Fore­Site saga

SITE Santa Fe cel­e­brates 20 years

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - Michael Abatemarco I The New Mex­i­can

SITE Santa Fe cel­e­brates 20 years

Lit­tle is known of the life of African-Amer­i­can artist Mary A. Bell, a maid to the sis­ter-in-law of sculp­tor Gas­ton Lachaise. Bell, a de­vout Catholic who suf­fered from schizophre­nia, worked me­nial jobs through­out her life, all the while mak­ing in­tri­cate fig­u­ra­tive draw­ings of peo­ple of mixed race in crayon and colored pen­cil on thin tis­sue pa­per of the type used in dress­mak­ing. In 1940 she was com­mit­ted to a Bos­ton men­tal-health fa­cil­ity, where she died in 1941. She was what might be called an “out­sider artist,” work­ing at her craft while at a re­move from es­tab­lished art scenes and with­out any for­mal artis­tic train­ing. Writer and pho­tog­ra­pher Carl Van Vechten, a col­lec­tor of African-Amer­i­can art, came to know her work, pos­si­bly through Lachaise, and col­lected her draw­ings. So, too, did au­thor Gertrude Stein. Mul­ti­me­dia artist Deb­o­rah Grant com­mem­o­rates her le­gacy, and builds upon it in Christ You Know It Ain’t Easy!! , a se­ries of mixed-me­dia paint­ings on birch pan­els in­spired by the idea of a fic­tional en­counter be­tween Bell and Henri Matisse. Crown­ing the Lion and the Lamb , a large-scale piece in the se­ries, con­tains bi­o­graph­i­cal con­tent con­nected to the two artists. “It re­lates to Matisse’s life and Mary Bell’s life, in­clud­ing her end­ing up on a psy­chi­atric ward and even­tu­ally dy­ing,” Grant told Pasatiempo . “Through her and Carl Van Vechten’s let­ters, I was able to put to­gether the con­cept for Crown­ing the Lion and the Lamb . I came up with this idea of who would be the lamb and who would be the lion. Yet, it has some bi­b­li­cal ram­i­fi­ca­tions as well. I wanted to com­bine Judeo-Chris­tian ide­ol­ogy into the mix of this.” Smaller works from the se­ries share the same theme of blend­ing re­li­gious im­agery with modernist ref­er­ences.

Christ You Know It Ain’t Easy!! was first shown at the Drawing Cen­ter in New York in 2014, cu­rated by the cen­ter’s Claire Gil­man. Se­lec­tions from the in­stal­la­tion are on view in SITE 20 Years/20 Shows:

Spring , the first in a three-part ex­hi­bi­tion se­ries com--

mem­o­rat­ing SITE Santa Fe’s 20th an­niver­sary. For the first it­er­a­tion, six artists who have ex­hib­ited with the in­sti­tu­tion in the past were in­vited to present ei­ther new or re­cent work, or older pieces not pre­vi­ously shown at SITE.

Mary Reid Kel­ley’s film You Make Me Iliad was in SITE’s 2010 bi­en­nale The Dis­solve . Her new works are the films The Syphilis of Sisy­phus , made with Pa­trick Kel­ley, and Swin­burne’s Pasiphae , in­spired by an un­pub­lished work by English poet Charles Swin­burne and part of a tril­ogy of films about the Greek myth of the Mino­taur. A se­lec­tion of ob­jects from the films and a num­ber of re­lated pig­ment ink prints, car­i­ca­tures of Swin­burne, are also on view. Roxy Paine, who had a solo ex­hibit at SITE called Sec­ond Na­ture in 2003, presents bas­tard oc­to­pus ,a monochro­matic dio­rama of a wrestling ring and sta-in­spired dium, ab­sent of peo­ple. The dio­rama was by French philoso­pher Roland Barthes’ writ­ings on the sport as staged spec­ta­cle. Rose B. Simp­son had a col­lab­o­ra­tive project with Nora Naranjo Morse and El­iza Naranjo Morse in the 2008 bi­en­nale Lucky Num­ber Seven. In the new show, she is ex­hibit­ing large-scale ce­ramic and mixed-me­dia fig­ures that form part of her in­ves­ti­ga­tion into spir­i­tual states of be­ing and per­sonal trans­for­ma­tion. Jes­sica Stock­holder, first in­cluded in SITE’s fourth bi­en­nale Beau Monde: To­ward a Re­deemed Cos­mopoli­tanism , in which she had a room-sized in­stal­la­tion, is now show­ing smaller-scale sculp­tural constructions made us­ing re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als and com­mon house­hold items. Gre­gory Crewd­son had a solo photography show at SITE in 2001. He is known for his at­mo­spheric pho­tos made on elab­o­rate sets built on a scale like those used for movies. SITE is show­ing more than 60 black-and-white images from Crewd­son’s 1996 photo se­ries Fire­flies (printed in 2006), images of the lu­mi­nous bee­tles taken in his home state of Mas­sachusetts. Crewd­son in­tro­duces Brief En­coun­ters , a doc­u­men­tary about his work, at the Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts on Tues­day, March 17. He also dis­cusses the Fire­flies se­ries in a lec­ture at SITE on Wed­nes­day, March 18.

