Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Box

The Box.

The idea of exploring a box as a common theme for a group show emerged as part of conversations and discussions among MFA students at the City College, City University of New York. The exhibition, simply entitled “The Box,” was initiated, produced and curated by the students and shows a variety of directions in their works, investigating the box and its physical form, social connotation, and even contemporary political issues related to the form.

A cardboard box is perhaps one of the most mundane and commonly used objects in our contemporary consumer culture. As a container, it serves a principal role of protecting desirable and saleable objects against scratches and damages that could potentially lower their market values. It allows for safety and transportation across countries, continents, and around the world. Once the consumer goods have lost their owner’s interest, they often return again to their cardboard shelters and are removed, thrown out, left in closets, garages, or rented storage spaces.

The box as a form has also found its way into the arts, art criticism and museum contexts. Robert Rauschenberg, for example, used cardboard boxes in his combine paintings as an attempt to bring art closer to life adding common day references to the paintings along with photographs, newspaper clippings, family photos, and even hand-painted gestures. Andy Warhol’s empty replica cardboard boxes, Brillo Box (1964) served to cast doubt on art and its market values in mainstream consumerism, as well as questioning modernism in its quest for originality and renewal. Donald Judd’s cubical forms investigated the box as a generic shape consisting of surfaces that marked an exterior from an interior space, which turned into a critique of modernism’s emphasis on the artist’s hand and a consideration of the form viewed in relation to the institutional space in which they were situated. Brian O’Doherty’s now canonical Inside the White Cube (1976) discussed the modernist clinical exhibition space as a white box in which:

The frame of the easel picture is as much a psychological container for the artist as the room in which he stands is for the viewer (…) One "steps" firmly into such a picture, or glides in effortlessly, depending on its tonality and color. The greater the illusion, the greater the invitation to the spectator's eye; the eye is abstracted from an anchored body and projected as a miniature proxy into the picture to inhabit and test the articulations of its space.

Chris Lea’s Untitled (2008) tests the articulation of such a space in a box in relation to the space of the gallery. The used cardboard box appears in stark contrast to the blue pigment painted on its interior walls. Left as an open field of blue, we are encouraged to investigate the form and attach meaning to it, perhaps filling in the blanks. Nancy Palubniak’s Self Image and The 3 Me’s (2008) considers self-portrait as a genre and the box as a container that metaphorically holds a world, similarly to the body. Here, a brown box with the stamp “fragile” on the side is featured open with a second and a third smaller box inside. The three different boxes allude to the shells or layers of self, which Palubniak defines as: “the physical self, the social self and the inner self.” Priska Wenger’s World in a Box (2008) responds to the history of art making by taking its starting point in 16th and 17th century perspective boxes, and 19th century panoramas. Peeking through the holes of two white boxes, quirky juxtaposed collage snippets guide the imagination and invite us into an open-ended story in a fairytale style.

A whimsical play with everyday experiences that intermingle between reality and illusion are also found in Seung Ae Kim’s work Obscure Boxes (2008) where a hanging cardboard box is seemingly capable of doing the impossible: holding water. “Drops” made of translucent acrylic appear as if dripping from a box and down in a “pond” of colored plexi glass on the floor. Added a drawing of steam on the wall, Kim speaks to the nature of water as a substance meandering between its vapor and solid form. It is a much more personally driven space Marcie Reven’s 950 (2008) strives for, using the box as a metaphor for home, in this case the author’s grandparents’ home, currently up for sale following the passing of the two significant role models in Reven’s life. Photographs of the empty interiors placed in “windows” of a corrugated box aim to transport us into memories of lost and warm family history. Rachel Reese’s theatrical setting views time as a subjective parallel in the presence of two human beings. Peaking through windows into the mundane corrugated box, we discover a Baroque interior alluding to a movie theater in which the scene takes place. Two clocks, curtains and a mirror act as the main characters in a play, that create numerous doubles corresponding to one another in complete symmetry.

