Public works of art at USF: A photo review

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If you are a USF student, chances are you’ve seen some of these public pieces while walking around. There’s always something, and it is always interesting. I think this was my favorite part of being a student here- it was never a dull day. This is a collection of photos of some of the works found throughout USF’s Tampa campus in the last few years. If you have any more photos you can share with us, please do! (via theartatusf)

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Jason Lazarus, Occupy University of South Florida at Tampa public display and occupation, 2011. All images courtesy of the artist. For more info on this piece check out this article.

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‘An Open Source Dialogue’ in the Fine Arts Building hallway.

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Student work by Laine Nixon

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A student’s large-scale piece for the Contemporary Art Museum’s We Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends: MFA 2013 Graduation Exhibition.

The (Museum) Trickle Down Effect

museumAs monolithic as the institution of the art museum can seem, its role in society and culture can, at times, be particularly ambiguous.  Sharpening the focus, an art museum’s relationship with the surrounding art community is often no clearer.  An excited  buzz recently flowed through much of St. Petersburg upon word of a new museum, the Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, set to open there in 2016.  Local artists, gallerists, art bloggers (including myself) seemed especially pleased with the news.  I wondered, though, if this stemmed from anything other than the excitement that accompanies new exhibits in a new venue and a potential positive economic impact on the arts.  

Really, it brought a larger question to mind.  The local arts community and nearby art museums seem to share a special relationship.  That said, does one actually exist based on some sort of cultural interchange and should it?  Do better/more museums somehow make a better local art scene?

So it might now become clear that the “trickle” in this article’s title is not an economic one (and certainly not a biological one – nasty!)  Rather, it refers to a flow of cultural value from art museums to local art makers.  I’ve given this idea quite a bit of thought in preparation to host the next #TwitterCrit.  I’ve since realized I’m not one of those quick-tongued critics that can form an unassailable opinion in the flash of a moment.  Thinking about this ‘Museum trickle down effect’ has, in honesty, only left me with more questions.  Still, maybe these questions in themselves are noteworthy points.

Why Trickle Down?

I initially made the assumption that art museums should somehow influence and, to a point, shape the local art community.  Really, if a local art community informed a museum’s practice, I would likely call that “trickle up“.  But why up?

Museums are generally thought of as centers of influence.  Consider the generally accepted pinnacle of an artist’s career is the museum retrospective.  Think about the MoMA’s role in defining the idea of Modernism.  Note museum architecture old and new.  Scrutinize museums bolstering of “cultural capital.”  During the twentieth century art museums have inhabited a role somewhere in between “taste maker” and “history writer.”

Believe me: I don’t want to address why or how museums are vested with this power.  Rather, does this model of Museum-as-taste-maker-slash-history-writer still work for us in the twenty-first century?  I’m not sure, but I doubt it.

In a Wikipedia world, art museums do feel a bit like a stack of  leather-bound encyclopedias.  That isn’t to say the institutions should adopt the elsewhere ubiquitous practices of populism and crowdsourcing.  I can only imagine how terrible administration-by-‘like’-and-‘retweet’ would be.  Still, there seems to be a certain sense of pluralism that is missing.  I’m not saying that everyone’s opinion should be included – we’d end up with a museum aesthetically similar to Pier 1.  What I am saying is there should be mechanism to undermine the institutions’ tendency toward a meta-narrative of art and its history.

I’m sorry: I’m not really offering any specific alternatives, and in the end this might be as much an issue to be taken up with institutional curation as the art museum itself.  To be fair, I did say that considering the issue “only left me with more questions.”  If you have any ideas, however, I’d love to see it as a comment below.

Should there be a Trickle?

