P R E S S R E L E A S E S 2003
April 10, 2003
Yankee Remix Features Nine New Works and Surprising Collaboration
MASS MoCA and the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA) Team Up for Exhibition
May 24, 2003, through Spring 2004
(North Adams, Mass.) Starting May 24, 2003, MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) exhibits the fruition of on an exciting - if unlikely - collaborative venture with the Boston-based Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA). Yankee Remix: Artists Take On New England features newly commissioned works by nine artists who are shining new light on hidden corners of SPNEA's extensive collection. Artists Rina Banerjee, Ann Hamilton, Martin Kersels, Zoe Leonard, Annette Messager, Manfred Pernice, Huang Yong Ping, Lorna Simpson, and Frano Violich were given the freedom to work with any of the more than one million objects and archival documents -- in any order, in any way -- resulting in surprising insights and striking juxtapositions. In employing these objects in the course of making new art, the artists breathed fresh life into everything from 19th-century copybooks to Victorian trunks, dressmaker forms to straw brooms.
The exhibition concept parallels and amplifies the concept behind MASS MoCA itself. The museum, housed on a restored 19th-century factory campus, is the largest center for contemporary art in the country. Just as MASS MoCA itself reimagines an industrial vernacular site as a lively site of creativity and innovation, Yankee Remix invents new art from objects in SPNEA's remarkably rich and diverse collection of historic artifacts.
The partnership with SPNEA continues MASS MoCA's tradition of collaborating with other arts institutions regionally, nationally, and internationally. From SITE Santa Fe to MAK Vienna in the visual arts, and from contemporary music icons Bang on a Can to Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival and Mabou Mines theater troupe in the performing arts, MASS MoCA has regularly teamed up with a vast spectrum of institutions, organizations, and artist groups to develop and present exceptional contemporary art in all media.
Yankee Remix is co-sponsored by Altria Group, Inc. and The Porches Inn. Yankee Remix is co-organized by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, Boston, Massachusetts, and MASS MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts.
The SPNEA Collection
For this exhibition, the SPNEA collection acts as the common ground and launching pad for a tremendous range of creative responses from the participating artists. With a minimum of conditions determined by art conservation requirements, artists were each given the opportunity to interpret and re-examine the collection. "In choosing artists, we sought a broad spectrum of practices and points of view, and a degree of geographic diversity. By design, the artists -- with one exception -- are not from New England. We were interested to see what an outsider looking in might have to say about New England, through the material culture that has defined our home region. The artists all have a history of employing 'readymades' in their work -- these are artists who are comfortable using found objects in their art," said Laura Heon, MASS MoCA's curator. "In Yankee Remix, SPNEA's specific collection is the unifying thread that binds the work together. All nine artists departed from the same place but went in different and fascinating directions. "
Three overlapping and interlocking themes emerged from the artists' proposals: First, several artists, including Martin Kersels and Zoe Leonard, examine the very concept of collecting as a way to fix the meaning of objects and to invoke a truthful record of a past. Second, some artists, including Rina Banerjee and Huang Yong Ping, focus on the relationship between New England and the rest of the world through the "heritage industry" and travel and tourism. Lastly, some of the artists, including Ann Hamilton and Annette Messager, address the sensory lives of objects -- the way that objects are understood through the body.
"We are delighted to partner with MASS MoCA on this exhibition," commented Ken Turino, SPNEA's Director of Exhibitions. "It has been a great pleasure to welcome the artists. Staff were amazed at what the artists selected -- instead of choosing the showiest pieces, they opted for everyday objects relating to the home, which represent the core of SPNEA's collection. They felt objects like cradles, farm tools, dress forms, and furniture had universal appeal."
About the Artists and the Work
Calcutta-born artist Rina Banerjee was drawn to items in the SPNEA collection that concern cultural differences, heritage, and travel. As part of her installation at MASS MoCA, Banerjee will make a large (20' x 20' x 20') replica of the Taj Mahal, with a PVC pipe "skeleton" and a "skin" of rose-colored plastic wrap. Banerjee's point of view is informed by her rich understanding of two sharply contrasting cultures -- East (Calcutta) and West (New York). She mixes elements from two disparate cultures, drawing attention to the hybridity of both. In this exhibition she examines the transition from history into myth. Her work has been shown recently at the Whitney Museum at Philip Morris, the 2000 Whitney Biennial, Debs & Co., and the Queens Museum.
