Open(ed) Spaces, Opened Ideas
Open(ed) Spaces is a group exhibition of site-specific and sited-
related works of art. This exhibit has taken the artwork out of
the neutral, expected gallery space and placed it in locations
where it will be encountered as part of the daily goings-on of
the students, staff and faculty of Hudson Valley Community College.
Works have been located outdoors, indoors and in the transition
spaces between exterior and interior. These locations have been
selected by the artists to inspire, inform and shape the pieces
made for this show.
Although not completely at odds in their concerns, site-specific
and site-related works do have some differences in intent and execution.
Site- specific work is made by artists who utilize the unique qualities
of a location and its context to generate art for that location
only. These qualities could be natural or architectural features
such as a rise in a hill, windows or lighting or perhaps the context
the site provides in relation to the artist’s field of inquiry
as a maker. At the end of the exhibit, when a site-specific work
is removed, it is essentially destroyed. By contrast, site –sensitive
work already exists work whose maker, the artist, selects an installation
location based on the possible relationships between the existing
artwork and the site. These decisions are likely to be based on
a link or connection between the materials or the shape of the
work and its proposed site. By placing the artwork in a certain
location, the experience of viewing both the location and the artwork
may be altered. At the end of the exhibit, the work is removed
but not destroyed and may be re-installed at another time (in either
a similar setting or one that provides a different environment
and context for viewing)
The artists in Open(ed) Spaces come from many backgrounds, interests
and working methods. Still, there are similarities to be found
in their approaches, sensibilities and uses of materials. James
Cullinane and Christa Donner utilize found images from existing
media as building blocks for their own work. Cullinane, long interested
in how manipulations of his found images can set up and structure
a play of image, language and power. His tediously assembled work,
Jumpswitchfrieze, combines ideas of information transfer, language,
child’s play and physical training as personal discipline.
Similarly, Christa Donner, publisher of the nationally distributed ‘zine “Ladyfriend,” combines
her interests in popular imagery, feminism, and anatomy as (a disbelieved)
symbol of destiny into an exploration of some of the first female
students at Hudson Valley. Her work, Pass it On, traces, in graphic
novel shorthand, progressing, from left to right, past to present,
the history and legacy of female students in the medical fields
at the college.
Anna Dyson, Karen Mirza, Thomas Lail, and Edward Mayer all share
abiding interests in architecture and how, through their work,
they may be able to recast relationships to a particular location.
Dyson, both a trained artist and architect, has, with her collaborative
group, Materialab, ‘deployed’ a prototype material
that may in the future be used for inexpensive, moveable, environmentally
sound shelters. In this installation, the material is periodically
re-installed to highlight architectural details of the installation
location finally coming to rest in usable form.
Projected light is filmmaker Karen Mirza’s medium. Her corridor
installation ponders how time, movement and constructed environments
eventually grow into a type of nothing. As in a novel by Virginia
Wolf, the scene, the time, the light may have changed but nothing
Nothing seems to happen again in Thomas Lail’s
faux construction site. He has taken the no-man’s land of
dry dirt between the rear façade of the Marvin library and
the blankness of a new parking lot and built what could be a structure
or in decline. Utilizing the floor plans of the library (in quite
altered form) and the layout of the wall of windows, Lail’s
work builds a transition site between an inaccessible computer
lab and the torpor of a field of parked cars.
Edward Mayer’s installation takes specific architectural
details as its starting point. He has constructed three steel mesh
columns and fit them along a grid of windows between the functioning
structural columns of Guenther Hall. Made of readily available ‘non-art,’ non-architecture’ materials,
the work is light airy and delicate. Mayer’s new columns
hold no weight but rather serve to call viewers’ attention
to the expanse of space, air and light that permeates the sweeping
atrium of this building.
Sensitivity to materials and their inherent qualities of strength,
weight, texture and color unites the work of Paul Mauren and Chris
Duncan. Both artists have also selected their installation locations
to highlight particular attributes of their work. Mauren’s
work, ’22 Links’ is in many ways an ironic joke on
his own use of materials. Solid and heavy, a welded and bolted
steel circle supports an enormous set of cement links that look
as if they could hold the weight of the world. As Mauren explains,
however, the tensile strength of cement is in no way strong enough
to hold or pull the large weight these links bring to mind. Placed
in the entrance court to the campus library, itself a geometric
experiment in cast concrete architecture, the sculpture plays with
ideas of how material and structure are related in ways that confound
our visually informed expectations.
Chris Duncan uses steel and concrete, quite differently than Mauren.
These pit-cast works take into account issues of weight, balance
and three-dimensional composition. Although quite securely balanced,
the works seem as if any shift may set them into motion or topple
them. Sited in a grove of tall trees, Duncan’s two separate
sculptures call attention to the rhythm and repetition of vertical
lines formed by the trees’ trunks. Gnarled and craggy, with
subtle color shifts, the cast surfaces of these works also recall
the nearby tree bark.
The given nature of materials is also an integral idea to the
work of Jeanne Flanagan. ‘Oozula,’ sited on a slope
of grass near another grove of trees, is comprised solely of roofing
slate hammered vertically into the ground. From afar, the work
looks like a large boulder or fossil emerging from the green grass,
ancient and solid. As one approaches, however, this seeming solidity
evaporates. The work begins to look as if it may be a delicate
drawing of many careful lines of graphite in the grass. Only upon
final close inspection does one realize that in fact the piece
is part boulder (shattered) and part drawing (of stone) and that
it is simultaneously old, new, strong and fragile.
Although the artists represented in Open(ed) Spaces use varied
techniques and materials to make their work, each piece in the
exhibit shifts, however subtly, our relationship to our environment
and opens our experience to the unexpected and unusual. During
the next seven months, these relationships will evolve further
as weather, light and familiarity change through time and seasons.
As viewers, we have the chance to explore these works and locations
day by day and month to month. Many thanks to these dedicated artists
who have brought us this opportunity.
Director, Teaching Gallery