Thu. June 23, 2016
Rebecca Solnit discusses America’s “amnesiac landscape” as one of erasure, razing the structures of our history as means of escape and control. I use my work as a tool to investigate the American ruin, an endangered species as Solnit describes. In a nation of erasures it is necessary to detect emerging conditions of the ruin as structures that are calibrated with America’s amnesiac tendencies. The lights that still glow in an otherwise sign of nothingness seem to state, in a very distinct way, the ironies undergirding a nation of erasures.
When signs lose their subjects, their information panels, they become infrastructural relics. Instead of signifying points of commerce through sign as metaphor, they signify—through metonymy—the very antithesis of a functioning capitalist economy, summed up in terms of stagnation, ends, lack, and ultimately, the ruin. There is an untethering of the literal sign structures from the commercial buildings on which they were previously attached. They become individually autonomous within a post-commercial taxonomy.
My photographs come out of an ethos of photography as ritual as opposed to reflex. I make each camera that I use and generally I make two types of photographs. One type emerges directly from my appropriation and conversion of empty signs or otherwise underutilized spaces into cameras while the other type is of open water conditions in South Louisiana. I find that the first type is anchored in logic, in a set of rules that determine all variables involved while the second type is open, floating at the water’s edge.
The sign structure photographs are typically composed of a strict grid of individual images, resulting in many slightly shifted perspectives of streets, parking lots, and strip malls; they have a complicated or ambivalent relationship to place while the waterscapes are saturated in a specific and poetic connection to place. The open water photographs are made at the infrastructural ends where blacktop or gravel meets water at land’s edge. I have been focusing these efforts in the South Louisiana landscape, where land’s edge is swiftly losing ground. These open water photographs have larger image diameters that overlap; the photographs are large in scale, opening the viewer to the sublime sense of the landscape that I experience beyond the levees.
The two ways in which I make photographs seem to be anchors along my own gamut of how I experience conditions of place. By working both centrifugally and centripetally, moving from the urban-out and the rural-in, my work remains in flux, continually disassembling notions of boundary and threshold.
Thu. June 23, 2016
Continuous Service Altered Daily is a site-engaged sculptural array, or, as David Brooks refers to it, an “asteroid field without a distinctive beginning or end.” Brooks has disemboweled a beacon of agricultural technology, a 1976 John Deere 3300 series combine harvester, into hundreds of individual components, ranging from the iconic and specific to the common and standard. He has arranged every part, with not a single piece excluded, in an ambling procession that begins in the Museum’s front plaza, winds through the Atrium, front first-floor galleries, the inner courtyard, and ends in the Sculpture Garden. The project is understood as one continuous action that is expressed in a myriad of sculptural moments. From the macro to the micro, Brooks’s installation concurrently zooms in and out of view, wedging us inside the far off and the up close.
Brooks’s method of presentation offers the machine’s shell and innards in varying degrees of material transformation: 1) in its weathered condition, but with its trademark John Deere green still visible; 2) sandblasted to remove all evidence of wear and tear, returning the object back to its material origin; 3) brass plated; 4) powder coated, elevating the individualized status of the pieces as precious objects. Brooks uses the distinctive form and function of the disassembled combine analogously, allowing it to mirror the philosophical impasse at which we find ourselves as our hyperkinetic era faces an escalating ecological crisis.
David Brooks was previously an Artist-In-Residence of The Visual Arts Center in 2014. Continuous Service Altered Daily is open at The Aldrich Contemporary Art until February 5, 2017.
Wed. June 15, 2016
An exhibition that explores the lavish lifestyles of Romans under the shadow of Mount Vesuvius opens this week at the Montana State University’s Museum of the Rockies. Co-curated by UT Professor of Art History John R. Clarke, the exhibition Leisure and Luxury in the Age of Nero: The Villas of Oplontis near Pompeii explores life near the ancient sites before they were destroyed in a volcanic eruption.
