

     

    Living in the age of technology, where information is shared at a million miles a minute, artists are constantly being exposed to other people’s work, though throughout the ages artists have looked to the work of artists who came before them for inspiration. Redl has been able to take those influences and turn them into something he can call his own. His work holds true to the minimalists’ aesthetic while taking note of light installations that challenged viewers by reimagining their experience of space. In a world of influence, Erwin Redl found his calling.

    By Natalie Pagan, Halsey Intern

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    Experiencing Cubes | Wed. Jun. 29, 2016

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    As I have spent time in the Halsey Institute’s main gallery with Erwin Redl’s Cubes installation the last three weeks, I have developed a stronger sense of how viewers react and interact with a piece such as this one. The work consists of three separate groupings, each made of sixteen cubes. The cubes are animated with fiber optics and white LEDs that alternate by blinking on and off, as the installation goes through its programmed sequence. Each group of sixteen cubes is placed in a different configuration on a unique platform. As you enter the large, darkened gallery space you will first be confronted with a circle of cubes, followed by a square and then a long rectangle that extends towards the back of the main gallery.

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    It has been interesting to observe how a light installation impacts a viewer differently than say, an oil painting. Cubes is a piece that you experience in addition to simply viewing. One important aspect when investigating the effect of such a piece is the phenomena of afterimage. Afterimage refers to the image that continues to appear in one’s vision after exposure to the original image has ended. The most common example of an afterimage is the light that one sees in their eyes after a flash photograph has been taken. The programmed sequence that Redl utilizes for a light installation such as Cubes creates a similar effect. After leaving Cubes or closing your eyes, you are left with a visual impression of the blinking LEDs. In the exhibition video produced for Rational Exuberance, Redl states that he hopes his pieces inspire a sense of calm in the viewer. The goal of this desired effect might be in reaction to the hectic pace of his current life, which he also references in the film as well as harkening back to his time spent growing up in the Austrian countryside. In the film Redl also states that the “slow processes in nature are very influential to [him].” This influence can be seen in the programmed sequence created for Cubes, where the LEDs alternate on and off in a cycle that works to create a very calming experience and could be seen as reflecting structures and patterns found in nature.

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    For some people the experience of seeing Cubes is very meditative and they choose to spend a long period of time in the large gallery with the installation. In modern daily life it’s rare to have an opportunity to sit alone, quietly without distractions. The darkened gallery makes it possible to feel that you are completely alone, even when others are in the space and there are benches in one area, so visitors can sit and watch the full sequence unfold. The patterns of light provide enough structure to require focus, an aid similar to other techniques used for meditation, while the overall minimalism of the piece – lights, squares, circles, lines, and darkness – cuts out the distraction of complexity.

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    For others, the piece is less transfixing, and they choose to spend more time in other parts of the exhibition. Many people, particularly younger visitors, seem to prefer the excitement and entertainment value of Ascension in the smaller gallery, where 24 Ping-Pong balls are animated by programmed fans creating movement and sound in a circle of 24 glass tubes. Cubes is more subtle, however, for the right person, the slow movement of light and shadow can be very appealing and provide them with an experience that is both meditative and calming. Redl’s Cubes as well as the rest of his Rational Exuberance exhibition will be on display at the Halsey through July 9th. Don’t miss the chance to experience it for yourself.

    -Calder Jose, Halsey Institute Intern

    All images courtesy of Rick Rhodes photography

     

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    Altered Time and Space in the American South | Mon. May. 30, 2016

    Part 1: The Calendar

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    Our Route, April 2016

    Eisenhower’s Interstate System was designed to do many things: move military hardware, thread the country together commercially, harness the energy of perhaps the twentieth century’s most emblematic technology to transform hinterland into suburb, and, crucially, to move the country beyond a “mere alliance of many separate parts.” The interstates, then, made America. As shorthand for commerce, for transformation, for accelerating processes of connection that undergird our modern, globalized world, they also make places American.

    Still today, the interstates symbolize awesome power both in their building and maintenance; and, likewise, as the cane that the federal government uses to bring places into line across the territory: witness the federal mandate on a universal age for alcohol consumption nationwide and highway apportionments; so too looming penalties for wayward legislators in North Carolina (more on that topic in an upcoming blog entry).

    As we began our journey across the South in spring 2016, the landscape intuited beyond the interstate, veiled behind a curtain of trees, gave the lie to the idea that we were anywhere but the United States. Any number of road-signs pointed to the apparently self-replicating and certainly indistinguishable array of gas, food, and lodging franchises all across the region. Those interstate highways serve their purpose admirably: they are about getting from here to there with as little of what’s in between as possible. For our harried modern lives the friction of distance is intolerable and we live in wait for the technological fix of “Beam me up, Scotty.” That fix would be perhaps the ultimate expression of what geographers call time-space compression, whereby the world shrinks as technology binds everywhere together.

    On this curatorial exploration for Southbound, however, our quarry was precisely the in-between. This was a journey guided in large part by the logic of time-space decompression, in the sense that we were looking to senses of time and space different from those imposed by the interstates. Tarrying was the order of the day and, memorably, just beyond Nashville, we abandoned the interstates for the Natchez Trace, a federal road, yes, but one that both denoted and gave way to road systems radically different from the American interstates. Those roads immersed us in a different place: the South. Ours were thoroughfares where the topography, access roads, and the cultural landscape all conspired to impose slower driving; and drive times were punctuated by many stops, so that only our many appointments with artists kept us on schedule.

    That schedule contrasted with the calendar-based sense of time synonymous with biological cycles and made manifest in fields filled with yellow flowers (probably canola), cotton, rice, corn and cattle down Mississippi and up Alabama. Such places, where calendar trumps schedule, evoke many of the stories we tell ourselves about the South, on a clock less punishing than otherwise reigns across these United States. Vestiges of that calendar-driven world bring us back to school still in August’s punishing heat across much of the region, and so we shouldn’t be surprised to see the calendar bloom across these landscapes. And glorying in those landscapes and in life lived off the clock is of a piece with our organic glee at life lived through the cyclical time of the calendar yet. Exploration – curatorial and otherwise – must itself revolve around more traditional senses of time and so we abandoned ourselves to slower travel.

     

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    Hale County, Alabama, April 2016

    Beyond the interstates were roads best driven at the 35 mph speed limit so often imposed by rolling hills and long curves. Now, our joy in the landscape shouldered some of the burden of long hours at the wheel, and wildlife from foxes to turkeys to the red winged blackbird caught our eyes. Here, the flatland of the Mississippi Delta, perhaps the most photographed place on earth, came to life in ways that spoke to so many photographers’ fascination with this place. There were many irresistible stops along the way, for a curatorial combine of Mark and Mark. Going slow – in food, in design, in life – is slowly gaining traction in our hypermodern world, and the South may lend itself particularly well to this turn; certainly it does for curatorial explorations over spring 2016.

     

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    Mississippi Delta, Mississippi, April 2016

     

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    Marks, Mississippi

     

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    Marks, Mississippi, April 2016

     

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    Newbern, Alabama, April 2016

     

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    Coahoma County, Mississippi, April 2016

     

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    Selma, Alabama, April 2016

     

    Part 2: The Schedule

    Much as we toyed with denial, our schedule was real and it tore us away from tantalizing prospects, like Water Valley, Mississippi, and the bathtub graveyard along nearby Highway 278; from a never-ending street party in the company of the Ooh Poo Pah Doo Krewe all up and down New Orleans; from following the Rural Studio map to every nook and cranny of Hale County, Alabama; even from an afternoon in a photographer’s company reconnoitering wheat-pasted photographs on buildings in downtown Atlanta. Yin to our exploratory yang, the schedule was key to our map of the South.

     

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    New Orleans, Louisiana, April 2016

     

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    Newbern, Alabama, April 2016

    Our cardinal points were artists’ haunts – studios, homes, eateries, the places that make the photographers of the South tick – where we would feast our eyes on photographs of and about that South. Reaching those way stations entailed journeys to the North Carolina backwoods where not one but two GPS systems failed us, a morning in Tennessee in a hermetically sealed experimental chemical laboratory now given over to developer and fixer only, a nighttime jaunt to a celebrated Delta juke joint, and, always, our circling back to a totemic road that came to define our travels in its various incarnations.

