Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Winter Well Wishes...

...and a happy non-denominational holiday season to all!

Sorry folks, but I won't be reporting on the comings and goings at the DCCA again until January third. I'll be busy eating cookies and visiting family. So, by the way, will the busy little bees in the DCCA offices.

But don't fret, dear readers! Even though most of the staff will be away, the DCCA galleries will be open until 3:00 on the 24th and from the 26th to the 31st at 3:00, so feel free to come by and explore our wonderful new exhibits, THE BOOK: A Contemporary View and Brain Fruit. This morning I was able to sneak into THE BOOK, and I can honestly say that you'll be amazed by the wonderful pieces in the show.

So, adieu for now, dear readers, and stay tuned; there'll be plenty going on at the DCCA in 2011.

Panoramic View: Brain Fruit

Jackie Brown, Brain Fruit II: An Excited State, 2010,
various materials, filled-space installation
It's difficult to walk by this exhibition without stopping for at least a moment; you can't help but wonder what was going on in Jackie Brown's own brain when you happen upon the phrase "Brain Fruit." Add to that the bright green and orange rods, grayish blobs, and the delicious strangeness of the exhibition and it's impossible not to venture into the Constance & Hennessy Project Space to take a look around.

Once you've entered the newly transformed gallery, you feel a little like you've stepped into the middle of a collection of giant neurons--hence the "brain" part of the title. Of course, this is a piece of contemporary art, so it isn't quite that literal and it definitely isn't that simple. While Brown has created something like a system of neurons, the forms she has created follow no natural schema. Whereas neurons are spindly columns with organically shaped tendrils (or "dendrites" to the scientifically minded among you), Brown's forms have dripping, irregular bases that support textured blobs that seem to have sprouted sharp, geometric rods. Yes, Brown has created a vaguely biological system that she wishes to be understood as inter-connected, but the piece does not address neurology exclusively--at least, not as it applies to individual brains.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Works in Progress: THE BOOK: A Contemporary View

Susan White, Between a Rock and a Hard
, 2010, Deconstructed book pages,
text dots, variable
If you've ever had a chance to look around the best website in the world , you're probably aware of the fact that the DCCA presents an average of 30 exhibitions annually of contemporary art. If you've ever been to the DCCA, you're probably aware of the fact that there aren't 30 galleries here. You see, we opt for quality, not quantity. The reason, dear readers, that we are able to present you with 30 exhibitions per annum despite our limited exhibition space is that our curatorial department is like a group of busy bees in a DCCA beehive. They're constantly planning, designing, and, most relevant to this discussion, de-installing and installing new exhibitions.

Lately, the sound of electric drills and the smell of paint have been floating through the air at the DCCA (please feel free to blame the paint fumes if this post seems more whimsical than usual). A new exhibition just opened in the Constance J. Hennessy Project Space (more on that later) and our Preparator is hard at work installing an exciting new exhibit entitled THE BOOK: A Contemporary View in the Carol Bieber and Marc Ham Gallery.

For the past week or so I've been embracing my wildly rebellious side and peeking around the "installation in progress, please do not enter" sign that's in the doorway of the gallery. I've yet to get very far though, as the guy who's been carved into the pages of books that have been suspended from the ceiling is more than a little intimidating. The same goes for the page-cyclone in the corner. There's also a rumor floating around about fearsome book mushrooms that are growing on the walls, but I've yet to see them.

THE BOOK: A Contemporary View, is dedicated to exploring the book as an object, subject, and concept. As the glimpses I've gotten of the exhibit would suggest, the artists participating in the show have created fascinating works of art that stretch the definition of the word "book" with delightful results. The exhibition will open next Wednesday so be sure to stop by and see if the rumor about the book mushrooms is true.


"Works in Progress" is a series of posts dedicated to giving you advance notice about upcoming DCCA shows.

Friday, December 10, 2010

In Depth: Hercules Holding the Sun and Rainbow

René Treviño, Hercules Holding
the Sun and Rainbow
, 2008,
Acrylic on Mylar, Courtesy of C.
Grimaldis Gallery, MD
One would be hard-pressed to find a better example of a self-aware culture than the Ancient Greeks. They were people who were well aware of human virtues and vice and their vibrant mythology reflects that awareness. Indeed, many of the lessons found in greek mythology still apply today. After all, what is Twitter if not a real-world answer to the Narcissus myth?