Grant pre­vi­ously ex­hib­ited at SITE as well. Her work was in­cluded in 2012’s group ex­hi­bi­tion Ag­i­tated His­to­ries , in which she showed an­other large-called scale paint­ing and col­lage con­struc­tion Sui­cide Notes to the Self . Christ You Know It Ain’t Easy!! is an out­growth of Grant’s on­go­ing project Ran­dom Se­lect , a sort of mash-up of dif­fer­ent artists, writ­ings, and his­to­ries that re­veals cor­re­spon­dences among them. Ini­tially, Uni­ver­sity of Cincin­nati art his­to­rian Theresa Leininger-Miller, who had re­searched Bell, wanted to do a show of her works for the Drawing Cen­ter. “She was work­ing at Yale in 1995, I think on her Ph.D.,” Grant said. “Mary Bell was some­one she ex­am­ined at the time. The Bei­necke Li­brary at Yale has a num­ber of Bell’s works. What ended up hap­pen­ing was Claire Gil­man, whom I had met at the Stu­dio Mu­seum in Har­lem in 2001, re­mem­bered my work and the con­cept I had come up with, Ran­dom Se­lect .” Gil­man sug­gested Grant do an ex­hibit based on Bell’s life and work. “There’s no in­for­ma­tion on her that you can re­ally find on­line. What comes up usu­ally when peo­ple search for just Mary Bell is the killer from Lon­don. I had to do the re­search and find out if I re­ally wanted to work on her. From the in­for­ma­tion I got from Theresa Leininger-Miller I was able to put some things to­gether. I thought there was some con­nec­tion be­tween the fact that she likes to cut out things and also the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Matisse’s ‘paint­ing with scis­sors.’ Bell was a staunch Catholic, and Matisse had done a num­ber of pieces for the Chapelle du Ro­saire de Vence. I was look­ing at those images and wanted to put them in a dif­fer­ent con­text. Lit­tle de­tails in the paint­ings are part of the ex­pe­ri­ence. Even

Bell’s women that she drew kind of have a ring of Gone With the Wind . There’s al­ways sub­tle things that point to some­thing ex­act.”

Among the Crown­ing the Lion and the Lamb’s many de­tails are por­traits of Stein and Van Vechten, as well as ref­er­ences to Gone With the Wind and Chris­tian iconog­ra­phy — all ren­dered in vary­ing de­grees of in­tri­cacy that range from a spare style sim­i­lar to the sim­ple com­po­si­tions of both Bell’s draw­ings and Matisse’s scis­sor paint­ings to metic­u­lous il­lus­tra­tions.

The in­stal­la­tion’s smaller works in­clude pieces from the se­ries God’s Voice in the Mid­night Hours , in which Grant makes even more sparse use of im­agery, ren­der­ing some fig­ures in sil­hou­ette against plain, un­de­tailed back­grounds. “In this se­ries, I’m kind of me­an­der­ing through sce­nar­ios that have some sort of bi­b­li­cal ref­er­ence, but in a dif­fer­ent con­text. For in­stance, St. Se­bas­tian Ven­able is based on a char­ac­ter in the movie with El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor, Sud­denly, Last Sum­mer .” In the film, the face of the char­ac­ter Se­bas­tian Ven­able is never shown, but he is rec­og­niz­able by his white suit — with a flower in his lapel — and his shoes. Grant’s St. Se­bas­tian is de­picted as a suit with a sim­i­larly flow­ered lapel and a pair of shoes. The suit is based on artist Joseph Beuys’ Felt Suit from 1970, but it’s white, like the one Ven­able wore — only rid­dled, like the mar­tyred saint, with ar­rows.

Much of Grant’s works are filled with a type of enig­matic script of her own in­ven­tion that is sim­i­lar to hi­ero­glyph­ics. Crown­ing the Lion and the Lamb bears those marks. “When I was in col­lege, I was look­ing at African texts and Asian texts. I was also look­ing at texts in He­brew and get­ting a sense of mark-mak­ing — how mark-mak­ing be­comes its own sort of dia­logue. Whether it has mean­ing or not is not im­por­tant. It’s free as­so­ci­a­tion.”

Deb­o­rah Grant: right, Crown­ing the Lion and the Lamb ; top to bot­tom, Kiss and Be­trayal ; Daniel in the Lion’s Den ; Ex­pul­sion of Adam and Eve ; Pi­late Washes His Hands; all 2013, oil, acrylic, enamel, and pa­per on birch panel Op­po­site page, top, Mary Reid Kel­ley: Swin­burne With Flow­ers, 2014, pig­ment ink print; right, Rose B. Simp­son: War­rior , 2012, ce­ramic and mixed me­dia

Roxy Paine: bas­tard oc­to­pus (de­tail), 2014, maple, alu­minum, steel, ca­ble, and enamel

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.