     

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    Merigold County, Mississippi, April 2016

     

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    Russell County, Alabama, April 2016

    Highway 61 was revisited time and again. We came to understand that there are wormholes all across the American South, shortcuts connecting different places in spacetime: in this case plopping us down on highways 61 hundreds of miles distant but, fantastically, equally compelling. Mississippi’s storied Blues Highway, with a nodal point in a Clarksdale under renewal, is paralleled by Alabama’s 61, running south across Hale County, “God’s own country” as a native describes it.

     

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    Highway 61, Mississippi

     

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    State Route 61, Alabama

    Clarksdale, that 14 years ago saw some Saturdays drift by without live Blues downtown, last year reached the milestone of live music 365 days of the year. To visit is to know forever where to find a harmonica repair shop. To drive Hale County, ground zero for William Christenberry, is to retrace Walker Evans photographic pathways at one and the same time. Rural Studio, where Auburn undergraduates experience “study abroad,” and HERO bikes, made from locally grown bamboo, point the way to one irresistible future here. These were places to become gloriously lost in; yet our artists beckoned.

     

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    Clarksdale, Mississippi, April 2016

     

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    Newbern, Alabama, April 2016

     

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    Newbern, Alabama, April 2016

     

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    Greensboro, Alabama, April 2016

    And the artists were equally enthralling, regaling us with stories of home, vignettes and suggestions about fellow artists, plying us with fine wine. We heard tell of tattooed inner thighs, of squirrely off-the-grid folk (one, indelibly, named Gibberish), of uninvited Japanese house guests who ogled their way through “Grey Gardens South.” The photographic projects that drew us to these places did not disappoint and one weighty conclusion was how difficult making choices about inclusion in Southbound will ultimately prove to be. But this is the best of all possible problems, and the project was infinitely enriched for this time spent with the artists and their works, always immersed in their milieu.

     

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    Washington County, Mississippi, April 2016

     

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    Tallahatchie County, Mississippi, April 2016

    Over and again we heard that “there is something about this place,” as photographers puzzled over their work. In effect, the artists we visited are characterized by a tremendous commitment to their places and the people that dwell there, from Tennessee mountain musicians in the very twilight of life, to people reborn through baptism in Mississippi waters, to documenting life on the streets of New Orleans, to Black Lives Matter activists atop Stone Mountain, Georgia. Through their sustained engagement with their many homeplaces, there emerges a composite image of today’s New South, a bellwether for what the South is both probably leaving behind and perhaps becoming.

    And it is in the combination of calendar time to experience the South en route to our scheduled time in the company of those fine art photographers that Southbound congealed. In fusing calendar and schedule the fabled American road-trip came to life. All about experiences of places and people, the road-trip today is often misunderstood to entail simply racking up endless miles across the interstates. Rather, it means encounters in the land and thus it bends senses of space and time the better to make things clearer, for us the New South.

     

    Part 3: Southern Soundtracks

    Armed with several pocket-sized jukeboxes, courtesy of Cupertino via Shanghai, any one of which could put a respectable dent in the entire music catalog of the South, Mark Sloan and I set off on our curatorial explorations for the upcoming photography exhibition Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South, confident we’d be in control of the soundtrack throughout. Untold hours pilot and copiloting our Chevy across the region, particularly with navigation largely outsourced to those self-same tech fixes, made for a grand exchange of records and artists. Musics of the South were ever present, even if filtered through Swedish singer-songwriters (www.thetallestmanonearth.com) or single-string guitarists exiled to the British Isles (www.seasicksteve.com); and we paid tribute to the South’s musical traditions in a brief daytime stop at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville (www.ryman.com). There was plenty of time for music new-to-one-of-us, from Nashville (www.ethanjodziewicz.com) to Columbia (www.valleymaker.com), and LA (www.iamlp.com) to Yorkshire (www.katerusby.com); and time enough, too, for luxuriating in tried and tested gems.

    Music unfiltered through digital media far outdid those recordings, naturally, and made nonsense of any designs we had on control over our curatorial soundtrack. Mediterranean percussion and strings spurred belly dancing in Asheville. Clarksdale fair hummed in anticipation of the Juke Joints festival while we were there (www.jukejointfestival.com). Regrettably, we could not stay for the monkeys on dogs race – just one more reason to return! Ground zero for the blues, harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite was spied wandering downtown Clarksdale, practically shouting distance from the infamous crossroads of Highways 61 and 49, where, reputedly, souls are traded for guitar chops (www.charliemusselwhite.com). In Atlanta, Lonnie Holley anchored a musical tribute to Thornton Dial; and there was an intimate concert with a singing-songwriting cellist from Kentucky, Ben Sollee, in a private music hall in the Grant Park neighborhood (www.bensollee.com).

     

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    Clarksdale, Mississippi, April 2016

     

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    Atlanta, Georgia, April 2016

    New Orleans looms particularly large on the South’s musical map, and it does not disappoint. Reviewing photographs for Southbound in the apartment where actor Clarke Peters lived over the four seasons he starred as Indian chief Albert Lambreaux in David Simon’s homage to the city’s musical traditions, Treme, was a grand jumping off point (www.hbo.com/treme). A jazz trio, driven by a guitarist leaning classical, in an authentic Japanese tavern as evening gave way to night drew a line under New Orleans as a port city, a liminal place where cultures hybridize. Later, there was a memorable blues concert on down the street (www.bamboulasnola.com). Back on Frenchmen Street the following evening, well-laid plans were surrendered to an impromptu brass band concert with so many musicians that our mental rolodex spun in vain through fading memories of English-class lessons on collective nouns. A troupe of acrobats, a coven of witches, a cavalcade of horsemen: what, damn it, goes with trumpeters? Language, it seems, is set to fail often in New Orleans. That pride of trumpeters, abetted by drummers, trombonists, and tubists (yes, in the plural!), were busking, of course. But this was a world away from the traditional guitar-player-on-a-street-corner, and the word busking sold far short the magic of a pop-up band twenty strong belting out New Orleans brass.

     

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    New Orleans, Louisiana, April 2016

    Yet, the city had still more wonderment in store. The Second Line parade was a revelation. A moveable party that, in this case, must have gone on for over 5 hours, it traversed the city from the Tremé neighborhood through the 7th Ward to Faubourg Marigny and the French Quarter, before turning back for home. Typically held on Sunday afternoons between the Labor and Memorial Day holidays, Second Line would seem to echo traditions in places as far apart as Brazil and Spain. But, for its participatory and egalitarian nature, with all and sundry falling in behind First Line dancers and brass band, to say nothing of the New Orleans jazz music that animated one and all – qua so many puppets strung out along streets, avenues and boulevards – it is an American original; and not to be experienced just one time. Originating in African American insurance and burial societies around the turn of the twentieth century, these parades are now open to anyone lucky enough to find one, and fit enough to keep pace, as they roam, relentless, along main thoroughfares and through neighborhoods. Our Second Line adventure began at the Ooh Poo Pah Doo bar (www.oppdbar.wix.com/oppd); was interrupted by a meeting with a local photographer; and, fortuitously, reconnected with the party halfway across the city late in the afternoon. Only the surety that we will party this way again made tearing ourselves away at all bearable. This is a Southern soundtrack to cherish and to celebrate time and again.

     

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    New Orleans, Louisiana, April 2016

     

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    New Orleans, Louisiana, April 2016

     

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    New Orleans, Louisiana, April 2016

    There was, however, another soundtrack that reverberated still across the South, from North Carolina to – perhaps more troubling – Mississippi, and beyond. New laws in those states that would police sexualities were very much on the minds of photographers, curators and commentators as we travelled highways and byways in April. Controversy revolves, ultimately, around discomfort at the ever-expanding provision of rights, so central to the processes of change that make the world modern. No place escapes the resulting tensions, and even a United States apparently anchored in universal rights for its citizenry understood those protections in very limited senses early on; only enfolding gender, race and, now, sexuality piecemeal into the American project. Such revolutionary changes come as part of a package, and so places less industrialized and less urban often show themselves less protecting of minority rights as well.