Given the Greeks' penchant for self-reflection, it is fitting that artist René Treviño should adopt one of Greek mythology's best known heroes to examine his own identity and the society in which he finds himself. In Hercules Holding the Sun and Rainbow Treviño combines a black and white rendering of a bronze statue of Hercules with a vibrant Mayan calendar. These two images fuse traditional western culture with the less familiar and thus, exotic Mayan culture. In a nod to the myth of Hercules holding up the heavens, Hercules leans forward and cradles the Mayan calendar in his upraised arms.

To anyone who grew up after the revisionist history movement (the scholarly movement that was responsible for bringing Christopher Columbus down a few notches), the combination of these two elements suggests a rather obvious interpretation of the piece. Clearly, a student of this movement would say, this is an emblem of the crushing guilt western culture is forced to carry as a result of its  destruction of Native American cultures! While this theme is certainly at work in the piece, there is something else going on.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Panoramic View: (Text)ure

Renee Benson, No. 97, 2010, Acrylic on
Canvas, 30" x 40"
Aside from the delightfully mischievous pun included in the exhibition's name, I wasn't immediately certain what, in particular, drew me to (Text)ure. The exhibition is a decidedly abstract collaboration between DCCA studio artists Felise Luchansky and Renee Benson. On two of the adjacent walls, Renee Benson's paintings of swirling, multi-colored dots beg the viewer to reach out and touch--at the risk of invoking the wrath (well, perhaps its more like "mild annoyance") of the security guards. Spreading across the two opposite walls is Felise Luchansky's piece Release, a collection of dot and dash shaped canvases that spell out the title of the piece in morse code. At first glance, the exhibition is rather sparse. But where's the fun in taking just one look? It turns out that this seeming austerity is naught but a clever ruse, for the exhibition is much busier and--dare I say--noisier that it first appears.

Luchansky's piece sets the tone for the rest of the exhibition. Yes, the canvases she puts on the walls are small on their own. When put together, however, one can't help but feel as though one is being shouted at by a drill sergeant. When put together, Release is a loud  and provocative statement. "Loud," may seem to be a strange word to describe a piece of visual art, but it isn't too far off the mark. By using morse code in Release, Luchansky fuses the taps and tones of morse code with the visuality of paint on canvas. The result is a strange, synesthetic experience that bridges the gap between sound and sight, thus completely overwhelming the viewer.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

In case you didn't get the DCCA's fancy thank you e-mail, I would like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving on behalf of the DCCA staff.

Here's to a hearty feast for herbivores and carnivores alike and a wonderful holiday full of good cheer and family fun!

Thanks for reading!

Panoramic View: Things Left Behind

Katie Baldwin, Aunt Harriet and
, 2010, Moku hanga and
letterpress, 11" X 7"
In my first post for entirely too long, I was tempted to depart from my usual habit of only writing about art that would be at home in a nineteenth century sun room and write an "In Depth" post about a piece of felt in Katie Baldwin's extraordinary exhibit, Things Left Behind. (Note to self: stop writing War and Peace-length sentences)

The felt in question is a representation of a long, relatively straight river. I had planned on writing about the whimsical cleverness of the piece and how wonderful it is to walk along it and feel like a bird flying from one end of the river to the other, arriving at a new locale. Fortunately for you, dear readers, I soon realized the folly of my plan. Such is the whimsical cleverness of the piece that it is quite impossible to discuss it without discussing the entire exhibition, including many, relatively traditional, figural works. Hence: this "Panoramic View" entry.

