Wednesday, May 11, 2011

In Conversation: Handshake Test and Every 7 Letter Word in the English Language

Jessica Hoffman, Every 7 Letter Word
in the English Language
, 2010, Typewriter,
Typewritten text on Mohawk superfine paper,
Typewriter- 14" x 17", Paper roll 2" wide, length
undetermined, courtesy of the artist
Jessica Hoffman, Handshake Test,
2010, Typewritten text on Mohawk
Superfine paper, Shelf 5' x 8', Folios
4" x 5", courtesy of the artist

In honor of the current Members' Juried Show, Duets, I've decided to try something a little different. Instead of going "In Depth," I'll be rambling on about two pieces "in conversation" with each other. Duets invited artists to pair two pieces of their work that would illuminate, complicate, and/or complement each other. The two pieces I'll be writing about today are Jessica Hoffman's Hand Shake Test and Every 7 Letter Word in the English Language. In Hand Shake Test, Hoffman reports the results of a recurring experiment. The artist approached various people on various days at various times and attempted to shake hands with them. She documents the results in a series of small, folded, pieces of paper--booklets, almost--that record the number of people who accepted the handshake, the number who declined, and one or two sentences that summarize her experience that day. The results are a surprisingly poignant portrait of human nature. Every 7 Letter Word in the English Language's title is rather self-explanatory. The artist has, with the help of the typewriter that acts as an anchoring element to the piece, typed every seven letter word in the English language. The result of this typographical odyssey is a long, winding, piece of paper that would swim with words if they weren't so precisely aligned with each other. Instead, the words form an almost impenetrable, though thin, wall that quickly overwhelms the viewer. When paired together, these two pieces provide a fascinating commentary on the norms of human interaction, its rituals, and its nuances.

Much like the seemingly impenetrable block of text in Every 7 Letter Word, the handshakes of Test were, at first, strangely threatening to the men and women Hoffman approached. Hoffman records anecdotes of mistrust and misunderstanding as well as an overwhelming number of "declines" in her handshake journals. One woman didn't even seem to understand, until her companion posited a theory, that all Hoffman wanted was to shake hands.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Art on the Town

There's a familiar buzz in the air at the DCCA. That's right; it's that time again: the May Art on the Town is happening this Friday!

This month we've go quite a bit to look forward to. Let's start with the art: At 6:00 we'll be having a special "Live from LA" Q&A with our (until recently) resident artist Sandro Del Rosario. Starting at 6:30 we'll be having gallery talks with Daniel Belasco (the juror for our Duets show), four of our fantastic Duets artists, and video artist Claire Folkman.

The DCCA's May loop will also feature music from a live band, Little Invisibles . Though they may not be visible, they'll certainly be audible from 5:00-6:30 and from 7:00-9:00.

You may be wondering why there's going to be such a party atmosphere at the DCCA this Friday. The answer is simple: we're having a fashion show. "Where Art and Fashion Connect" is a collaborative project that brings together the talented people at Currie Hair, Skin, & Nails, Beehive Custom Design House, and the DCCA's very own Alternatives Museum Shop. There will be  high fashion, high hair, and high art. What's not to love?

So, what's the message to take away from all this? It's simple really: The DCCA is the place to be this Loop Night. See you soon!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Works in Progress: A Juried Romance in Three Basmajians

Alissa Adams, Best Screen-Cap Ever, 2011, Macintosh
Grab Utility, "Found" DCCA Website art
Wait...that didn't come out quite right.

A couple of posts ago, I reminded you wonderful people that two DCCA exhibitions are coming to a close in the next week or so. While it's always sad to see a well-loved piece of art leave the DCCA, these departures herald new art and new exhibitions for all!

In fact, starting May 6th, three new exhibitions will be opening at the DCCA. Here in the back office we've heard rumblings about Chris Basmajian's new installation, the results of the Annual Members Juried Exhibition, and a brand, spanking new piece of video art by Claire Folkman. It's going to get a little crazy here at the DCCA.

Chris Basmajian will begin installing his interactive video work, I need Some Space to Think, on the 26th of April. If you're lucky, you might be able to peek into the Hennessy Project Space and see him at work in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, our DCCA preparator will be closing books and hanging pieces selected by the juror of this year's members show, Daniel Belasco, in the Bieber/Ham Gallery.