    At the Center for the Study of Southern Culture’s archive in the library at Ole Miss, where Blues memorabilia is displayed along with documentation from James Meredith’s fraught admission as the university’s first African American undergraduate student, our journey’s soundtracks overlapped (www.libraries.olemiss.edu/uml/archives-special-collections). Outside, in the bright April sunshine, a solitary African American student wore Meredith’s mantle with pride, in silent protest.

     

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    Oxford, Mississippi, April 2016

     

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    Oxford, Mississippi, April 2016

    The African American struggle for rights, unfinished, came into ever-sharper focus as we travelled Mississippi. An appointment with photographers in Tallahatchie County brought us to the town of Sumner where the Emmett Till Interpretive Center seared itself into our map of the South (www.emmett-till.org). In a previous posting, we highlighted our encounters with wormholes between various highways 61. The courthouse in Sumner, restored to 1955 vintage, but still a fully functioning court, anchored another such conduit to multiple places and times. To look out the window there was the see the world as Till’s killers did, down to the legal firm that represented them in their sham trial, still trading on West Court Street. All that had changed, it seemed, were the newer model pick-up trucks that lined that street.

     

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    Sumner, Mississippi, April 2016

     

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    Sumner, Mississippi, April 2016

    The courthouse restoration project, motivated in part by the need to maintain the building, hinted otherwise, however; and, indeed, 2017 will see the ten-year anniversary of the community’s profession of regret. Yet, no formal apology was issued at that time; and, Janus-faced, the courthouse looked back on 1955, and pulled us, inevitably, back to 2016 and ongoing tensions over justice ill-served in trials over the killing of black boys and men over recent years in places across the US. That courthouse looks forward, too, to the hard work that remains to be done to make real America’s promise that all are truly created equal.

    Emmett Till dominated our explorations of the region for several days. Our discomfort grew as we visited another interpretive center in Glendora; this one situated in the mill where his murderers got a fan to tie around his neck before he was cast into the Tallahatchie River. There we watched, uneasy, a video of the men – boys back then – who were with Till that fateful day in Money. We struggled with the replacement of the Bryant store – where fourteen-year-old Emmett “whistled, or smiled, or whatever” – by a replica 1950s gas station and store. Poet Kevin Young’s Money Road needled, and we listened, over and again, to him read that poem as we journeyed across that land (www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/02/22/money-road). Till’s story abides, and our horror was given expression later in our journey in fourth graders’ gasps at his mother’s recounting of his torture and murder in the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery, Alabama (www.splcenter.org/civil-rights-memorial).

     

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    Glendora, Mississippi, April 2016

     

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    Leflore County, Mississippi, April 2016

     

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    Montgomery, Alabama, April 2016

    In New Orleans, we spent time with the publisher of James Allen’s Without Sanctuary, a visual chronicle of lynching in the United States, described by Congressman John Lewis as “an American holocaust” (www.withoutsanctuary.org). Questions about race and injustice clamored as we visited photographers in the now infamous Lower Ninth Ward, where the city’s long history as one of the world’s premier ports was inscribed into the landscape in ship captains’ spectacular homes. A lingering indictment of failures at so many levels of government in 2005 and subsequently, however, squatted, it seemed, on every street. Rebuilding efforts made those ruined homes all the more poignant. Even apparently successful reconstruction is not without its detractors. Local artists explained that new public housing in places far uptown is designed to stymie the stoop culture so integral to the everyday encounters that build community. In this light displaced African Americans who insisted on their “right to return” sometimes came home to neighborhoods made strangely unfamiliar.

     

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    New Orleans, Louisiana, April 2016

     

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    New Orleans, Louisiana, April 2016

     

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    New Orleans, Louisiana, April 2016

    Such conversations about rights were a harrowing foil to our celebration of the region’s musical heritages as we traversed the South. Those contrasting soundtracks speak to the thorny nature of place. Still, there were many more dimensions to all that we heard, from the changing accents we encountered that, alone, would suffice to dispel notions about a monolithic South, to long, late-night conversations about hunting that served to underline how very little we know about wildlife management, coon dogs, or the impact of geopolitics on the Russian market for American pelts. Always, the unavoidable reality of the South as a bastion of tradition looms – in the preservation of musical heritages, in attitudes to minorities and change, in accents and turns-of-phrase, in knowledge bases different from our exalted urban savvy. And all of this is contained within a region in wholesale transformation over the early twenty-first century. It is to such complexities that Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South will look.

     

    By Mark Long, Curator At Large

     

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    Interview with Catherine Clements, Artist Assistant for Erwin Redl | Sun. May. 29, 2016

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    Photo from Halsey Institute Instagram (@halsey_institute), Catherine is at left on scaffolding

    The current exhibition in the Halsey Institute, Rational Exuberance, consists of interactive and moving light sculptures as well as a collection of massive monoprints. These pieces are engagingly kinetic; displaying perfectly timed motion that allows viewers to observe the specific and deliberate choreography of each light in order to create a uniform and collective movement. This focus is evident in all of Erwin Redl’s work. Still tied to its electronic roots, the work seems to achieve the ideal balance of control and creativity, while skillfully managing to remain minimalist in appearance. The installation of each piece took formulaic precision and extreme patience which I was lucky enough to observe and take part in.

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    Rick Rhodes photography

    While helping with the installation, I met the artist’s assistant who worked intently and diligently in order to create a meditative and engaging environment within the gallery. Artist and assistant Catherine Clements has worked alongside Redl for years, learning about and experiencing his fast paced lifestyle, adorned with constant stimulation and challenges. I recently had the privilege to email Catherine and ask her what it’s like to be such a vital part of Erwin’s work and success. She was nice enough to allow me to bombard her with questions and tell me the ins and outs of her experience as an artist assistant.

     

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    Where are you from? Were you involved in art at an early age?

    I’m from Bowling Green, OH, which is about 30 minutes south of Toledo.

    I’ve always loved making things, but I wouldn’t necessarily say I was involved in art at an early age. As a little kid I spent most of my time playing outdoors. When I got a little older I began to act in a youth theater group, which I continued to do through high school and into college. In high school I began to spend more time making art outside of school and I decided I wanted to pursue a career in the art field.  

     

    Where did you attend school? What did you get your degree in?

    I received my Bachelor of Fine Arts, focused in Printmaking, from Bowling Green State University in 2013.

     

    How did you meet Erwin and become involved in his work?

    When I was in college Erwin was looking for someone to do some bookkeeping and other office work. He sent a job description to my aunt who is a friend of his. My aunt forwarded it to my mom, who forwarded it to me. He gave me the job and I began working in the office. Eventually I became involved in the work in the studio.

     

    Are you an artist yourself? Or are you more savvy in the engineering aspect of Erwin’s work?

    I am an artist, but I’m also very interested in the engineering aspect of Erwin’s work. Erwin’s very generous with his willingness to invest in teaching his employees all of the technology required to create his work. I’ve always been pretty curious about the way things work so certain things, like wiring the electronics, come easily to me. Other things, like writing programs for and running the CNC Machine (computer-controlled router), are less intuitive but I’ve become proficient in over time.

     

    How do you balance managing your own career and assisting Erwin at the same time?

    It was definitely easier to manage the my-work/his-work balance when I was still in school and only working part time. Even when I transitioned to working for Erwin fulltime, the schedule was flexible enough to give me blocks of time to do workshops and residencies. I also continued to be involved in the printmaking community at BGSU and the broader printmaking community by attending conferences and participating in exchange portfolios.

     

    What are your primary responsibilities as Erwin’s assistant? What’s the oddest thing you’ve had to do?

    My primary responsibility is managing the workflow of production in the studio. That consists of an endless number of tasks from helping with prototyping, managing inventory, training new and temporary employees, to maintaining our quality standards through rigorous testing, and packing and shipping. I can’t say that I’ve had to do anything that stands out as particularly odd; I mended the zipper on his backpack once.

     

    Is there a routine process to setting up his work or is it a different experience every time? What are some of the challenges in installation you’ve faced?

    There are certain things that are consistent, you unpack, measure the space, layout the installation, but beyond that it can differ pretty widely based on the installation. The challenges also vary with the installation, every space is different and not all are prepared as nicely as the Halsey. Especially with public art installations there are the constraints of working in the space at the same time as contractors and trying to stay out of each others way.