The river in question occupies the central space of the DCCA's Beckler Family Member's Gallery and is the only piece in the exhibit that is not hung on the walls. Unless you are in the habit of sneaking into galleries by slithering around the corners of doorways, it is also the first object you see as you enter the gallery. For a length of blue felt, it is a surprisingly complex piece that is responsible for uniting the rest of the works. The banks  of Baldwin's river gently curve inward and outward in a softly undulating line. If the river were straighter or more sinuous, one might be tempted to speed along the banks. Instead, Baldwin invites her viewers to take their time as they walk along the the miniature river; to enjoy the gentle curves and minute detail of the miniature banks.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

In Depth: Floating Ocean

Seonglan Kim Boyce, Floating
2010, Oil on Canvas,
18" X 18"
One might suppose that evoking the idea of the ocean might be impossible if all  one had to work with were a series of differently proportioned rectangles, but one would be wrong. In her piece, Floating Ocean, Seonglan Kim Boyce manages to capture the undulating motion of the sea without once using a curvilinear line.

Floating Ocean seems all too simple, at first. Boyce has presented us with a series of light blue rectangles in a seemingly random pattern arranged on a while field. The effect, if one let's one's imagination run wild for a moment, is of droplets, drizzles, and puddles of water floating in the air. The piece is whimsical and fun enough that one can't help but think of scenes from cartoons in which water waits until Elmer Fudd or another hapless type is directly underneath it before falling.

As strange as this cartoon comparison might seem, it isn't very far from how Boyce describes her own work. "My painting starts with a memory of a specific space. It gives me structural references and emotional content. I try to construct a space that is even, balanced, immediate and open. In the painting I want a sense of time, yet still and silent." In Floating Ocean Boyce has suspended a simplified image of ocean water in negative space--the air, perhaps--and, in so doing, gives the impression of a wave on the verge of crashing. Viewers can follow the motion of the wave from the right to the left as the rectangles form the broken line of a tilted "S". The motion, and the time that must pass for the water to form a wave is implied by the "S" curve, but everything is frozen and still. This is the moment right before the water crashes down--whether onto poor widdle Elmer or the shore--and asserts itself as a force of nature.

The thin lines have the potential to adopt the greater weight of the larger rectangle in the upper left corner, but by the very nature of pictorial representation, they never will. The painting, for this reason, is both frustrating and fascinating.


*"In Depth" is a series of posts dedicated to taking a closer look at (and maybe completely misinterpreting) individual paintings exhibited by the DCCA. If you would like to nominate a painting at the DCCA for an "In Depth" feature, feel free to write a comment and let me know!

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Special Event: The Dia: Beacon Bus Trip

If you haven't gone on one of the DCCA's bus trips, you, dear reader, have been missing out. Yesterday (Thursday), the DCCA's Fearless Leader and Executive Director Maxine Gaiber took some of the DCCA staff, DCCA members, and other art fans on a tour around the town of Beacon. Put that way, the trip doesn't sound particularly scintillating. But don't be fooled, dear readers. The quaint, picturesque facade of Beacon's small town streets, New England style homes,  and gothic revival architecture hides a shocking secret: Beacon is a thriving hub of contemporary art. Indeed, this sleepy little town is the home of the Starn Twins' studio and Dia:Beacon, a fantastic museum full of conceptual, installation pieces.

Richard Serra, Torqued Ellipse II, 1996; Double
Torqued Ellipse
, 1997.Dia Art Foundation; gift of Louise and
Leonard Riggio. 2000, 2000. Dia Art Foundation.
Photo: ©©Richard Barnes.

After being treated to delicious muffins, bagels, and hot coffee on the trip up to Beacon, our group went on a guided tour of the Starn twins' vast (and I mean vast) studio. Unfortunately, the brothers themselves were not in residence. They are, we were told, hard at work on an installation entitled Big Bambú. This piece is currently housed on the roof of a modest, little-known museum called The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The building that houses the studio is rather unassuming. It's housed in the shell of an old factory and, as such, it isn't exactly a visual smorgasbord on the outside. Once you step inside, however, it's quite a task to keep your jaw from dropping. The first sight to meet your eyes when you enter the studio is an enormous print of a decaying human face that is probably about one third of the size of a football field. Assuming you can manage to close your mouth and look at anything other than that gigantic print, you soon notice smaller, just as enchanting images peppered throughout the studios and along the walls. There are photographs of trees that look like neurons, images of decaying leaves photographed in poetic high contrast, a giggle-worthy alteration of DaVinci's St. John the Baptist, and, perhaps most notably, a prototype of Big Bambú.

