Mixed media, Site specific installation, 2018
Castles in the Sky:
Fantasy Architecture in Contemporary Art
Curator Bartholomew Bland
October 13, 2018 – January 26, 2019
The buildings in our mind’s eye are limitless.
In our dreams, we unlock doors to unknown passages and climb unending stairs into the darkness of rooms, strange and never seen before. Not tied to the reality of bricks and mortar or ground and gravity, we imagine any structure ― the American “dream home” on a coveted suburban cul-de-sac beyond our reach, or the wild acid-trip floating balloon palace of a magical unicorn.
Jarring the laws of actual architecture, the imagined palace functions as very real foundation, buttress, and pillar for Castles in the Sky. From Claes Oldenburg’s proposal to replace the Washington Monument with a gigantic scissors to Laurie Simmons’ photograph of candy castles atop a cake weathering a blizzard of confectionary “snow,” the 30 artists in Castles in the Sky develop bizarre, impractical, enchanting, and inspiring unbuilt (and likely unbuildable) designs, and gather inspiration from famous sources.
Lother Osterberg draws from the etchings of 18th-century Italian artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi, the creator of images of dark and cavernous space― the nightmarish side of the architectural dream. Will Cotton’s candy castle represents a fantastical continuum of the art of 19th-century American landscape painter Thomas Cole, who, in Youth (1842), pictures a man rushing towards the mirage of a castle in the sky, the locus of all his youthful dreams. In Salvador Dali’s Gala’s Castle (1974) an elephant on attenuated legs tiptoes across a castle crenellation in Surrealist activity, which we spy, again, today, in Adrien Broom’s improbable scene of a Victorian woman standing in her drawing room open to the sky and filled with a wandering zebra.
This exhibition plays tribute to the ceaseless meanderings of the human imagination and the creative fantasy the hovers in the recesses of every artist’s mind.
The exhibition is organized by the Lehman College Art Gallery.
Like the 18th Century Italian artist Giovanni Piranesi, Sydlowski understands the poetry of architecture. The Rotunda of the Gallery’s space is transformed by her site-specific installation Cobalt Arcadia that represents a pagan mythological Eden. The artist has layered screen printed architectural elements juxtaposed with flora to envelop the curving walls and central columns of the space. These printed elements adapt to Marcel Breuer’s existing architecture, layering traditional Roman arches into a Modernist space, transforming the space into a giant three-dimensional collage. The dark blue ink used throughout the installation directly refers to cobalt, a ceramic colorant and the dye color indigo, a natural, dark blue, plant based dye and the color associated with dreams and intuition. Commonly applied to transferware, cobalt is used in ceramics to obtain a wide range of blues. Transferware is traditionally decorated with bucolic landscapes, architectural follies often set among gentle hills spotted with grazing sheep. The Rotunda’s circular interior becomes a transitory space where visitors themselves become figures on the landscape of a giant round vessel turned inside out.
Screen prints, wallpaper
This paper installation describes a non-linear history of Inwood Hill Park, focusing on native plants, wildlife and architecture.
Using decorative arts and floral patterns, this screen print installation invokes the excesses of the opulent minority. Visual harmony is created through the monochromatic color scheme while the maximalist pairing of collage with a profusion of patterns blurs the line between the familiar and unfamiliar. Alluring and uncanny, it hangs in the balance between a state of decay and emergent nature.
The New York Public Library’s Harry Belafonte 115th Street branch will host the exhibition Infinite Archive: NYPL, from Thursday, April 5, 2018 through Tuesday, September 4, 2018 on the second floor of the Library at 203 West 115th Street. The exhibition introduces a diverse group of 30 artists, each responding to a book, poem, periodical or other archival material from The New York Public Library’s vast collection. The opening reception will be held on Thursday, April 5th from 5:00-6:30 pm.
The art collective, Infinite Archive, curated the exhibition to include artists working across a wide spectrum of media. The pieces range from paintings, prints, photography, assemblage as well as wood, metal and ceramic sculpture in response to fiction, non-fiction, periodicals, and prints in the NYPL’s collection. The breadth of artwork reflects the broad nature of the Library’s holdings.
Responding directly to literary works, each artwork presents a complex dialogue between the artist and the selected text. Housed within a vintage card catalog, visitors are encouraged to discover varied artworks as they open each drawer. Many artworks include interactive elements, such as solving a puzzle, exploring a maze or unfolding an abstract painting.
Artists in the exhibition include; Anna Alfredson, Jose Manuel Arguelles, Ken Augushi, Erica Bailey, Rick Bleier, Sarah Bouchard, Louise Braverman, Tegan Brozyna, Heather Chontos, Susanne Claussen, Carol Collicutt, Lionel Cruet, Vanezza Cruz, Andrea Cukier, Peter Hamlin, Carrie Hawks, Samantha Holmes, Aya Kakeda, Rohin Khemani, Stephanie Lindquist, Stephanie Mulvihill, Maja Padrov, Patrick Perry, Henry Portillo, Mary Preston, Randy Regier, Sarah Rowe, Shelley Stefan, Rachel Sydlowski, and Natalie Collette Wood.
