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Artist Spotlight: Chatting with Victoria Palermo

In honor of the opening of the Bus Stand on Main Street in North Adams,  Kidspace sat down to chat with the artist, Victoria Palermo. Palermo’s work will be installed in mid-June 2012… But make sure to check out the festivities and the ribbon cutting with Mayor Alcombright on June 28 at 6 PM.

Kidspace: You have exhibited in museums and galleries (including Kidspace!) in the past, but your Bus Stand is a public work of art designed to be a permanent installation on Main Street in North Adams. Do you approach a project differently depending on the different audiences? If so, how?

VP: In a public work of art, the artist has the chance to catch the viewer by surprise.  Go to a museum, you expect to see art.  Wait for a bus, expect transportation.  In this case I hope to transport bus patrons in an additional way—as if they had entered a three-dimensional painting.  Looking out from inside the shelter, familiar streetscapes will appear in blocks of color.

I love the idea that someone might have an aesthetic experience while engaging in a mundane necessity of life—waiting for a bus.  I think that color has a tremendous impact on state of mind.   We are a secular society, but people used to spend more time in cathedrals, churches, and got a spiritual uplift from seeing the colored light streaming through stained glass windows.  If sitting in the bus shelter gives someone an emotional lift, makes the day a little bit better, I’ll be happy.

Kidspace: Do you have a preference for which kind of project you would rather do?

VP: I think the idea of communicating to a large diverse audience is the most exciting, but also the most scary.  I think of it as a reality check.  Hopefully people will respond on a fundamental level.  The work is about visual perception; appreciation requires eyes, not a knowledge of art theory.  I love it when small children, in particular, respond positively to my work.

There are practical considerations to be considered in a project like this; I am very mindful that the shelter must function from a practical point of view.  I hope that North Adams folks will see it as a gift that belongs to them; something to be taken care of and preserved.  Within a museum or gallery, the artist has certain assurances that the work will be protected.  In the case of a public work, all bets are off.

Kidspace: As I understand it, the inspiration for the Bus Stand project started with a residency you did with North Adams public school students in spring of 2010. How did working with these kids influence your decision to start this project, or the evolution of the project design itself?

VP: Kids respond in such a genuine way.  Again—terrifying—because they are savages and feel no compulsion to respond politely. Yet, they came to the project with open minds with no negative preconceptions.  I had already been working with the idea of creating an “art” shelter that could have a practical application.   I worked with several groups of junior high students during their last week of school.  I was afraid that they would rather be playing outside, but they were great and made an array of structures that could function in a public arena.  Their energy and responses were very confirming.

Kidspace: As a professional artist, what do you gain from doing a residency project in the schools?

VP: It’s good practice to learn to communicate ideas in the most direct  (no bull—-) way.  Students respond to authenticity.  They’re not worried—“is it art?”, but react on a gut level.  There’s no tougher audience.    This is my second residency project with Kidspace; both have been very energizing, confirming experiences.  One could say—a blast.

Kidspace: How do you think artist residencies influence students?

VP: Hopefully, the students begin to see the experience of art as a part of life, not just an isolated experience. I think also that students come to realize that artists are not so very different from them, and that important work may be achieved through a sense of play.

Kidspace: What’s next on the horizon for you, after the Bus Stand?

VP: Perhaps more public works in a similar vein?  I have ideas and models.

 

More about Victoria Palermo:

Victoria Palermo, a sculptor residing in Queensbury, New York, holds a Bacehlor of Science degree in Art from Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont. She is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Art at Skidmore College and previously was a scenic painter and art department director for Adirondack Scenic, Inc., in Glens Falls, New York. In addition to Kidspace at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, her work has been in solo and group shows in such galleries and museums as: Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts; The Arts Center in Troy, New York; The Tang Museum at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York; Pierogi 2000, Brooklyn, New York; ART/OMI Sculpture Park, Ghent, New York; and Galerie Du Tableau, Marseilles, France. She is represented by the John Davis Gallery, Hudson, New York. 

 

Posted May 17, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Artist Spotlight, BLOG, Exhibitions, Kidspace, Museum Education, North Adams, Openings
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Feeling curious about the summer at MASS MoCA?