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    The space in the Halsey had to be altered quite a bit, is this typical in Erwin’s gallery installations?

    I’ve mostly installed where the spaces have been altered for Erwin’s installation, but that certainly isn’t always the case.

     

    What is your favorite element of being artist assistant? What do you find most challenging?

    I love traveling and meeting new people. I also really enjoy learning new technology and processes. As with my own work I find time management to be challenging, especially since I’m managing the time of three other people as well as myself. Luckily we’re all very dedicated and we always push to meet deadlines when we have to.

     

    How is it working in a position that is ever-changing?

    I love it, it’s very stimulating, and when I go on to future endeavors I have a wide variety of skills in my pocket.

     

    What skills do you think one must possess in order to be a successful artist assistant?

    I suppose these are more qualities than skills, but humbleness and patience. A lot of the work is very tedious, and sometimes you’re way over qualified for it, like taking out the garbage. We all have opinions and preferences on how things should be done, but no one has time for divas and if you’re not willing to do whatever needs to be done for the shop to run successfully, I don’t want to work with you. I’ve dedicated so much time and energy to producing Erwin’s work and I expect the people around me, and those who do my job in the future, to have that same commitment.

    Rational Exuberance is on view at the Halsey Institute through July 9, 2016.

     

    By Lucy Davenny, Halsey Institute Intern

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    Mailing Art: A Personal Reflection | Fri. May. 6, 2016

    The recent exhibition Correspondence Art: Words, Objects and Images by Ray Johnson, Richard C. and Bob Ray held January 22 – March 5, 2016 was a huge success at the Halsey Institute. We had over three thousand visitors, and hundreds of K-12 tour groups come in through the six-week exhibition. From the staff’s perspective before the exhibition opened, we were unsure of the reception it would have with the general public. As Director & Chief Curator Mark Sloan said, “it’s the type of show that gives us a lot of art world cred,” but for a majority of the public this was a genre that was entirely new. Ultimately it proved to be very accessible to all ages, and interactive as the public created (and we subsequently mailed) over 400 pieces of mail art around the world! As part of an education project funded by the South Carolina Arts Commission, mail art pieces created by over 150 K-12 students in the Charleston area are currently showing at the Charleston County Library on Calhoun Street through the month of May, so the impact of this exhibition continues.

     

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    Image from exhibition of student work at the Library by Zane Sommons, C.E. Williams Middle School

     

    For the past eighteen months, Bob Ray and Richard C. mailed Mark Sloan their correspondence pieces. I check the Halsey’s mail most days, so this became an exciting aspect of my day to discover another stack of pieces for the exhibition. Receiving personalized mail in these days of junk mail, texts, email, and social media posts is still special and meaningful, and I was quickly reminded that mail art was already a part of my family’s own story.

    Back in the early 1970s my father, Robin Jordan, moved out to the Western United States from Fayetteville, North Carolina after graduating from UNC. Shockingly, he was unsure of what to do with a B.A. in Medieval History, and after a stint drawing portraits in a shopping mall, and digging trenches with a construction company, he joined a few of his fellow hippie friends who were getting into making jewelry in Colorado and Arizona. There they bought from the Navajo tribes the raw materials of turquoise, silver, and coral to create with. Dad would tell me stories growing up about how he lived in what was essentially a ghost town, in a barn in Ophir, Colorado (current population: 163) and in a shabby apartment in Arizona with his friends, before moving to Myrtle Beach in the summer of 1973.

    Dad came from a large family – one of six, he was the middle brother. He also came from a very creative family. His older brother, my Uncle John, was one of the most intensely creative, witty, and inventive people I have ever met. Like many others of his generation, he was very involved in the counter-culture movement of the 1960s and ‘70s. I remember one Christmas when I was about 7 or 8 years old, he gave me a blue dancing bears backpack, one of the Grateful Dead’s iconic references. I wasn’t too surprised when, years later, dad told me that Uncle John started one of the first head shops of Fayetteville on an old school bus he renovated.

    My point in sharing this, is that the Correspondence Art exhibition brought up my own family’s experience with mail art. Below are some examples of vintage mail art pieces from John Jordan that are sure to be enjoyed by any who attended the Halsey’s exhibition and recognize the larger themes mail art expresses.

     

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    By Maggie Jordan, Halsey Institute Gallery Manager

    Sons & Father | Wed. May. 4, 2016

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    Sons and Father, the newest book published by the Halsey Institute of Contemporary art has been in the making for over two years. The publication of this book coincided with the exhibition John McWilliams: Prophecies at the Halsey Institute, January 22 – March 5, 2016. The prints included in the book are wood engravings, which were cut by the artist from 2010 to 2015, the majority between 2013 and 2015. A total of 200 copies were printed, with the first 26 featuring a handmade paper cover by Anne Marie Kennedy working in Raleigh, NC. These deluxe edition copies are presented with a hand-printed engraving.

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    The process started with a conversation between the artist John McWilliams and Halsey Institute Director and Chief Curator Mark Sloan while discussing the work for the exhibition. Once the idea of a book was sparked between the two, it was all about creating it. The Halsey teamed up with Dave Wofford of Horse & Buggy Press in Durham, NC to work on production of the Halsey’s first ever fine art book, created from limited edition prints. Wofford has a sterling reputation for producing award winning, limited edition artist books. He is an old world craftsman who uses modern day and traditional technologies to achieve stunning results. As you can see in Sons and Father, Wofford’s work focuses on attention to detail and really allows McWilliams prints to shine.

     

     

    The creation and production of a fine art book is no easy feat. One may not normally consider something like the “weight of paper” as a detail to be discussed in such depth, but it was one of the many elements that were carefully considered in the process of the publication. Every detail – from caption placement to binding materials to ink opacity – was thoroughly discussed between the Halsey Institute, the artist John McWilliams, and Dave Wofford of Horse & Buggy Press.

     

    The artistic process involved in the creation of the book’s overall theme, and choice of prints to include was all up to the artist, John McWilliams. When interviewed McWilliams stated, “Over the last three years I had been working on prints that had developed a common thread, referring to my two sons. Imagery relating to issues arising from our relationship was surfacing in the work. I have always been interested in how images work together. How they can gain strength and meaning from each other. Organically, Sons and Father began to coalesce into a book of prints that reflects my hopes and fears of being a father.”

     

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    Deaf Moon

     

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    Based on McWilliams’ careful consideration of which pieces would work for the book, additional choices about the layout of the images were made so that the works would connect to and strengthen each other.

    This has been a grand collaboration between an artist, a fine art book press, and a publisher, the Halsey Institute. The resulting work is a testament to the dedication and singular vision of the artist and is lovingly dedicated to “the victims and survivors in this age of addiction.”

    The book is currently available for purchase from the Halsey Institute’s website or at the Institute.

     

    By Emery Tillman, Halsey Institute Intern

     

    Contemporary Themes in Life & Art | Tue. May. 3, 2016

    Many of the pieces selected by the 2016 Young Contemporaries exhibition juror Amanda Wojick share common themes: nature, the American landscape, and the human impact on these two. Some of the selected works have more personal meaning, but all of them, as stated by Wojick, “transcend an experience of the individual.” Though many of the images are not figurative, the works that do contain the figure aren’t simple portraits. Instead they explore the human condition while also approaching material, concept, or scale in distinctive and unusual ways.

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    Elsa Cousins, Wild, 2016

     

    The selected works in the exhibition address many of the concerns at play in the contemporary art world. An issue at the forefront with this generation of artists is global warming and the ongoing destruction of the natural world. Elsa Cousins’ piece, Wild, specifically deals with “the ephemeral nature of our surroundings” and “how purely incredible the world outside of human influence is.” Kat Carmichael’s pieces on American industrialism and car-culture also speak to these growing anxieties. She combines elements from familiar modern suburban landscapes into new images that maintain a sense of ambiguity of location and reflect their ominous nature.

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    Kat Carmichael, Paper Mill, 2016

     

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    Jonathan Rypkema, Untitled, 2015

     

    Jonathan Rypkema’s sculpture, Untitled, however, offers a more optimistic viewpoint to America’s expanding urbanism. He focuses on the unifying quality of cities as well as the underlying threads that connect people to one another and hold life in balance.