The Harry Belafonte 115th Street branch of The New York Public Library opened on November 6, 1908 and was built with funds donated by Andrew Carnegie. Over the past century, the library has evolved into a focal point of community activity, learning, and artistic production. In 2017, the branch adopted its new name in honor of civil rights leader and entertainer Harry Belafonte, whose incredible career illustrates his value for open, free, and equal access to education and opportunity.
Warmth, nostalgia, and kitsch play an integral role in exploring the creative possibilities of an outdated indexing system. A digital version of this system exists and is used with great success and efficiency, yet it lacks physical agency. This absence of paper, wood, and the accompanying olfactory sensations are transmigrations of the library soul from the analog to digital. Something comforting, familiar and universal is gained with reclaiming the physical presence of the card catalog. The discrete interior space of each drawer, allotted to artists, mixes the familiar and unfamiliar, an uncanny experience of going into the past and finding things not quite as you remember them.
Thirty artists were asked to select anything from the New York Public Library’s holdings. The array is vast, from digitized prints to periodicals, novels, poems and children’s books. The relationship between the constructed mental image and the physical object that are the product of a singular source is a unique sensation. It’s something akin to reading the book and seeing the film, at times harmoniously congruent or jarringly disturbing. An exploratory spirit is required to access the various outcomes; one must physically pull to reveal what is hidden within each drawer.
In many ways, selecting artists and placing artworks within the cabinet, in many ways is the unraveling of indexing. Placing no restrictions on material or content lends itself to a balance of organization and entropy. With the end results nestled into the tight dimensions of each drawer, the artworks are as varied and broad as the collection of the New York Public Library itself.
In closing, the spirit of the project remains humble and direct. Consensus and lack of hierarchy fueled the process from conceptualization to installation. We remain ardent supporters of activating public spaces and presenting the visual arts in places that are both accessible and welcoming. We would like to thank the thirty artists who selflessly agreed to create new artwork for this project: Helen Broady, Jenny Chisnell, Tequila Davis and the entire staff of the 115th Street Library who graciously worked alongside us and hosted the exhibition. Special thanks to Dr. Sharon Jordan for her thoughtful essay that accompanies this catalog and for being a patient teacher and mentor to many of the collaborating artists.
NYC, March 2018
Books entertain and educate; they challenge and inspire; and they transport. Infinite Archive’s intimate and highly personal exhibition does all of this as well by inviting thirty artists to make a work inspired by material in the collection of the New York Public Library. Each artwork fits within one drawer of a de-commissioned card catalogue. Though the exhibition is contained neatly within the wooden cabinet, the result is expansive in its range of materials and the ideas and narratives evoked for contemplation.
Like handling a book, and like thumbing through an old card catalogue, there is a satisfying tactile materiality to the range of media used in the making of these diverse artworks. The appreciation for craft evident throughout is a confirmation of art for art’s sake. An etched copper plate with applied gold leaf and plaster thumb exquisitely illustrates King Midas and the Golden Touch. There is a modernist geometric abstraction in ceramic, several intricately cut paper works and richly layered collages and mixed media assemblages, including an architectural relief in wood inspired by the prints of Piranesi. One of the most delightful pieces is the landscape featuring audio of bird songs inspired by a book called At the End of Daybreak.
Like a book, each drawer is a self-contained world reflecting the style and personality of its creator. Several works arouse an equal curiosity about the book that served as their source of inspiration as they do about the work of their artist. These include the ethereal abstraction inspired by Jorge Luis Borges’ El Aleph; the silkscreen and collage reminiscent of a treasured family album inspired by In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez; and the day-glow creature in its psychedelic galaxy inspired by Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell.
On a visit to the library, there is always the possibility of the chance discovery of an unknown book that opens us up to something new and wonderful that we didn’t know we needed until it was found. The silkscreen Étoiles features a whimsical mythological creature that beckons the viewer to further investigate its source from a book called Celestial Treasury. The spiraling collage inspired by the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe and the mixed media interior scene referencing the fiction of Vladimir Nabokov are reminders of the pleasures of revisiting favorite authors again and again. Many of the artworks are testimonials to the importance of literary inspiration among the artists: On the Road by Jack Kerouac is conjured up in a densely organized pen and ink drawing; The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde is depicted in a stark and dramatic woodblock print and Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown is humorously condensed in a lush painting featuring a Classical male nude bombarded by grapefruits.