Laura Thompson, Director of Exhibitions and Education at Kidspace, blogs about the upcoming season.

A mastodon. Baseball player. Cowboy. Ninja.  Monster. Fire-eater. Tattooed grandma….Curious?

You know I must be talking about another wacky exhibition organized by Kidspace. Curiosity, to open on June 23, will fire up the curious nature of young people. Art materials range from LEGOS to fiberglass, prints to paintings. Ten internationally recognized artists will be featured in this action-packed installation, which will also include an “art cabaret,” where children can place an order for art materials to work with at café-style seating.

Colin Boyd’s work above… that is one big mastodon!

Nathan Sawaya’s piece, “Han Solo in Carbonite.”

Relating to the curiosity theme will be our new Summer Teachers’ Institute, organized in collaboration with our partners The Clark and the Williams College Museum of Art. To be held on July 30 – August 3, the institute will explore different approaches to encouraging creativity and curiosity in the classroom. I am so excited to have as our keynote Jessica Hoffmann Davis, a renowned scholar in the field of art education who will make clear that the arts are essential to the well being of children, and foster healthy schools and communities. We are still accepting applications for the institute; for more details, follow this link.

Isobel Varley holds the Guinness World Record for “World’s Most Tattooed Senior Woman” with 76% of her body covered in ink!

Another exciting event to be held this summer is the opening of our Bus Stand Project by Victoria Palermo:

You might recall Vicky’s work in Kidspace’s Nature Park exhibition of 2003: think grass chairs and rubber trees! While not made out of natural materials, the steel and colorful glass bus stand will be a permanent fixture on Main Street in North Adams, replacing the old stand outside of Radio Shack. A ribbon cutting ceremony will be held on the opening night of DownStreet Art on June 28, 2012.

Posted March 30, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Kidspace, Openings, Staff
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Best of Winter 2011

The sun is shining, the birds are flying, and just when we thought winter would never end – summer is here and Bureau for Open Culture is kicking it off at MASS MoCA with Beer Garden!

Beer Garden? That sounds pretty great!…Well it is. And it’s happening THURSDAY MAY 27 and FRIDAY MAY 28 alongside the Hoosic River at MASS MoCA.  It is a platform for conversation, community, and beer.  Join us for discussions and local brews.

Don’t worry.  We’re not going to forget the amazing season we had this Winter/Spring.  Let’s review the Best Of’s for the 2011 Winter/Spring Season!

Best Way to Work Up a Sweat in January: Free Day and Bhangra Funk Dance Party

Best Icicle: The One on Geometric Death Frquency: 141

Best Use of the Audience: Rory Scovel

Best Opportunity to Watch Someone Sleep: Habit

Best Picture of Our Crew: This One. (by Danelle Cheney)

Best Double-Take Performance: The Low Anthem

(Club B10. March 5)

(Hunter Center. April 16)

Best Use of Leather: Tragedy

Best Before and After: Nari Ward Sub Mirgae Lignum

Best Sold Out Performance: Iron & Wine

So get out those tank tops. Slip into those flip-flops. And let’s get this party started THIS WEEKEND with Beer Garden, The Workers Opening Reception, and Rosanne Cash!

The best is yet to come…

Posted May 25, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Bureau for Open Culture: I Am Searching for Field Character, Free Day, Iron & Wine, Nari Ward: Sub Mirage Lignum, Openings, Rory Scovel, The Low Anthem, Tragedy: The All Metal Tribute to the Bee Gees
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Working on The Workers

MASS MoCA’s galleries are currently undergoing ANOTHER transformation. On May 29 a new exibition called, The Workers, will open at MASS MoCA: a previous industrial site.  The show will explore work and labor. How the laborer relates to work. And how work is presented in contemporary art.

The show will feature photos, videos, paintings, and sculptures from about 30 artists.  We will be tracking the progress of this show for you on the blog!

Luckily for our readers – we bumped into Joe Thompson, MASS MoCA’s director, and got to pick his brain about this upcoming exhibition.

Joe is particularly intrigued with the installation by Camel Collective.  The artists are installing a 30ft long chain-link fence that will hold messages to reference a previous struggle.

This is a representation of a very similar chain-link fence that previously controlled the access to Sprague Electric.  “Many locals will remember that the fence was an odd shade of lime green,” said Joe Thompson.