And, in a deceptively anti-climactic installation process, someone (probably our overworked preparator) will switch Jayoung Yoon's DVD out for a DVD of Claire Folkman's video, Young Love: A Romance in Three Acts. You can watch the romance-novel-inspired video in our Moving Media Hall, adjacent to the Dupont 2 Gallery.

A Special Event: From My Collection to Yours

I should probably mention right off the bat that the "my" in this post's title doesn't refer to things that belong to yours truly. Trust me though, this is a good thing; if you're a contemporary art person you probably aren't interested in a collection of Napoleon figurines and well-loved copies of Jane Eyre. Even if you were interested in the above-mentioned items, you'd have to beat me at a game of Risk to get them. 

*Ahem* Right.  Where were we?

"From My Collection to Yours" is the DCCA's Spring 2011 Fundraiser, and it's happening tomorrow night from 6 to 9 in the evening. There will be live music, a truly mouth watering menu (which I've pasted onto the bottom of this post in case you don't want to take my word about the "mouth watering" part), and gently used modern and contemporary art for *extremely* reasonable prices. Area collectors have donated items from their collections to the DCCA specifically for this fundraiser. These pieces, along with some truly fancy international trips, will be lots in a silent auction that will be held in the auditorium of the DCCA. Food, music, and maybe even dancing will happen in the lobby. 

DCCA Members: $40
DCCA Future Members: $50

I'll see you there!

The mouth watering menu from...

Jeffrey Miller Catering
Hors d' Oeuvres
Micro Cheeseburgers
Served On Mini Brioche Buns With Honey-mustard Ketchup and Micro Fries
Baby Lamb Chops
Dijon, White Wine And Rosemary Encrusted Baby Chops Cut Straight From The Rack
Sashimi Tuna Cones
Spicy Ahi Tuna Blended With Ginger And Cilantro In A Crisp Shell
Endive Fingers
Spread With Herbed Cheese And Sprinkled With Alfalfa Sprouts
The Love Note
A Phyllo Envelope Of Asian Pear, Goat Cheese And Caramelized Shallots
Indonesian Chicken Satay
Skewered And Served With Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce
Slow Cooked Duck
Juicy Slow-cooked Duck Served On A Fresh Corn Pancake Topped With Grilled Pineapple Chutney
Chow Fun
Choice Of Duck Or Shrimp

-Raw Bar
Iced Canadian Oysters & Top Neck Clams Hand-shucked To Order And Served With Lemon Wedges Cocktail & Mignonette Sauce

-Blini Bar
Buckwheat Blinis Are Pan-fried To Order And Offered With Sour Cream, Minced Chives, Melted Butter, Chopped Purple Onions And Fresh Salmon Caviar
-Creme Brulee Station
Ginger, Chocolate, Lavander And Vanilla Flavors

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

At the Horizon Line: Brain Fruit II and The Book

Sometimes the shiny and new exhibits make me forget about things that are already happening at the DCCA. Or, as in this case, they make me forget about the exhibits that are about to end. This past Friday, one of the DCCA staffers invited a few of her friends to the museum for Loop Night. While I was pleased to meet these delightful people, I confess that my pleasure in meeting them was of the selfish kind. Even if an exhibit is only up for a few months, seeing it everyday can deaden the impact of the art therein. Walking through the galleries with the staffer's friends made the exhibits seem fresh and new.

It had been a while since I peeked into the Constance Hennessy Project Space, but when I visited it with the DCCA newbies I was reminded again of how much I enjoy Jackie Brown's off-beat organic forms and spidery, vaguely sinister orange rods.  It had been less time since I'd visited the Carol Bieber and Marc Ham gallery to peruse the book show, but taking the time to stroll around and see the books through new eyes reawakened by initial wonder.

Unfortunately, just as I realized (for the second time) how much fun these exhibits were, I remembered that they were closing in less than two weeks time.

Enter this blog post. If you haven't seen Brain Fruit II or The Book: A Contemporary View yet, I highly recommend visiting the DCCA and checking them out. Both exhibits close April 17th, so your last chance to see them here is fast approaching. While The Book will appear at Towson University in September, Brain Fruit II will be gone forever after it leaves the DCCA. Well, sort of. Jackie Brown reassembles and reconfigures the piece, essentially creating a new piece altogether, in each location that shows her sculptures. So, you'll still be able to see the sculptures; it just won't be the same.

