Lisa Conrad, Eduardo Martinez, Lili Martinez, David Meyer, Arthur Myer, Tom Torluemke, Shuko Wada, Chris Heenan, Dan Wallace, and Jack The Dog (Jeff Kowalkowski and Carrie Biolo).
In Present, curators Adelheid Mers and Jacqueline Terrassa assembled artists interested in expressing the relationship between artist, object and viewer, whose practice probed the presentational and aesthetic parameters of the art world. John Dewey’s text “Art as Experience” (1934) served as a foundation for the conceptual framework of this exhibition. In this text, Dewey characterizes the artist as an individual interested in new ways of seeing the world. According to the author artists develop propositions, embodie them in the creation of objects, and offer the propositions up for scrutiny by interested individuals who, in the act of applying their own set of parameters to the object, create art. Dewey goes further on to explain that “art is not an object, art is the result of an interactive process”, each work has to be deemed interactive regardless of the medium that has been used in its creation.
Present explored how artists considered the ways in which the viewer perceives and meets art. The artists in the exhibition explored possibilities of how they wanted their work to function, but also resisted the impulse to impose definitive answers to their questions that their own work raised. The artworks in the exhibition were predominantly non-object oriented and low-tech borrowing from conceptual and process art traditions. Drawing from simple gestures, autobiographical sources, everyday experiences, and the activities that took place in the space itself, the artworks in the show in a straightforward way proposed a direct, dynamic, and sometimes physical engagement with the viewer. Using a stark, steady stream of words as the single image on the screen, together with pulsating sounds of a person playing basketball, Lisa Conrad‘s video/audio installation instilled written text with the characteristics of the fleeting spoken word and gave sound almost the permanence of a visual offering, involving the viewer in a rhythmic narrative. In a game of time and self-imposed rules similar to that of musical improvisation, Tom Torluemke used the audience’s movements to set the parameters for his wall drawings. Through this creative structure, he delayed his own expectations of the work to the moment of response. Eduardo Martinez‘s work unfolded in the context of a mock architect’s studio. Objects were rearranged, materials were brought in and removed, at times the artist was present, at times just his objects were seen, and an installation was created in the space by means of performance. The images in David Meyer‘s sculptures continuously created, destroyed, and transformed themselves as a result of the viewer’s active participation. Action led to sound and motion, bringing to mind similar noises, and familiar pattern. Arthur Myer brought his studio into the gallery space in the form of an array of scavenged fragments, and offered them up for examination. Order, material, and play suggested possible stories. Using basic materials, Shuko Wada‘s architectural piece confronted the viewer with the unconventional use of masking tape in the gallery space. While Lili Martinez offered a collection of written moments along with a space to rest the body, allowing the mind to wander, probe and recognize. Chris Heenan, Dan Wallace and Jack the Dog (Jeff Kowalkowski and Carrie Biolo), contributed their musical compositions, and created additional opportunities to engage in the already ongoing exchange between auditory and visual artists.
Present opened with a reception for the artists from 4-6 pm on Sunday, June 8 that was free and open to the public. In conjunction with Present, Chicago composers/instrumentalists Chris Heenan, Dan Wallace, and Jack the Dog offered three sets of new, experimental music on Saturday, June 14, from 6-8 pm. Admission to the event was $6 for HPAC members and $8 for general public (and includes a free drink). On Saturday, June 21, at 3 pm, the Art Center hosted an open discussion with the artists, performers, and curators.