The Contemporary Austin Announces Fall 2017 Exhibitions Featuring John Bock, Carol Bove, Ryan Gander, and Wangechi Mutu
September 1, 2017
SEPTEMBER 1, 2017, AUSTIN, TEXAS – This fall, The Contemporary Austin will feature exhibitions by John Bock, Ryan Gander, Wangechi Mutu, and Carol Bove at its two locations—the Jones Center at 700 Congress Avenue in downtown Austin and the fourteen-acre sculpture park at Laguna Gloria at 3809 West 35th Street.
First, opening September 23 are exhibitions of work by John Bock, Ryan Gander, and Wangechi Mutu. On view on the first floor of the Jones Center on Congress Avenue, John Bock’s Dead + Juicy centers around a film newly commissioned by the Contemporary Austin that was shot in and around Austin, Texas. Labeled an “uncanny musical” by the artist, the film blends classic westerns and dark comedy with spooky thriller and horror aesthetics. The film will be accompanied by an exhibition of what the artist calls a “sum mutation”—an installation of reconfigured sculptures created for the film, reconstructed in stage-like environments in the first floor galleries.
Upstairs at the Jones Center, Wangechi Mutu brings together both new and existing work, anchored by a new, site-specific edition of Throw, 2017, an action painting generated by a performance in which Mutu throws black paper pulp against the wall, creating an abstract composition that dries, hardens, and then degrades over time. Also included are the three-channel digital animation The End of carrying All, 2015, along with a body of sculptures and installations, many of which debut in this exhibition, inspired by the artist’s recent opening of a second studio in her native country of Kenya.
Wangechi Mutu’s exhibition at the Jones Center on Congress Avenue is complemented by the outdoor installation of Water Woman, 2017, at the edge of the lagoon in the museum’s sculpture park at Laguna Gloria. Both ethereal and entirely at home in this locale, this graceful sculpture—a charcoal-colored cast bronze figure that is half human and half water creature—is a rare example of an outdoor sculpture by the artist.
The Contemporary also debuts three newly commissioned, site-specific sculptures by Ryan Gander at its sculpture park at Laguna Gloria. Inspired by small brass key chains the artist created as part of the performance piece Earnest Hawker in 2015, the three bronze works that comprise The day to day accumulation of hope, failure and ecstasy are each approximately 3 x 2 x 2 feet in size and have been suspended from trees on the upper grounds of the site.
Finally, The Contemporary Austin is pleased to organize its first-ever, entirely outdoor exhibition at the sculpture park at Laguna Gloria. Carol Bove opens November 18 and will include new and recent outdoor sculptures arranged in a grassy meadow on the grounds.
Curatorial Statements for each of The Contemporary Austin’s fall exhibitions follows. More information is available at thecontemporaryaustin.org.
JOHN BOCK: DEAD + JUICY
September 23, 2017 – January 14, 2018
The brilliantly bizarre film, Dead + Juicy, 2017, by John Bock (German, born 1965 in Gribbohm and based in Berlin), features a mercurial female protagonist, a barber named Lisa, interacting with odd and wacky characters throughout various Texan locales: a barbershop, a bar, a “modern house,” a “small house” and its surrounding neighborhood, and a wooded swamp. Made entirely in and around several of Austin’s memorable locations and venues, this film was commissioned by The Contemporary Austin and premieres at the museum in September 2017. Dead + Juicy blends classic westerns and dark comedy through a moody German-expressionist lens, a terrain the artist first explored in his roadie Pulp Fiction–inspired film Palms, 2008. Quintessentially, the artist taps the underbelly of spooky thriller and horror aesthetics, here using doppelgängers and “doubles” in a Dada-esque musical murder mystery set amidst the backdrop of the Texas landscape.
Irrational, subversive performativity forms the (bloody) heart of Bock’s performances, sculptures, installations, films, and videos. Like the early-twentieth-century avant-garde Dadaists, Bock uses part slapstick, part anarchy, and part cultural critique through a mind-bending range of media, materials, objects, sounds, and moving images. The artist’s oeuvre reflects an obsessive and meticulous Bockian world, so to speak, a universe conceived, developed, and constructed by the artist over time and containing permutations of his own language, symbolism, imagery, characters, objects, and actions that fuse art with economics, science, fashion, music, pop and visual culture, and, occasionally, farming.
