Inland Specific: Installations by Artists of the San Gabriel Valley
The six installations at the Pomona College Museum of Art shared similarities beyond the simplest definition of "installation art." "Installation" is a term that signifies an approach to art making in which the traditional concept of the discrete object displayed on a wall or pedestal is rejected in favor of the creation of a differentiated environment. As "installation art" developed, it encompassed the additional idea of being "site-specific." Site-specific installation concentrates upon and draws meaning from the distinct contextual and physical space it inhabits; it can include, for example, the physical characteristics of the gallery, the history of the local community, and personal concerns related to the site. While Enid Baxter Blader and the collaborative team of Georgia Fee and Michelle Pauline created installations as discrete environments, the four other projects addressed the concepts of site-specificity. Castillo, Megan Geckler, and Annabelle Aylmer dealt with the physical site of Museum, both inside and outside the building. In very different ways, Aylmer and Christian Mounger explored the social and historical context of Pomona College and the city of Claremont.
In her video installation, Threshold, Enid Baxter Blader creates a physical experience that is both poetic and melancholic. Confronted by three projections of curtained windows, the viewer experienced a threshold between the world within and the world beyond. This threshold became both a visual and a psychological boundary. Through the subtle device of poignantly fluttering curtains, Blader suggests a feminine domestic viewpoint and the disenfranchisement of rural America.
Georgia Fee and Michelle Pauline created an interactive space that focuses on sleep and involves the viewer in the unconscious world of dreams. Within the physical installation of Pillow Talk, walls of overlapping donated, refurbished, and handmade pillows invite the viewer's touch and thoughtful exploration. Disjointed sounds of slumber faintly echo through the installation, reminding the viewer of the intimate experience of sleep. The Pillow Talk website unites this otherworldly realm with the intangible domain of cyberspace, extending the material installation into the collective sphere of the unconscious.
Addressing the scale and dimension of the Museum's physical space, Castillo created a sculptural rope installation. Through these dramatic cascading installation, she examines the role of hair as a metaphor for vanity, power, identity, ritual, care, and sacredness. The rope becomes a representation of human hair on a colossal scale, an overwhelming and commanding presence. Castillo does not use new rope, preferring instead to use materials with a utilitarian past. The rope retains much of its original form; yet the artist's hand is an omnipresent force, focusing the viewers' attention on the dichotomy between tautness and unraveling disarray, between control and surrender.
Megan Geckler situates vivid rectangular forms within the strong verticality of Museum's windows, visually alluding to both a metropolitan cityscape and stained glass. Using vinyl, a manufactured material used to make records, purses, weatherproof siding, and numerous other products, Geckler replaces the artist's hand with a precise industrial cutting tool. Speaking in the visual language of urban signage and contemporary commercialism, she unites the crisp layout of advertising with the bright color of pop culture. This play between natural light and vibrant color has an almost painterly quality despite its readymade characteristics.
Placed in a courtyard outside the Museum, Annabelle Aylmer's installation interacted with both the physical and contextual space of Pomona College. Consisting of wood found on the campus, the sculptural installation references Aylmer's personal association of the tree with the concepts of life cycles, growth, and time. In its structured abstraction of nature's patterns of growth and decay, her installation combines organic form with mathematical reason. By creating a nearly mechanical repetition of a natural object through a series of wooden sculptural forms, she intimates industrial precision without conforming to the bland efficiency of mass production.
Christian Mounger's installation addresses authenticity and memory within the specific context of Claremont and the Colleges. His large-scale photographs of Claremont from 1984 to1987 suggest the transient and deceitful nature of memory: the parking lot where trailers once stood has been developed and the historical authenticity of the boots and is doubtful at best. These images form a backdrop for a variety of objects including furniture from local collections. A homemade batch of "Flubber," references the long-standing relationship between the Colleges and Hollywood, in movies like The Absent Minded Professor. Mounger has constructed a space as artificial as a sound stage, recapturing the quirky quality of his Claremont experience.
Museum visitors rarely have the opportunity to view more than one installation at a time due to their considerable space and construction requirements. This exhibition provided a chance to examine new work by San Gabriel Valley artists through shared affinities and the historical thread of installation activity.
Getty Grant Multicultural Undergraduate Summer Intern
The psychological artifact that is the self (me) rebels at the briefest encounter with the possibility of corporeal annihilation. Without truly being able to comprehend my own lack of existence, I nonetheless feel constant intimations of it. This drives my interest in blending the technological with the organic.
I am attracted to the precision of mechanical technology, the shiny geometry of machines. As I contemplate the self-replicating aspect of the machine, or a machine with fleshly attributes, this suggests to me the notion of biologic permanence.
While the mechanical signals order, strength and endurance, and implies protection from chaotic forces, it also represents the intractability of logic, the unthinking devotion to a particular task with no sensitivity to individual cases. This dichotomy resonates in my work and often results in absurd configurations of technology and organic matter that express the tension of this dilemma.
The tree refers to the organic world, the world of flesh as well as plant matter, growth and decay. Biologic cycles may follow general tendencies, but precision is not the rule; there are underlying, calculable patterns to the physical world, but there is still an awkwardness and randomness to organic growth, the result of which is the particularity of each object.
As Claremont is the City of Trees, it seems appropriate to express these ideas locally with local resources; the trees used in this installation grew and died within the boundaries of the community.
Enid Baxter Blader
Concerned with community ties, backwoods poignance, and odd romance, I create framed narratives of transitional rural realities. I was born in 1974 in a Revolutionary War reenactment town that was being slowly strip-mined to death. My work is informed by the late 20th century youth experience on the edge of a hillbilly Eastern mountain culture continually threatened by suburban sprawl. I weave together sound, image, and time, creating unexpected video locations. Events resonate and generate video ripples within a unique colloquial language.
