Jade Walker on Strange Pilgrims

Sculpture

See caption at the end of article.

Strange Pilgrims is a three part exhibition on view at the at the Jones Center, Laguna Gloria, and the Visual Arts Center in the Department of Art and Art History at The University of Texas at Austin. Including Charles Atlas, Trisha Baga, Millie Chen, Phil Collins, Andy Coolquitt, Ayşe Erkmen, Roger Hiorns, Nancy Holt, Lakes Were Rivers, Angelbert Metoyer, Bruce Nauman, Yoko Ono, Paul Sharits, and Sofía Táboas, Strange Pilgrims is an ambitious show organized by the Contemporary Austin and curated by Senior Curator Heather Pesanti. Vigorously engaging with a breadth of experiential work ranging from video to installation, sculpture and more, Strange Pilgrims shrewdly connects both internationally recognized and emerging artists with critical histories to create an experimental yet tight web of context and discourse. Pairing with the Visual Arts Center (VAC), the Contemporary expanded into the university territory and thus a dialog with a new subset of viewers, University of Texas at Austin students. The director of the VAC, Jade Walker, generously shared her insights about the preparation process and the VAC’s role in its realization.

Sculpture

See caption at end of article.

About two years ago the Contemporary reached out to the VAC in planning for Strange Pilgrims. It felt like a great fit for many reasons, one of which being an exciting opportunity to work with a seasoned curator. The VAC often invites guest curators, ranging from curatorial fellows and students to faculty and VAC staff, but does not have a dedicated curatorial schema. During preliminary preparations for the exhibition, Walker accompanied Pesanti on several studio visits, including the studios of Tricia Baga and Sofía Táboas. “That was really a great inside track. Tricia Baga was an artist that I had on our list to do a VAC residency in the next couple of years and it was serendipitous when Heather showed me the first roster. [Baga] was someone that I thought our students would really like to have some time with. She is so young and has made such a splash in the art scene, I though it would be interesting for our students to see how a project like this could unfold”, said Walker. Having Baga as an artist in residence gave the opportunity for students to be involved with a part of her project for Strange Pilgrims.

Sculpture

See caption at end of article

An important part of the negotiation between institutions was the continuation of the artist in residence program at the VAC. Another integral aspect was student’s involvement in the creation of the catalog, the first of its kind coming from the Contemporary. The impressive catalog has essays and bios written by two PhD Art History candidates at UT Austin while Dr. Anne Reynolds contributed a long essay. Dr. Reynolds also generated the idea for the parallel symposium Experience In and Beyond the White Cube presented in November of 2015. Bringing together scholars and critics, as well as UT Austin faculty and students, the symposium was a platform for discussion around exhibiting and archiving time-based media and ephemeral work. Moderated by Walker, the symposium was an opportunity for the community to gain insight on the exhibition.

Sculpture

See caption at end of article.

In total, the collaboration between the VAC and the Contemporary has produced a strong and sprawling exhibition that challenges viewers while providing an unmatched educational experience for students. Strange Pilgrims is on view until January 24, 2016.

By Gracelee Lawrence


Captions from top to bottom: (1) Sofía Táboas, Floral Beginning in Circular Time (detail), 2015. Plastic tape, foam, fabric, marble, stone, clay lattice, earthenware and ceramic bricks, cement, wood, aluminum, copper, steel, glass, synthetic fiber, plaster, wax, resin, silicone, metal springs, artificial grass, adocreto, vinyl, wood veneer, brick, metal paint, metal coatings, vinyl tile, carpet, wire mesh, brass, type, enamel paint, sanding, PVC pipe, paper, acrylic, and hose. Dimensions variable. Installation view, Strange Pilgrims, organized by The Contemporary Austin, on view at the Visual Arts Center at The University of Texas at Austin, 2015. Artwork © Sofía Táboas. Courtesy the artist and kurimanzutto, Mexico City. Image © The Contemporary Austin. Courtesy The Contemporary Austin. Photograph by Brian Fitzsimmons. (2) Charles Atlas, Institute for Turbulence Research (from Tornado Warning), 2008. Four-channel synchronized video projection, transparent screen, VMU, sound. Dimensions variable. Running time: 6:00. Installation view, Strange Pilgrims, organized by The Contemporary Austin, on view at the Visual Arts Center at The University of Texas at Austin, 2015. Artwork © Charles Atlas. Courtesy the artist; Luhring Augustine, New York; and Vilma Gold, London. Image © The Contemporary Austin. Courtesy The Contemporary Austin. Photograph by Brian Fitzsimmons. (3) Ayşe Erkmen, 3DN, 2015. Textile installation. 27 feet x 40 feet 6 inches x 47 feet 4 inches. Installation view, Strange Pilgrims, organized by The Contemporary Austin, on view at the Visual Arts Center at The University of Texas at Austin, 2015. Artwork © Ayşe Erkmen. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin. Image © The Contemporary Austin. Courtesy The Contemporary Austin. Photograph by Brian Fitzsimmons. (4) Trisha Baga, 4pm on a Sunday, 2015. Mixed media video installation. Installation view, Strange Pilgrims, organized by The Contemporary Austin, on view at the Visual Arts Center at The University of Texas at Austin, 2015. Artwork © Trisha Baga. Courtesy the artist and Greene Naftali, New York. Image © The Contemporary Austin. Courtesy The Contemporary Austin. Photograph by Brian Fitzsimmons.

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