So, carpe diem! Carpe ars!  ...Or carpe whatever the Latin direct object form of "art" happens to be.

Jackie Brown, Brain Fruit II, 2010
Susan White, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, 2010

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In Depth: Atropa Mandragora

Alicia Bailey, Atropa Mandragora, 2003,
Glass book with box, pages etched and fired
glass, coptic binding, edition of five, box dimensions
10" x 8" x 3", courtesy of the artist
I often find myself talking with either visual people or literary people (or, as I like to think of them, "look people" or "book people"). Because of this, I've had many occasions to hear arguments in favor of, in turn, the supremacy of the image over the word and the supremacy of the word over the image, especially in terms of communicating ideas. The "look people" will tell you that there is no purer or more effective way of communicating than to come upon an image and, in one instant, see and know everything that you need to know. "Book people" will scoff at this na├»ve approach to knowledge and argue that a logical and linear approach laid out in textual form is far superior to any image. I'm not sure how well the more extreme individuals in each of these groups would deal with Alicia Bailey's Atropa Mandragora. Ms. Bailey's piece takes the best of these two approaches to communication and forges them together by binding plates of glass that have been drawn and written upon. This collapsing of two disparate elements into one is not limited to the visual and the literary. Ms. Bailey's piece uses the medium of glass and the genres of prose and illustration to fuse and blend divergent forms and ideas until it becomes impossible to tell one from another.

Atropa Mandragora takes its name from a plant that has featured prominently in folklore for centuries. Harry Potter fans will not be surprised to read the roots of the mandrake plant resemble human bodies. While the form of the mandragora root does not resemble humans as literally as the plants described in Ms. Rowling's books, there is an undeniable resemblance between humans and mandrake roots. While, certainly, the mandrake/mandragora offers up paths into creation stories and the weirder bits and pieces of folklore, it also draws our attention to the idea of multiplicity--the idea that one thing can be many and vice versa. In addition to being both plantlike and human in form, the mandrake has acquired a reputation for being everything from an aphrodisiac to an hallucinogenic capable of inducing a coma. Quite a powerful plant, don't you think? The hallucinogenic properties, in addition to summoning up images of the psychedelic sixties, reveal the mandrake's status as a symbol of multiplicity. When hallucinating, one can mistake any ordinary object for an infinite number of other people, places, and things. Indeed, given the mandrake's reality-bending powers, it isn't hard to understand how many of the legends surrounding the plant came to be. Simply ingesting a mandrake root can cause a person to lose touch with reality and enter a state of...*ahem*...expanded consciousness--or, as the look and book people might say, a new way of receiving ideas.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

In Depth: Empire

Arden Bendler Browning, Empire, 2010, Gouache and flashe
on Tyvek, Courtesy of the Artist
The world is becoming more and more like a computer--or is it the other way around? With the rising popularity of internet maps that allow a person to virtually "walk" through an area that could be as close as two feet away or as far as half a world away, the lines between reality and virtual reality are blurring at record speed. In its turn, technology has left an indelible mark on how we move through the world. As we walk along a street, it is possible to check one's workplace, one's home, and any number of virtual spaces. Our consciousness is not unlike the window of an internet browser that contains many open tabs. In such a world their is an infinite potential for expanding one's consciousness. Simply put, we see and are capable of seeing more than we were even as little as ten years ago. At the same time, we overlook certain details; certain treasured moments that can only be enjoyed when one's is fully immersed in one's immediate surroundings. It is this balancing act of consciousness that Arden Bendler Browning explores in her painting Empire.

The word "empire" usually brings to mind a powerful political state that is comprised of a variety of smaller territories. This description, however, can be applied to anything from a county to a country. Empires have a little something extra that makes them stick out from all of the other political  units. That something extra is usually a reputation for conquering neighboring political states and the existence of an all-powerful emperor. Browning's decision to name this piece Empire, then, is an interesting commentary on what it means to be conscious of one's environment. There is an implication that the very act of experiencing or seeing an environment--to codify and identify individual elements--is an act of conquest.