     

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    Margaux Williams, LBI, 2015

     

    A number of the artists, like Margaux Williams, Kelly Lu, and Gabrielle Hodges, attempt to process personal struggle by including images and ideas of more universally acknowledged turmoil. These pieces are in line with Wojick’s desire to showcase works “that seemed to grow out of the artist’s commitment to getting somewhere deeper for themselves, and to communicating something beneath the observable surface.” Williams’ piece, LBI, was created in an effort to come to terms with the terrorist attacks on Paris and the chaos that followed in the neighborhood where she was living during her time there, studying abroad.

     

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    Kelly Lu, Life and Death, 2015

     

    Kelly Lu uses her pieces, which feature stylized figures that could be seen as self-portraits, to work through a sense of placeless-ness as a minority living in the South, as well as “the ideas of rebellion, the contrast between youth and death, the turmoil of becoming an adult, and the journey of self-revelation.”

     

    The Family Portrait / crisis #2 by Gabrielle Hodges is a manipulation of two photographs: “a family portrait in the early ‘70s of [Gabrielle’s] grandmother, her husband, and their children, and a famous photograph by Yasushi Nagao of the assassination of…Inejiro Asanuma.” This piece was meant to help Hodges better understand her family’s tumultuous history through the lens of a recognizable and well-documented political event. In her image, the members of her family are reduced to both spectators and victims of a conflict they had no part in creating.

     

    Overall, the selected student artists created works that offer more than just a visual experience. Wojick made sure to include pieces that speak to audiences on a deeper, more intellectual level. Although many of the selected artists are young, they have proven to be both talented and thoughtful, and they all continue to inspire insightful discourse about the past, their future, and the changes going on both around and to them.

     

    By Jill Dowdy, Halsey Institute Intern

     

    2016 Young Contemporaries: 3 Interviews | Tue. May. 3, 2016

    This April at the Halsey Institute, I had the chance to interview three of the featured artists in the 2016 Young Contemporaries exhibition. Current College of Charleston students Craig Lynberg and Haley Peters, both painters, and sculptor Emery Tillman took time to answer some of my questions. Below are excerpts from our conversations regarding their artistic process and their pieces in the exhibition:

     

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    Haley Peters has three pieces in the show, two paintings and one sculpture, all of which share similar elements and images of plastic bags:

     

    What was the inspiration for these pieces? Can you explain any recurring themes in your work?

    The fixation with the plastic bag began when I came to an “artistic crossroad.” I had exhausted my previous subject matter and needed something new to paint. Struggling with addiction and codependency, I felt it might be helpful to paint my problems in a language I could understand. It started with a bag of nitrous-oxide chargers (whippits). The whippits themselves are beautiful, shiny, metallic – an alluring vice of mine. After painting the whippits several times I became even more interested in the vessel holding them, a plastic bag with red “Thank Yous” printed on it. I related to the bag, which had no identity, yet it had something to say. As an addict I had an unstable sense of self and was incapable of making real decisions. I was thankful for any shred of identity people imposed on me, whether it be genuine or for their own benefit.

     

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    Haley Peters, Thank you, Sorry, oil on canvas.

     

    Can you explain the process you go through when making your art?

    Thank you, Sorry was the longest endeavor of the 3 pieces in the show. I had intended it to be a still life of a pathetic plastic bag sitting on a countertop. Whatever I was doing didn’t seem to be working, so as layers of oil accumulated, I began to try and achieve a flatter space. I wanted remnants of the paintings beneath it to show through, which led me to paint in thinner, more transparent layers. That painting probably took me three weeks to complete.

    Thank you was painted in roughly an hour as I had intended it to be a quick study. I think that painting is radically different from Thank you, Sorry because I didn’t need to overthink it.

    The installation Sorry came together in a week. It took a few tries to work the kinks out of the construction. I began with line drawings, allowed them to dry a bit, then added the ink wash. I cut them out, adhered them to sheets of foam core, then cut them out again with an exacto knife. Adding support to the back was the most difficult. After several failed attempts, I finally found the proper angle and adhered triangular support to the back with tape. The “sculptures” themselves are still extremely 2-dimensional in nature, and I’m currently working on constructing multi-faceted forms.

     

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    Haley Peters, Sorry, ink on paper, foamcore

     

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    Haley Peters, Thank You, oil on canvas

     

    What is the most important thing to you that you are trying to express with your art?

    You can make something beautiful out of an abject experience.

     

    What do you hope viewers see and understand from looking at your works?

    “Thank you” is a phrase we hear too often, and it rarely means anything. Be grateful. Care about what happens to you and care about each other, but not to the point of neglecting yourself.

     

    Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 1.55.26 PM

     

    Craig Lynberg is another student at the College of Charleston with two pieces in the Young Contemporaries Exhibition. His painting Klein won the Best in Painting award.

     

    interview4

    Craig Lynberg, Klein, oil on canvas

    Can you explain the process you go through when making your art?

    These brooding paintings are about extracting similar qualities of a person and finding that inner self-exploration during that painting process. Many of my processes are free flowing. I’ll work shortly from an image and then throw it away and start working from memory. After a series of markmaking across several days, I’ll start editing the ones that make sense and work. The techniques are constantly evolving and sometimes I don’t know the direction of a painting or color choices. I mainly paint wet in wet with oil paint and spray paint and let it develop on the canvas. What I like about this process is the multi-layered thick and textured surfaces created through the use of different palette knives and brushes. There’s a constant building and blending process. For example, with Klein, I repainted her face twice and then spray painted over it. It wasn’t working until I made a conscious effort to destroy the hours of work, and it became something more successful. Sometimes, even after days of work I will scrape away and completely restart.

     

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    Craig Lynberg, Red, oil on canvas

     

    What do you hope viewers see and understand from looking at your works?

    I want to convey deep emotions and introspection that demand some consideration from the viewer. I’m really trying to explore what’s possible in painting figures and faces by constantly reading and researching different techniques and then experimenting with what I’ve learned.

     

    Can you explain any recurring themes in your work?

    Recurring themes in this series are images of my painting professors. It’s a dynamic relationship between student and teacher and by painting them you can dive deeper into what that relationship means. They have to judge themselves on the canvas as well as what they have taught me. I felt it was a strange and bold idea but wanted to explore it further.

     

    What other things have you been working on? Are they in a different medium?

    There is another side to my art that revolves around light falling across the human figure. I use pen and ink to illustrate classical sculptures and sometimes use oil on canvas. Some of these have taken me around 150-200 hours. I am trying to use the pen in a way that involves representing marble and stone in statues. It’s a constant push and pull of depth to capture light falling across the figure, something I try to grasp every day when I’m drawing. My drawings are about humanity and existentialism but speak to the beauty of classical drawings and work. I’m trying to understand what time as an art form can contribute to the decay of the piece.

     

    Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 1.55.26 PM

     

    Emery Tillman is an intern at the Halsey Institute and also has a sculpture in the Young Contemporaries Exhibition. You can almost always find her in the art building either in the Halsey or the sculpture studio.

     

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    Emery Tillman, Column #3, steel

     

    What was the inspiration for your sculpture?

    Column #3 is part of a series called Vessels and Columns. Throughout my life I have been defined as something. When I was younger I was a survivor of Hurricane Katrina. I then became a USA team member for Freestyle Kayaking and often felt very enclosed. My pieces, as much as they are enclosed spaces, they are also hollow, allowing things to pass through them. I viewed this as an expression of the idea a way that I didn’t need to be just one thing, but also to very much stay could stay true to what I you believe in.

     

    Can you explain any recurring themes in your work?

    All of my work deals with pattern making and repetition. The action of doing something over and over makes sense to me, similar to a routine. There are always changes in a routine, which explains explaining why most of my pieces are not perfectly symmetrical. This adds to the character of the piece but also shows how a pattern is eventually going to break.

     

    Can you explain the process you go through when making your art?

    I first start with an idea of what I want to make. Then I sit down and figure out how I can manipulate the metal. I then go through a process of cutting, bending, and rolling the steel and then finally weld the pieces together. Column #3 took me around 50 hours to make. It is a very detail orientated process since all of my pieces have so many components that go together.

