Process and Paradox: Under Cover by Margery Amdur – Kenneth Steinbach

Margery Amdur’s dual Under Cover exhibits at Augsburg University are a rare glimpse into the process of art making. The Gage Gallery hosts Amdur’s completed installation, and the Christensen Gallery exhibits a collection of experiments and working processes that she uses in her practice and in this project in particular.

It is an understatement to say that Amdur has been generous in allowing the viewer into her artistic process. This kind of process work most often occurs well away from public eyes, and most artists are happy with that arrangement. There is safety in presenting only a finished product. Such isolation conceals failures, false starts, and decision-making processes and reinforces notions of “talent” that the artist might want to preserve. The glass walled Gage Gallery is also a very public space, leaving nowhere to hide. By constructing the work on site, Amdur lived out the process of art making in public in real time, a remarkable gift of honesty and vulnerability for the Augsburg community.

The Under Cover exhibits are two of several shows in the Twin Cities this fall related to a body of research into the methods and activities that successful artists use to sustain long-term artistic viability. This research occurred over a three-year period and was principally based on interviews with successful mid-career artists, including Amdur. The goal of the research was not to determine a formulaic set of criteria, but to aggregate the collected wisdom of this group into a constellation of activities that most artists do most of the time that keep them moving forward and productive in a sustainable practice. The resultant book, Creative Practices For Visual Artists: Time, Space, Process (Routledge Press 2018) explored these themes.

In both of Amdur’s exhibits we see examples of key ideas that emerged from the author’s interview research. One such theme is the tendency of artists to reinterpret visual ideas developed in one media into new media and materials. This is evident throughout the installation, as color groups, rhythmic patterning and structural imagery are translated back and forth between multiple media and dimensions. The elements in the installation are decidedly akin, with tremendous richness in this complexity as the visual ideas compliment, contradict, and interrelate. This is not simply a baroque layering of repetitive ornamentation, but a deep engagement with structural connections between many forms of natural and anthropocentric systems.

Amdur’s work in the Christensen Gallery, seemingly teleports much of her Philadelphia based studio into the gallery space. The exhibit includes a range of raw materials, multiple experiments, nearly finished works, and project stations on which viewers are invited to work on her constructions. The gallery demonstrates another key principle of art making: that successful artists are much more focused on maintaining a process out of which artwork periodically emerges than they are focused on making singular works. There is a sense of relentless experimentation visible here, and a radical hospitality to exploring potential new ideas, some of which clearly found their way into the finished installation. Used painting gloves, cosmetic sponges, and drinking straws fused with gel medium are all given serious consideration as potential participants in her works.

It is not that Amdur’s process is so open that any material/process/object can be indiscriminately dropped into it, an approach that would suggest a lack of intent and vision, but rather that her practice allows for many materials/ideas to become integrated into her visual lexicon through her joyful (and quite intense) manipulation and fabrication methods. This radical hospitality toward new input is not the end, but the beginning of the process by which new ideas and content are introduced into her works, a methodology that is constantly responsive to new opportunities and directions.

Less evident in the finished installation was an experience that occurred during its construction that illustrates a final key idea about artistic practice. After developing components of the project in her studio for months, then working with them for several days in the gallery, Amdur stated “I looked at the piece, and it just was not working, and I realized that I just needed to do something different than what I had planned.” It was a moment that seasoned artists know well, as they face the limitations in their ability to predetermine where the art is going and how it might be successful. To a large degree, artists are finding their best work within their process, often in ways they don’t expect. These are moments that Amdur says “mirrors who we are and reflects the best part of ourselves back to us.” It is a paradoxical way of working in which the results of dedicated experimentation, labor and research are necessary, but not enough to move beyond our own limitations. We often need to break our preconceptions as well.

Fittingly, Amdur states that paradox is a key idea in Under Cover. We can see it in the way the installation simultaneously engages many forms of dualities and tensions that stand in balance and counterbalance. The work does not allow an easy resolution between them but permits us to experience their dynamic relationship in a way that is more honest, raw, and unfiltered.

-Kenneth Steinbach

More information about Creative Practices For Visual Artists: Time, Space, Process and supporting research can be found at kennethsteinbach.com.

