In the Studio Summer Theme: Innovative Low Cost Museum-Quality Art by Risa Puno and Soo Sunny Park

feature1There is a Cass Brothers lyric, “Something for nothing – tricks for free” that suggests duplicity or cheating and a Rush song saying, “No, you don’t get something for nothing; you can’t have freedom for free…” Love and freedom are, in some ways, opposite concepts that involve other concepts to realize– along with individual energies, consciousness, and behavior.

How does something for nothing apply to art? There are literally tons of low budget art, but some things separate “art” from recycled junk.  For one, the artist’s idea is the key. For two, TIME is always a factor in realizing one’s idea, and, our purposes, time is the main “cost.” This summer, I’m discussing artists whose innovative art is largely a product of ideas, time, and a fresh use of materials.

If Risa Puno (see‎) could bottle and market her humor, the United States would be a happier place. From my first encounter with her memory-flavored homemade lip balm in a nifty dispenser to her hilarious country fair endurance course at Socrates Park to her miniature golf challenge in Jersey City, Puno’s projects are always witty, socially-engaged art inventions. Luckily for us all, her disco ball piñata for El Museo del Barrio’s 7th biennial exhibition is another surprise-filled fun-fest, packaged with goodies from the artists in the exhibition. Due to circumstances, she constructed the piñata in her apartment rather than her studio. Here’s Risa making the piñata:

the making of Breaking Bienal from risa puno on Vimeo.

preview of piñata contents.

preview of piñata contents.

Titled Breaking Bienal, this piñata contains objects that relate to the artists’ works in the show, artifacts of their artmaking process (like material remnants, test objects, etc.), and special pieces they created for the project. Puno’s approximate costs are: $100 for the piñata materials, $250 for the motor & lights, and about $50 for the materials to package items collected from other artists to put inside the piñata. Puno made the mirrored tiles by applying self-adhesive reflective vinyl paper to large sheets of black presentation board.  She used a paper cutter to cut out approximately 2,500 1″x1″ tiles, then glued them, one-by-one, onto the surface of the piñata.

Breaking Bienal, in progress.

Breaking Bienal, in progress.

The artist explains her research and work process on the El Museo website. She told me, “During most of the exhibition, my piece will operate on a motor with pin spotlights, just like a regular mirror ball reflecting light around the room. After a few months, the public will be invited to come and smash my shiny, celebratory object, putting all the artists’ contributions up for grabs. Here is Remezcla’s preview of the show, featuring an interview with yours truly!”

El Museo del Barrio’s La Bienal 2013: Here Is Where We Jump, opened on June 12 and continues through January 4, 2014.

Soo Sunny Park, Unwoven Light

Soo Sunny Park, Unwoven Light

Soo Sunny Park’s april 11- August 30, 2013 exhibition Unwoven Light | Rice Gallery – Rice University Art Gallery  is both dazzling and mysterious. Using chain link fencing and iridescent Plexiglas with dichroic film, she has created a space where the rainbow-like reflecting elements change with the time of day and amount of light in the gallery. This labor-intensive project took the artist and her assistants thousands of hours to create, so the material costs were relatively low but the human costs high. Unwoven Light exemplifies the artist’s fascination with liminal states of being – the constancy of change. As the website explains:

Seeing a Styrofoam cup stuck on a fence one day got Park thinking about the chain links properties of being both rigid and porous, of acting as a boundary while retaining an appearance of openness. She shapes each section of chain link by holding it in tension, bending it, and then welding each corner to hold the form in place. The shaped unit becomes a building component that she may use more than once, recycling it into new installations. For Unwoven Light, Park used twenty sculptural units from a previous installation and built seventeen new ones. Working long days with two assistants in her New Hampshire studio, it took Park two weeks to complete one unit. Each required seven hours of welding to brace the fencing, one-hundred hours of tying the wire that holds each Plexiglas piece in place, and many more hours of cutting Plexiglas shapes to fit the chain link cells.

The structure of chain link fencing is similar to the grid of fibers arranged horizontally and vertically on a weaving loom. However, Park uses the grid structure as a means to “unweave.” Wired into each open cell of the chain link is a cut-out shape of iridescent Plexiglas.

Here are additional links to Park’s work:

Puno and Park are role models and innovators in every way: idea, process, materials, and realization. Next month: a no-cost innovative art project and a project involving fabric and legends.

By Jan Garden Castro

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