Exhibition catalogue for Don Stinson at the David B. Smith Gallery
October 25 – November 23, 2013
Don Stinson: The Road to Valentine
Softcover, 10 x 7 1/4 inches, 62 pages, 27 color images
Foreword: Jerry Smith, Curator of American and Western Art, Phoenix Art Museum
Essay: Karen E. Brooks, Historian, Department Assistant of the Petrie Institute of Western American Art at the Denver Art Museum
Printed and bound in the United States
Published by David B. Smith Gallery, 2013
Stinson is probably best known for his diptych at the Denver Art Museum titled “The Necessity of Ruins.” Though the piece is not currently on display, it’s familiar to many, since it’s a popular attraction of the Western collection. “Ruins” is a depiction of an abandoned drive-in movie theater; the scene is anchored by a weathered movie screen in one panel and by the natural landscape in the other, and the two paintings have been tied together with a drive-in speaker stand. In this piece, Stinson lays out the key to his chief interest: exploring the way society has intruded on nature.
Most of the paintings in this show were done in the last year or two and are set in Colorado, Utah or New Mexico; nearly all of them include buildings or other structures as significant elements. When I ran into Stinson at the gallery, he remarked that everything was set in the morning — shortly before, during, or immediately after sunrise. He also noted how important it was for him to be part of a longstanding tradition — the landscape — in regional art, saying that it helps to define what’s special about an artist living in this part of the country. It was Stinson who remarked during a panel discussion in 2007 that the Rockies were a celebrity landscape — and he’s right. And it was our scenery that created a nascent art world in this part of the country more than a century ago, even if the landscape is now just one of many approaches being taken by artists around here.
Stinson’s technique in oil on linen seems to come out of the classic realist tradition, with the paint applied smoothly and brushmarks kept to a minimum. Though he’s best known for his depictions of rural ruins, Stinson also does renderings of other artworks. The first of two in this show is a view of the famous “Spiral Jetty,” by Robert Smithson, that juts into the Great Salt Lake. In the Stinson, the jetty is in the foreground, with the curving clouds in the background creating a marvelous pictorial balance. And what more can you say about a traditional depiction of a conceptual object? It’s brilliant.Also great is the diptych “Early Winter Morning: Genesee Park,” in which Charles Deaton’s famous “Sculptured House” is illuminated before dawn in the panel on the left while the one on the right catches the twinkling lights of early morning in Denver.
Don Stinson at Smith is the first solo the artist has had in years, and it’s a majestic offering.
“….For endo/exo, Theodore began with the space itself, which he studied down to the pattern of its rafters and the ventilation equipment. Theodore then constructed the resulting monumental piece–28 feet long, 12 feet tall–along one wall of the gallery. The exterior has an industrial feel, made up of an architectonic grid of dark-colored metal strips, accented by mechanized rods arranged in a regular rhythm that move in response to the viewer’s presence. The open grid allows viewers to clearly see the interior, which is soft and expressive, filled with draped and knotted ropes–”I wanted to do something by hand,” notes Theodore. These ropes are bathed in light in different colors at different times. There is an obvious theatricality to endo/exo, reflecting Theodore’s experiences in performing music. “It’s very theatrical, with the lights coming up, and though I didn’t intend it consciously, I can certainly see the proscenium aspects of it,” Theodore says. Interestingly, in light of Theodore’s music interests, endo/exo does not have a composed sound track, but instead its sounds are made by its moving elements which speed up or slow down depending on whether someone is in front of them or not.
Although Theodore has only been on the state’s art radar for a little over a year, his work, in particular his ambitious installations, have made just about everyone sit up and listen–or, in this case, look.”
Second Street Gallery, a nonprofit (501(c)3) artspace, is committed to offering Charlottesville and the central Virginia region leading-edge new art in perspective and context, and to fostering an active and open appreciation of this art by directly engaging the issues surrounding works by the best contemporary artists in the field.
SSG’s primary mission is to enliven Virginia through access to the best in contemporary art and artists and to inspire new ways of thinking, seeing, and doing. To this end, SSG promotes contemporary artists through the presentation of their work in a professional gallery and encourages an appreciation of contemporary art and culture by educating the public through exhibitions, lectures, workshops, classes, tours, and publications.
“….For today’s digital artists, the code and algorithms we live in present a similar frontier. They’re our new environment, offering us striking new experiences and abilities. As James Bridle points out, using something as prosaic as the location check-in app Foursquare requires a feat of superhuman sensing—pinging GPS satellites launched into space by the military—that is frankly sort of nuts if you think about it. Yet generally we don’t think about it. So the unifying thread of the new digital artists is to make us notice our technological environment—to enable us to scrutinize the digital furniture of our lives instead of just sinking into it. Aitken blazed the way with video, making our glimmering LCD screens seem uncanny. The new generation of digital artists coming in his wake are going one step further: They’re not just using our daily tools to make art. They’re turning it into a ubiquitous gallery.