 

 

 

Max Bray – Senior Show

September 10 – 27, 2018

Gallery 720, Christensen Center

Artist Talk: Thursday, September 27, 5:30 – 7 p.m. Gallery 720, Christensen Center

Going Down South:Music and Cultural Production on the Mississippi River
Max Bray

 

Statement

I strive to create art that is inspired by the things I appreciate most, which are music and nature.  I like these elements to be represented boldly and in a fashion that is hard to ignore. My artwork is presented in a simple format, but it is unique because it utilizes everyday objects in unconventional ways. My best work encompasses a vibrant texture that creates movement while being straightforward and accessible. I think about what it is I want to do by indulging myself in inspiration and being hands on with the objects I am using to create a piece of work. I want to present art that uses objects and materials in a way that that people have not experienced.

For this project, I wanted to explore the idea of the Mississippi River as a potent sources of cultural production in America. Along its banks, through each state it touches, artists influenced by the river have created some of America’s most powerful and timeless music. Representing this music has to be done with a gut feelings and by hand using minimal materials with no second guesses.

 

Bio

Max Bray is from St.Paul, Minnesota finishing up his 10 years of work toward a B.A. in Graphic Design. Bray uses wood blocks, linoleum, and slabs of ink to share his interpretation of landscape, nature, and music.

ADAM WHITE

SORTA LIKE Conversation – ADAM WHITE

November 1 – December 14, 2018 – Christensen Gallery

Reception: Thursday, November 1, 6-8 p.m


Adam White’s installation work uses altered comic book story narrative, by way of dialogue bubbles, to represent the wave of information we constantly process from day to day. Thrown out of context by removing the comic imagery, the remaining dialogue can only hint at a larger story, unable to provide the full narrative.

 

Bio

Adam White is an artist living and working in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 2007 he received a Master of Fine Art with a focus on Installation and Paper Sculpture from the University of Maryland, College Park, and in 2004 a Bachelor of Fine Art in Painting and Drawing from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He has exhibited work in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Detroit, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, and New York City.

His current studio work uses altered comic book story narrative, by way of dialogue bubbles, to represent the wave of news or personal information we constantly process from day to day. Thrown out of context by removing the comic imagery, the remaining dialogue can only hint at a larger story, unable to provide the full narrative. The work, composed of thousands of overlaid paper word bubbles, varies between medium to large scale wall installations.

ADRIFT BY CHRIS WILLCOX

ADRIFT

November 1 – December 14, 2018 – Gage Family Art Gallery

Reception: Thursday November 1, 6-8 p.m.


Artist Statement

The artwork that comprises the series Adrift (2017-2018) deals with human migration and, in particular, the global refugee and migrant crisis.  More than 65 million people around the world are now officially displaced from their homes by conflict, violence and persecution – the highest figure recorded by the United Nations since the Second World War.

I felt morally obligated to make work that might add to the compassionate and sympathetic viewpoint supporting refugees seeking asylum and safety.   Media sources have provided a steady stream of now-familiar imagery showing groups of people kept behind chain link fencing, incarcerated children in detention centers, or figures in life jackets crowded into flimsy, inflatable rafts crossing the Mediterranean Sea.  As Susan Sontag points out, “the western memory museum is now mostly a visual one,” and the volume of images depicting far flung, upsetting stories has reached a fever pitch. The paintings in Adrift  present a cobbled-together synthesis of familiar media images representing this humanitarian crisis.

As reference, I have either used media photographs as inspiration or repurposed them by fixing them directly to the panel or canvas. This practice allows me to work within the conversation that already exists. The “seams” between the borrowed photographs and the painted surfaces are meant to be evident. Using photographs as an element in the work allows me to honor their existence, power, and gravity. The painted surfaces re-orient the original photos towards a more dream-like space where a reset or pause button can be hit that allows for reflection where shock and horror once reigned.

The large paintings of the sea are meant to disrupt the picturesque ideal of ocean panoramas. I want to place the viewer in the water as if swimming (or drowning).  News photos of ocean crossings often place viewers at a safe distance (such as on the shore), where we are allowed to witness migrants’ passages at a safe remove. The paintings are meant to be somber reminders of real-life struggles and individual human lives. The water is depicted as black, tumultuous, or in extreme close-up as if to engulf and surround the viewer. My intention is to put the viewer in the same position that refugees and migrants are forced into. The works in Adrift represent a loose and unspecified narrative that the viewer can piece together. The images are taken from media sources of the last few years, but they are also meant to represent the long and grim history of perilous ocean crossings, slavery, and human suffering.