Perhaps the most basic question on the topic is “Should there even be a trickle down effect?”  It may be that a creative interchange between local visual arts and art museums locally is not beneficial.  I doubt this also, but I feel like I should play devil’s advocate with myself.
There are well-known stories of the Abstraction Expressionists and their near-desperate endeavour to exhibit within the MoMA’s already hallowed halls.  No doubt, to this end ambition served as some sort of impetus for their art making  – personally, a relatively unsavory thought.  Of course, few local artists entertain hopes of exhibiting in the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg or Tampa Museum of Art.  Yet, I suppose, it would require little for aspirations of museum inclusion to overtake nobler goals.  That said, I’d like to clarify that this is a dumb reason to suppress a creative interchange between local artists and art museums – this sort of ambition seems to be an unshakable aspect of the art world regardless.
The second reason against a creative interchange that comes to mind is the possibility that both the local arts community and art museums operate better independently – a sort of separation of powers.  Obviously, this would retread what was spoken about under the previous subheading –  what really privileges one to exert an influence on the other?
An arts community is unhampered by the expectations of a board, donors, the public, and general bureaucracy.  A museum has wide-reaching resources and concerns that spread far beyond the local community.  It may be that mixing the two weakens some of each’s greatest strengths.

Is ‘Trickle’ the Wrong Word? (It’s definitely an Annoying One Now)

The word ‘trickle’ implies movement, and maybe that’s an imprecise way to illustrate the potential relationship between an art museum and surrounding art communities.
It has been wonderful watching the visual arts community in Tampa Bay grow.  Perhaps an inevitable effect of this growth is that the larger nebulous community divides and again coalesces into smaller groups.  St. Petersburg’s art community becomes the 600 Block, Warehouse Arts District, Gulfport, and so on.  Tampa’s art community becomes Seminole Heights, Ybor, USF.
Can museums act as centers that enjoin the manifold scenes into a singular and stronger community?  With some effort and cooperation, museums can be the fulcrum that allows composite art communities to achieve common goals and meet common needs.  Beyond the potential of being a resource for its venue space and organizational support, museums can act as a visible representation of the larger arts community.  This sort of arrangement would also be beneficial to the museums.
It is certainly in any museums interest to foster an environment of cultural literacy and art appreciation.  Advocating surrounding arts communities can concurrently work as a grass-roots effort to nurture and expand a community that produces future patrons.
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So what should the relationship between museums and local art communities be like?  I’m still not sure.  But I am pretty sure, though, what it might involve: A spirit of cooperation with a focus on shared needs and goals, a manner of operating that reflects a modern sense of pluralism, and a partnership that benefits the larger community we share.

Kelly Boehmer Threads the Needle

Kelly Boehmer’s Heart Out at Centre Gallery
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Kelly Boehmer, Flamingo Harpy and the Alligator’s Heart, Mixed Media, 2013

I find myself continually distracted when watching a Hallmark movie, distracted by sentimentality.  Rather than viewing it like any other film, I can’t stop giving attention to the narrative’s mechanisms of emotional manipulation and trying not to get suckered by the emotional cheap shots.  Similarly with visual art, you’ll often find yourself experiencing the piece from without and the art bare of impact.  However, given all of the definite sounding statements above, steering clear of sentimentality while not also emptying a piece of emotional authenticity is still a challenging needle to thread.  It is a challenge artist Kelly Boehmer seems to be meeting with skill.

The last time I had seen Boehmer’s work had been over a year ago at the Dunedin Fine Art Center’s Contain It! show – an exhibit of PODS installations.  Had I known the challenges of storage unit installations that I do now, I likely wouldn’t have been so hard on the show.  That said, her work at the Contain It! exhibit had a certain near syrupy nostalgia that was difficult to see beyond.  This syrupy nostalgia, however, is not to be found in Heart Out, her current solo exhibit at USF’s Centre Gallery.