     

    What other things have you been working on since these pieces? Are they in a different medium?

    I have been working on a public art piece that will be displayed in the North Charleston Art Festival. I also have several ideas using found materials but still allowing for repetition and patterns. I also am trying to make some more abstract pieces similar to Angular Unconformity which was displayed in the Salon de Refuses.

     

    UntitledEmery Tillman
    Photo by Bailey Pryor

     

     

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    By Hayley Barton, Halsey Institute Intern

     

    The Work of Amanda Wojick, the 2016 Young Contemporaries Juror | Thu. Apr. 7, 2016

    Amanda Wojiick was this year’s juror for the annual Young Contemporaries exhibition at the Halsey. She is an educator at the University of Oregon and a proficient artist in several mediums including sculpture and painting. At her artist talk at the College of Charleston on March 16th, she described how her surroundings have greatly influenced her work, especially when she moved across the country from New York to Oregon.

    Landscape painting has been around for centuries, but landscape sculpture does not have roots quite as deep. When the words environmental sculpture or land art are mentioned, most people think of either sculpture as environment (such as Athena Tacha’s work) or sculptures created for a specific environment (site-specific art such as Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty). However, Wojick’s work adds yet another meaning to the term and, unlike most environmental sculpture, hers can be viewed inside of a gallery. Much of her work explores landscapes in a more abstract and removed sense than their literal form. Her landscape sculptures are based on real and fantastical settings that highlight both the actual forms that these natural places hold as well as their negative space. She utilizes everyday materials such as glue, paper, tape, flooring, nails, and Band-Aids to create these magical miniature environments.

     

    BLOG 1 UntitledSwimming Hole, ink, gesso, foam, paint, wood, nails, 2005

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    BLOG 2Small Brick Ledge, gesso on foam, paint & Band-Aids, 2005

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    More recently, Wojick has also done a series of large metal sculptures inspired by the Hawthorne tree. This tree has important significance in European folklore and is commonly found in the Oregon landscape. Trees can live for hundreds of years and the history that happens all around them is incredible. It is this longevity and cultural significance that inspired Wojick to create her Hawthornes, yet in the permanent manmade materials of steel and paint.

     

    BLOG 3Hawthorne, welded steel & paint, 2012

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    Another sculpture titled “Among” is meant to evoke the chaos and trauma that we each endure in our lifetimes. The bright red is aggressive and the convoluted shapes are confusing, yet there is a definite familiarity within the chaos—a feeling of confusion and helplessness that everyone has experienced at some point. This piece is now part of the Portland Art Museum’s permanent collection. During her artist talk, Wojick revealed that there are actually several different configurations in which this piece can be assembled.

     

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    Among, 2008, Polystyrene and Paint

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    The potential for reconfiguration and reinterpretation is meant to represent that, as life goes on, we may never face the exact same struggle again, but eventually the accompanying unsettling feelings become familiar and recognizable within ourselves.

    Wojick also has only recently delved into painting, yet her unique artistic style is cohesive across all mediums. Her affinity for irregularly made rectangles, boxes, circles, and stacked shapes is easily recognizable in her paintings too. Rows and columns of shapes march across her canvases, some monochromatic while others are a medley of curated color. Several of her works on paper look almost like 2D versions of her sculptures. Both mediums complement each other yet easily stand alone as well.

     

    BLOG 5Night Owl, 2015, paint, paper, canvas, wood

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    Wojick’s “voice” as an artist is a strong one and she continues to inspire her students and the public alike with her unmistakable and meaningful art.

     

    By Bailey Pryor, Halsey Institute Intern

     

    What is your medium of choice? | Thu. Mar. 3, 2016

    Around the turn of the 20th century, it was as though a switch flipped in creative minds that triggered a revolution of style and media. Though, assuredly, the migration from traditional techniques is much more complex, the distanced view of history allows us to recognize a clear distinction at this time – the introduction of Modernism. This use of the term ‘modern’ is amusing to me. There has never been a more modern moment than the moment you are reading this now – however, the booming period of industry, innovation, and progression in the first half of the 20th century is most deserving of the title for the massive leaps made and risks taken which continue to inspire us today. It was in this period of Modernism that artists collectively strayed from conventional concepts of art. This new philosophy and approach appeared not only in the imagery of their creations, but in the materials they selected.

    This organic movement to unconventional materials is best seen in Cubism and the works of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque from the 1910s. First, the analytic period pronounced the style which skewed perspective by converging planes and creating a dialogue among back- and foregrounds. Then the synthetic period introduced collage of non-traditional media including newspaper and wood veneer, allowing the materials to speak for themselves. This use of found materials in two-dimensional collage ultimately gave way to its three-dimensional cousin, assemblage.

     

     KL1  KL2  KL3

    Girl with a Mandolin
    Oil on canvas
    Picasso, 1910
    Analytic Cubism

     

    Violin
    Charcoal, collage, cardboard
    Picasso, 1912
    Synthetic Cubism

     

    Guitar
    Collage, oil, cardboard
    Picasso, 1913
    Early Assemblage

    In 1913, Marcel Duchamp upped the non-traditional media game with his anti-art readymades – essentially unaltered everyday objects labeled as art. His materials included a bicycle wheel, bottle rack, and urinal among others. These notions of challenging traditional assumptions about art and life were only heightened by the onset of World War I, and thus by 1916 Dada was born. Dadaism, as an art movement, challenged perceived logic by welcoming chaotic curiosities and Dada artists such as Duchamp, Man Ray, Hannah Höch and Francis Picabia among many others utilized a wide variety of materials and approaches.

    KL4< Cut with the Dada Kitchen Knife through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany, Collage of pasted papers
    Hannah Höch, Dada, 1919

    Fast forward to the mid-twentieth century – the generally accepted starting point of Contemporary Art. Artists continued the endless fight for originality and social activism, heavily influenced by the pioneers who came before them. No longer was there a simple response to the question, “What is your medium of choice?” Art was everything and nothing all at once. Robert Rauschenberg, a key member in the revival of Dadaism in the late 1950s and early ‘60s, said: “You can’t make either life or art; you have to work in the hole in between, which is undefined. That’s what makes the adventure of painting.” Rauschenberg blurred the lines of collage and assemblage in works he called ‘combines,’ where found objects protrude from an otherwise two dimensional work.

    KL5< Canyon
    Oil, pencil, paper, metal, photograph, fabric, wood, canvas, buttons, mirror, taxidermied eagle, cardboard, pillow, paint tube and other materials
    Robert Rauschenberg, 1959
    Museum of Modern Art

    Derived from Duchamp conceptualism and Dada anti-authoritarianism, the Fluxus movement emerged in the 1960s. There is no single definition of the types of artists who embodied the movement – the point was to disband elitism in art and prove that art could be made and appreciated by anyone at any time. Yoko Ono, one of the more well-known Fluxus practitioners created a book of instructions called “Grapefruit” in 1960 which included this title and instruction: “PAINTING TO BE STEPPED ON, Leave a piece of canvas or finished painting on the floor or in the street.”

     

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    < Fluxus Manifesto, George Maciunas, 1963

    All of these moments in art history provide a sort of artistic ancestry for the work in the Halsey Institute exhibition, Correspondence Art: Words, Objects, and Images by Ray Johnson, Richard C., and Bob Ray. Ray Johnson is sometimes linked to the Fluxus movement and particularly recognized as the first mail artist. Mail art is a populist artist’s dream – there is no monetary motivation, few limitations, and is easily accessible by the masses. The presentation of the work of these three prominent mail artists side-by-side reflects the breadth of the movement, as well as the century long migration from traditional concepts and materials throughout modern and contemporary art.

    Prior to the 20th century, works of art were reasonably consistent in material – oil and canvas, ceramic, bronze, etc. – but after, anything within an artist’s grasp could be transformed as art. The use of found objects is often without knowledge of their true origin, and after World War II, synthetic chemicals provided a new source of manufactured media including acrylic paints, adhesives, and polyester resins. The visible materials used in the correspondence art show include ink, postcards, commercial food packaging, hotel stationery, masking tape, and magazine clippings. These items generally are not randomly selected but come from contemplated intention as the material itself sends a message. The use of new media in modern and contemporary art may lead to complications in the care, handling, and aging of the art. While these issues are considered by museum and gallery managers no matter the period of origin, art of the past century has become increasingly fragile, even intentionally challenging the laws of degradation.