The SPNEA archival collection provided unusual fodder for Ann Hamilton's continuing exploration of the relations among thought, language, and the body. Hamilton discovered a group of 19th-century children's copybooks, photos of schooners, and cartes de visites at SPNEA that intrigued her. Using those materials, Hamilton will make a meditative video and sound installation. Hamilton's work has been displayed in museums and galleries across the globe for more than 20 years. She has exhibited at MoMA; the 1999 Venice Biennale, where she was the official US representative; and at Tate Liverpool. Her many awards included the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship Award, as well as the Guggenheim and the National Endowment for the Arts Visual Arts Fellowships.
Among the 100,000 objects in SPNEA's main Haverill storage facility, Huang Yong Ping was intrigued by a small lacquered dragon-shaped vessel. For the exhibition at MASS MoCA, Huang proposes to scale this little dragon up to mammoth proportions - it will be over 50' in length, dominating one of the museum's largest galleries. The dragon will become an actual boat conveying a group of Victorian traveling trunks and propelled by a strange collection of straw brooms, swords, wooden sock forms, and walking sticks, all in place of oars. Living in Paris since 1989, Ping consistently and poetically mixes elements of the East and West in his work, with influence from Joseph Beuys, John Cage, and Marcel Duchamp in addition to the tenets of I Ching and Taoism. He has had solo shows at the De Appel Foundation, Amsterdam, the Fondation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain, Paris, and the 1999 Venice Biennale, along with a previous appearance at MASS MoCA.
Los Angeles artist Martin Kersels was drawn to Beauport, one of the most interesting and challenging of SPNEA's historic houses. Built near the ocean, the house is daily exposed to extreme weather conditions and tides SPNEA's mission to preserve this house ultimately constitutes a war on entropy itself. To Kersels, this unending struggle seemed fantastic, romantic, and absurd, yet somehow the right thing to do, noble even – and something akin to a fairy tale. In response, he has created a shoe house. The old lady who lived in Kersels' shoe (actually a Revolutionary War riding boot) is long dead, and her children have abandoned it, letting the forest and local miscreant teenagers turn it into a decrepit place. A former student of Los Angeles-based performance artist Chris Burden, Kersels has often used his own body (at 6'7" and over 300 pounds, that is a statement of his own) to make his work. On the other hand, he has made numerous site-specific works that not only uncover assumptions about the body but also about space and culture. A recent survey of Kersels' work was shown at the Kunsthalle in Bern as well as one-person shows at Deitch Projects, New York City, and Acme Gallery, Los Angeles.
Zoe Leonard will shoot photographs of some of the most mundane, everyday objects in SPNEA's collection. She will then produce postcards from these images - several thousand copies of 32 images - which will be displayed on "postcard trees" in the gallery, where they will be available for acquisition by visitors. Leonard (a New Yorker) began her career as a photographer, but her recent work has involved orange peels, dolls, and old suitcases, among other diverse materials. Her work relates these objects to the larger issues of humanity or institutional authority. She has had solo shows at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Kunsthalle in Basel.
Annette Messager will work with four groupings of objects - dressmaker's forms, firearms, farm tools and furniture. Although Messager is still refining her contribution to the exhibition, the group will be animated in some way, possibly with mechanical mice that run on pullies throughout the installation. In previous work, Messager has employed stuffed toys, disconcerting photographs, and plastic bags of yarn in large installations that probe both the material and the personal. Messager lives and works in Paris, and she has had one-person exhibitions at MoMA, the Los Angeles County Museum, and the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.
German artist Manfred Pernice plans Wonderland, one of the more "Yankee-centric" installations in the exhibition. As he describes it, "a cross between a boxing ring and a laboratory," the large construction will utilize a variety of objects from SPNEA, including some that relate directly to the Bunker Hill war monument. The installation concerns a moment of cultural conflict; it refers to one of the most famous revolutionary battles but also to more recent events. Pernice recently had solo exhibitions at Anton Kern Gallery (New York).
Lorna Simpson selected the Gropius House of Lincoln, Massachusetts, from SPNEA's remarkable collection of historic New England homes. As the home of the architect widely considered to be the father of modernist design, the Gropius House is emblematic of the movement, offering Simpson a powerful object with which to explore the framework of the 20th century's most powerful aesthetic movement. The Gropius House is one of the most intact of SPNEA's collection of historic homes - down to the papers on the desk and toothbrush in the bathroom - providing Simpson with an intricately detailed scene for her film work. Simpson will shoot a 16mm film in the house featuring a single black actress. At 30, Simpson was the first African-American woman to show in the Venice Biennale and to have a solo exhibition in the "Projects" series at The Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA). Her work was recently featured in Documenta, and is included in the permanent collections of MoMA, Whitney Museum, Walker Art Center, The Denver Art Museum, City of Chicago Art Collection, The Brooklyn Museum, and others.