Some artworks echo the systematized organization of information used in card catalogues or in the collection of specimens in a natural history museum or objects in a Baroque cabinet of curiosities, especially the painted fabric insects with one lone figure pinned to their backing in the piece inspired by Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell; the bountiful flower arrangement in the collage inspired by Native American Food Plants: An Ethnobotanical Dictionary; the delicate topographical map made from pages of The Language of Instinct by Steven Pinker; and a small white sculpture in two identical parts referencing a book called The Brain: The Story of You. Several works take children’s books as their inspiration. The interactive puzzle and the plexiglass maze are playful ways to introduce young visitors to reading and to art as joyful and satisfying pursuits. This unique exhibition rewards those whose love of books and of art is intertwined with an appreciation for wonder and a joy in discovery.
Art Department, Lehman College, CUNY
Responding to the unique history, archives and architecture of Morris-Jumel Mansion three artists have reinterpreted archival objects into a site-specific installation. Ceramic objects, jewelry and artists’ books present a visual interpretation based on different areas of research by each artist. This shifting focus addresses how histories drift over time and how certain historical narratives become prominent while others recede into obscurity.
This collection of artist’s books explores issues in architecture, identity and history relating to the Morris-Jumel Mansion. In her book focusing on portraiture and pattern, Rachel Sydlowski prints historical portraits of women and remnants of wallpaper over maps of New York City from the 18th century. Gold Napoleon bees are inserted and sewn between the folds of the accordion construction. The portraits and maps are inverted in the second half of the book alluding to Eliza Jumel’s lifelong reversals of fortune and crafty reinventions. Sarah Rowe melds and associates components related to mansion’s garden from blueprints, planting plans and botanical prints related to mansion’s garden. Rowe is interested in the historical and contemporary significance of the plants in the garden as well as the exquisite design of the garden house and sundial. Patrick Perry’s book holds a collection of six cyanotype postcards referencing the architecture of the Morris-Jumel Mansion and personal letters exchanged between Stephen and Eliza Jumel. Blueprints from the archive serve as a point of visual reference and draw attention to the architectural structure as a living document.
A series of ceramic ginger jars constructed by Rachel Sydlowski address how decorative objects are used to establish and assert social position and power in a domestic setting. Portraits of society women on the surface of the jars are appropriated from the National Portrait Gallery Archive. Their likeness has been removed and replaced with wallpaper patterns from various periods of the mansion’s history, alluding to Eliza’s shapeshifting identities. Gold luster bees swarm the jars, reflecting Eliza’s fascination with collecting imperial objects belonging to Napoleon Bonaparte, possibly a manifestation of her steadfast conviction of achieving financial security and social status. While ginger jars were initially used to store and transport spices, they have been used chiefly as decorative objects since the 19th century. The dialogue between utilitarian object, the shipping of luxury items and decorative objects are reflective of her first husband’s mercantile background and Eliza’s unusual deliverance from destitution.
A series of heavily etched wearable objects constructed of sterling silver and copper created by Patrick Perry are a direct response to the handwritten letters between Eliza and her husband Stephen Jumel. The archival letters reveal an accretion of private exchanges, ranging from the quotidian to the intimate. Perry has chosen to pay homage to these intimate written exchanges by etching fragments of the letters directly onto copper plates. The material shift from pen and ink to metal raises questions about impermanence and indelibility and public and private lives.
In her porcelain relief tiles, Sarah Rowe amalgamates architectural elements from the Morris-Jumel Mansion using direct impressions, cut-outs and screenprints from existing and unrealized architectural details from the Morris-Jumel Mansion. These tiles are specifically concerned with the subtle, intimate nuances of the mansion that are often overlooked by the casual visitor but would have been readily apparent to members of the Jumel and Morris families. Rowe highlights friezes, architectural motifs, and soffits using both intaglio and relief techniques. The tiles also consider how architecture changes or decays over time and index subtle changes in the the Morris-Jumel mansion’s facade.
Screen prints on paper, LED lights
Installation, dimensions variable
Using a matrix of screen printed images this installation presents an ephemeral version of Untermyer Park. Printed versions of plants, garden architecture and decorative objects transform unlikely spaces into elaborate paper garden. The conceptual border and lack of framing create an experience blurring the lines between authenticity and myth. The uncanny illusion of a natural environment, contrasted with the authentic nature of outdoors, is similar to our relationship with public parks in urban areas. We allow ourselves to enjoy the wildness of the seemingly undeveloped areas of urban parks. Yet, urban parks have been carefully constructed to elicit an experience of being in wilderness. Bringing a printed version of the garden to interior architectural spaces is similar to our relationship with parks in urban environments. This project aims to bring a facsimile of an outdoor garden inside creating a dialog between the interior and exterior.