    What do you do when the materials fall apart? Because of the anything-that-works mentality of many of the artistic movements of the past century, there is a growing demand for conservation of modern and contemporary art. Each individual material must be considered alone first, and then together. Conservators must know, or learn, everything about the materials – down to their chemical structures and back up to how they were re-enforced in the work.  While museum greats such as MoMA and the Guggenheim have accompanying conservation departments, most museums, galleries, and collectors rely on the contracted work of the private industry. There are few firms devoted to the conservation of contemporary art in the United States, though Contemporary Conservation, Ltd. founded by Christian Scheidemann in New York City in 2002 is one. His practice is the subject of many articles discussing the ethics, challenges, and execution of conserving art made from unconventional media. The context of the material, the way it interacts with other materials in a work, and the artist’s original intent are all important factors to consider in conservation.

    Now, contemplate the correspondence art show from the eye of a conservator. The first step is to consult with the owner. Contemporary art can also provide a unique opportunity to work directly with the artists, something quite foreign to conservators of the traditional arts. You would speak about the methods used to create the work (types of adhesives, paints, pens, etc.), the post office it was processed in (for an evaluation of postmark ink), and whether or not the work should be conserved at all. The inimitable context of correspondence art is personal, set off into the world for its labeled destination. I do think there is value in conserving these works because of their innate documentation of the cultural climate, but ultimately, it’s the artist’s or owner’s decision. In this case, the experience of sending an object through the mail is part of the creation, even if damage is incurred. Once the ethics of the conceptual side are settled, the conservator moves forward by investigating the materials and creating a plan. The plan should be explicitly shared with the artist, usually in the form of a conservation contract also explaining the risks in execution. Sometimes the plan may simply include a light cleaning to prevent further deterioration, other times it may be to reapply materials to the surface. The goal of the conservator is to use the fewest means possible in ways that can be reversed without causing additional damage to the art.

    These are just a few of the issues being addressed in conservation of modern and contemporary art. The field is new and complex, in the midst of standardization even when there isn’t necessarily a standard. It calls for creative minds, unafraid of questions that haven’t been answered. Next time you visit the Halsey Institute, let your mind ponder the journey of the materials. Continued research and collaboration is imperative to allow the display and study of works of unconventional media to live on into the future.

    By Kaylee Lass, Halsey Institute Intern

     

    Ray Johnson and Black Mountain College | Wed. Feb. 24, 2016

    What do artists such as John Cage, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Josef Albers and Ray Johnson all have in common? They are just a few of the many creative geniuses that crossed paths at Black Mountain College.

    Deep in the mountains of Western North Carolina just outside of Ashville, in the town of Black Mountain, something magical happened during the years 1933-1957. That magic took the form of education at Black Mountain College, which was a special place that attracted all sorts of thinkers – artists, composers, dancers, poets and the like. One person it attracted, in particular, was Ray Johnson. A huge part of who Ray Johnson became and the persona he crafted, as an artist and a thinker, was inspired by his experiences and the relationships created during his time at Black Mountain College. The school’s guiding principles, the people it attracted and the creative environment it possessed were inspiring to Johnson and helped him flourish as an artist.

    Opening its doors in 1933, Black Mountain College was established by John Andrew Rice, a brilliant, forward-thinking educator, who eagerly spearheaded the establishment of a new type of learning community that was experimental in nature. Using John Dewey’s theories for education, John Andrew Rice sought to form a liberal arts college on the principles of progressive education – where a student learned better through personal experience than through delivered knowledge. By using these principles, Rice created an environment that placed equal weight on academia, the arts, and manual labor in a democratic, egalitarian setting.

    This seemingly unstructured commune, made up of students and Black Mountain College faculty, in the mountains of North Carolina birthed a space where avant-garde creativity flourished. The college provided an intimate and collaborative learning environment for its students and this environment heavily influenced Johnson’s development as an artist. A native of Detroit, Michigan, Johnson headed to Black Mountain College in the summer of 1945, right after graduating high school, to attend their summer program.

     

    KL blog 1< Ray Johnson in his living quarters at Black Mountain College

    The school recruited many different types of artists and scholars to be a part of their faculty throughout its years – Willem de Kooning, John Cage, Josef and Anni Albers, Robert Motherwell, Walter Gropius, and Merce Cunningham to name a few. Some notable alumni learning under these artists were Cy Twombly, Kenneth Noland, Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Di Niro, Sr., amongst many others.

    Ray Johnson took classes with Josef Albers, who would turn out to be one of Johnson’s mentors and biggest influences. Albers was a busy and influential presence from the time he arrived at Black Mountain College until his departure in 1949. He taught a variety of courses, from design, drawing, basic painting and his classic course in color, which he had also taught at the Bauhaus in Germany.

    Albers’ influence on Johnson was evident in many of his works including a collage by Johnson titled Untitled (Dear Josef Albers with Slant Step), 1991-1992. Johnson’s last semester at Black Mountain College in the summer of 1948 would turn out to be one of the most significant semesters for him. That summer the college welcomed artists Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Buckminster Fuller, Willem de Kooning, Elaine de Kooning, and Richard Lippold. Though many contributed to Johnson’s growth as an artist, two of his mentors – John Cage and Josef Albers – proved to be the most influential.

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    KL blog 2< Ray Johnson (right center) in one Josef Alber’s lectures

    Johnson worked alongside Cage for the production of Erik Satie’s “Ruse of Medusa,” which was a part of Cage’s Satie Festival at the college. Johnson assisted in making the props for the production. Cage’s experimental approach to music, composition and performance rubbed off on Johnson, helping to form his artistic voice and the rules he wanted to play by and/or break. Later in his artistic career, he was known for his independence and eschewed the normal channels of exhibiting artworks. Instead of simply showing in galleries, Johnson developed a collaborative mail-art practice and “created” The New York Correspondence School for other artists interested in the form.

    Johnson studied at Black Mountain College for a total of three years, with the exception of the spring semester of 1946. From North Carolina, Johnson headed to New York City with Richard Lippold, another artist from Black Mountain College. Together they shared a studio space on Monroe Street, which was also in the same building of John Cage’s studio.

    Johnson built upon the relationships he made at Black Mountain College, like many other artists and thinkers did, and they lasted a lifetime. With the design skills he learned from Josef Albers and the experimental, rebellious approach he learned from seeing John Cage at the height of his creative powers, Ray Johnson became the artist who many know and admire today. His mature artistic style and approach were heavily influenced by his experiences and the relationships he made while at Black Mountain College.

     

    KL blog 3< Ray Johnson, Untitled (Black Mountain College), ca. 1953-1959

    Johnson paid homage to Black Mountain College in the collage Untitled (Black Mountain College), ca. 1953-1959. Johnson showed his fondness of puns through many of his works as seen here in the similarity in the words “college,” as in Black Mountain College, which is visible in the piece, and “collage.” He thought of Black Mountain College as a collage of disparate spirits-a place where artists of all kinds could come, learn and create art in whatever manner they wanted without judgment.

    Though the school Ray Johnson attended no longer exists, the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center in Asheville, NC “preserves and continues the unique legacy of education and artistic innovation of Black Mountain College.”

     

    By Katie Lesser, Halsey Institute Intern

     

    Woodcuts and Wood Engravings | Sat. Feb. 13, 2016

    JMW-1 ^ John McWilliams, Searching for Home, 2015, wood engraving

    Thought to have originated in China around 600 CE, wood block printmaking techniques have a long, rich history and are still used today. McClellanville-based artist John McWilliams’s woodblock and wood engraving prints are an excellent example of this ancient craft translated in the contemporary art world. An exhibit of McWilliams’s work entitled Prophesies is now on view at the Halsey Institute through March 5.

     

    JMW-3^ engraving tool

    One of the differences between woodcut and wood engraving is the type of wood block used. Wood engravers typically use an end-grain piece of wood, which is a horizontally sliced piece that shows the rings in the wood. Fine details are easier to make due to the density and durability of the cut.