Architect Frano Violich was captivated by one specific object from SPNEA's vast collection -- a humble pewter and wood teapot which belonged to Crispus Attucks. A lynchpin in American history, Attucks was an escaped slave living on the lam as a dock worker/day laborer who happened to be at the head of the Boston Massacre mob taunting British soldiers guarding Boston Harbor in March 1770. When the mob started to throw stones, the British started shooting, killing Attucks. An unlikely American hero who achieved his elevated status in American history through the bad luck and bad timing, Attucks remains a shadowy figure. Most of what is known about him are his physical attributes through the autopsy report, he was mulatto and very tall. Through these loose threads, Violich's piece, entitled Material Witness, attempts to create an aura of a person, using 5 teapots and a video. The artist will scan Attucks' original teapot with a 3D laser scanner and "print out" five plaster replicas altering each one to signify one of the senses. Violich is part of the architectural firm Kennedy & Violich. The firm – which frequently works on projects that explore how "ready-made" elements can be integrated with architecture to articulate the visible and invisible connections that link people, activities, and spaces in contemporary culture – has received awards from the NEA, Massachusetts Cultural Council, LEF Foundation, and Progressive Architecture, along with two national and two regional AIA Honor Awards. Their design work has been exhibited at SF MoMA in San Francisco, the Wexner Center in Columbus, Ohio, and MoMA (New York).
Yankee Remix is accompanied by a 128-page 4-color catalogue with essays by Heon and Turino with Cara Iacobucci, and a foreward by MASS MoCA director Joseph C. Thompson.
In conjunction with Yankee Remix, summer performing arts programming at MASS MoCA will focus on American artists and uniquely American art forms including the second annual Bang on a Can Summer Music Institute and Festival in July as well as a continuation of the museum's popular Alternative Cabaret series with performances by Lawrence Goldhuber and Polygraph Lounge among others, and an American outsider film series (shown on the big screen under the stars in Cinema Courtyard C) featuring classics like Gone with the Wind, Guys and Dolls, and Rebel Without a Cause.
Generous support for Yankee Remix has been provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust, Peter Norton Family Foundation, Robert Lehman Foundation, W.L.S. Spencer Foundation, Henry & Mary Flynt, Evelyn Stefansson Nef Foundation, the LEF Foundation, the Artists' Resource Trust (a fund of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation), Boston Foundation for Architecture, James A. Hardman, Jr. Trust and Holly Angell Hardman.
The Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA), a regional organization headquartered in Boston, owns and operates 35 properties from the 17th to the 20th century. SPNEA's Library and Archives contain more than 1.5 million historical photographs, architectural drawings, and other documents related to New England. The collection of domestic artifacts is the largest and best documented anywhere and includes more than 110,000 objects such as wallpapers, costumes, textiles, ceramics, glassware, paintings, and other New England household items. SPNEA shares New England's architecture, landscapes, objects, and stories through innovative programs for residents, visitors, and scholars.
Altria Group, Inc. (NYSE: MO) is the parent company of Kraft Foods Inc., Philip Morris International Inc. and Philip Morris USA Inc. For more than four decades, the companies of Altria have supported the arts and programs that address important societal needs and have provided philanthropic assistance to communities around the world. Additional information about the Altria family of companies' programs and partnerships is available at www.altria.com/media_programs.
MASS MoCA is the country's largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts and is located in North Adams, Massachusetts, on a restored 19th-century factory campus. Perhaps one of the few institutions in the country with the time and space to embark on such a project, the sprawling museum has the ability to offer artists long stretches of time to complete their work, tools and technical support, and the space to exhibit many large-scale installations as part of one exhibition. Through May 31, MASS MoCA's galleries are open from 11 - 5 six days a week (closed Tuesdays). Gallery admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, $2 for children 6 - 16, and free for children under 6. After June 1, hours are 10 - 6 every day and admission is $9 for adults, $3 for children 6-16, and free for children under 6. Members are free year-round. For additional information call 413 662 2111 or visit www.massmoca.org.
High resolution digital scans may be downloaded from www.massmoca.org/design/visual_arts_images
For Immediate Release