(I do / I don't, installation shot featured in the Free Time's review of Artista Vista 2011 by Mary Bentz Gilkerson. )
Below is an article appearing in the Free Times by Mary Bentz Gilkerson. It can also be read HERE. Believe it or not, there's another review of Artista Vista 2011. It is by Tom Starland, co-owner/editor of Carolina Arts, a monthly publication. The review is on his blog "Carolina Arts Unleashed. Click HERE to access. Both are wonderful. Thank you Mary and Tom!
|Issue #24.18 :: 05/04/2011 - 05/10/2011|
Twentieth Artista Vista Moves to Recapture Past Energy
|BY MARY BENTZ GILKERSON|
Thirty years ago, the Vista was a rundown warehouse district, something of a no man’s land between the railroad tracks and the river. Enter the artists who saw the empty warehouses as ideal, inexpensive studio spaces, and the revitalization began. Today, thanks to visionary city leaders like the late Kirkman Finlay and early residents like Clark Ellefson and Carol Saunders, the area is now a thriving urban residential and shopping district.
2010-2011 marks several anniversaries for the area — the 25th of Vista Lights, the 20th of Vista Studios/Gallery 80808, and now the 20th for Artista Vista. To celebrate the milestone and acknowledge the roots of the event, organizers included live music, performance art, temporary exhibitions and installation art (these are two separate things) in addition to exhibitions in the area galleries and studios.
Part of the energy in the ’90s came from the age and career stage of the participants. USC students or recent graduates created most of the temporary exhibits and site-specific installations. The thrust of the installations, inspired by the Spoleto Places with a Past exhibition, was to engage the viewer with social and political issues associated with specific places and spaces.
The social and physical implications of a specific space and sensitivity to those implications are hallmarks of good, effective site-specific installation art. This kind of work is both internally and externally focused, acting as a conduit for dialogue between place and viewer.
So-called installation art that does not engage the space would be better described as art on temporary exhibition. The work might be engaging, well crafted and interesting, but the reality is that it is still a temporarily installed sculpture, painting or photograph unless it deals with the surrounding space either physically or conceptually.
The installations in this year’s Artista Vista, curated by Jeffrey Day (who, full disclosure, is a Free Times contributor), fall into both categories. The building most recently occupied by Mais Oui at 927-929 Gervais St. was the site for six installations, with a seventh located around the corner in front of the Art Bar.
Susan Lenz’s piece, I Do/I Don’t, most directly addressed the space both conceptually and physically. The domestic nature of the building’s most recent use as the retail home for an interior design firm, as well as the almost rococo architectural features of the room, enhance Lenz’s use of bridal veils to make social commentary on relationships. The veils, hanging ghost-like from the ceiling, force the viewer to move at a slow enough pace to read the incorporated text.
Lenz’s Wall of Keys, not one of the official installations but her contribution to the resident artists’ group show at Vista Studios, was one of the best installations of the whole event. She transformed an innocuous wall of the gallery into a symbolic wailing wall filled by keys, each with attached text signifying missed opportunities and potential doorways beyond.
Established commercial galleries, studio spaces and a nonprofit gallery all participated with Carol Saunders featuring work by Anne Bjork and Philip Dusenbury; City Art presenting Stephen Nevitt; group exhibitions at if ART, Vista Studios the Gallery at DuPre and the Gallery at Nonnah’s; and demonstrations at One Eared Cow.
In the past, temporary exhibits by artists who don’t regularly show in the area have been interesting additions to the event. This year, Lewis + Clark played host to two other artists — Marilee Hall at Lincoln Street and Barry Wheeler at Huger Street — in addition to showing work by owner Ellefson. Hall’s whimsical ceramic work fit well with Ellefson’s work, which ranges from functional lamps to wonderfully quirky lunchbox robots.
Tim Gardner, one of the owners of Mad Monkey, used his space to exhibit a body of photographs taken solely with his iPhone. Molly Harrell’s backstage photographs of the South Carolina Contemporary Dance Company, on view at the company’s space on Lady Street, give an intimate look behind the scenes. The temporary exhibits prove that there is plenty of interesting work out there without an official gallery home yet.
This year’s Artista Vista had much more energy and playfulness than in recent years. The fact of the matter is that the Vista has come of age, become commercially established. At times, that has led to some very staid, if not outright bland events. This one was at least moving in the right direction.