     

    JMW 4^ John McWilliams, Screamcatcher, triptych, 2010, woodcut

    Woodcut prints are done using a cross-grain piece of wood sliced vertically from the trunk of a tree. These cross-grain cuts of wood are softer and easier to carve than end-grain. Gravers, burins, scorpers and other tools are used to score the surface of the wood. The parts that are not scraped away make up the image on the paper. A roller or a brayer is used to evenly apply ink to the wood then run through a printing press to transfer the ink onto paper.

     

    JMW 5< Woodcut tool

    One of the most well-known master printmakers is 15th century German artist Albrecht Dürer. His finely detailed woodcuts and engravings demonstrated the vast potential of the medium that had yet to be revealed at that time. The 19th century artist Rockwell Kent is a more recent printmaker whose works demonstrate the shift from the highly detailed images of the old masters to the bold lines of contemporary printmakers. Much of Kent’s work is more stylized than realistic, yet holds just as much gravitas and symbolism as the more traditional styles. No matter the era or the style, the potential for expression through printmaking is infinite, as John McWilliams notes in his artist statement: “…woodcuts and wood engravings, as they sit on the page, are a world unto themselves.” From its invention to present day, this world of ink, wood, and paper continues to prove itself as a timeless tradition of artistic expression.

     

     

    JMW 6John McWilliams, Dragon Fly, 2009, wood engraving

     

    By Bailey Pryor, Halsey Institute Intern

     

     

     

    Postcards A Love Story | Tue. Feb. 9, 2016

    winking_girl_imageCollecting old postcards feels part guilty pleasure part preservation imperative. To me postcards are an endlessly variant, glorious lost art – historic, illustrated, flash non-fiction, through which the past has a voice you can hold in your hand. My antiques-dealer mom could cover miles of ground at a flea market, and come back to find me at the same postcard booth, hunting through boxes for an oddball find, like my creepy, mechanical ‘winking girl,’ circa 1910, with a scorned lover’s intriguing correspondence.
     
    By Emily Abedon, Halsey Institute Board Member

    Groundhog Day IV Concert | Thu. Feb. 4, 2016

    2016_GHD_9Whether we get a late Winter or an early Spring we will still be celebrating the only way we know how, with our annual Groundhog Day Benefit Concert. This year marks the 4th year and it is coming up this Saturday, Feb. 6th. Like the past three years the lineup will include some of Charleston’s best and most loved local musical talents. Charlton Singleton will be back again this year along with Cary Ann Hearst, Mike Robinson, Aisha Kenyetta and others. These Charleston singer/songwriters get together once a year for the concert to benefit the Halsey Institute’s programming and development. Over the years the Groundhog Day Benefit Concert has grown and grown to a well loved and eagerly anticipated event in the Charleston community. This year’s concert will include set design by Becca Barnet and musical direction by Bill Carson. We will see you there – Spring is on it’s way!

    By Hayley Barton, Halsey Institute Intern

    Bob Ray’s Artist Residency | Tue. Feb. 2, 2016

    Correspondence art, or mail art, consists of small-scale pieces, made of every day objects that are sent through the mail, often with no packaging. This artistic movement has single-handedly pushed the boundaries of communication, artistic expression, and the regulations of the postal service. It initially developed as an outgrowth of Fluxus, an international art movement that developed in the 1960s, and has since grown into the global genre it is today. Ray Johnson, also known as “New York’s most famous unknown artist” is credited with spawning the expansion of mail art. He corresponded with hundreds of different celebrities, musicians, politicians, writers, and artists, two of which include Bob Ray and Richard C. – both artists included in the current exhibition at the Halsey Institute.

    Bob Ray is now doing a residency with us at the Halsey Institute from January 21st to February 11th. During his stay, he is meeting with gallery visitors as well as students at six local K–12 schools. Bob will be teaching these individuals about the concept and process of correspondence art. Both students and visitors have the opportunity to create their own mail art, which the Halsey will send to destinations of their choice.

    Ray began his residency hosting in-gallery mail activities with visitors. Being such a sociable and inviting person, he drew in a sizable crowd of people from ages two to ninety-two and inspired them to make some amazing pieces of mail art like the ones below. Giving people an opportunity to create their own mail art is a great interactive experience that gives visitors an inside look at what an intricate, but truly fun process it is. One recent visitor announced: “I feel like a kid again!” The simple practice of making mail art and the lack of rules involved can inspire a sense of humor that easily channels one’s inner-child.

    fischer blog

    Over the three weeks that he is here, Ray will meet with students from the College of Charleston, Memminger Elementary School, C.E. Williams Middle School, Rollings Middle School of the Arts, Pepperhill Elementary School, Lincoln High School, and Academic Magnet High School. He says that meeting with the younger children has been his favorite part of the residency so far. When making their own mail art, the kids need very little instruction and create some of the most imaginative pieces Bob has seen.

    The Halsey Institute was fortunate to receive a grant from the South Carolina Arts Commission to help fund Ray’s residency and this educational outreach project. We will be visiting the local schools listed above and making even more mail art with students. These pieces will be sent to students at other schools, forming a connection between kids who may otherwise never have had an opportunity to meet. The work produced from these school visits will be exhibited at the Charleston County Public Library, in downtown Charleston on Calhoun Street, in May.

     

    Another mail art activity was held at Artist and Craftsman supply store on January 30th. Over 35 participants hovered over craft tables for hours throughout the day, meeting new friends and inspiring each other’s work.

    With no regulations or conceptual limitations, mail art is open to everyone to do with it what they please. When visitors would asked Bob questions like, “What am I supposed to do with this?” he would reply, “Anything you’d like. There are no rules here.” These activities have been a great way to bring people together to use their imaginations, and put down their phones, making this older form of communication new again.

     

    By Taylor Fischer, Institute Intern

     

     

    What’s in the Mail? | Wed. Jan. 27, 2016

    RRP_160122_1553

    When thinking about the correspondence art in the current exhibition at the Halsey Institute, Correspondence Art: Words, Objects and Images from Ray Johnson, Richard C. and Bob Ray, some might wonder about just how difficult the art work was to mail. It may surprise more than a few to find out about the extremely detailed policies, procedures, and regulations that come into play when using the U.S. Postal Service. It starts with the basics: size and weight requirements are placed on everything from postcards to packages. Non-standard mail–anything uniquely shaped, bumpy, or mail with clasps, string, or buttons–can’t go through their automated machines, and so it must be hand-carried and inspected at every stop in its journey.

    DOWDY BLOG1

    The list of non-mailable items is actually remarkably short, containing things like flammable materials, explosives, controlled substances, poisons, and drug paraphernalia: things the average person wouldn’t want sent to them anyway! The list of restricted items, however, is incredibly vast. For example, you can mail a dog as long as it is healthy, in a safe container, and isn’t causing “obnoxious odors and/or noises.” It’ll have to be a short journey as well, because loose foodstuff and water can cause damage to the shipping container, which is not allowed. Eggs have to be individually cushioned to make it through. Even toothpaste has certain requirements to be met before it can be mailed–it must have a screw cap with a minimum of one and one-half turns, soldering clips, or other effective means to ensure a secure closure.

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    (Albert Andreano and Tony Martino)

    Recently, I went over to the College of Charleston’s Office of Mail Services to chat with Albert Andreano, Admin. Mail Operation Manager, and Tony Martino, Postal Specialist, about their experiences receiving all the unique items in this exhibition and more. Al, in particular, showed extreme enthusiasm about the correspondence art. He said they’re used to boring white envelopes, “…so it really catches your eye. It breaks the monotony. We got a lot of Bob Ray’s stuff. I’ll flip it over and look at it. We’re not really supposed to, but its real interesting stuff.” Tony agreed that the items shipped to the School of the Arts, especially the Halsey, were the most intriguing things to pass through.

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    Al took me through the back rooms of Mail Services to show me examples of some of the unique things sent to and from the school; I saw an unexpected amount of furniture–things like carpets, chairs, and even a large flat-screen television. One student sends toy animals back and forth with a friend; every couple of weeks, Mail Services receives a new toy with an address taped on the back. This kind of mail brings a little humor and enjoyment to the work, but Al’s favorite from this year is still Bob Ray’s art.

     

    By Jill Dowdy, Halsey Institute Intern

    Community Partners 2017