Art in Re­view

SITE 20 Years/20 Shows: Spring

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SITE 20 Years/20 Shows: Spring , SITE Santa Fe, 1606 Paseo de Per­alta, 505-989-1199; through May

SITE Santa Fe is cel­e­brat­ing its 20-year an­niver­sary by invit­ing back artists who have ex­hib­ited at the space in the past. SITE 20 Years/20 Shows: Spring , the first in a se­ries of year­long ex­hibits, is de­signed to in­cor­po­rate the mu­seum’s his­tory in a show that’s more in­ti­mate than the broad-rang­ing bi­en­nial that pre­miered last sum­mer. To those ends, SITE has se­lected rel­a­tively re­cent pieces from seven artists in or­der to high­light shifts in their works’ fo­cus since the venue last fea­tured them. The artists in ques­tion are Roxy Paine, Deb­o­rah Grant, Jes­sica Stock­holder, Rose B. Simp­son, col­lab­o­ra­tors Mary Reid Kel­ley and Pa­trick Kel­ley, and Gre­gory Crewd­son, who is show­ing an older but rarely seen se­ries of pho­to­graphs.

In the lobby, mon­i­tors play a se­ries of per­for­mance pieces by var­i­ous artists who have par­tic­i­pated in SITE events over the years. The wall­pa­per in the lobby names ev­ery artist SITE has worked with dur­ing the last two decades: more than 600 of them, in over 80 shows and nine bi­en­ni­als.

Roxy Paine’s Sec­ond Na­ture , a solo show serv­ing as a mid-ca­reer sur­vey, opened at SITE in 2003. Paine’s works shown in 20 Years/20 Shows un­der­score his cur­rent prac­tice of con­struct­ing dio­ra­mas from ma­te­ri­als such as wood, metal, glass, light bulbs, and enamel; to date, he has fin­ished four. Drawing for Con­trol Room Dio­rama, of­fers vis­i­tors a two-di­men­sional look at the artist’s plan for a large-scale piece. The dio­rama fea­tured in the show is bas­tard oc­to­pus , Paine’s ar­rest­ing vi­sion of a sports arena: a white room that is empty of spec­ta­tors. View­ers are pre­sented with a num­ber of per­cep­tual dilem­mas, not the least of which in­volves mat­ters of per­spec­tive. The dio­rama is an il­lu­sory space, about 13 feet long at its deep­est point. Within that space — de­signed to ap­pear larger than it is — are a wrestling ring, rows of seats and sta­dium plat­forms, tele­vi­sion mon­i­tors, and a bank of eight lights. The ob­jec­tive, dis­tanced view pro­vided is at odds with the raw ex­pe­ri­ence of watch­ing a live match but isn’t dis­sim­i­lar to watch­ing one on TV. Here, in a mu­seum en­vi­ron­ment, the ob­server is yet an­other step re­moved. Dio­ra­mas, com­mon enough in nat­u­ral his­tory mu­se­ums, en­cap­su­late an en­vi­ron­ment in an en­closed, ar­tis­ti­cally con­ceived space. The quiet, monochro­matic piece stands in con­trast to the bustling, noisy en­vi­ron­ment of a live match. Paine was in­spired by the French philoso­pher Roland Barthes, who wrote about the wrestling match as a staged spec­ta­cle. Here, the pris­tine room sug­gests that the match has ended, its pa­trons long gone, or is soon to begin. Per­haps there is deeper sym­bol­ism here, with the match oc­cur­ring in the minds of view­ers as they wres­tle with ideas.

Deb­o­rah Grant’s se­ries of col­or­ful mixed-me­dia paint­ings on birch pan­els, Christ You Know It Ain’t Easy!! , is based on bi­o­graph­i­cal ma­te­rial rel­e­vant to African-Amer­i­can artist Mary A. Bell — a Catholic maid who suf­fered from schizophre­nia and was em­ployed by sculp­tor Gas­ton Lachaise’s sis­ter-in-law — and to French artist Henri Matisse. Though they were con­tem­po­raries, the two rep­re­sent a chasm in the art world be­tween mod­ernism (Matisse) and “out­sider art” (Bell). Crown­ing the Lion and the Lamb , a large-scale piece from the se­ries that col­lages im­agery re­lated to both lives, is an ex­am­ple of her on­go­ing Ran­dom Se­lect project that pairs dis­sim­i­lar peo­ple, writ­ings, and events in search of cor­re­spon­dences among them. God’s Voice in the Mid­night Hours , a se­ries of smaller works, was partly in­spired by re­lat­ing Bell’s Catholi­cism to Grant’s child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences re­ceiv­ing in­struc­tion from a neigh­bor­hood rabbi. The re­li­gious im­agery in th­ese pieces bor­rows from modernist styles and works, with Grant seam­lessly merg­ing th­ese with her own artis­tic vi­sion — a blend of out­sider and fine art.

At first Jes­sica Stock­holder’s as­sem­blage pieces have a hap­haz­ard ap­pear­ance. But once you’ve spent some time with her ar­range­ments of do­mes­tic ob­jects, how they re­late to paint­ing be­comes clear (Stock­holder be­gan her ca­reer as a painter). Like el­e­ments of still lifes, which th­ese com­po­si­tions es­sen­tially are, the free-stand­ing (and, in a few cases, hang­ing) sculp­tures are like paint­ings that have moved be­yond the rec­tan­gu­lar pic­ture frame to en­ter three-di­men­sional space as vis­ually tac­tile forms. Both the paint that pools over sur­faces and the ob­ject com­bi­na­tions pro­vide vari­a­tions in tex­ture. One can imag­ine her as­sem­blages as an artist’s live-in stu­dio, where paint col­lects on the floors and gets all over plates, cups, and fur­ni­ture.

For her in­stal­la­tion Al­ter , sculp­tor Rose B. Simp­son has used clay and steel to cre­ate the two tow­er­ing fig­u­ra­tive forms that face each other, as if in dia­logue. Like her life-size sculp­tures in Find­ing Cen­ter , a show

From left, Deb­o­rah Grant: Our Lady of the Flow­ers , 2013, oil, acrylic, enamel, pa­per, and linen on birch panel; Roxy Paine: bas­tard oc­to­pus , 2014, maple, alu­minum, steel, ca­ble, and enamel; op­po­site page, Rose B. Simp­son:

Al­ter (de­tail), 2014, mixed-me­dia in­stal­la­tion

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