Bock employs a discomforting use of fluids and viscous materials ranging from shaving cream, Pepto-Bismol, barbecue sauce, toothpaste, dough, saliva, blood, urine, oatmeal, and goo of all colors to found and organic objects and elements, such as cameras, sheds, furniture, thrift store clothing, clocks, cotton balls, piping, Q-tips, wheels, hay, eggs, resin, human hair, and a taxidermied rat—often assembled into Frankenstein-like contraptions. In tandem with the film, the artist presents an installation—or “sum mutation,” as he refers to it—consisting of reconfigured sculptures from the film within reconstructed stage-like environments throughout the first floor of the Jones Center on Congress Avenue. Through the intersection between object and moving image, Bock’s complex and deeply cinematic ethos emerges. At the same time, one shudders to think that somehow Bock’s alternate universe, in the context of our world today, perhaps makes complete sense.
John Bock: Dead + Juicy is curated by Heather Pesanti, Senior Curator of The Contemporary Austin, with text also by Pesanti.
RYAN GANDER: THE DAY TO DAY ACCUMULATION OF HOPE, FAILURE AND ECSTASY
September 23, 2017 – Ongoing
The Contemporary Austin presents three newly commissioned, site-specific outdoor sculptures by the conceptual artist Ryan Gander (British, born 1976 in Chester, England), part of a series titled The day to day accumulation of hope, failure and ecstasy, 2017. These works are inspired by small brass key chains the artist created as part of Earnest Hawker, 2015, a humorous, performative, persona-based work commissioned for Performa 15 in New York City. In 2016 Gander began magnifying these typically diminutive, hand-held forms to create large-scale sculptures in cast bronze, each approximately 3 x 2 x 2 feet in size. In Austin, suspended overhead from the trees of The Contemporary Austin’s lush, fourteen-acre Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria, the keychain shapes are widely varied: a tumbling Degas ballet dancer, an architectural model of an imagined art school and museum, and a dolos, an abstract structure used to control coastal erosion.
The first sculpture, a bronze dancing figure subtitled The zenith of your career (The Last Degas), hangs upside down by the loop of its chain as if leaping or falling through the air, and relates to Gander’s ongoing reimagining of Edgar Degas’s iconic bronze ballerinas. Continually in motion, mysteriously sized, and hovering just out of reach, this dancer poses human scale and perspective as yet another question to the viewer—who is big here, and who is small?
The second work, a circular disc subtitled A bright spark in a dim world (Panopticon Art School and Museum), represents an ideal architectural model designed by the artist for a combined art school and museum. Gander has built, and attempted to build, many different kinds of art schools over the last decade, in support of his belief that “life should be an art school that you never leave.” This sculpture takes the form of a panopticon—originally an eighteenth-century model for a prison in which the residents can be continually watched from a center point—but in Gander’s revision the setting of education and art breaks down barriers between public and private realms, and turns spectator and spectacle into a positive, supportive relationship. Installed, appropriately, on the grounds of The Contemporary Austin’s Laguna Gloria museum site that also houses its Art School, it seems possible that Gander’s vision can be realized.
Perhaps the strangest, most immediately unrecognizable key chain of the three is the geometric, stepped shape, subtitled An institutional maze (Steptrapode), which is based on a heavy concrete erosion defense structure called a tetrapod or a dolos. Evoking a giant’s game of jacks, these shapes are commonly scattered along coasts in Wales near where the artist grew up. The multi-footed, hammer-head form absorbs the physical shock of the ocean’s waves, preventing long-term coastal decay. A “Steptrapode” is Gander’s tongue-in-cheek name for this “stepped” object. It is probably not accidental that tetrapod also refers to any four-footed, vertebrate animal, or that Dolos is the Greek god of deception and trickery. With Gander, when one question seems answered, another is posed.
Ryan Gander: The day to day accumulation of hope, failure and ecstasy is curated by Heather Pesanti, Senior Curator of The Contemporary Austin. Text is by Julia Hendrickson, Associate Curator.
September 23, 2017 – January 14, 2018
Jones Center and Laguna Gloria
Water Woman, 2017, a cast bronze sculpture by Wangechi Mutu (Kenyan, born 1972 in Nairobi, lives and works between New York and Nairobi), sits on a grassy mound at the museum’s fourteen-acre sculpture park, gazing east across the lagoon. Rooted in myth and mystery, this siren figure—evocative of a mermaid—references both the dugong, an endangered relative of the manatee found in coastal waters from East Africa to Australia, and the East African folkloric legend of the half woman, half sea creature creature who entices and eludes (nguva in Swahili).. In contrast to the ubiquitous Western iconography of silken-haired women with pale skin, here the siren is represented by the luminous, charcoal-colored female body, a vein of inquiry central to Mutu’s work.
