Dispatches From the B.A.D.


Dispatches From the B.A.D.

  • Dawn Roe

    Dawn Roe, is an artist and educator. She divides her time between Asheville and Winter Park, Florida where she is an Associate Professor of Art at Rollins College. Her work...

Ramekon O'Arwisters @ The Center for Craft, Creativity & Design
There are two new exhibitions opening in the B.A.D. (Broadway Arts District) this week, and both are not to be missed.  The Center for Craft, Creativity & Design is hosting the traveling exhibition, Loving After Lifetimes of All This, curated by Danny Orendorff, while across the street, The Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center will be celebrating their Grand {Re}Opening with the work of Susan Weil.  Openings for each will be held this Friday evening from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. 
I had the opportunity to visit each venue today as they prepared for the openings, heavy in the throes of the installation process. There is something to be said for encountering an exhibition space in this in-between stage – not quite ready to be viewed as a complete form, some works hung with layout and design notes taped nearby, while others remain along the walls or floor awaiting their unique and very deliberate position amongst the others. Being witness to this process offers the opportunity to get a sense of the concepts that shape the exhibition, formed by curatorial efforts that involve countless hours of research and planning.

Installation in progress @ Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center
The following paragraphs offer a brief overview of the ideas that fuel each exhibition, and function more as a response than a review. 
The Center for Craft, Creativity & Design (CCCD)

Originally staged at The Charlotte Street Foundation in Kansas City as part of a curatorial residency for Danny Orendorff, Loving After Lifetimes of All This explores “the intersections of craft, (self-)care, apprenticeship, and survival within the practices of historically disadvantaged populations.” (CCCD)

Loving After Lifetimes of All This (in-process installation view, Christopher Leitch)
There are two thematic threads that run through the exhibition that could be loosely categorized as, 1) reclaiming/repurposing the archive and, 2) collapsing DIY practices and cultural resistance. Orendorff deliberately included works that explore these aspects through a number of disparate lenses, with each set requiring time to unpack, and discover. Visiting this exhibition with an eager willingness to engage with this set of ideas will greatly enrich your experience and, trust me; your patience will be rewarded as the many hidden layers reveal themselves. The relationship between the works becomes very apparent as you witness them situated amongst one another - a subtle mix of humor and pathos emerges, sometimes impossible to disentangle. 
While Orendorff selected the artists and works in the exhibition based upon their relation to the themes above, he also considered the meticulous and repetitive nature of both hand process-based textile works and research-heavy text and image projects.  “The link that I was hoping to make with craft-oriented artists (weavers/textile artists) was the hand labor, the meticulous time dedication – that endurance element, they are paying tribute to these historical movements through an equally labor/time intensive practice, there is a kind of real dedication to the craft that pays tribute to the spirit of the people. As well, I liked the idea of [equating that with the time intensive and tactile nature of] combing through an archive – the handiness of it all.” (Orendorff)

Loving After Lifetimes of All This (in-process installation view, Judith Levy)
The works reliant upon archival materials and research engage with the disrupted and often incomplete histories of disenfranchised, minority communities – here artists have taken liberties to fill in blanks and reconstruct or fabricate narratives in an effort to challenge the presumed authenticity and integrity of personal or community records.  The results are simultaneously humorous and biting - ranging from a fictitious ancestral map of the Lone Ranger with accompanying treatment for Huck Finn in the form of a videotaped oral history (Judith Levy), to repurposed archival photographs of assimilated Ojibwa tribe members gathered on a basketball court sporting sweaters with a logo that seems to strangely read as a dollar sign (Gina Adams).

Loving After Lifetimes of All This (in-process installation view, Gina Adams)
Another group of works deals with craft practice as self-care and community engagement.  A mass of hard-copy publications highlighting what Orendorff describes as “projects that challenge the centrality of art institutions in the form of collaborative, non-commercial, public art production” (produced by the collective Temporary Services) hang delicately in front a cartoon-shaped puffy form, amusingly referencing electronic storage “clouds.” 

Loving After Lifetimes of All This (in-process installation view, Temporary Services)
Also included are Jonathan Barnett’s crocheted "Drug Rugs", created as a means of coping with the haze induced by the many pills prescribed in the early years of his HIV treatment. Importantly, curator Danny Orendorff emphasized the distinction between different types of work in the exhibition – Barnett’s rugs for instance are emphatically “not visual art, but a practice of survival.”  This kind of convergence between art object and less-precious material allows one to impact the other.  And, as former Co-Director of The Charlotte Street Foundation, Kate Hackman has said of Orendorff’s curatorial practice, forges “connections between the ‘art world’ and populations often neglected within mainstream cultural representation.”

Loving After Lifetimes of All This (in-process installation view, Jonathan Barnett)
Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center (BMCM+AC)

Across the street at BMCM+AC, the work of Susan Weil encompasses many of the themes prominent in the CCCD exhibition around notions of the expressive possibilities in the everyday, and also relies heavily on her own personal, artistic archive. Co-curated by Weil’s assistant and UNCA graduate Rachael Inch along with UNCA faculty member Brian E. Butler, the exhibition is comprised of a selection of what Weil termed, poemumbles, amassed over the years and comprised of her daily, poetic responses taking the form of text and image combined. Beginning in 1977 as a sort of visual correspondence between Weil and her Swedish art dealer, Anders Tornberg, Weil has continued to create these daily works, which now number over 10,930. Drawing from everyday ephemera and, more recently, Internet resources, the commitment of Weil’s prolonged gesture allows both personal and cultural issues of time, history and memory to comingle alongside art historical narratives of collage and appropriation.

BMCM+AC, in-progress installation view, Susan Weil
BMCM+AC Program Director, Alice Sebrell, talked with me about the various issues considered from the curator’s perspectives both in selecting works and designing the exhibition.  Due to the massive nature of the archive, it’s clearly not possible to display the project as a whole, and consideration was given to the context of the exhibition – resulting in the inclusion of a large number of works including reference to Weil’s time at Black Mountain College.  Included in a sampling of the works are images of Weil’s former husband and famed BMC alum Robert Rauschenberg, as well as faculty member and renowned dancer Merce Cunningham, and one-time head of the college, artist Josef Albers
The layout of the exhibition had to be carefully considered due to the artist’s desire for a visually linear progression of the intimately scaled postcard sized works in relation to the modestly sized gallery space. Three sculptural works will be incorporated among the small 2-D works, with various ephemera available for viewing in glass-covered vitrines positioned in the center of the space, along with binders including reproductions of Weil’s notebooks “that people can thumb through to read and spend time with on a personal scale” (Sebrell). An additional component is the inclusion of videotaped oral histories, which will run on a newly installed large-scale monitor near the gallery entrance, and can also be viewed on-line.

Color Xerox notebooks, which will be accessible to viewers (Susan Weil)
The unique merging of art and life in Weil’s work serves as a perfect complement to the hybrid nature of the works on view in Loving After a Lifetimes of All This at CCCD. These two exhibitions are bound to generate lively conversation – if you’d like to contribute your voice in the comment section below, please do.  Maybe we can write a follow-up article as a community, and get a little back and forth going!
Dispatches from the B.A.D. is a semi-regular column primarily focusing on exhibitions and events at non-profit visual art spaces in The Broadway Arts District in downtown Asheville.