Screen prints on paper
Rather than try to reduce America to one discourse, this collection of objects addresses complex narratives and the shape-shifting mappings of time, space and power. Awareness of time and history becomes plastic, as artists reorganize the past and reconfigure power structures of the present. The familiar is presented as the unfamiliar, an inversion of the American narrative is retold and reorganized.
The works in this exhibition elicit a discourse about permanence, impermanence, history, and memory. The artists ask the viewer: “Who are the stewards of American history?”, “What is suitable for publication and what is censored?”, and “What is the nature of power and how does it inform our identity as Americans?” Questions emerge as to what has been excised, fractured, or scrambled within the narrative of American history.
Each artist addresses these issues using a variety of materials, approaches and contexts. Rose DeSiano’s photographic collages present a complex portrait of Allentown, Pennsylvania. Her large scale predella explores historical concerns through photography and digital manipulation. DeSiano records historical imagery while reconsidering the relationship of past and present. Reproducing fractured text and imagery from The New York Times, Shanti Grumbine’s prints question power and value structures in print media addressing what is lost as experiences are transformed into newsworthy articles. Through a myriad of precise cuts, the viewer is left to imagine what has been excised. Valerie Hegarty’s mixed media works expose the dark side of American history and examine the concepts of repression, decay, and dissolution in the American historical narrative by reference to common North American motifs. As a first person witness in his Tile Paintings and Night Vision series, artist and Iraq war veteran James Raczkowski recovers and records historical monuments destroyed in recent conflicts and uses memory to fuel these intense visual representations of war. Melissa Vandenburg’s Burn Drawings present a series of American visual icons and patriotic words addressing the fragility of American patriotism today and the nature of power and permanence in the American political landscape.
Memory, history, and imagination are deeply enmeshed in this exhibition as power structures are questioned, examined, and recontextualized. As a collective whole, the artwork asks the viewer to consider the mercurial dialogue between present and past.
Case Study II: site-specific installation
Lehman College Art Gallery, Bronx, NY
Case Study II examines the events leading to the loss of ownership and demolition of a Massachusetts homestead. Artifacts of the subsequent dissolution of the family are presented in a broad range of outcomes, from found objects in vitrines to freestanding sculpture incorporating wood, ceramics, and an audio guide. The authorship and authenticity of each object is called into question.
Unanswerable questions are addressed through this project. When does an object go out of existence, as opposed to merely changing? Do things and ideas stop being when they do not exist in our memory?
Documenting social and economic shifts in cities along the northern border of New York City, I explore neighborhoods sharing a common street name. Visiting Elm Streets of New Rochelle, Mount Vernon and Yonkers, I collect imagery through field notes, drawing and digital photography. From this limited taxonomy of images I construct large-scale biomorphic screen prints of imaginary landscapes and neighborhoods. These collage prints use repeated imagery as a way of punctuating visually significant structures in a defined territory and as a way of examining systems of living in areas that have gone through dramatic change in the last century.
Porcelain, screen prints, wood, paint
Using porcelain, screen prints and wood, this series focuses on idealistic aims of decorative objects, the futility of preservation and the collapse of craft.
The Castle Gallery at The College of New Rochelle will host Intersecting Editions — a dialogue between print and ceramic media. The exhibit runs from Tuesday, September 2, through Sunday, November 2, 2014. The opening reception takes place on Thursday, September 18 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. The gallery is located on the New Rochelle campus at 29 Castle Place.
This exhibition challenges the traditional assumption that artists pursue one material and methodology at a time, by showing the complex dialog between print and ceramic media. Though the two disciplines each developed through independent paths, with unique histories of technique and artistic styles, artists in this exhibit embrace “a post-disciplinary spirit” that goes beyond strict roles of ceramic artist or printmaker. By blending identities the artists have opened new avenues that combine techniques from both disciplines.
Curators Sarah Rowe and Rachel Sydlowski, who both incorporate printmaking and ceramics in their own studios, have put together an exhibit that shows the results of interdisciplinary thinking between ceramics and printmaking. The outcomes range from traditional forms of reproducibility to cast sculpture and ephemeral performance-based methods of mark-making, as well as printmaking methods such as slip cast multiples, screen printing, decals, video, and photography.
Rowe explains, “We chose to focus on crossing disciplines because many artists today are working in a cross-disciplinary way. The connections between printmaking and ceramics are not often directly highlighted in a gallery or museum setting. Though decals and mold making have been employed within the ceramics field for hundreds of years we wanted to investigate how artists are exploring and stretching this ever evolving relationship between printmaking and ceramics. Each piece in the show speaks to a different level of crossing disciplines.”
Artists in the exhibition include: Dylan J. Beck, Alison Carey, Ane Fabricius Christiansen, Christine Facella, Future Retrieval, Sin-ying Ho, Jessica Kreutter, Matthew McConnell, Scott Rench, Hope Rovelto, Amanda Small, and W.A. Ehren Tool.