The inspiration for finding new works of art can take time, be mysterious, and be elusive, even for the curator of a contemporary art museum who travels the world looking for new artists to introduce to a new audience.
Barry Rosenberg, director of UConn’s Contemporary Art Galleries (CAG) and an associate professor of art, has brought artists to Storrs from Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Australia, and New Zealand, among others, including internationally acclaimed performance artists, textile artists, and artists who created time-based media installations featuring new works for solo exhibitions in the galleries.
The spark of inspiration for the new CAG multimedia exhibition “Protests: Proclamations & Celebrations” began in early 2017, when Rosenberg received a School of Fine Arts Dean’s Grant to travel to Europe for the three major periodic international art shows – Documenta (every five years), Skulptur Projekte Münster (every 10 years), and Venice Biennale (every two years).
“I made a commitment to go to Europe and I was going to come back and show something new – an emerging trend or an emerging artist,” Rosenberg says. “I had seen a lot of great art, but hadn’t yet developed a curatorial concept worth spending my time and CAG’s limited resources.”
So he decided to take a couple days in Switzerland to join a tour he read about that was going to the top of the Alps, and to check out Zurich’s art galleries. In Zurich, he saw two of the artists now included in “Protests: Proclamations & Celebrations” – Shen Xin and Zou Zhao, both from China. “I thought they were truly amazing artists and that I’d like to bring them to UConn,” he says.
In appearance and aesthetic sensibility, [these artists are] quite different people, yet their work shows commonality in their use of live performance documented through video installation. — Barry Rosenberg
Although he had found two video and performance artists, Rosenberg did not feel he had a theme for an exhibition until he returned to campus and took his graduate seminar students to New York City, where they saw the work of Christian Falsnaes, a Danish-born resident of Berlin and former street artist who moved to performance art. Sharon Hayes, a multimedia performance artist who is an associate professor of fine arts at the University of Pennsylvania, is someone he has wanted to feature in an exhibition for years, but until learning about the other three’s creative work, he had not found artists whose work would be so compatible for an exhibition.
Rosenberg regularly transforms the space of the Contemporary Art Galleries for each exhibition, which at times is created on site by an artist, using wall paint, constructing temporary walls, and hanging lighting to establish an environment that best fits the art. His twist on “Protests: Proclamations & Celebrations” is to present four consecutive solo exhibitions, each lasting two weeks, and remake the space as needed between shows.
“I realized there was a show I wanted to do. In appearance and aesthetic sensibility, they’re quite different people, yet their work shows commonality in their use of live performance documented through video installation,” Rosenberg says. “I saw commonality in that their actions are intended to elicit audience reactions, such as euphoria and political awakening, achieved through seminar sessions, singing, and didactic recitations aimed at persuasion.”
The diversity in approach to their art by the four artists in solo exhibitions also allows Rosenberg to continue his goal of taking an interdisciplinary approach to curating contemporary art, working with artists whose themes would be of interest to faculty and students in disciplines such as Asian and Asian American Studies, Human Rights, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.
“I tried to pick artists that would be of value to the University beyond the Art & Art History Department in the way they work,” he says of his collaboration with faculty in the humanities, noting that the show is the biggest and hardest thing he’s ever done, including arranging travel and scheduling, and meeting the artists’ needs for technical and other requirements within a short period of time.
The artists and their solo exhibits are:
Shen Xin lives and works in London and Amsterdam, and has an MFA from the Slade School of Fine Art in London. Her exhibited multichannel media works are “Provocation of the Nightingale” (2017) and “Forms Escape: Prologue” (2016). The exhibit, which is currently on display, continues to Feb. 8, with an artist talk and reception on Feb. 7 from 9 to 11 a.m. at Konover Auditorium in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.
Sharon Hayes is an associate professor of fine arts at the University of Pennsylvania, with an MFA in interdisciplinary studies from UCLA. The four works being shown includes “Richerche: three” (2013), in which Hayes interviews students at Mount Holyoke College about issues surrounding sex, sexuality, and gender. The exhibit runs Feb. 25 through March 8, with an artist talk and reception on Feb. 25 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Arena Gallery in the Art Building.
Zou Zhao holds an MFA from Columbia University. Her work is live performance, paired with aesthetically produced video documentations. Her exhibit runs April 1 to 12, with an artist talk and reception on April 1 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Arena Gallery.
Christian Falsnaes’ early projects were not exhibited in art galleries, but spray-painted on walls and trains throughout Copenhagen. His solo show will feature four video performances, and will run April 22 though May 3, with an artist talk and reception on April 22 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Arena Gallery.
For more information go to https://contemporaryartgalleries.uconn.edu/