The fence was installed in 1971 during a strike at Sprague.  The strike was against the current wage negotiations as prices for electric capacitors went down along the Pacific Rim and oil prices began to rise.  The employees of Sprague would insert paper coffee cups into the holes of the chain-link fence to display messages.

This is a piece that “picks at an old wound” and “evokes a particular moment of the strike,” said Joe.

“When MASS MoCA removed the fence in ’98, you could feel almost a sigh of relief through the town as a stark symbol of a really bleak chapter was removed,” said Joe.

The Workers will include many thought provoking pieces that will definitely be worth a visit! Keep checking the blog for more updates about different pieces!

Posted May 12, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Exhibitions, Openings, The Workers, Work-in-progress
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Data Manipulation and Technology Artistically Applied

When you view contemporary art do you sometimes feel like there’s something that you’re missing? It’s probably all of the background information on the concept, the development of the idea, the process of installation, and access to the artist’s brain. Here at MASS MoCA, we’re dedicated to providing you with all the tools to get the most out of your viewing experience. If you’re coming to the opening of Federico Díaz’s Geometric Death Frequency 141 this Saturday, October 23, or plan on visiting the museum in the near future, here are some things you should know before you come face-to-face with the long-term installation located in the museum’s entrance courtyard.

In brief, the site-specific data sculpture is an extremely abstract and complex technological breakdown of the transformation of matter to energy and back to matter again. DĂ­az used the principle of reverse transcription, working off of a photograph of the MASS MoCA courtyard. The 2D image was broken down into digital bits and pixels that were then robotically and technologically reconstructed as 3D black spheres to create a densely sculpted black wave form that while static, seems to contain a reverberating internal energy that simulates fluid movement.

CONCEPT

One of the phenomenons that DĂ­az considered in the early stages of this project was the evolution of the communication landscape and how society has come to rely on the transfer of information. In the not-so-far past information was transferred verbally, but in modernity communication rituals have shifted. DĂ­az applies these contemporary technological methods in his approach to gathering and presenting data to viewers.

“When you look at a photograph, it is flat. In the same way, when you start off with a sculpture, it is flat. Here we are reconstituting a 3D space from a 2D surface according to an algorithm: the intensity of light of a pixel defines the position and velocity of a point, a “voxel”, which is then represented by a small black sphere in the sculpture. The assembled spheres create a wave. At least that was the first idea, but I thought that was too simple, that there would be too much of the photograph still visible in it; so I decided to add in more turbulence, more fluid movement: our world is created from turbulence and is full of fluid movement. To do that, I applied to the photographic data a simulated model of fluid motion. Each light particle, as represented by sphere, was treated as if it were a water molecule, and then “shaken“. I added this fluid dynamic action one bit at a time, interpolated, frame by frame, second by second. It was in frame 141 of the simulation that the photograph disappeared in the wave, and that’s the moment I froze it.”

Also central to Díaz’s project is the idea of death and resurrection. The moment that has been documented via photograph is dead in time and space. By using recorded data to recreate that moment anew in the form of sculpture, Díaz gives it a second life. He rediscovers the original molecular energy that existed and allows it to subsist once again, almost paralleling the Law of Conservation of Energy, which states that “energy cannot be created or destroyed, but can change its form.”

TECHNOLOGY

According to Díaz, “every space sends out some geometric parameters”. In his sculpture, he extracts data (from the site) that is intangible without the use of computer technology and reinterprets it as a material object using CAD software for which he composed specialized codes and simulations. The procedure, described by the artist below, reconstructs the 2D information as a 3D form based on particle physics.

“Using this software I created a code that converted pixels which describe the lighter parts of the photographs into “fast” spheres; they bounce higher and move faster when stimulated by energy. The darker elements of the photograph are slower, less reactive, and therefore remain lower in the sculpture. Through another computer simulation, these pixels-turned-3D spheres (“voxels” or “volumetric picture elements”) can be energized like a wave. The entire simulation is driven by a code. It is actually the code that makes it possible for a living form to be born again from something that was dead.”

Because of the precise nature of the project, DĂ­az employed the use of robots, which best understand pure data, to assemble the sculpture. Check out a video of the robots here.

