Now You See It opens at Aspen Art Museum
ASPEN For most of the past 18 months, Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, director and chief curator of the Aspen Art Museum, thought she was working on an exhibition that was about unusual materials. Selecting pieces for the exhibition, including several items deemed iconic in the development of conceptual art, she gathered objects made of dust, felt, milk and, in one case, empty space.But as she assembled the show, Zuckerman Jacobson became less interested in the oddness of the materials, and more aware of the effect they had on her.In the end it became about the embodied magic we find in art, she said. It morphed over time and became something highly personal what we feel in the presence of uncertainty and ambiguity. That moment of surprise, when you think you know what it is, but its not what it is.Zuckerman Jacobsons casual working title for the exhibition was the materials show. But when the show opens Thursday, with a public reception at 6 p.m., it will bear the name Now You See It a reference to the magical way that art transforms the way we see things. And those interested in the use of offbeat materials can rest assured there are works made of chocolate, string, garbage bags and light bulbs. There are two examples of the artistic use of two-by-fours.One of the more curious pieces and one of the most historically significant is by Lawrence Weiner. The title is longer than needs to be included here (especially given budgetary cutbacks), but it is essentially a specific description of the work: a 3-foot square removed from an interior wall of the museum. Zuckerman Jacobson calls the piece a super-emblematic piece in the development of conceptual art. And even though it was first created in 1968, it yielded fresh surprises: Viewers can see the layers of paint built up over 30 years of shows at the Aspen Art Museum; further back, there is the sheet of aluminum foil that late Aspenite Nick DeWolf suggested would bolster the museums security system.You think at first its just a hole, said Zuckerman Jacobson. But you look and see 30 years of paint, evidence of all the exhibitions that have happened in the space. It tells the history of the institution in a super-subtle and very surprising way.An untitled piece by Rudolf Stingel is a panel of installation board. When the piece was first exhibited, in 2002, viewers were welcome to use coins, pencils, what-have-you to stencil in messages and images. But part of the process is ended, and now a piece that was once open to prying hands and mischievous minds is to be treated like most museum objects untouchable. Thus it examines the transformation of a work-in-progress to a finished work of art, and the ramifications of declaring that a piece of art is complete.Possibly the most captivating piece is Ink on Paper, a 1999 work by British artist Ceal Floyer. The work is actually a video, shot in real time, of two hands, holding an ink pen and a piece of paper. Over nearly an hour, the ink drains out of the pen, forming a growing ink spot on the paper. As the flow of ink gets slower and slower, it becomes nearly impossible to detect the expansion of the ink stain. The hands never move, not even a tremble. Watching it emphasized for me the point Zuckerman Jacobson made about surprise, uncertainty and magic.Jennifer Wests two video projections, displayed on adjacent walls at the top of the museums stairs, are visually arresting. A viewer doesnt need to know that one was made by submerging film in a fountain dosed with Kool-Aid and LSD, or that the other was made using mescal worms and green M&Ms, to lose themselves in the glowing, abstracted imagery.A bit of backstory enhances the appreciation of Robert Morris 1983 piece, Vetti V. Accompanying the huge, heavy sheets of felt were 40 pages of assembly instructions sent by the artist, a key figure in post-Minimalism. Each sag and fold was detailed, said Zuckerman Jacobson. Caressing the pink park, karate-chopping the black part. It took a day for our crew to install.Zuckerman Jacobsons thoughts on Now You See It seem to be still evolving as she has observed the installation. At the beginning of my private tour, she emphasized ambiguity; by the end, the main thesis was about how these unexpected materials force us to pay attention to things, to actually consider the act of viewing. A catalogue that accompanies the exhibition features Zuckerman Jacobsons essay Pay Attention Mother Fuckers (a title borrowed from a work by Bruce Nauman, not included in the show).The show is about reminding people that blindness isnt an option. You have to pay attention, she said. Watching the ink come out of the pen, theres a hyper-awareness. Or at least not succumbing to the blindness that plagues so much of society.Zuckerman Jacobson later pointed out that one of the first pieces encountered in Now You See It is Wade Guytons untitled inkjet print on linen. It was created by a jammed printer, printing over and over on the same spot. The effect is almost total blackness. The exhibition concludes, at the back of the upstairs gallery, with William OBriens display of ceramic items, all coated in a tarred-looking mix of paint, papier-mch and dirt, with a black-and-white painting overlooking it.The blackness at both ends, said Zuckerman Jacobson, was meant as a reminder.Thats kind of what can happen to us if we dont pay attention, she said. We get caught in the morass.At the same time, Zuckerman Jacobson also saw the absurdity in sugar, blank white canvases and the like. Standing in front of two pieces of Left So Soon, two pieces of carpet hung one over the other by Gedi Sibony, she said: Theres this idea that its nothing. But also, something totally magical theres been this alchemical change.And then its nothing firstname.lastname@example.org
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