Editor's note: The Monteserrat College of Art provided source material to Resource Library Magazine for the following article. The essay by Martha Buskirk is reprinted with permission of the author and Monteserrat College of Art. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please contact the Monteserrat College of Art directly through either this phone number or web address:



 

Infinitely Specific: Work by Janine Antoni, Nayland Blake, Mona Hatoum, Zoe Leonard and Gabriel Orozco

January 20 - February 20, 2004

 

Infinitely Specific, an exhibit of contemporary photographs and video installations curated by associate professor at Montserrat College of Art, author and 2004 Clark Fellow Martha Buskirk, opens January 20, 2004 in the Montserrat Gallery and runs through February 20. A lecture by Buskirk is planned for Thurs., January 22 at 5 p.m., followed by a 6 p.m. reception and book signing for her new book, The Contingent Object of Contemporary Art (MIT Press, 2003). (right: Gabriel Orozco, still from From Green Glass to Federal Express, 1997. Courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery, New York)

An exhibition about anticipation and discovery, Infinitely Specific brings together five artists who have used photography and video within a body of work that ranges widely across different forms and media. The work of Janine Antoni, Nayland Blake, Mona Hatoum, Zoe Leonard and Gabriel Orozco reveals a shared fascination with subtle or unexpected significance found in seemingly mundane objects, actions, and materials.

Their photographs and videos engage the particular qualities associated with each of these media, and the artists' use of these forms, to articulate a series of intersections that exist between the recording of found situations and the recording of artificially created ones, including at times the artist's own body.

In the spring, Buskirk will pursue her new book project, Now and Then: Tradition as Subject and Method in Contemporary Art as a Clark Fellow for the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA. According to Buskirk, this book will be a compilation of essays that will investigate the divergent agendas of formal analysis and cultural history through a consideration of form as both conscious choice and potential reference.

Following is the essay from the exhibition brochure for Infinitely Specific:

 

Infinitely Specific

by Martha Buskirk

 

An exhibition about anticipation and discovery, "Infinitely Specific" brings together five artists who have used photography and video in the context of work that ranges widely across different forms and media. The work of Janine Antoni, Nayland Blake, Mona Hatoum, Zoe Leonard, and Gabriel Orozco reveals a shared fascination with subtle or unexpected significance found in seemingly mundane objects, actions, and materials. Their photographs and videos in particular convey an engagement with specific qualities associated with each medium that is combined with the articulation of a series of intersections between found situations and the use of the camera to record objects or the artist's own body set up for that purpose. Another important affinity is the simultaneous engagement with cultural and formal concerns. Issues of cultural perspective or identity include Hatoum's outlook as a Palestinian who grew up in Lebanon and then relocated to England, Antoni's move from the Bahamas to New York, Orozco's back and forth movement between Mexico and the United States, Blake's and Leonard's explorations of gay identity or race, and the attention to gender roles that inflects many of these works.

These artists explore objects and situations rich with subtle cultural traces and potential emotional associations. One aspect of Hatoum's engagement with domestic objects and provisions is evident in the elegant and restrained black and white photograph of graters lined up along a window. Yet Untitled (graters) is part of a constant movement between familiar and potentially strange or disturbing imagery that has also involved, in her sculptural work, such common household implements enlarged to alarming proportions or literally electrified. Hatoum's color photographs of goods and their displays from different parts of the world provide telling yet subtle evidence of sometimes striking cultural differences manifested in the nature of the marketplace and the provisions that wind up on the table. Material traces play an equally important role in Leonard's Preserved Head of a Bearded Woman, where her multiple views suggest, through their repetition, the combination of fascination and horror evoked by this ambiguous nineteenth-century artifact found by the artist in the recesses of a science museum. Here the somewhat grainy black-and-white enlargement further emphasizes the combination of intimacy and distance established by the reflections in the glass specimen case in which the disembodied head has been preserved.

The artist own body appears in a series of works by Antoni and Blake based on highly charged actions and interactions. Antoni's Interlace, with its image of two linked hands, plays off of the already fetishized impracticality of the long, painted fingernail, as the hands are incapacitated through their interconnection. In this case, the intimate scale of the photograph reflects her decision to reproduce her subject in life size, whereas the incessant movement of the camera in Ready or Not, Here I Come results from her incorporation of the video recording into a game of hide and seek between the artist and her father. The camera carried by Antoni's father captures, in real time, the progress of his search and its unexpected conclusion. By contrast, the resolutely fixed camera in Blake's Correction presents a striking counterpoint to the motion of Antoni's Ready or Not, Here I Come, even as Blake, like Antoni, challenges the viewer's sense of engagement as periods of relatively minor incident are interspersed with sudden bursts of activity. In Correction, Blake's most recent work, we see simultaneously two different but closely related records of the artist sitting, shirtless, in front of the camera. The stationary camera and his motionless presence on the two screens establish a play between immobility and sudden incident when the relatively static situation is punctuated by the action of the second man who steps briefly into the frame.

The motion of the hand-held video camera reappears in Orozco's From Green Glass to Federal Express as a reflection of the artist's own trajectory through New York. His evident fascination with subtle coincidences is related to his use of photography to record both serendipitously found arrangements and his own subtle interventions. Video adds a temporal dimension to juxtapositions of this imagery, implying a movement from point to point through sequences edited only during the recording process itself. The work's relatively modest appearance should therefore not be mistaken for a casual attitude toward form. Instead, the link between the motion of the camera and a sense of discovery is essential. Along with the other artists in the exhibition, Orozco shares his precise use of video with their equally conscious decisions regarding color or black and white photography, the scale of the print, or the nature of the video presentation. These are artists whose work has included installation, performance, sculpture, and site-specific intervention, and who have employed such various materials as chocolate, lard, gingerbread, sewn fruit peels, hanging laundry lint, or electrified kitchen utensils. Yet this array has been used for highly precise reasons. Within this context, photography and video appear, not as interchangeable with other media, but for the specific qualities associated with each form.

 

About the author
 
Martha Buskirk is Associate Professor of Art History and Criticism at Montserrat College of Art and is a spring 2004 fellow at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Her most recent book, The Contingent Object of Contemporary Art, was published by MIT Press in 2003.


rev. 1/6/03

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