 

Bio

Canadian painter Chris Willcox was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. She earned degrees from the Ontario College of Art and Design and the University of Guelph. She earned her MFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University, in New Jersey. She moved to the Twin Cities in 2000 to accept a position at Macalester College in St. Paul, where she is a tenured professor in the Art and Art History department. Her work has been shown at galleries in the U.S. and Canada, with her most recent being at the MAEP galleries at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Phipps Center for the Arts. She is the recipient of numerous grants, including Canada Council and Ontario Arts Council Grants, and most recently in 2013-14, a George and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation Fellowship in Painting and a Minnesota State Arts Board Grant.

 

MARGERY AMDUR

UNDER COVER by Margery Amdur

September 6 – October 17, 2018

Christensen Center & Gage Family Art Gallery


Artist Talk: Wednesday, October 17, 12:30 p.m.

Adeline Johnson Conference Center

 

Creative Process Panel Discussion:

Wednesday, October 17, 6:30 p.m. Auditorium 150, MCAD


Artist Statement

As an artist, I traverse multiple disciplines and my art does not fit easily into categories.  I have worked for much of my career with landscape and personal typographies as metaphors for cultivating visual tensions where issues of abstraction and representation intersect. If one of the jobs of representation is to show how the world looks, abstraction is free to reflect our sense of what matters in the world.

 

I was trained as an abstract painter; but my work rarely resides within a two-dimensional picture plane.  I use unorthodox materials to build form and mass in ways that include extravagant and ornate surfaces. Additionally, I utilize the installation format as a way to navigate what once existed as a large divide between Painting and Sculpture.  Within this context many of the handcrafted elements can be manipulated to permit recycling and revitalization of older ideas, and can also be tailored to more than one location. I believe that when an artist chooses the installation format as their primary form of expression the relationship between the artist and the viewer/audience, becomes more actively engaged and a richer dialogue inevitably ensues.

 

In the past two years I have produced work that continues to reveal the importance of my hand as a primary tool, and has primarily been oriented for gallery and museum settings. Cosmetic sponges have become my building blocks. By manipulating commercially produced “make-up” sponges I have created formations inspired by natural and architectural geometry.  Luscious and voluptuous constructions have been inspired by “living walls,” basalt formations, and aerial views of sprawling urban metropolises. I build  “poetic moments” that become densely layered and eventually monumental. At the core, my constructions probe an array of paradoxes— organic and inorganic matter, machine manufacturing and handcrafting, permanence and impermanence, beauty and deterioration.

 

Bio

Originally from Pittsburgh, Margery Amdur received her B.F.A. from Carnegie-Mellon University and her M.F.A. from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Margery has had over 60 solo and two-person exhibitions. Her international exhibitions include Turkey, Hungary, Poland, England, Iceland, Latvia, and Suriname.

She has been reviewed in national and international publications including Sculpture MagazineNew American PaintingsFiber ArtsNew Art Examinerand Art Papers. In 2014, her work was on the cover of ArtVoices, and will soon be in a third edition of the Manifest International Publications.


For over twenty years, Margery has been actively creating site-specific, indoor and outdoor temporary and permanent art installations. In 2012, she completed Walking on Sunshine, a permanent public art project, in the Spring Garden underground-subway station, Philadelphia, PA. In the fall of 2015, as part of the Art in Airport Program, Margery created My Nature, a mixed-media, and site-specific installation in Terminal B, at the Philadelphia International Airport. As part of her six-week residency at Central European University, Budapest, Hungary, she and a group of students created Inside/Out, an installation in the interior of one of elevators on CEU campus. In 2016 and 2017 the US Embassy selected Amass #16 to be installed in the US Ambassador’s Residence, in Riga, Latvia. Amass #17 was permanently installed in the newly completed US Embassy Headquarters in Paramaribo, Suriname.

Spring 2018 should prove to be a dynamic and productive period. Margery will be exhibiting her work in Material Slip, an international exhibition at the University of Hawaii. In April, she returns to Riga, Latvia as artist in residence at the University of Art and Design. In addition, she currently has an installation in Riga’s Sixth International Textile Fiber Triennial at the Museum of Applied Arts and Exhibition Hall Arsenals. As the recipient of the Jerry Shore Fellowship Margery will spent the month of May at the Vermont Studio Center. Fall of 2018, She will be exhibiting a new installation, in the Gage ad Christensen Center Gallery at Augsburg University, Minneapolis MN.

 

margeryamdur.com