at BOSI Contemporary
in the Lower East Side area
This event has ended - (2013-07-10 - 2013-08-11)
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An exhibition with the theme of portraying the human head in a dazzling variety of ways gives us curious new reason to head to the Lower East Side. HEAD, curated by D. Dominick Lombardi and Robert Curcio, runs from July 10th to August 11th 2013 at BOSI Contemporary. It features works by eleven artists, including Lombardi.
This summer exhibition is described by its organizers as “a locus of the personal, contemporary open-ended concepts and concerns.” Hence as a result, “the wide-ranging and diverse depictions of head in this exhibition present a more universal message.” Upon a quick viewing of a selection of the works on display, some of the terms that crossed my mind were: the imprisonment of perspective, the symbiotic relationship between human frailty and vanity, self-disgust arising from the internalization of external and wholly subjective standards, childhood bliss stemming from ignorance.
Critical reflection on the internal dialogue between (1) our socially intelligent, thoroughly indoctrinated, functional understanding of the world versus (2) the logic of our most innate feelings and impulses, is what I find is encouraged here, in certain works such as Nina Levy’s Spectator and Lombardi’s Urchin #48.
I’ve had the privilege to interview the curators regarding their joint project.
Q. & A. with Dominick:
Michiko Tachibana: How many art works are displayed on this exhibition and what was the process you and Robert used to select the pieces included?
D. Dominick Lombardi: Robert and I selected 34 works for the exhibition. We both came in with initial artists based on the general concept of HEAD. After a few weeks of a back and forth dialog we narrowed down our focus to limit the selections to works by artists that had strong symbolic references rather than any particular individual orientation. To keep things more open and fluid we made sure we had a broad range of references that included, but were not limited to culture, gender, age range and beliefs.
MT: Although any risks are far less severe in the United States than in other regions of the world, it is still a bold move for an American artist to portray the U.S. President or any widely recognizable public official holding considerable power. If anything, it is for the desire not to have the sticky label ‘political artist’ attached to them. What do you think Ronald L. Hall was leading the viewer to reflect on in his 2010 painting Blind Nation?
DDL: Blind Nation is the exhibitions most open-ended piece with respect to meaning or intent. It can go any number of ways depending on what you, as a viewer, bring to the dialogue. Blind Nation has a very controversial and powerful narrative, and given the fact that it is displayed and seen in a public setting makes it even more challenging.
For me personally, Blind Nation is about sacrifice. It shows the pitfalls of power, especially those achieved by a person of color, and it shows how little we remember about just how difficult it was for someone like our president to be elected in the first place, when just a half century ago our nation was permanently scarred by race riots and blatant injustices.
MT: Still on Hall’s painting Blind Nation, I am fascinated by the strategic use of specific elements in the painting. As a professional artist and a curator, how do you interpret the use of pastel pink paint for the crown of thorns and the cartoonish cloud of smoke coming out of the white house. What is the purpose of the utilization of such visual devices?
DDL: You have to keep in mind, when an artist is in their studio they are, for lack of a better term, in a safe haven. Whatever they think, do or project is not necessarily thought of from a ‘public’ perspective. If Blind Nation were my painting, I suspect it would have been an esthetic decision to paint the crown of thorns in pink, and without shading or modulation. The cloud of smoke coming out of the White House initially brings to mind terrorism, but then you see a hole dug in the foreground just below it and the confusion sets in again. Is something being buried or uncovered? Is it an entrance or an escape? Hall has a way of drawing you in and making you think, and that’s what art should do.
MT: Please tell us about your work Urchin #48. It is a wonderfully playful piece. How did you come about this idea? What is the child’s body made of? Please explain the ornaments attached to the child’s body and around it. Where did you get them and what do they signify?
DDL: All of the characters in the Urchin Series point to marginalization spawned by the repeated downturns in the economy. People, domestic animals – many are displaced, lost and overlooked by those more fortunate – yet they survive despite their loss. Within this tragedy comes strength – a willingness to survive, and it’s that strength that I want to bring out in my work.
The fabrication of the sculptures is somewhat complicated. The framework is comprised entirely of repurposed materials – found objects. First, I build something close to a ‘skeletal’ support system with the strongest of the resurrected materials. When that is set I add ‘filler’ objects that very often extend beyond the surface of the figure when the sculpture is complete. Then, working from sketches, I flesh out some of the form with layers and layers of sand mixed with acrylic medium. In some areas, this material is built up to be about three or four inches thick, but I can only place about an eighth or a quarter of an inch at a time (0.3175 to 0.635 centimeters). More than that may not be stable when dry.