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Kelly Boehmer, Unicorn Pegasus (Emotional Rescue), Mixed Media, 2013

The gallery space is installed with three sculptural works.  Flamingo Harpy and the Alligator’s Heart dominates the space as the show’s largest piece.  As with the bulk of her work, the piece is composed many contrasting textiles.  Knotty tangles of fabric pile up to create recognizable forms.  A flamingo appears to be pulling the heart out of an alligator, the reptile’s innards caught in the bird’s foot.  The harpy takes its classically mythological form of a bird’s body topped with a woman’s head.  Despite the classical allusion, the scene is clearly that of a lover’s quarrel, albeit a bizarrely Floridian interspecies one.

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Kelly Boehmer, detail of Unicorn Pegasus (Emotional Rescue), Mixed Media, 2013

Near the rear of the gallery is Unicorn Pegasus (Emotional Rescue).  The form of a unicorn type figure is depicted, but not in its typically idyllic way.  Rather, the figure is limp on the cold floor as if it were a carcass that had been heaved across the gallery and dumped.  The feeling of death in the piece is underscored by the animals teeth.  They are not fabric as the rest of the body.  Instead the teeth are real and from the head of an alligator buried in the “mouth” of the unicorn.  As the alligator and flamingo respectively had human-like hair and face, the unicorn possesses exposed human-like breasts.  An atmosphere of animalistic violence further continues into this piece.

On the wall hung the aptly titled Gaudy Gold Frame.  While the piece is a shiny gold, this too is constructed from irregularly stitched fabric.  I found this piece to be the most subtly interesting of the show.  In a way, its quietly meta quality made it the introvert of the bunch: easy to pass over in favor of its louder companions but also concurrently more contemplative.  Interestingly, Boehmer’s “frame” isn’t framing anything at all.  Rather the apparatus for setting an art object’s context, becomes the art object itself.  The piece is pleasantly confusing as it draws attention to an object frequently created with the intention of not drawing attention.

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Kelly Boehmer, Gaudy Gold Frame, Mixed Media, 2013

It may also be this last piece that illustrates Boehmer’s skillfully precise use of bathos in this exhibit.  Heart Out threatens to venture into cheesy sappiness with each step.  However, it never quite does so.  Indeed she says in her artist statement, “Fears of death and heartbreak are reduced to silly scenarios with taxidermy and soft sculpture animals.”  Don’t let this fool you – she doesn’t stop taking her artwork seriously in Heart Out.  As Susan Sontag once pointed out the difference between kitsch and camp is a set of quotation marks.  Navigating this tenuous distinction is a challenging course for artists and a troubling one for viewers.  It is difficult to discern when Kelly Boehmer is holding up air quotes, when she is operating with a certain self-awareness and when we’re being had.  But it is a welcome difficulty that too often many local artists don’t trust their audience with.

There will be a closing reception for the show Fri 9/27 7pm-9pm

Tampa Art Events You Shouldn’t Miss

You think this is just a list of fun art to check out on the weekend?! This is about more than just ‘fun’!  Being appraised of the best of Tampa’s art is good for your character!  With so much at stake, I have no idea why anyone would miss either of these exhibits.

Continue reading →

Art@Bay at Sarasota Visual Art – Like Water, Plain Yet Potent

Flush the toilet, wash down a pill, take a bath, drive through the rain, swig a bottle of Dasani, drown.  Despite its ubiquitous nature (or perhaps because of it) water makes for incredibly potent symbolism – a potency that is not lost on artist Michelle Fader.  As a theme, water flows through Michelle Fader’s solo exhibit, Toward Evening, at the USF Centre Gallery.

Read the rest of the article here

Warm Up the Skinny Jeans, Kids – Art to Check Out This Weekend! 3/30 – 4/01

Perhaps, it was the closest I’ve come to foraging.  I don’t make it to the USF campus as often as I’d like.  I was lost looking for the USF Centre Gallery, ready to give up, and about to set up camp for the night at the bus stop in front of the Sun Dome.  However, USF is once again impelling me to make the trip and I intend to brave it.  This time we’re heading to the USF Contemporary Art Museum.