Consider Brooklyn artist Molly Dilworth , who’s done a series she calls Paintings for Satellites. She painted seven huge abstract works on the roofs of buildings in New York and Kansas and then waited for weeks or months until they showed up on Google Earth. When you look at the pictures—most of which are still visible online—you realize with a shock precisely how bionic online maps make us. It’s human vision streaming through satellites. “When we’re on our phones, we’re looking through satellites,” she tells me. Sure, the paintings are lovely and witty. But they’re also disturbing, because the mere act of viewing them makes you feel like you’re spying, which is precisely the point….”
For their September issue, Juxtapoz magazine produced a beautiful feature and interview with Laura Ball, which includes images of Ball at work as well as selections from her recent bodies of work.
From the stirring introduction to Ball’s interview, Hannah Stouffer writes: Ball’s work embodies the dynamism of pure naturalism remaining grounded in the values of reality that we tend to forget. It is heavily laced with botanical elements and an underlying injunction to protect what is real. The environment she has created is that from which we came; it is greater than us, it is all we have, and it has us.
For the full interview with Laura Ball, pick up a copy of Juxtapoz, available at newstands now.
Interdisciplinary artist Tobias Fike has collaborated on two exciting projects for the Biennial of the Americas. The Denver-based biennial is an international festival of art, culture, and ideas, that inspires critical thinking and promotes action, opened this week, with city-wide events, exhibitions, and programming featuring leading artists, architects, and thinkers.
Beach Ball Collision Test, documented above, is a collaboration between Fike and sculptor Matthew Harris, created for the group show, First Draft, which is part of the exhibition Draft Urbanism. For the performance and its accompanying single-channel video, Fike and Harris catapult beach balls toward each other, which hit with a resounding clap. The work explores the contrast between play and the absurd, with notions of masculinity, and the violence often associated with adversarial exercises.
Fike’s second project for the biennial is called, The Butterfly Effect: All the Days, All Our Actions. A collaboration with artist Alvin Gregorio, this commissioned project addresses the concept of the butterfly effect and the sometimes unintended consequences of our actions. Featuring a butterfly nesting area, and serving as a stage for performances throughout the duration of the biennial, the project reminds both speakers and audience members of the potential scope of impact, both good and bad, from small actions.
Please visit the Draft Urbanism page for more information about the arts programming of the biennial, and the Biennial of the Americas website for more information about this summerlong event.
Regan Rosburg’s exhibition Maelstrom was featured in Art Ltd. magazine as a Critic’s Pick, with critic Michael Paglia noting, “One standout feature of the works is Rosburg’s delicate touch in her drafting, which when combined with the gauzy effects of the resins give the paintings the substantiality of gossamer.”
A selection of works by Laura Ball featured in her winter exhibition at the gallery, Minotaur, have been added to the collection of the Denver Art Museum. A gift of the Eleanor and Henry Hitchcock Charitable Foundation, Collection 1, and Zanesville Mandala, were formally added to the museum’s permanent collection.
The Denver Art Museum, founded in 1893, sits in Denver’s Golden Triangle neighborhood, with a building complex of over 350,000 square feet. The museum’s permanent collection comprises more than 70,000 works of art, divided between nine collections.
“When you enter your local supermarket, the door will most likely slide open automatically, welcoming you as it senses your presence. There’s nothing remarkable about that, you’re accustomed to the simple technology of motion sensors. What is remarkable is that technological fixtures such as motion sensors have become so ubiquitous that we scarcely notice them anymore. They are a part of your daily routine, a simple and unnoticed interaction with technology. It is that subtle relationship between man and machine that new media artist Michael Theodore explores in his solo exhibition organism/mechanism currently showing at David B. Smith Gallery in Denver.
At the entrance of the gallery stands the monumental sculptural piece, endo/exo (2013). Spanning most of the length of the darkened lobby and rising from ceiling to floor, a flow of ambient LED light reflects off organic clumps of yarn creating a James Turrell-like illuminated atmosphere. However, moving closer to the piece, one is able to see how it departs from traditional light and space work when rows of rods begin rotating in response to the presence of the viewer. endo/exo is similar in design to many of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s pieces that also utilize motion sensors to create kinetic sculpture. However, Theodore’s work ventures further into traditional media in addition to the technological formats. This creates an environment that enhances sensual perception through the use of light and sound as well as movement.
Further in the gallery, there are ten abstract works on paper with a very organic feel to them. Upon closer inspection, it can be seen that the lines are actually perfectly inscribed, created by an automatic drawing machine programed to produce patterns so complex as to appear organic. Underneath these lines, Theodore plays with the tension between man and machine by hand-painting delicate color fields that glow through the machine made line work. In addition, there are three sharply produced digital videos with accompanying video stills. Each video is a digital environment that mimics water, ice and clouds, organic forms that become abstracted in a digital world. They were created using software, but there is something organic and comforting about watching the gently oscillating waves of a digital ocean or a spinning cloud-like formation.
All of the works in the show explore the synthesis between the machine made and organic forms. However, it is when Theodore is creating immersive interactive environments that the artist is at his best. By blending technological tools with our biological perceptions, Theodore is opening up a world of new possibilities within the viewer/object relationship.”