Sarajevo, Athens, Moscow, Beijing, Munich, Helsinki, Atlanta, Berlin — each one of these cities has hosted the Olympic Games at some point during the 20th or 21st centuries. Massive sports arenas, race tracks, swimming pools, and stadiums, many of which have fallen into states of decay, stand as monuments to excessive waste — each one built for just a few weeks of use. The prestige that comes with hosting the Olympics has a hefty price, reaching monetary costs often measured in the billions. For some perspective, consider the new Yankee Stadium, which replaced the old Yankee Stadium in 2009 and was built for $2.3 billion. The old and new stadiums existed side by side until the original ballpark was converted into a public park.
Albuquerque artist and contractor Sheri Crider knows all too well what goes into large-scale construction, and she uses the waste materials from abandoned urban projects as the basis for her art. In Alcoves 16/17 #4, the latest iteration of the New Mexico Museum of Art’s historically on-again, off-again, series of solo artist shows, Crider includes a gouache painting of the two Yankee Stadiums when they were neighbors. In addition, she has constructed a large, nearly floor-to-ceiling sculpture made entirely of reclaimed doors. “All of my artwork is about my relationship to construction and material waste,” she told Pasatiempo. “As a sculptor, for me it’s free material, but I’m also doing a little penance for my own material use.”
Last year, Crider, in collaboration with another artist, used approximately 200 doors for an installation at Peters Projects in Santa Fe. Her two-dimensional works in the current show are all images of duplicate stadiums and other large construction projects, including the Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro, host of the 2016 summer games. “For me, these situations are this interesting intersection of immigrants, large political entities at work, and excessive waste.”
The Alcoves exhibit, named for the small series of gallery spaces on the museum’s first floor, is not a themed show, nor is it precisely a group show. Rather, it is an exhibit of five solo artist presentations that stand on their own — although curator Merry Scully makes an effort to include artists whose works can have a dialogue with one another. The other four artists participating are Michael Namingha, Sally Anderson, John Vokoun, and Robert Drummond. “We’re showing an enormous series of John Vokoun’s panels that make one large piece,” Scully told Pasatiempo. Vokoun’s pieces Wormfield Distortion and Sediment Distortion are computer artworks made from corrupt data files and printed on an aluminum substructure in a process called sublimation, in which ink is heated into a gas that penetrates a polyester coating where the gas molecules solidify into a permanent form. The near-indestructible two-dimensional works are compositions of banded color where the corrupted data are transformed into aesthetic arrangements. Vokoun is also showing a selection of graphite works on paper, silk-screen on aluminum, and the 70-by-70-inch multi-panel composition Automorphic Form.
Namingha, son of artist Dan Namingha and brother of Arlo Namingha, is exhibiting a series of new text-based archival pigment prints. Each is a double image of a word such as “Love,” or a phrase like “Indian Giver,” arranged in a symmetrical orientation like a Rorschach inkblot. The words, which run vertically rather than horizontally, are transformed into compositions, some of which take on the characteristics of a face or totem.
Anderson’s work has an affinity with Vokoun’s, in that both artists finish their pieces with materials commonly found in the auto industry. In Vokoun’s case, his dye-sublimation pieces are polished and clear-coated by an auto-body shop in Missouri. Anderson, who makes ceramic sculpture, finishes her pieces with auto-body paints. Some, like her Night Passage, have a matte finish. Others, such as Purple Royal, with its subtle opalescent shades of purple, pink, and blue, are polished to a high gloss. Anderson’s sculptures, small in scale, are abstract organic forms that hint at figuration and recall the works of modernist sculptor Constantin Brâncu¸si (1876-1957) without seeming derivative.
Drummond, a new-media artist, is including an interactive display, a single-channel video. “It’s called District, and it was completed for ISEA 2012,” he told Pasatiempo. ISEA (International Symposium on Electronic Art) is a global conference and series of events focusing on the intersection of art and technology, held each year in a different city. In 2012, the symposium was held in Albuquerque. “It’s designed as a multichannel piece, but right now we’re showing the single-channel part of it, the main screen. Originally it was a triptych, with two screens on either side and a center screen. The idea is that participants come up to the piece, and it responds to their movement.” Every minute, sampled imagery taken though motion capture is sent to a database that transforms visitors’ movements into a slow-motion series of abstracted imagery. If you move too quickly, the projected video does not record the movements, but if you move slowly, it responds. “It forces you to slow down,” said Drummond. “The idea is that it reads the participants’ movements and creates a database of characters. That becomes the district.” Drummond was inspired by the halation effect that occurs with 35-millimeter film. “Kodak spent many years trying to create formulations in their film stock that eliminate halation ... like when you take a picture of a street light with a 35-millimeter camera and the light goes through the lens barrel, through the film, bounces off the back plate of the camera and back onto the film, creating this abnormal halation pattern.” What that means in terms of the interactive video is that a halo effect appears on screen instead of a normal recorded image. The figure, a digital representation of the participant, appears as if it is dissipating or in a state of dissolution, his or her very molecules being diffused.
In addition to District, Drummond is showing some new-media works in which LCD video is embedded in cast glass. In Timekeeper in Green, for example, a pure white figure moves slowly, as though practicing tai chi or maybe dancing, trapped like a living soul in a block of green ice.
It is only in hindsight, according to Scully, that a loose theme emerges from this juxtaposition of five artists — and that is one in which technology and unconventional materials play a part. As in previous Alcoves shows (this is one of several, planned as a lead-up to the museum’s centennial next year), the real emphasis is on the diversity of mediums and the distinct visions of New Mexico’s contemporary artists. ◀