MATERIAL

The 420,000 black balls used in the 50-feet long by 20-feet high sculpture are sphere of ABS, or a light polymer (also used in the production of LEGO blocks). In his consideration of material, Díaz was not only interested in simulated fluid movement, but also wanted to allow a visible movement of light. Because motion is a fundamental concept in the piece, he incorporated the way the human eye processes velocity. When something is faster, visibility is lessened. Theoretically, “velocity drains color”, which led Díaz to use the color black in his representation of the particles of light.

“Light is something that enables us to see. Light is made of particles. In the sculpture, light particles were replaced by black spheres. So they represent the fluid movement of light, like a wave, as much as they represent the motion of fluids. There is a parallel between light and water; the turbulent movement of light is similar to the movement of the particles of water. They are basically molecules that move in the same way as light does.”

This long-term installation opens to the public Saturday, October 23. Of his installation, artist Federico DĂ­az comments, “Creating a unique object, which transformed the museum into a new form of algorithmic architecture was a fascinating journey full of unforgettable emotions.”

Posted October 22, 2010 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Exhibitions, Openings
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All Utopias Fell Opening This Saturday

Walk behind MASS MoCA’s lobby, past a previously unused part of campus that exists somewhere amid derelict industrial artifact and developed exhibition space, through the remnant of Sprague Electric’s power plant, up numerous sets of stairs, and across a suspended steel overpass. What you’ll find is that somewhere along the way you’ve forgotten where you are in space and time and crossed the threshold into another world: the world of Donald Carusi as brought to you by artist Michael Oatman.

The world that you can expect to enter is one of complexity and thoughtfully organized disarray. It’s as if you’ve stepped into the middle of a movie set, where an elaborate narrative is implied. Mis-en-scene takes on a whole new meaning in the intricate architectural choices, ambitious level of detail, and purposeful editing of interior elements. Layer upon layer of seemingly disconnected objects meld into one another to create an environment that is at once familiar, mysteriously foreign, and sure to appeal to the naturally inquisitive periphery of the human mind.

Oatman labels his technique as an installation artist “maximum collage” and “unvironment”, but finds that neither term truly encompasses the breadth of the artistic channels that he utilizes in his multifaceted projects. All Utopias Fell, his latest installation open to the public on October 23rd, is comprised of three interconnected parts. Codex Solis is a series of solar panels and mirrors atop Building 5 that follows the textual composition of a quote by an unnamed author. The Shining is a spaceship that has mysteriously crash landed outside of the museum after 30 years of space travel, absent of its previous occupant. Enter through the silver vessel and into The Library of the Sun, Donald Carusi’s hermitage and former dwelling space where objects that exist as a residue of their intrinsic history are recontextualized to transport viewers into the missing inhabitant’s peculiar and enigmatic life.

The most discerning viewers may spend hours perusing over the space, yielding to the desire to piece together the skeletal remains of Donald Carusi’s solitary existence. A number of objects will undoubtedly lead viewers to the conclusion that Carusi was an investigator and experimenter of sorts. A copious amount of sun photographs, diagrams, and images are plastered to the interior of the space ship, referencing Carusi’s interest in the sun as both a scientific phenomenon and cultural symbol. A technical control panel reminiscent of something you might imagine in an early rocket ship is a reminder of the previous whereabouts of the craft. Other items such as jarred food, a record collection, spare building parts, hanging yarn God’s eyes, and a personal library of engineering, astronomy, nuclear power, and fiction books seem more colloquial, but are no less imbedded with symbolism and clues. These items combine to provide an intensified viewing experience that exists at first as a grain of something that we can relate to and then as a place where we become lost and engage with the art.

Although on the campus of MASS MoCA, All Utopias Fell seems to preserve the absence of gravity in space. Michael Oatman also preserves and is inspired by what artist Marcel Duchamp believed was a central component to the art experience: viewer exchange and interaction. DuChamp says, “The creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act”. So indulge your appetite for art that is as thought-provoking as it is aesthetically pleasing and join us for the opening reception of Michael Oatman’s All Utopias Fell this Saturday, October 23rd from 2-4 p.m.

written by Sarah Borup

Posted October 20, 2010 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Openings
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