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Monday, January 28, 2013

Environmental-themed art exhibit opens at Wesleyan's Zilkha Gallery Tuesday, Jan. 29

Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, Wesleyan University
238 Washington Ter., Middletown, (860) 685-3355
Through Mar. 3, 2012.
Opening reception: Tues., Jan. 29, 4:30—6:30 p.m.
Gallery talk at 5 p.m by guest curator Judith Hoos Fox.
Artist Lecture with Lucy Orta: Tue., Feb. 26, 4:15 p.m. in the CFA Hall

Press release from the Zilkha Gallery

FOOD-WATER-LIFE---LUCY+JORGE ORTA, an exhibition of sculptures, drawings, mixed-media installations and video that explores crucial themes of the contemporary world—biodiversity, environmental conditions, climate change and exchange among peoples, organized by Ginger Gregg Duggan and Judith Hoos Fox of c2 curatorsquared for Tufts University Art Gallery, Medford, Massachusetts, will be on view in Wesleyan University’s Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery from Fri., Jan. 25 through Sun., Mar. 3, 2013. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Sunday from Noon to 5pm. Gallery admission is free.

The public is invited to attend the opening reception on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013 from 4:30—6:30 p.m., with a gallery talk at 5 p.m. by Judith Hoos Fox, co-curator of the exhibition. The opening reception is free.

Artist Lucy Orta will discuss the ideas explored in the exhibition FOOD-WATER-LIFE---LUCY+JORGE ORTA in the context of Studio Orta’s work during a free lecture on Tue., Feb. 26, 2013 at 4:15 p.m. in the CFA Hall, located at 287 Washington Terrace on the Wesleyan campus in Middletown, Connecticut.

This is the first comprehensive exhibition of work by the French wife-husband duo Lucy+Jorge Orta to be presented in the United States. The works in this exhibition are drawn from major solo exhibitions by the Ortas held at venues around the world. FOOD-WATER-LIFE---LUCY+JORGE ORTA debuted at the Tufts University Art Gallery in Medford, Massachusetts in September 2012. Following the engagement at Wesleyan University, FOOD-WATER-LIFE---LUCY+JORGE ORTA will travel to museum venues across the United States, including the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York in 2014; and the Ben Maltz Gallery, Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, California and the Richard E. Peeler Art Center, DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana in 2015.

The works in FOOD-WATER-LIFE embody the philosophy that steers the pioneering art practice of Lucy+Jorge Orta, "the ethics of aesthetics." As heirs to the practice of social sculpture, formulated by Joseph Beuys in the 1960s, the Ortas’ works are reflections of their own function—beguiling assemblages that are the platform for the preparation of food, mechanisms that actually purify water, and elements created for their 2007 expedition to Antarctica, and that are part of an effort to amend the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The works in this exhibition are metaphors-in-action, constructions that perform the tasks of which they are emblematic.

These humorous, jerrybuilt contraptions are obviously not the most efficient means to purify, prepare and transport food and water, or to launch a world-wide humanitarian effort. It is in their ability to actually function, albeit awkwardly and haltingly, that these objects gain power as works of art created to move us to awareness and action. The artists have created a unique visual language through which they tackle the major global issues affecting our lives and the precarious position of this planet. As the Ortas' artwork communicates widely to audiences beyond the field of contemporary art, it demonstrates the importance of art as a creative agent for awareness and change.

The works in the FOOD section of the exhibition are drawn from the series "HortiRecycling" (1997-present) that focuses on the food chain in global and local contexts. Through an ongoing series of actions and interventions and the integral associated equipment, the Ortas deal with alternative systems for a just distribution of food. The fact that farmers in European Union countries still have to destroy millions of fresh agricultural products each year because of cheap imports from industrial farming countries, despite worldwide hunger, inspired the artists to create this project. The precipitating action was the collection of fruits and vegetables that had been discarded at markets. They were carefully washed, and celebrity chefs created meals and put up preserves from these rescued foodstuffs. The produce was transported to the exhibition site on moveable-processing units equipped with sinks, cutting surfaces, and hot plates. Now sculptural objects, their life as working kitchens is complete.

The works in the WATER section of the exhibition are part of the series "OrtaWater" (2005-present) that focuses on the general scarcity of this vital resource and the issues surrounding the privatization and corporate control that affect access to clean water. The aim of this work is to contribute proactively to the broadening of our understanding and development of sustainable solutions for the dilemmas surrounding water—its purification, transport, and distribution. Through combining functional objects, photography and sound, the Ortas create and communicate the reach of the issue through means of ameliorating it, through contraptions that are both playful and provocative. Of particular significance is their research into low-cost purification and distribution devices, to provoke a wider understanding of the current technologies available. Fully functioning machines and bottling stations distributing purified OrtaWater are incorporated into these artworks, enabling filthy water to be pumped and filtered directly from neighboring polluted water sources. The pump-station was first tested during the Venice Biennale in 2005, pumping water from the Grand Canal that was then purified and offered in sample bottles to visitors.

Lucy+Jorge Orta: "OrtaWater-Fluvial Intervention Unit," 2005, Canadian maple wood canoe, steel structure, glass shelves, copper and plastic tubes, gloves, 4 buckets, 4 crates, 4 water drums, 2 water tanks, 2 light projectors, 4 flasks, copper tubes and taps, audio mp3, speakers, 24 OrtaWater bottles, 102 ½ x 200 ¾ x 47 ¼ in. Courtesy of the artists and Galleria Continua, San Gimignano / Beijing / le Moulin. Photography: Gino Gabrieli

The works in the LIFE section of the exhibition are drawn from the series "Antarctica" (2007-present) that focuses on international human rights and free international migration. Their most ambitious project to date, Lucy+Jorge Orta produced an expedition and installation "Antarctic Village—No Borders," that took place in Antarctica in 2007 through a commission by The End of the World Biennale. This multi-part project addresses issues of the environment, politics, autonomy, habitat, mobility, and relationships among peoples. There are several inter-related groupings of work in this project, including the "Drop Parachutes," each focusing on critical human needs for food, water and comfort; "Survival Kits," wall-mounted assemblages with similar purposes; a film that poetically transmutes us into fellow expedition participants; and a utopian passport that would insure free movement across all borders, available to visitors who voluntarily add their name to the petition to amend the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights with new Article 13.3, a reminder that we are all part of one precarious and fragile planet.

About Lucy+Jorge Orta

The collaborative practice of Lucy+Jorge Orta focuses on a number of sustainability issues tackling the ecological and the social factors to realize major bodies of work employing a number of mediums ranging from drawing, sculpture, installation, object making, couture, painting, silkscreen printing and "Light Works," as well as staging workshops, ephemeral interventions and performances. Some of the most emblematic series are "Refuge Wear" and "Body Architecture"—portable minimum habitats bridging architecture and dress; "70 x 7 The Meal"—the ritual of dining and its role in community networking; "The Gift"—a metaphor for the heart and the biomedical ethics of organ donation; and "Amazonia"—the value of the natural environment to our daily lives and to our survival.

Working in partnership since 2005, the duo creates, produces, and assembles their artworks and large installations together with a team of artists, designers, architects, and craftspeople. They stage on-location workshops, ephemeral interventions, residencies, and master classes, which explore the crucial themes of the contemporary world: the community, autonomy, dwelling, migration, sustainable development, and recycling.

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