In case you haven't gotten a chance to stop by that little known museum and see the finished product of Big Bambú for yourself, I'll tell you a little about it. The Starn brothers have created massive, interactive structures made almost entirely out of bamboo poles tied together with rock climbing rope. The structures are incredibly complex and are sturdy enough that it is possible, if you haven't just watched a broadcast of Vertigo on television, to walk on the ramps that run, like arteries, throughout the pieces. Our group got to do just that and, though yours truly spent most of the time clutching the nearest sturdy-seeming handrail with visions of Jimmy Stewart dangling in her head, I can tell you that it was a fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Panoramic View: Tranquility

James Brantley, City Life, 2009, Acrylic
on canvas, 18" X 24"
If you attended the Art on the Town celebration on Friday night, you probably had the privilege of listening to James Brantley talk about his art and the exhibit "Tranquility." Though he and his agent spoke about a wide variety of topics including the obstacles facing African American artists, the vietnam war (very briefly), and convincing young artists that, yes, you do need a day job, I was especially interested in an offhand comment Brantley made about how he hopes the paintings in the exhibit will be viewed.

In case you haven't had a chance to look around the exhibit, I'll give you a quick crash course on the space.  Most of the paintings in the room are of vacant cityscapes with huge and beautifully painted skies. Though a painting here and there might have figures or the occasional tree or shrubbery in it, the majority of the paintings are devoted to showcasing solitary streets and brick buildings.

During his talk, Mr. Brantley remarked that he intended for his viewers to become a part of his paintings and, thus, part of the  urban space. Most of Bratley's works are on a large scale, so it isn't particularly difficult for a viewer to fling him or herself into the canvas (metaphorically speaking, of course. The DCCA does not wish you to launch yourself toward Mr. Brantley's work). One might expect this experience to be disorienting or overwhelming, but even I, a mousy little suburban girl, didn't lose my cool after allowing my gaze to take a stroll along Brantley's streets.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Special Event: Art on the Twitter...

...err... "town." Tonight's the big night, art fans. In case you desperately want to attend our shindig but can't because you're in a sickbed, I'll be tweeting about the event throughout the night. Assuming, that is, that I can get the hang of that weird brevity thing. As you might be able to tell, it isn't one of my strong suits.

You can read all about tonight's event, in real time no less, on my shiny new twitter page. Expect typos and top-notch reporting, 140 characters at a time.

If you aren't on your sickbed, be sure to come by so you can watch me struggle with the intricacies of modern telecommunication. Once you've had your fill of that stirring human drama (or farce, depending upon your point of view), you can enjoy great art, a special Fringe Festival performance called "Crypto-Anthropology," and one of our famous DCCA parties.

See you there!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Special Event: The Fringe Wilmington Festival

If you, dear readers, are like me and giggle every time you see that commercial with the zombie who's about to eat the ballerinas (I can't imagine he'll get a very filling meal out of them), you absolutely need to attend the Fringe Wilmington Festival. The festival is devoted to bringing the best in delightfully off-beat art, music, theatre, and other potentially fringy things to the City of Wilmington. Though the festival has already begun, it runs until October 3rd, so there's plenty left to see and do.

If you were already planning on stopping by the DCCA for Art on the Town tomorrow, you'll get a taste of things (the festival, not ballerina flesh) while you're here. The DCCA is hosting two performances of "Crypto-Anthropology" by Phantom Limb Productions. Halloween enthusiasts will find that this show is an ideal way to kick off the countdown to the big day. The Festival Website describes it as "a highly interactive fun house freak show of scandalous proportions." Yes, you read that correctly, "scandalous proportions." Add in a Skunk Ape and a Muck Monster and good times are guaranteed.

It should be noted that the show is not free, but at $5 per ticket the admission price is certainly a bargain for all that you'll see. "Crypto-Anthropology" will be performed a grand total of three times at the DCCA: twice on Friday night (7:30 and 9:30) and once Saturday afternoon (2:00).