Thanks to David Bradshaw, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, for the generous loan of equipment.
Enid Baxter Blader
acompañada sola (accompanied alone)
I use hair as a metaphor. The subject of hair is charged with association and meaning. My work embraces and explores the peculiar sacredness of our relationship with hair. It challenges real hair by being larger than life and by presenting it in an unconventional form.
"Oppositional tensions are made sculpturally with the familiar viewed unfamiliarly. For the hair, it seems, is less concerned in the resurrection than other parts of the body."
-Thomas Aquinas, On the Integrity of Resurrected Bodies, Question 80, Chapter 5
Legends, rituals, folktales, identities, DNA sampling, stereotypes, value, sacredness, care, and attachment are centered around something that continues to grow at the rate of 1 centimeter per month after death. I like toying with the idea of exemplifying something over which we simultaneously have control and no control. After we die, our hair continues to grow, outlasting the flesh. The aspect of life and death in our identity with our hair raises numerous questions. These questions are both cross-cultural and rhetorical. Semiotically coded, hair as a metaphor embodies its power both to attract and repulse, to value and devalue, or to become unrecognized weaponry.
My work contains hints of historical symbolism. Although I manipulate materials, I enjoy maximizing their beauty by presenting them minimally altered yet in no way denying or changing their identity. I attempt to charge space with poetic elegance. Potently raw, silently strong.
Georgia Fee & Michelle Pauline
Pillows drip, spill, cascade down the gallery walls en masse, provoking the private histories, the sleep traumas, the dreams of desire or dread that once characterized the lives of those who slumbered upon them. A mumble of sounds and voices creates rhythmic fragments that drift and wind through the pillows, evoking a deeper, more ancient territory-the unconscious. And somewhere in the outer reaches of cyberspace, a website collects and disseminates, linking together insomniacs and sleepophiles from around the world. This was Pillow Talk.
Hunched over a sewing machine, refurbishing donated pillows and creating new, luxurious models, we talked of our work as installation artists. Michelle's work tends to focus on fantasy and mythology; she creates private areas of absurdity and folly. Georgia's work often revolves around a more Baroque concept of space: mass, envelopment, psychological heaviness and expansiveness. Pillow Talk was the melding of our two perspectives. It was an exploration of the intimate on a monumental scale.
This work was a response to our interest in the feminization of space. Whether it is in the magnification of the domestic or the explosion of the private object into a panorama of sensuality and spectacle, Pillow Talk was ultimately about two women working together. It was a manifestation of our desire to create an experience of awe and beauty, a space that demands to be touched, and a site that has many tales to tell.
Georgia Fee and Michelle Pauline
Pillow and linen donations: Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, Vagabond Inn, Sierra Health Services, Armory Center for the Arts Pillow Drive, and many individuals.
Dream material: Edgar Arceneaux, Deb Diehl, Theresa Fuller, Francesca Gabbiani, Michelle Glass, Jason Kneute, Patricia Liverman, Anne Ricketts, Jonathon Roa, Wanda Scott, and Liz Young.
Video: sleepers: Arzu Arda Kosar and Ryan Hill;
Website Design: Toni Ponzo
In art making there is a conjunction between the hand of the artist and the nature of the media utilized. In traditional practices, the artist manipulates the material into the form or aesthetic desired. This method of art making is most often seen in painting, where paint becomes the vehicle for representation. In other instances, the material is arranged or rearranged without being altered from its original state, which reinforces the artist's concept. The post-Duchampian tradition of ready-made sculpture is a prime example of this practice. In art making, my effort is to create a hybrid of these two hemispheres: the manufactured gesture.
A manufactured gesture resembles a manufactured design, in its choice of materials and attention to the whims of popular color and style, while keeping the hand of the artist clearly visible. The final piece, infused with the evidence of the artist, transcends the banality of mass production and elevates the work into an art context.
In this piece, the use of vinyl refers to items seen so abundantly with popular culture that they become invisible: decals, stickers, signage. As a work of art, it refer to such conventions as color field, stripe, landscape, and modernist painting.
From 1984 to 1988, I lived in Claremont. My visual memory of that experience is a complex amalgamation of images that shape my desire to understand how history, oral tradition, and popular culture influence the identity of a place. Referencing historical information, including forgotten and altered material, my piece is about the past.
This installation, The Persistence of Memory, brought together photographs, objects, and drawings that refer to my Claremont experiences. During that time, I photographed a variety of objects on the campuses, including abandoned trailers and odd topiary bushes.
I also helped catalogue objects that had been donated to the Colleges, including a vast assortment of intriguing and often historically suspect Western American artifacts given by Jonathan Tibbet. I photographed his boots, which were elaborately decorated with Native American signs and the initials J.T. Items like this suggest a romantic view of California history more reminiscent of Hollywood than reality.
The wallpaper drawings were an extension of my research into the Claremont University Center collection. The drawings also explore the role of decorative art in contemporary culture.
Beginning in the early 1920s the Hollywood film industry used The Claremont Colleges for location shots: The Fair Co-Ed, 1927, with Marion Davies, produced by William Randolph Hearst; The Plastic Age, 1927, with Clara Bow; and Disney's The Absent Minded Professor, 1961, with Fred MacMurray, to name only a few. Pomona College represented the generic college campus in the same way other locations in Los Angeles County represented other parts of the country. The Absent Minded Professor, however, interprets academic life with a twist. The unlikely hero Fred MacMurray accidentally creates a magic product, "Flubber," that saves his family, his college, and ultimately Cold War America.