Nina Katchadourian’s Curiouser at Blanton Museum of Art

Multimedia artist Nina Katchadourian’s exhibit Curiouser will be at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin until June 11, 2017

A child of transatlantic flights, raised by Armenian and Finnish parents, Nina Katchadourian is a conceptual artist steeped in mapping and translation. Her parents and brother figure into her pieces, appearing in video and audio works. They provide active and supportive participants for her rituals and mythologies which create unique order out of seemingly mundane, disparate items. For the viewer her multimedia pieces are playful, evocative and break down the molds imposed by popular culture and homogeneity.

Lavatory Self-Portrait in the Flemish Style #4

Lavatory Self-Portrait in the Flemish Style #4

Studies have shown that the mind when subjected to chronic stress and conventional demands over a period of time, with no space for reflection or creative re-organization, can begin to suffer loss of memory. Parts of the brain, through both overuse and atrophy can see a shrinking of connections and activity. The visual arts can be valuable in that they force a separation from the rational world, providing a controlled space in which one can engage with playful exercises in fragmentation or contradiction. Whether through surrealistic juxtaposition, the absurd, or an exploration of childhood play revisited after 30 years, Katchadourian’s art is perfect for this.  Her work engages in a natural disengagement from inherited conceptual categories. In one piece she takes apart all the countries on a Rand McNally map of the world and then pieces them back together, re-imagining geography. Her entire show resembles this process and is a welcome relief for our imagination. I saw groups of both children and adults delighting in the serendipity behind her creations. I can say with certainty that their minds grew and stretched happily in the process.

Geographic Art

In some of her pieces, such as the Genealogy of the Supermarket, Katchadourian locates absurd links between unrelated images, building enormous webs of relationships between them that could exist, if the world followed different rules.   In another she has observed a torn and abandoned spider web and she attempts to rebuild it with red thread.

The humor in her artworks is not a cynical humor, from a secure, knowing vantage point, ironically disrupting or challenging preconceptions in some cruel manner. Instead it is the humor of an outsider, traveler, or child who builds her own meaning and order, organizes and arranges collections that communicate relationships or patterns.

Katchadourian sees a world of languages and cultural objects and arranges them, repairing gaps like a broken spider web so they can communicate new stories. For the viewer, we are grateful for these changes to have our own static categories interrupted, challenged, and rebuilt. And for the modern mind, bogged down by repetition and tired structures, these new mythologies allow us to breathe and build new connections, maybe even with red thread.

New photograph acquisitions at the Harry Ransom Center

The Harry Ransom Center is world renowned for its photography archives and their holdings are continuing to grow. From Feb. 9 until May 29, 2016 they will be celebrating almost 200 new acquisitions. Look Inside: New Photography Acquisitions traces progressions in the art from the post-war period through to the contemporary era.

Enjoy their time-lapse installation video here:

Strange Pilgrims – Environment & Place

The Contemporary Austin is offering til January 24th of next year,  a surreal, experimental journey hosted in three parts, at the Jones Center, Laguna Gloria and the Visual Arts Center at UT.  Inspired in part by the title of the collection of short stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, these three showings feature “vignettes offering dark and surreal meditations on memory, mortality and the passage of time.” The following artists’ work is present in the exhibition:  Charles Atlas, Trisha Baga, Millie Chen, Phil Collins, Andy Coolquitt, Ayse Erkmen, Roger Hiorns, Nancy Holt, collective Lakes Were Rivers, Angelbert Metayer, Bruce Newman, Yoko Ono, Paul Sharits, and Sofia Taboas.  UT Press has published a 250 page catalogue of the exhibit.

The Jones Center is offering the first installment of the three-part exhibition, Environment and Place showcasing installation, video, architectural and landscape oriented works. 1960s-1970s conceptual and minimalist art by Bruce Nauman and Nancy Holt share space with contemporary artists Millie Chen, Andy Coolquitt, Roger Hiorns and Angelbert Metayer.

Bruce Nauman’s Green Light Corridor (1970) is about changing perspectives by inviting the viewing to walk through a narrow corridor lit by green neon lights. It’s presented within the large upper space of the downtown Jones Center, with its historical stone, wood and industrial walls. The juxtaposition of this piece with its neon to the cool, calm of the natural elements in the building is jarring.  I did not see many viewers volunteer to walk inside the corridor, perhaps because we are so often surrounded by neon and artificial light.  It would be interesting to compare audience perceptions from its original debut and environment 45 years ago.

Millie Chen’s Tour (2014) invites us to return to a different kind of temporal site.  In hers she presents four historical killing fields viewed while walking through tall grasses or meadows that have reclaimed the land. As we walk away from and through these sites of trauma we hear lullabies and gentle folk music from the Lakota, Khmer, from Rwanda and from Yiddish artists. Each site blends meditatively into the next allowing us to take this tour and reflect.