Crashing the Party
Presented by The Sculptors Guild and LIC-A | Curated by Barbara O'Brien
Crashing the Party presents a wide range of interpretations of and responses to the idea and ideals of gender equity, from breaking the “glass ceiling” to political, social, physical, and conceptual ideas. This exhibition features work from sculptors who are questioning and expanding their use of materials, forms, concepts and experiences. Participating artists include: Olga Alexander, June Ahrens, Tahseen Ali-Khan, Caroline Bergonzi, Meg Bloom, Sadie Bridger, Nancy Bruno, Alberto Bursztyn, Bob Clyatt, Sarah Dineen, Jen Dwyer, Jason Elizondo, Camille Eskell, Jon Garfield, Irene Gennaro, Zhen Guo, Aima Saint Hunon, Kevin Kelly, Elizabeth Knowles, Katelyn Kopenhaver, Thea Lanzisero, Eric David Laxman, Jennifer Merdjan, B. Milder, Maria Morabito, Miller Opie, Ugochukwu Onyewuchi, Marianna Peragallo, Sawyer Rose, Judy Richardson, Arlene Rush, Daina Shobrys, and Michael Wolf.
The Sculptors Guild in partnership with LIC-A is interested in supporting a creative platform to expand and broaden opportunities for all sculptors. “What’s now?” and “What’s next?”
Exhibition on View: July 25 – August 25, 2019 at The Plaxall Gallery (Map) | Opening Reception: Saturday, July 27, 7-10pm | Closing Reception: Sunday, August 25, 2-5pm with Artist Discussion at 2:00pm
Making art begins in many places, but most of them private; the sketch book, the imagination, the long walk, the studio. For the sculptor, especially one working in large-scale or installation, the challenge is also to visualize the work of art in a space yet to be determined. This relationship to the possible, the eventual, and the hoped for can impact the content and narrative of a work of art, placing the artist in a world of “What if?” and “Why not?” If anything is possible in the studio, then perhaps that energy can be channeled into the wider world, offering an opportunity to present not just a work of art, but a point of view, a political stance, a belief system.
Crashing the Party, co-produced by Long Island City Artists and Sculptors Guild, includes sculptural works by more than 30 artists. Selected from an open call, the final selections reflect my point of view as a curator and are built around two avenues of thought that are my current fascinations. The first is a preoccupation with the neo-baroque; an experience in which our senses are heightened by an engagement with color, pattern, energetic gesture, implied movement, and a sense of play. This is often understood as “beauty” and such seduction is a fine place to start when engaging with many of the works on view including those by the artists Ugochukwu Onyewuchi, Tahseen Ali-Khan, and Maria Morabito.
The second is a belief that geometric abstraction and post-minimal sculpture can embody - in a reduction of form and palette - a powerful emotional energy. This is an often-austere, sometimes hermetic form with a slower burn. Even when made from many component parts, these works have a quality of the serene, the monolithic, the architectural. Ambitiously-scaled works by Arlene Rush, Kevin Kelly and Sarah Dineen embody this group of selections.
An aspect of my selections that bridge both these arenas is the belief that “one plus one is greater than two.” Sacrificial Lamb by Nancy Bruno, certainly neo-baroque in mood and form, presents a group of small ceramic sculptures; lambs with shimmering surface and womanly breasts, head here tucked toward a torso, there thrown back in an ecstatic gesture. Here, as in many of the works on view, the artist presents neither a single object nor a single reading. The viewer is presented with an invitation to look, certainly, but also to engage, interpret, and build meaning.
In the title of Years by June Ahrens, we are confronted with a range of dates, and in that litany our imagination and memory are powerfully engaged. Each life-scaled figure - crafted from felt and cording of a black that seems to absorb all of the light in its wake - is powerful. But, as a group, they evoke a narrative of greater complexity; of many years passing and an ongoing search, struggle, and awareness of the power of art as a tool for both reflection and action.
By its very nature, an open call presents both an opportunity and a risk for an artist. Crashing the Party can mean looking at the art world and asking “Who is invited? Where are the women, the people of color, the gender fluid, the working class?” Several artists on view present portraits that address these important questions.
Jason Elizondo utilizes video montage appropriated from pop culture projected onto self-portrait busts to address life as a queer fem. The title, They’re All Gonna Laugh at You, challenges the viewer to determine the stance of the artist. Is the title diaristic or a “mirror” held up to the viewer. Who is the “They” and who is the “You?”
Bety by Sawyer Rose presents sculptural objects as equivalent forms representing both the paid and unpaid hours of Bety’s labor. Using data visualization, this installation expands to present in an immersive, theatrical space in which the viewer is both engaged and potentially implicated, the working life of a larger group of women.
Taking the pulse of artistic forms – of “What’s Now” and “What’s Next” is a perilous effort. Sculptural forms are constantly evolving. The more than 30 artists whose works of art were selected for Crashing the Party evidence an extraordinary commitment to developing, responding to, expanding, and questioning the sculptural form. It was a pleasure and a privilege to be invited to curate this exhibition. My thanks for all involved, but most especially to the artists.
About the Curator:
Barbara O’Brien, an independent curator and critic based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was Executive Director of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri from 2012 – 2017, after serving as chief curator and director of exhibitions since 2009. O’Brien is an elected member of AICA-USA, International Association of Art Critics.
O’Brien is currently a consulting curator for the Housatonic Museum of Art in Bridgeport, CT. Her nearly three decades of curatorial practice and criticism have focused on the art and artists of our time. Prior to accepting the post at the Kemper Museum, O’Brien was an assistant professor at Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts, where she was director of the Trustman Art Gallery and head of the arts administration program. She was editor-in-chief of Art New England magazine from 2003 – 06.
O’Brien earned an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and in 2006 was awarded the RISD national alumni award for professional achievement.