USF CAM – Sand in the Vacuum – MFA 2012 Graduation Exhibition    Fri 3/30  7pm-9pm

This Friday USF CAM and the USF School of Art and Art History will be introducing the 2012 graduating MFA artists through a group exhibit.  I see that reluctant look on your face (that’s right, I can see you through your webcam).  You’re worried this could be a show of almost-artists.  You can be at ease, though – this isn’t like your elementary school graduation exhibit.  Rather, these MFA graduates are (or should be) artists in their own right and some already have rather impressive and long CV’s.  For example one of the exhibitors, Biff Bolen, brings some of the most exciting painting locally with past work being featured in New American Painting‘s MFA issue.  Also, look out for work from Cynthia Mason and Serhat Tanyolaçar among others.

You can expect the exhibition to be an interesting and engaging one.  Other than churning out degrees and massive student loan debt, MFA programs also allow artists to experiment without being hampered by saleability concerns.  The MFA 2012 Graduation Exhibition will likely include style and mediums we encounter less often, particularly from area artists.  I strongly suggest attending, enjoying the work, and attempting to convince the artists to stick around the Bay area and help out with the cause.

Also…

RINGLING COLLEGE AUDITORIUM – “SPEAKING OF MY WORK” TALK BY SANFORD BIGGERS  FRI 3/30 3:30PM  FREE ADMISSION

The artist Sanford Biggers will be giving a free and public talk this Friday afternoon.  Biggers creates beautiful, politically and culturally aware installations.  Biggers’ talk coincides with a new installation opening the same day at the Ringling Museum and being the 2010 recipient of the Greenfield Prize at the Hermitage Artist Retreat.  I know it’s a bit of a drive for many of you, but the installation/talk combo should make the ride worth it.  You know you’re going to stop by the Ellenton Outlet Mall on the way anyway.

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!

Warm Up the Skinny Jeans, Kids – Art to Check Out This Weekend! 2/04

Hitch up your smarty pants or pull up your party pants this Saturday (not that either is really mutually exclusive): our two offerings this Saturday will probably appeal more to your Apollonian or bacchanalian sides.  However,  hitting both shows in the same night may appeal to your more rad side.

Blue Lucy – Far Out: A Black Light Art Exhibit     2/04/12  7pm-11pm

Blue Lucy‘s much loved Black Light Art Exhibit returns this Saturday at 7pm.  Though perhaps not as heady as most of the exhibits I usually recommend, I promise: you will have fun.  Far Out will be featuring work from several artists including local star Frank Strunk III and 600 Block neighbors, Pale Horse Design.  Not only will the black light blow your mind (and reveal nasty stains),  you’ll get a chance to meet some great local artists.  Check out Taco Bus before hand (you’ll find me there) and Sake Bomb after – you’ve got yourself a grade A downtown St. Pete night.  We’ve been in Tampa a lot lately, so it’ll be nice to pay a visit to  Blue Lucy and the rest of the 600 Block.

Tempus Projects – Wall Music and Things Not Seen Before Closing Reception     2/04/12  7pm

I know lately I’ve given the lion’s share of my attention to Tempus Projects’ John Cage tribute exhibit.  So this is the last time I’ll mention Things Not Seen Before.  It’s just that  I’ve been a fan of the composer/artist since I was a wee high school art nerd.

The USF School of Music will be interpreting and performing music based on the sights and sounds of the Things Not Seen Before exhibit.  The small space is sure to work well for this performance also.  It’s been encouraging to see so much collaboration involved in this ongoing exhibit, so it’s appropriate USF gets in on the act before John Cage leaves town.  This Saturday is also your last chance to get in on the act so if you’re not heading to the 600 Block hope you can make it to Seminole Heights.

