Workshop-as-Collaborator: Uncommon Practice at the Tampa Museum of Art

1660596_10151870842296447_802949080_nUncommon Practice sees an overdue collaboration between two of Tampa’s principal art institutions: Graphicstudio and the Tampa Museum of Art.   Opening its doors over forty-five years ago, Graphicstudio is a workshop and studio based on the University of South Florida campus that has developed a reputation for making advancements in printing and innovative approaches.  A number of legendary artists – from Rauschenberg and Rosenquist to Mapplethorpe, Marclay, and Close – have collaborated with the studio to create their artwork.  It’s this important word – collaboration – that proves to move the exhibition beyond a simple survey of an atelier.

It’s thus that Uncommon Practice, curated by Jade Dellinger, avoids all of the potential pitfalls. Though it includes some of the latter half of the twentieth century’s most recognizable artists, it never simply becomes a parade of art celebrities. Neither does it afford undue attention to Graphicstudio’s boast-worthy technical skill and expertise. Rather, Uncommon Practice sharpens its focus on the products and potential of great collaboration.  The atelier works at expanding on an artist’s vision and giving it new vehicles through which it can evolve.

While perhaps not as dramatic as the larger pieces within the exhibition, this role of workshop-as-collaborator was especially striking for me in the work of Iva Gueorguieva.  Her particularly complex compositions can often be tied to her work’s process and materials, her mix of painting and collage.  However, Gueorguieva’s pieces that are included in the exhibition feature some techniques new to her work, some even new to her.  Smartly, they don’t appear as impositions on her overall body of work but instead add depth to it.  Gueorguieva’s 51 ½ inch by 35 ½ inch print collage piece Rolling Anvil, for example, is distinctly hers.  Yet, it has textural qualities (as well as color choice) unique to this work, thanks in part to its direct gravure, woodblock, and silkscreen components.  (See the piece here.)

On the other hand, printmaking in a more conventional form plays a sort of conceptual role in Allan McCollum’s Each and Everyone of You.  Created in 2004, McCollum researched the 600 most common female names and 600 most common male names according to the US census bureau, printed each name individually as white text in a black field, and finally framed all 1,200.  The names hung as an enormous grid at the center of the museum’s second floor galleries.

Though the digital ink jet printing process is fairly straightforward and common, it plays an integral role in the artwork’s conceptual weight.  Walking beside Each and Everyone of You, the installation quickly reveals a strange contrast.  The pragmatic challenges met by the artist and studio in creating a large number of pieces that are unique yet mass-produced perhaps reflects the much more personal sociological challenge of asserting and holding onto individual identity within an ocean of others.  You can see this on a smaller and comparatively trivial scale hearing others invariably whisper “I can’t find my name” while scanning the prints.

Elsewhere in Uncommon Practice the work of Christian Marclay seems to interact with Abstract Expressionism – a style not often associated contemporary art nor print workshops.  Still, the pieces feel as if they are executed with both wit and weight.  This visual connection to Abstract Expressionism is most explicit in the two pieces Splorch Splash and Whoop Swoooosh Spish.  The pieces are two proper abstract paintings on paper.  However, printed over the paintings are onomatopoeias  as the act of painting may have sounded had the work  been vocalized; these are works of art if they had existed in a comic book universe.  Further, here we may find Marclay’s clever way of giving a nod to both a school of thought and its antithesis.  Further, like in much of Marclay’s work, the artist explores ways in which sound can be incorporated in visual art, and maybe unintentionally highlight how much it had been overlooked in the past.

For many, a highlight of the exhibition will likely be Christian Marclay’s Allover (Rush, Barbara Streisand, Tina Turner, and Others) [see the image featured in the TMA banner above].  At over four feet high and eight feet long, Allover is an especially large cyanotype – a bright blue and white composition similar in appearance and process to blueprints.  Cassette tapes and their insides of musicians listed in the title are strewn about the composition.  The artist names on the cassettes (some of them visible in the print) and the physical means playback definitely recall the music behind the print (and personally remind me of sitting by my stereo, lovingly creating hours of mixtapes.)  However in some ways, this piece to seems to vaguely point back to Abstract Expressionism.  The long strips of magnetic tape criss-cross the print as if confidently flung off the end of brush.  Allover’s imposing size is also reminiscent of the style’s expansive canvases.  Yet, instead of pained and personal brushstrokes, Marclay’s print is made from layers of unexposed paper left over from pop music cassettes.

These are only three artists of the forty-five included, just few of the artworks of over 100 in Uncommon Practice.  Yet, the examples of Gueorguieva, McCollum, and Marclay illustrate Graphicstudio’s inventiveness, not only in terms of craft but conceptually as well.  They also demonstrate the potential of artists and artwork tapped when provided great collaboration and support.

Warm Up the Skinny Jean, Kids – Art to Check Out this Weekend! 3/02-3/04

The runt month of February has come and gone. I learned the hard way that things you do on Leap Day do count.  Anyhow, with the advent of March our art microcosm becomes much more interesting.  To kick the month off we have two closing receptions on one side of the bay and an opening on the other.

USF Centre Gallery – The Attic by Shanna Martin and Ben Berrett closing reception    Fri 3/02  7pm-9pm

Tempus Projects – Neil Bender: Purple Nurple closing reception    Fri 3/02  8pm-10pm

USF Centre Gallery - THE ATTIC

THE ATTIC is an installation/performance piece by artists Shanna Martin and Ben Berrett.  ‘Attic’ is one of those tired metaphors for the subconscious that more often than not dooms artwork to cliché-hood (think the cover of Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic).  If you’ve seen the performance in person or on YouTube, though, the stock symbol becomes disturbingly real.  The performance produces an honest sense of chaos as two monsters trudge around the space – a real life Id left to its own devices.  Cliché or not, THE ATTIC is likely to be the most interesting art you’ll see this weekend.

Tempus Projects is closing Neil Bender’s solo exhibit with a reception this Friday as well.  I wrote a review of the show that you can find here.  If you didn’t get a chance to make it to the opening, a trip Seminole Heights is worth it.  Bender’s paintings are surprisingly relevant – they engage in a way familiar to other mediums.  Check out the review if you want to know more about the exhibit.

Studio@620 – Florida Focus Exhibition: A Celebration of Contemporary Florida Art    Sat 3/03  7pm

The Florida Focus Exhibition is a group exhibit of 32(!) artists from around the state.  The force and focus behind the show is its curator, Ken Rollins.  Rollins’ name may sound familiar: he was the executive director for a few Florida art museums including the interim executive director of the TMoA  during its make over.  The exhibit celebrates his 70th birthday with the work of many artists he’s worked with throughout his career.

The roster is a long list of well-known and respected Florida artists.  That isn’t to say that it’ll be particularly exciting, though.  If you’re the type of art nerd that’s stoked about Mindy Solomon’s Explicit Content show, you may find yourself choking down a yawn at this one.  My recommendation is to take a friend and sharpen your critic skills.  You’ll find some art that you admire and art that you less than admire – articulate the particulars of what you think.  Regardless, the education on Florida artists makes the exhibit worth seeing.  The full list of artists is too long to name here but check out the full roster of artists here.

Also this weekend:

Gasparilla Festival of the Arts – Curtis Hixon Park     Sat 3/03  9am-6pm, Sun 3/04 9am-5pm

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this event.  However, I should send you off with the warning that the Festival comes with a reputation for being extremely tame.  I’ve heard the general style described as “hotel art” – so inoffensive that it’s offensive.  Now go enjoy the sunshine!