The objects that are attached and surround Urchin #48 represent the imagination of a child. When all of us were young, we played with all sorts of objects, especially toys. We came up with endless scenarios and games to fill the day. Most of the toys in this particular piece came from the objects that were being discarded from the set of the TV series 30 Rock. I happened to be there after the last episode was filmed, working as a scenic artist hired to restore the vacated sets. There was so much there that was being discarded – I easily filled up two crates with some of the most curious and inspiring stuff!
MT: In the press release promoting the exhibition, it states: “D. Dominick Lombardi’ s sculptures depict the head more as an open-ended receptacle than a symbol in and of itself.” Could you explain how this holds true for Urchin #48? When I first saw it, I thought: “childhood bliss stemming from ignorance”. We all remember the luxury of that long ago! What were you ultimately expressing with the piece?
DDL: Urchin #48 is about the bliss we achieve from our ability to imagine and project. When you are young, this ability is not hindered by as many preconceptions and prejudices that we have when we are older. We are more open-minded when we are young. Call it ignorance – but don’t forget that a lot of what we understand to be true later in life is based on the misguided opinions of others and the falsehoods that invade our media.
Q. & A. with Robert
Michiko Tachibana: I’m impressed by the diversity of the artists involved in this exhibition. You have artists born in Italy, Israel, England, one born in the “crime ridden neighborhoods Pittsburgh Pennsylvania”, according to the exhibition catalog, a Japanese, a half-Swedish/half-Colombian. Diversity aside, could you give our readers a glimpse into other criteria and concerns that curators consider when organizing an exhibition?
Robert Curcio: I can’t speak for other curators, but Dominick and I wanted to create a dynamic mix to the exhibit itself. Not just your typical summer exhibition with a bunch of paintings by another group of young artists. We purposefully looked at younger and older, a balance of men and women, not just artists from NYC but international (you forgot a French artist), artists with gallery representation and others without and a wide range of media, techniques and styles.
MT: Many avid museum and gallery goers overlook the backstage work that goes behind organizing an exhibition, especially one showcasing such a varied cast of talent as with HEAD. What is the most satisfying aspect of curating an art exhibition? What are its biggest challenges? How different is the experience when you curate on your own or with a co-curator?
RC: For me it’s the journey from start to finish of an exhibit that is the most satisfying. It isn’t just one thing, it’s a moment when it all comes together as you take a step back and take it all in. Usually the biggest challenge is what do you do once you have all the works in the space? How do they relate to each other, is there too much of one thing there and not enough somewhere else, how to provide an overall narrative that communicates to the viewer, what looks good in the window to attract people and countless other small and big considerations. HEAD is the first time I have curated with someone else and its been a good experience. Neither of us has a personal agenda, we just wanted to have a great exhibit and make things happen for everyone.
MT: Rieko Fujinami’s monochromatic drawings on film have a fascinating and discomforting eeriness. I was especially captivated by Mi-Jan-06. How do you interpret this piece?
RC: It reminds me of some film I saw years ago or was it on late night TV yesterday? There’s a fleeting familiarity as of catching a glimpse as you pass someone – maybe it’s the eyes – definitely the eyes in Mi Jan. You recognize other various elements of the head, but complete facial recognition fades away. Instead you’re left with a head and then somehow or someone tells you “That’s Mi Jan.”
MT: Name three highlights from HEAD. How do they speak to you and why do you find them significant?
RC: That’s a difficult question because I think all the work strongly speaks to me. I thought Nina Levy’s Spectator was a good piece, but seeing how just about everyone coming into the gallery goes straight to it and looks at it so intently then they strike the same pose and want to be photographed with it. It’s amazing. Whether its tiny portraits or life size pieces, Chambliss Giobbi’s pieces always grabs me, shakes me up and slaps me in the face. They are very personal, the artist and his subject, separate becoming one in the process. Esther Naor’s Be A Good Girl is a stand out. It’s very personal, but speaks to a broad audience. An old amusement game, the targets once were ducks are now self portraits and the gun “shoots” medication, becomes a contemporary metaphor for self medication.
MT: What is your advise for young artists, especially those in the nation’s art hubs such as New York and Chicago, who just finished their undergraduate degree in Fine Arts, and are struggling to get a foot in the door in terms of exhibiting their work and eventually making sales of their art work?
Just create the best work you can possibly do. Realize that as much time as you spend creating, you need to develop the business side. You need to make your own sales, get to know curators, writers and others, curate an exhibit or organize an event. Don’t expect that a gallery or some patron is going to make your career. Work with them, build a relationship, see what happens.