For the summer 2016 installment of its International Artist-in-Residence cycle, Artpace
turned curatorial duties over to Dominic Molon, the Richard Brown Baker Curator of Contemporary Art at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art. With a wide-ranging eye that’s informed the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s “Production Site: The Artist’s Studio Inside-Out” (an exhibition addressing the pivotal role of the studio in artists’ practice) and the touring “Situation Comedy” (an exploration of humor’s increasingly present role in the realm of contemporary art), Molon selected Andy Coolquitt (Austin), Juan William Chávez (St. Louis) and Rachel Maclean (Glasgow), who have been living and working together at Artpace since May 16.
A creative scavenger of the highest order, Coolquitt crafts impractical magic from salvage and debris (metal tubing, plastic bottles, straws, you name it) and famously turned an Austin farmhouse into a collaborative compound informed by artists, friends and strangers.
With fabric scraps strewn on the floor, shelving units and a display case filled with seemingly random findings, tables scattered with tools and hardware, Coolquitt’s Artpace exhibition “Studio Art…………………Period Room” may recall your fondest memories of thrift shopping on acid. Simultaneously disorienting and intriguing, the obstacle course-like installation draws from his previous projects and experiments as well as an admittedly odd relationship with consumer culture that involves daily trips to Home Depot.
Employing drawing, film, photography and architectural interventions, Peruvian-born Chávez is a self-described artist and cultural activist who’s arguably best known as the creator of St. Louis’ Pruitt-Igoe Bee Sanctuary — an urban farm that cultivates community through beekeeping and agriculture on the site of a razed public housing development.
Upon entering Chávez's Artpace exhibition "They Didn't Know We Were Seeds," visitors are greeted with a cheery yellow camping trailer they can step inside to find grow lights, seedlings, a beekeeper's uniform and a display case filled with honey. Furthering his artistic investigations into beekeeping, the two back corners of the studio space are outfitted with a hypnotic video (depicting a beekeeper performing a hive inspection), an assemblage combining tools of the trade, and a series of drawings. Close inspection reveals a curious nod to the 1982 arthouse classic Koyaanisqatsi
, which takes its name from a Hopi word meaning "life out of balance."
As for Maclean, her artistic investigations into identity and politics play out in films, prints and photographs, in which she employs green-screen techniques, costumes and makeup to transform herself into peculiar characters.
Humorous and absurd, Maclean's Artpace exhibition "We Want Data!" stars herself as emoji-inspired creatures — including a Kim Kardashian-esque cyborg with a tablet installed in her belly — navigating a bizarre, video game landscape riddled with menacing rats. Presented in a format the artist likened to billboards and tapestries, the large-scale series grows increasingly dystopian as one walks though the space.