Mutu grew up in Nairobi in the 1970s and 1980s and moved to the United States in 1992 to study art. Her work weaves elements of East African mythology with Afro-surrealist elements of science fiction and fantasy, critiques of African and female stereotypes, and universal notions of power, race, identity, and colonialism. In 2016, Mutu opened a second studio in Nairobi, which has catalyzed a transformation in her work. This shift is signified by references to the Kenyan landscape—such as the distinctive, rust-colored clay of Nairobi’s volcanic soil and a black paper pulp —and a turn from primarily two-dimensional works toward an increasing emphasis on sculptures, performance-based installations, and video animation.
In conjunction with the newly installed Water Woman at Laguna Gloria, Mutu premieres a solo exhibition at the Jones Center on Congress Avenue. Throw, 2017—a site-specific action painting generated by a performance in which the artist throws black paper pulp against the wall to create an abstract composition that dries, hardens, then degrades over time—anchors the exhibition, alongside the three-channel digital animation The End of carrying All, 2015. Another work, This second Dreamer, 2017, a bronze female head with a braided crown that lies sleeping on a large wooden block, reclaims the appropriated African masks that influenced a generation of modernist sculptors (such as Constantin Brancusi). Also included in the exhibition are Mutu’s Prayer Beads series; Heeler, a series of anthropomorphic shoe sculptures; and sculptures made of horns and wood. Tapping into the spiritual and supernatural, the ancient and primordial, and the terrestrial and cosmological, Mutu’s objects and installations propose a revised narrative of matriarchy and power, where the next generation’s history of art includes the African heroine.
Wangechi Mutu is curated by Heather Pesanti, Senior Curator of The Contemporary Austin, with text also by Pesanti.
November 18, 2017 – Ongoing
Inspired by industrial landscapes and materials, the work of the artist Carol Bove (American, born 1971 in Geneva, Switzerland) interrogates sculptural vocabulary and strategies of display. Works from the 1990s and early 2000s are domestically scaled: fabricated concrete and steel rest alongside found materials including feathers, seashells, and rare books installed on precisely mounted shelves. Increasingly, Bove has turned toward large-scale steel sculpture assemblages of new and found elements that are alternately raw and finished.
For this museum’s first monographic exhibition of a single artist at Laguna Gloria, The Contemporary Austin presents an outdoor exhibition of newly commissioned and recent large-scale sculptures by Bove, the artist’s first exhibition in Austin in a decade. Here, Bove interprets the classical sculpture garden, reinventing it as a multitude of abstract forms in varying shapes, colors, and scales. Anchoring the installation is From the Sun to Zurich, 2016, a white, spray-painted steel tube sculpture Bove refers to as a “glyph,” suggesting a cosmological spiral, an ancient hieroglyphic language, or a wayward noodle. Also featured is an upright minimalist grid—installed as if the last remaining freestanding wall of a home were precariously abandoned—as well as a pair of collaged abstract steel forms in vivid colors such as cyan and yellow.
Sited in the lower meadow, the exhibition requires visitors to first approach the sculptures from a distance, generating a gradually decreasing perspective. The initial vantage point captures fragments of the forms peeking through the treetops and gaps in the woods; as the viewer nears, the objects’ size and formal qualities are revealed. The contemplative space of her installation reveals an equilibrium among elements—an etymological assemblage that allows for a poetic language of the parts within the whole to emerge.
Carol Bove is curated by Heather Pesanti, Senior Curator of The Contemporary Austin, with text also by Pesanti.
THE CONTEMPORARY AUSTIN
As Austin’s only museum solely focused on contemporary artists and their work, The Contemporary Austin offers exhibitions, educational opportunities, and events that start conversations and fuel the city’s creative spirit. Known for artist-centric projects and collaborations, The Contemporary invites exploration in both its urban and natural settings—downtown at the Jones Center on Congress Avenue, lakeside at the Laguna Gloria Campus (including the Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park, the Art School, and the historic Driscoll Villa), and around Austin through the Museum Without Walls program.
High-resolution images available upon request.
Nicole Chism Griffin
The Contemporary Austin
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