Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art: Afterlife, new life for old materials

Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor: No Name (Scrap Foot) and No Name (Scrap Fists). image courtesy of the artist and David Salow Gallery, LA

Later this week, I will be reviewing an upcoming show on Amish Quilts but it's fascinating to see these two very different takes on textile art (although the Amish apparently don't really consider their quilts art) and reusable materials. The Amish create works of beauty that can be utilized in a practical way while these artists take similar materials and create art works which can delight but are completely unusable for everyday life. The contrast is fascinating and the cultural questions around museum objects vs utilitarian works could probably fill a book or two. The San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) presents "Afterlife", a group exhibition of works created to breathe new life into re‐purposed materials and objects. Guest curated by Kathryn Funk, "Afterlife" will be exhibited in the ICA’s Main Gallery and Cardinale Project Room from November 7, 2009 through January 23, 2010. The show includes sculpture, video, and multi‐media work.

The artists represented in "Afterlife" take advantage of cast‐offs from our contemporary lives. With a conscious eye to the materiality of the chosen discards, items from the street, junkyards and second‐hand stores are transformed into fresh, inspired creations that give rise to thoughtful consideration and interpretation.

“Even before the green recycling revolution took hold, artists were reusing and re‐purposing found materials,” says "Afterlife" curator Kathryn Funk. “When an object has been discharged from its original purpose it still carries some association with its past. When that association is altered it takes on new meaning,” explains Funk. Exploring new meanings and new lives of discarded and re‐used materials is the central focus of the artists’ works on view in "Afterlife".

London‐based artist Claudia Borgna has been collecting and using plastic bags as an inspired muse in her art for several years, carefully gathering and using them after each installation or performance in a different configuration. Borgna’s work will be on view in "Afterlife and Night Moves" – after dark video art programing presented in the ICA’s front windows.

Mark Fox‐Morgan uses paper – a tree by‐product— cast as beams for his massive house‐like structure. The beguiling skeleton appears remarkably strong despite its extremely fragile nature, thus calling into question the nature and exploitation of its source. Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor and Lisa Kokin find inspiration in materials scavenged from flea markets and thrift stores. Higgins O’Connor uses discarded fabrics of all sorts and stitches together life‐sized anthropomorphic stuffed animal creatures. Kokin uses books and the book format; dissecting, reassembling and pulping them to express new ideas and her own personal, political and cultural views. Charlotte Kruk salvages and sews product wrappers side by side to create new textiles in the form of wearable art. Robert Larson gathers and dissects tossed cigarette packages and match books to make visually stunning constructed paintings of rich color patterns, hues and textures, with the dissected paper material.

The ICA was founded in 1980 by a group of local artists who were interested in creating a venue to exhibit contemporary art. At that time, there were a small number of non-profit organizations in downtown San Jose that showcased the work of local artists. However, they were primarily artist run galleries. The ICA distinguished its exhibition program by hiring a professional curator to lead the organization and the gallery quickly gained a reputation for curatorial excellence. That remains true 29 years later.

Visit : http://www.sjica.org/

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