Dennis Delgado’s Hummer - Like Nothing Else (2008) responds to the box in reference to consumer culture, the war in Iraq, and the U.S. army’s many ways of recruiting soldiers. Delgado points to the hidden messages in buying and owning the army-developed Hummer and its replica: a cardboard toy, cut out and assembled following directions on the Internet. Aware of the desirable object and its power to subconsciously spark the desire in boys and girls to play war and perhaps join the army later in life, Delgado places one example in front of us to (re-)consider. Elena Stojanowa’s The Bed (2008) similarly responds to current social and political issues, using the box as it is found in the streets, utilized by homeless people as temporary shelters or homes. An otherwise dead material takes on a life of its own reconfigured in a gallery space, as it simulates a person’s “living” environment in the streets questioning the solitude and ignored ghostlike presence of the homeless in an urban environment. Luciana Maiorana’s Il Baco del Calo del Malo (2008) is similarly politically driven, commenting on the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s recent interviews and media coverage, in which he notes a perceived religious status and healing powers. Maiorana mockingly shows Berlusconi flanked with donkeys on a triptych as a portable altarpiece that alludes to Renaissance portraiture with a contemporary twist.

Using the cardboard box as a structure for a Piñata (2008), Scherezade Garcia similarly tabs into her cultural heritage and Dominican tradition presenting a Piñata as a golden airplane, using a modern-day symbol for transportation and immigration, dreams, expectations, and hope for a better future. Viewers are invited to hit the Piñata during the opening reception retrieving the treats inside. The remains of the event will continue to be on display throughout the exhibition. Perhaps most recent in its commentary is Shani Peters’ time capsule responding to the recent presidential election of Barack Obama. A video shows family footage from the celebrations on election night and an accompanying letter addresses the people who may find the time capsule in a certain number of years. Perhaps then living a life without racism, Peters explains the excitement and reasons behind the overpowering joy of the election result.

Starting with a simple form, a cardboard box, this show features a variety of works that exemplifies the students’ work together, reworking and kindling ideas while investigating a simple form and common day material. A simple box has opened up for what seems to be endless possibilities and leaves one wondering: what will be next?

Lise Kjaer

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Thursday, December 4, 2008

White Columns

proposals for group exhibitions click here

It will be a good chance for us. What do you think?
-Seung Ae

I think we should get together and make a proposal

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

For the show, which is titled "The Box," the artists are limited to working in or on a corrugated cardboard box.

The exhibition will open 12/8 and run through 12/19. The opening reception is 12/11 5pm-8pm.

The participating students are: Dennis Delgado, Scherezade Garcia, Rachel Reese, Seung Ae Kim, Christopher Lea, Luciana Maiorana, Nancy Palubniak, Shani Peters, Marcie Revens, Patricia Riebesehl, Elena Stojanova, Priska Wenger.

Directions to the gallery:

City College Art Department
Compton-Goethals Hall
The City College of New York
Convent Avenue at 138th Street
New York, New York 10031
212.650.7420 tel

Compton-Goethals Hall is a neo-gothic building located between 139th and 140th Streets, and between Amsterdam Avenue and Convent Avenue. The building is to the left (if you're facing the campus from Amsterdam Ave) of the very large, modern building know as the NAC (North Academic Center.

If you're coming by subway:

The campus may be reached either by the #1 train to 137th Street, or by the A or D lines to 145th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue. As it is one of the few New York City colleges with an actual campus, providing directions can sometimes be confusing. Here are the options:

Take the #1 local to 137th Street and Broadway; when you come out of the 137th street station, you will be in a small triangular park. Walk through it up hill, and then one more block uphill (east) on 138th St. At the top of the hill is Amsterdam, and the main gate of the campus. Continue through the gate and walk down hill and make your very first left down a pathway between two buildings. Walk straight down this path until the end (the path ends in a building called Baskerville). At your immediate left will be Compton Goethals Hall. Inside the doors and up the stairs of the entrance to C-G hall stands a security guard. If you indicate that you have an appointment in the art department they should be able to direct you to the office which is room 109.

Take the "A" or "D" express, or the "B" or "C" local to 145th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue. Stay on the back of the train. Exit the station from the exit which states "W. 145th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, SW exit." Walk west one block uphill on 145th Street to reach Convent Avenue. Walk straight down (towards the south) to 139th Street. You will pass a gated entranceway to CCNY (a security guard is usually standing there). Once you pass this entrance, Compton-Goethals Hall is on the right hand side. There will be an entrance to a building immediately after the gate (this is an entrance to Baskerville). Immediately past this building, there is a flight of stairs that open up onto a quad. Walk up these stairs and straight ahead of you. Immediately in front of you will be Compton-Goethals Hall with the tower looming above. Follow directions as above.