For more information about "Crypto-Anthropology" and the Fringe Wilmington Festival in general, visit the official website.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Special Event: Art on the Town

It's that time again, DCCA fans!

Come join the DCCA for a night of culture and revelry this Friday, October 1st. The DCCA, along with other galleries and studios around Wilmington will be staying open late just so you art enthusiasts can feed your passion. Oh, and, did I mention that it's free? Bring your friends, bring your friends' friends, and be ready to party! The City of Wilmington is hosting our re:FRESH party, and, in case you haven't heard, the DCCA is known for its shindigs. Since we're hosting the after party, we'll be open until 11:00 PM, but other venues around the city will be closing a little bit earlier.

For a full list of the venues participating, as well as how long they'll be open and a schedule for the Art on the Town bus route, go visit the official web page.

Panoramic View: The Morris Kitsch Exhibition

Mug, Detail from the Morris Kitsch Archive,
2009, Laminated Digital Print, 8.5" X 12",
Photograph David Mabb
Next Thursday will mark the beginning of the international symposium, "Useful and Beautiful: The Transatlantic Arts of William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites". It may seem strange for me to mention this symposium on a blog about a contemporary arts center, but, as it turns, out, the DCCA is housing an exhibition that was created in honor of the symposium. The exhibit in question is none other than the Morris Kitsch Archive, designed by British artist David Mabb.

I must confess that the first time I entered the Kitsch Archive I was decidedly underwhelmed. You see, the exhibitions section of the DCCA website features images (like the one at left) of actual objects. This lead me to suspect that the archive would, therefore, contain actual objects. So, the first time I saw the exhibit, I thought for a moment that someone had robbed the DCCA. There were no kitschy  mugs, or shirts, or pens...or anything at all, for that matter. Clearly the authorities  needed to be informed.

Fortunately, I was mistaken. It is only at first glance that the exhibit seems empty. Instead of bringing objects to the DCCA, Mabb has placed hundreds of photographs of objects on the walls and arranged them into several massive grids. The effect of this decision is to give the impression of emptiness and a vacant room, for the images are flat and lack even the minimal protrusion of a canvas on the wall. The impression of emptiness doesn't last long. It is soon replaced by an unexpected but powerful feeling of sensory overload. As I walked around the perimeter of the room, trying my best to look at every single solitary individual object pictured in every single solitary individual row and column, I soon felt my eyes glass over and my mind go on autopilot.

When I realized that I had no idea what I was seeing anymore, I berated myself severely. "Are you or are you not an Art History major," I asked myself, "and do you or do you not cringe when people walk by art without really looking at it? You mademoiselle, are a hypocrite!" I was suitably ashamed of myself and tried once more to take in every single image. The thing is, try as I might, I just couldn't do it and, gradually, I began to suspect that my inability to absorb, well, anything, might just be the point of the exhibition.

David Mabb say this about his installation: “The archive illustrates how Morris’ designs have been appropriated for a mass consumer society. The designs have become widely available at the expense of the qualities and values inherent to Morris’ original utopian project, which offered in its vision of the fecundity of nature the hope of alternative ways of living in the world.” Morris, it seems, was in favor of the early forms of communism and was deeply disdainful of the capitalist phenomenon of mass production. Indeed, he greatly valued the beauty of hand crafted, artistic objects. The title of the symposium even comes from a Morris quote on this subject, "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."

This quote is actually rather famous among Pre-Raphaelite enthusiasts and is included, many times, in the Kitsch Archive. It is this inclusion that underlines how much Morris original intent has been distorted by "a mass consumer society," for many of the objects that feature this slogan are, to be blunt, ugly. The quote appears on plain white tee shirts, not-particularly-ornate pillows, and other assorted, boring, mass produced items. Morris's love of beauty artistic substance, and originality has been eaten up by mass production and spit out in the form of...kitsch.

Mabb seems to be suggesting that, by transferring Moriss's designs onto endless, mass-produced objects, we are contradicting everything for which Morris stood.


