Art on the Edge. The title itself implies newness, boldness, and perhaps an awkward straining toward hipness. While it suggests taking creative risks, the title also questions what those risks are to begin with. In the world of contemporary art, where studio and exhibition techniques often advance as quickly as new technologies allow them to, the edge is becoming harder to define.
On Friday, April 16, Friends of Contemporary Art (FOCA), the New Mexico Museum of Art, and guest curator Nicholas Baume — chief curator and director of New York City’s Public Art Fund — present an opportunity for viewers to examine where the edge begins and ends and, in the process, give the title of the exhibit a double meaning. In Art on the Edge 2010, the second juried group exhibit of its kind at New Mexico Museum of Art and now a biennial event, a finely focused exploration of line, environment, and horizon places the show’s title in proper perspective.
Unlike the 2008 exhibit, which, to the frustration of many artists, was only open to FOCA members, Art on the Edge 2010 opened its doors to nonmembers internationally. To simplify the selection process this year, all artist submissions were judged through www.slideroom.com, a pay site that allows artists to post images, video, artist statements, and other text for peer and professional rating and review. The 2008 exhibit drew 85 submissions from FOCA members for consideration by Whitney Museum of American Art curator Elisabeth Sussman. This year’s call for artists solicited more than 120 submissions, all judged by Baume. In each case, seven finalists were chosen to participate in the juried exhibit. In 2008, six of the artists lived and worked in New Mexico. This year, none are New Mexico residents, though a few have strong New Mexico ties.
Participants in Art on the Edge 2010 include sculptor and former Santa Fe resident Eric Tillinghast; photographer Erika Blumenfeld (also a former Santa Fean); mixed-media photographer/painter Deborah Hamon; glass artist Jessica Loughlin; painter/drawer Kate Beck; photographer Ryan Bush; and mixed-media glass artist Michael Rogers. Missing from this year’s exhibit is a definitive body of video work, which was provided in 2008 by Brooklyn-based artist William Lamson. Tillinghast, who is also the focus of a solo exhibit, titled Rain Machine, that is scheduled to open at the Center for Contemporary Arts’ Muñoz Waxman Gallery on April 30, studied at the Virginska Skolan in Örebro, Sweden, from 1990 to 1991. After receiving training in industrial welding in Santa Barbara, California, Tillinghast established a studio in Santa Fe in 1995 (he now lives in Northern California). For Art on the Edge 2010, Tillinghast continues to employ water as an integral sculptural medium, a practice he began in 1994.
The focus of his contribution to the show is Two Tanks (2009), a pair of large fabricated-steel tanks (one circular, one square) filled with water and fitted with vibrating motors. The painstakingly assembled, minimalist-looking pieces showcase the motion of the motors, as well as the natural effects of water evaporation and the reflective/refractive properties of light on water at numerous angles. The result is a pair of shimmering pools that reveal patterns — wave lines and constantly appearing and disappearing horizons — dancing toward the edge of the water’s surface.
In many of Tillinghast’s earlier water-based sculptures — such as his steel-foundation 108-inch-long outdoor installation at Salado Creek