Staying Alive, a group exhibition curated by Mary Anna Pomonis with work by Oliver Held, Sonia Madan, Eric Smail, Ryan Lamb, Julie Zemel, Megan Geckler, Windy Givem, Allison Stewart, Kathleen Divney, and Terence Hannum
In the film "Saturday Night Fever" Tony Manero (played by John Travolta) transcends his daily life by defining himself through his dedication to his passion. In the opening sequence Tony carries a paint can and struts down the street encountering his everyday through the lens of music and rhythm. The artists in the group show "Staying Alive" similarly dance around their work life transforming their everyday experiences in and through a rigorous art making practice. This show addresses several critical questions of everyday industry and artistic practice. Does the everyday repetition of the work place influence an artist's studio work? Can people through fractured multitasking and time management achieve the level of clarity necessary to create an artistic oeuvre? Does a solid work ethic create an energetic art object?
This show examines the work of nine artists who balance full time employment with their studio practice. Some of the work represented in the show highlights devices used to overcome the fragmentation of studio time associated with the disruptions of work and life. For example, Allison Stewart's photographs focus on the little disruptions of the work day, a stolen moment looking for keys, a glance in a handbag. Her work relishes the distractions and finds meaning there. Another artist Ryan Lamb, approaches the metaphor of time management with literal aplomb, "juggling" video camera devices for experimental effects. Similarly within Wendy Given's practice, a fractured time structure creates quick images and their subsequent epitaphs as brief moments of private contemplation.
In other cases an artist's full time job affects both the content and materiality of the product. In other cases, an artist's full time job affects both the content and materiality of the product. Kathleen Divney, is a full time interior designer. Her paintings inspired by fabrics are at once subtle and decorative focusing on pattern at an almost cellular level. Oliver Held the German filmmaker here plays out his other role as a fine artist, turns his lens to the street outside a movie theater to record pedestrian traffic. Out of a five hour video recording he choose an exemplary part of three minutes to insert into a digital sampling of the entire five hours. Complex and meditative, Held's piece runs with an eerie effect much like an old silent movie.
Then, there is the transformation of material through labor in the work of Sonia Madan, Eric Smail, Megan Geckler and Julie Zemel. All three elevate the materiality of their sculptural material (paint,paper, flagging tape, and plaster respectively) through an obsession with finish. Sonia Madan focuses on a highly refined and patterned finish in her delicate paintings of hair. Eric Smail's paper sculptures are reminiscent of the fantastical creations of M.C. Escher and architect Buckminster Fuller. Megan Geckler's flagging tape sculptures are plastic constructions reminiscent of light+space and op-art movements Herculean in scale and effort Geckler's sculptures incorporate thousands of yards of tape and are physically anchored to the architecture of a space. Finally, Julie Zemel achieves an opulent almost velvety surface in her sculptures of rock chiseled to resemble a monstrous but beautiful face.
Finally,there is the interpretation of the artist as small businessman with Terence Hannum's homemade enterprise the zine "The Future Belongs to Ghosts".Hannums's accompanying record sleeve paintings of musicians evoke an artist's devotion to creative energy. Oscillating between art and writing Terence embodies the spirit of the show with a jack of all trades production that includes writing, drawing and painting.
Image:Oliver Held, Kino Bochum