*Useful and Beautiful: The Transatlantic Arts of William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites - Official Symposium Website

*The Morris Kitsch Archive will be exhibited at the DCCA until December 5, 2010.

"Panoramic View" is a series of posts dedicated to stepping back and looking at exhibits at the DCCA in their entirety.

In Depth: The Temptation of the Penitent Medusa by Carrie Ann Baade

Carrie Ann Baade, The Temptation of the
Penitent Medusa
, 2010, oil on panel,
12" X 18"
If ever there was a painting dedicated to examining the role of women in art, this is it.

Carrie Ann Baade's  The Temptation of the Penitent Medusa is not only a technical tour de force (the surface of the painting is incredibly smooth), but a multi-layered allegory that is likely to send one's head spinning so fast that it will...leave your head spinning. Medusa, famous for turning men into stone with a glance, paints the virgin Mary while demons and chimeras climb over her and a tear slides down her cheek.  The demons, the title tells us, are tempting Medusa, pulling at her hair as if to make her look at something. She, however,  looks steadfastly into the distance and doesn't even see her painting. She does not look out at the viewer but, instead, seems to resign herself (although unhappily) to be the object of observation instead of an observer herself.

The implied narrative that Baade has given us is one of reluctant reform, subversion of the self, and the persistent objectification of women in the arts. Greek mythology tells us that Perseus decapitated Medusa as punishment for her wicked ways and then placed her head on his shield. The latter precaution allowed Perseus to turn his foes into stone (strange, isn't it, that Perseus shouldn't be punished for turning his fellow men into stone). Baade has presented us with an alternate punishment for our snaky-tressed friend. Instead of spending her time changing live men into stone sculptures, she acts out her penitence by painting the image of the most pious woman in the history of  the Western world, the virgin Mary. The studio Baade gives to her Medusa is empty and rendered in blues so cold that I can't help but wonder if the tear on Medusa's cheek is frozen there. It seem that, in Baade's opinion, Medusa may have been better off dead. Instead of exercising her super-human abilities, she paints a formulaic depiction of Mary and the baby Jesus while staring sadly into space.

Medusa has not only abandoned turning men into objects, however, but has become an object herself. The direction of her gaze, and her determination not to look at anyone, prevents her from interacting with the viewer. Her profile, however, is meticulously rendered and available to be observed by even the most casual passerby. It is almost as if the viewer has adopted Medusa's powers for, though we can continue with our lives after seeing this painting, Medusa will forever be frozen in the act of depicting a woman who is not only her polar opposite but also, according to mainstream society, an ideal to which she may  not wish to aspire.

One really can't help but hope that one of those demons will succeed in turning her head.

As long as that same "one" is far away when it happens.


*The Temptation of the Penitent Medusa is a part of the DCCA's "In Canon," an exhibit that will run until January 2, 2011.

*"In Depth" is a series of posts dedicated to taking a closer look at (and maybe completely misinterpreting) individual paintings exhibited by the DCCA. If you would like to nominate a painting at the DCCA for an "In Depth" feature, feel free to write a comment and let me know!

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Official Self-Referential Post

Hello there, readers, and welcome to Artistic Novelty, the new blog dedicated to the life and times of the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts. Assuming a lack  of biblical plagues, tragic exhibition installation accidents, or other unforeseen circumstances, I will be your blogger and guide to the comings and goings at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts for the next year or so.

"Who are you," you may ask with suspicion in your voice, "and what did you do with the other blogger?" Fear not, gentle readers, Meagan's blog still exists and, though not as frequently, she will still be updating it with her take on events at the DCCA. Of course, that still doesn't tell you who I am. At the risk of under-thinking things and thus angering any existentialists in the audience, I'll simply say that my name is Alissa. Since that isn't awfully informative, I'll tell you more: I am the new Development Intern at the DCCA. What that means is that, in between paperwork and epic battles with the copier, I'll be able to  give you up-to-date information about the DCCA and all the shenanigans that go on behind our walls.

Intriguing stuff, eh? With any luck I'll be able to tell you about some of the fun, behind-the-scenes magic that goes on here on South Madison Street.

Stay tuned, dear readers. It's going to be an interesting year.