Sunday, June 27, 2010

Chicago Research

I love stumbling onto new work by artists I love and new artists all together. I was recently wandering around the Chicago Cultural Center, for reasons completely unrelated to art watching I found this great show with the work of metalsmith and jeweler Kiff Slemmons, and sculptor Diane Simpson.

What I know of Slemmon's work is her metal piecess fabricated around found objects (my favorite being a ruler). The show currently running at the Chicago Cultural Center, "Pride of Paper/Orullo en Papel," is a very large collection of paper constructions (both jewelry and sculptural objects) that were collaboratively made between Slemmons and workers of the mountain village of San Agustin Etla, in Oaxaca or southwest Mexico. Originally Slemmons was invited in 2000 to be an artist in residence at the Arte Papel Oaxaca, a workshop founded in 1999. Paper making has a rich history in this region, since it was deemed blasphemous by Spanish conquistadores and paper making machines were mostly destroyed at that time, so very few still exist. Since 2000, Slemmons has made her way back to Oaxaca to continue working on the project and continues her work with the paper making

What is beautifully shown in the show is the process of making these pieces. Each piece starts from a since piece of paper that is 16" x 20" and cuts and folds are made to follow the intended design. For the exhibition you walk in a see the large sheets of white paper on the wall with each of the fold and cut lines laid out, so you can get a feel of the process.

Then presented next the papers in cases were the papers that have been cut and folded into their intended constructions.
(sorry these pictures suck, didn't want the guard to see, so I wasn't able to adjust the white balance)

I totally sneaked these images, and was quickly busted once I moved into the room where all the same white constructions then had color. The information said the white constructions (by this I mean the pieces made from white paper) were considered to be "bone" or internal structures while the papers made with color were considered to be "skin," although I found them to be strikingly similar with maybe one or two exceptions. I wasn't able to get many images of the colored pieces before being kindly asked to put away the camera, but I really enjoyed how they were displayed on the wall, as the artist notes, "sculpturally." I wish there was a catalog for the show but there wasn't.

It was nice to discover this show, and to realize that Slemmons is a Chicago artist. Another Chicago artist whose work was on display on the 4th floor of the Chicago Cultural Center is Diane Simpson. Simpson has been making work since the 1970s, referencing the architecture that alters the shape of the body. The objects she has chosen mostly fit the female body (makes sense considering the majority of objects made for body modification are for the female and not the male body), however she does offer a pair of shorts and a workbelt that comment of male bodies as well. What I loved about this exhibit was how precise each piece was.

Simpson's objects made from architectural materials considered both perspective and objectness. Simpson states she is not trying to create a replica or exact representation but an interpretation. I really enjoyed seeing her oldest work of cardboard structures protruding from the wall as they matured into these free standing garment structures towards her current desire to make backdrops for the garments. At the end of the show you get to view the catalog and see that the Racine Art Museum commissioned the retrospective and the backgrounds were inspired by the RAM's windows. Each of the dresses and their complementary window dressing environments fit perfectly into the windows that outline the perimeter of the RAM's museum space.

Since each of Simpson's pieces are carefully designed, drawing is another very important element of each piece. Aside each piece was her large scale grid paper, draftman-esque drawings. This made me really want to pick up my drawing game. I just really loved the intracasies of each one, in pencil with measurements on them. Very nice. I love that the drawings became a big part of the show.

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