Since 2005 the two archaeological sites at the ancient Roman seaside town of Oplontis have been part of an international collaborative study led by the Oplontis Project, which is sponsored by Center for the Study of Ancient Italy (CSAI) at The University of Texas at Austin. Organized in cooperation with the Archaeological Superintendency of Pompeii and the Oplontis Project, this traveling exhibition chronicles the setting, culture and economics of this playground for Rome’s rich and famous on the Bay of Naples. The exhibition was previously on view at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and will travel next to the Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Regina Gee, an Associate Professor of Art History at MSU, played an integral role in organizing the show and bringing it to Montana. “This exhibit represents the first time that Roman antiquities will be shown at the Museum of the Rockies,” says Gee (Ph.D., Art History, 2003), who has been a member of the Oplontis Project since 2008.
The exhibit focuses on two distinct sites, the luxurious Villa A at Oplontis and the wine emporium called Oplontis B located just down the road. Both buildings were destroyed by the famous eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79 that also buried nearby Pompeii. Villa A has been linked by some, but not all, scholars to the family of the emperor Nero’s second wife. The villa’s architects designed a luxurious sprawling space with more than 35,000 square feet that sat perched on a cliff with commanding views of the Bay of Naples. “The scale of the building and the quality of its decoration speak to the wealth and status of its owners, who were likely an important family from Rome senatorial class,” said Clarke, who also serves as co-director of the Oplontis Project.
In contrast, Oplontis B functioned as an emporium for the export and distribution of Pompeian area wine as well as for the importation of fines wines from other parts of the Mediterranean.
“At the time of the eruption, Oplontis B had the capacity to move the equivalent of over 40,000 modern bottles of wine,” notes Michael Thomas, co-director of the Oplontis Project and director of CSAI at the University of Texas.
Though its spaces were more utilitarian in design than those of its posh neighbor, the owner’s business was thriving when it was buried by Vesuvius, as evidenced by hundreds of amphorae—a type of jug used mostly for wine storage—as well as gold jewelry and coins found among the 54 skeletons discovered at the site.
On display are nearly 150 artifacts from both Oplontis sites, including marble sculpture, wall painting fragments, glass, silver, gold jewelry, coins, a strongbox, terracotta architectural ornaments and amphorae. The Museum of the Rockies is taking advantage of its ample exhibition space to enhance the environment of their display. Utilizing a digital model built by the Oplontis Project, the museum will recreate to scale several of Villa A’s important rooms. “Very often museum goers only see art in the context of the museum itself,” says Gee. “Instead we had the space to bring the actual experience of the villa to the visitor.”
On Sept. 30, Clarke and Thomas will join Gee and other scholars at Montana State University for a symposium organized around the exhibition. The Museum of the Rockies is the only venue west of the Mississippi River to host the exhibition, which will run through Dec. 31.
About the Oplontis Project
Sponsored by the Center for the Study of Ancient Italy in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas at Austin, the Oplontis Project is conducting a systematic, multidisciplinary study of Villa A (“of Poppaea”) and Villa B (“of Lucius Crassius Tertius”) at Oplontis (Torre Annunziata, Italy). The project directors John R. Clarke and Michael L. Thomas lead an international team of scholars working to publish definitive studies of all aspects of these sites. Publication is “born digital” within the Humanities E-Book Series of the American Council of Learned Societies. Further documentation includes a navigable 3D models and a comprehensive database.
Thu. June 9, 2016
With 446 entries examining some 550 works of figural, architectural, and decorative sculpture in 27 museums and public institutions, this volume continues Census of Gothic Sculpture in America started by Dorothy Gillerman in 1989. In addition to such large and well-known collections as the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Glencairn Museum, smaller collections and those not known for their medieval works, like the Barnes Foundation and the Explorers Club, are also inventoried. Generously supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Getty Foundation, this book includes entries by 35 authors writing on works in their areas of specialization.