Christian Marclay and Shelley Hirsch Performance at USFCAM

This Thursday (1/26/12) the USF Contemporary Art Museum will be hosting a performance by Christian Marclay and Shelley Hirsch.  If Christian Marclay’s name is sounding familiar it may be for a couple reasons.  Marclay is featured in Tempus Projects’ Things Not Seen Before exhibit but you may know him from winning the Golden Lion at the 2011 Venice Bienalle.  If you’re unfamiliar with the Golden Lion, that’s like winning the World Series of art (if by ‘World Series’ they really meant the world and not just the US and Toronto).

Christian Marclay, Manga Scroll, 2010 (detail).

Vocalist/composer/performance artist Shelley Hirsch will be interpreting and performing Marclay’s Manga Scroll (above), vocalising the onomatopoeic piece.  The two artists will also perform Zoom Zoom (I bet you’re already thinking of Mazda) where Marclay displays images of onomatopoeia’s generally found in advertising and packaging while Hirsch vocally responds.

Christian Marclay performing Zoom Zoom

A night of out-loud onomatopoieas – you know this is more fun than what you had planned for Thursday.  If you’re planning on going tickets are $15, $10 for staff, and free for students with an ID.  I heard the tickets are selling quickly so pick them up as soon as you can and have a great time…POW!

Art to Check Out Friday

Start up the Segway and double knot your shoes – there’s a lot of art to check out this weekend on both sides of the Bay.  Here’s your guide to Friday, 1/13.

C. Emerson Fine Arts – Have Your Cake and Eat it Too…Remix Edition       Fri. 1/13  6pm-9pm

Disclosure (and/or self-aggrandizement): I’ll be showing a piece in this exhibition.

January is proving to be a busy month for CEFA.  This Friday they’ll be hosting the opening reception for Have Your Cake and Eat it Too…Remix Edition celebrating, the galleries 6th anniversary.  The exhibit highlights the gallery’s reputation for experimentation, unconventionality, and play.  There will be quality work from some CEFA regulars like Kim Anderson, Daniel Mrgan, Jason Snyder and your faithful blogger as well as artists Caui Andeson, Gil Demeza, Neverne Covington, Lew Harris, Regina Jestrow, and June Kim.  I was able to sneak a glance of June Kim’s work while setting up my piece –  her series of photographs I Wolf is touching and powerful.  I’m also particularly excited to see the textile work of Regina Jestrow.  She produces the type of  amazing crafty art one would expect to find down the street at the Craftsmen Gallery but fits in well with this exhibition.  Florida State University’s Working Method Collective will be performing Friday as well.  Little specifically has been said about the performance art of Working Method Collective but it sounds like it’ll be particularly interactive with the audience.  The exhibition runs January 13th through February 25th.

USFCAM – Mark Dion: Trouble Shooting      Fri 1/13 7pm-9pm

Mark Dion, The South Florida Wildlife Rescue Unit: The Uniforms, 2006 Two mannequins, clothing, custom patches, assorted gear; Dimensions variable Collection Miami Art Museum, gift of Lin Lougheed

If you’re spending your Friday evening in Tampa, the USF Contemporary Art Museum is throwing its opening reception for the upcoming exhibit Mark Dion: Troubleshooting from 7pm to 9pm.  Prior to that, at 6pm-7pm in USF Theatre2, will be a discussion with Mark Dion, Miami Art Museum Curator Rene Morales, and USFCAM curator Jane Simon.

I know what you’re wondering, and the answer is ‘yes’.  In case you didn’t know, you were asking “Is that the same Mark Dion from the PBS series, Art21?”  Again, the answer is yes.  Mark Dion, known for building incredibly detailed politically conscious installations, will be exhibiting work that address particularly Floridian concerns.  USFCAM has done an impressive job bringing an important contemporary artist and ultra-relevant issues to the Bay area.   With that in mind I’m going to shoot straight with you here: If I don’t see you in St. Pete Friday, I’m going to assume you’re at USFCAM, because you are abundantly awesome and an exemplary arts citizen.