On October 2, Creative Capital Artists Juan William Chávez, Julia Christensen, Robert Karimi and Kerry Skarbakka present with Ruby Lerner at IdeaFestival, a celebration for the intellectually curious that takes place each fall in Louisville, KY. This is the fifth year that Creative Capital has presented a session entitled “Art on the Edge” to introduce the diverse audiences at this international convening to the work of four remarkable artistic innovators. Sam Van Aken, also a Creative Capital awardee, will present a separate session, “Disruptive Thinking and a Hole in the Sky,” on October 3. Both presentations take place at 10:30am EST. You can read profiles of all the artists on the IdeaFestival website and follow the presentations live on Twitter (#IF14).
In conjunction with IdeaFestival, 21c Museum Hotel is presenting 21c Celebrates Creative Capital: A 15th Anniversary Exhibition, featuring the work of 18 Creative Capital awardees including Peggy Ahwesh, Nick Cave, Chris Doyle, Simone Leigh, Eve Sussman, and the five artists presenting in this year’s IdeaFestival. The exhibition, which opens on September 30 and runs through March 2015, includes an installation of Julia Christensen’s Burnouts project, a series of projectors made out of recycled iPhones.
I connected with 21c’s Museum Director, Alice Gray Stites, to look back on the long partnership between Creative Capital and 21c and learn more about the Creative Capital exhibition.
Jenny Gill: You have been such an amazing champion of Creative Capital’s work and the artists we support. How do you see Creative Capital’s mission aligning with that of 21c?
Alice Gray Stites: A commitment to supporting adventurous and innovative art shapes the missions of both Creative Capital and 21c. The collection built by 21c founders Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson includes works by over two dozen Creative Capital grantees—a testament to their interest in acquiring art that reflects and engages the human experience. 21c’s stated mission is to integrate art into everyday life—to expand opportunities for more people to experience how contemporary art can shape perspective and perception. Many, if not most, of the projects supported by Creative Capital address compelling current issues in ways that inspire new perceptions, and potentially activate change. Creative Capital’s awards are given to projects at their inception, when artists are closer to the idea stage than to the finish line, and the staff and others offer a lot of counsel along the way, challenging artists to expand or refine their work. Similarly, when 21c commissions either site- or exhibition-specific installations, artists are often challenged to try something new in terms of scale, material, site. Like Creative Capital, 21c invests in the vision of the artist, and we look to support, present and share with the public ambitious, dynamic projects.
Jenny: What are a few of the most memorable Creative Capital artist projects you’ve presented?
Alice: I find it especially gratifying to work directly with artists on site-specific commissions of work that I was first introduced to via Creative Capital. For example, Sam Van Aken’s Tree of 40 Fruit and Brian Knep’s Healing Tiles, which are now permanent 21c installations (in Bentonville and Cincinnati, respectively) both developed from projects presented in the development phase at the Creative Capital Artist Retreat. They were two of the many, many retreat presentations that were so memorable that I shared them with the 21c leadership team and looked for opportunities to bring the artists in to create these site-specific works at 21c.
Two other site-specific installations, George LeGrady’s Refraction photo and animation series and Chris Doyle’s Unfolded wallpaper were both bodies of work I saw at their first gallery presentations, and was thrilled to later bring to 21c as permanent projects.
Through artwithoutwalls (a Louisville-based non-profit, non-collecting organization), I had the privilege of presenting large-scale temporary installations with Shih Chieh Huang, Brent Green, SuttonBeresCuller and Chris Doyle in spaces beyond 21c. Huang’s Luminosity filled both a large alternative gallery space and the exterior steps and sidewalk of the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts; his responsive, seemingly living creations transformed these places. From the moment Brent Green described his ambitious project, Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then, I was determined to present this in Louisville—after all, the story takes place in nearby Clarksville, just across the river. Watching Brent and his team work long days and nights to build the installation, and then experiencing the film, so beautifully narrated by the artist, alongside the many visitors who came to see it, was deeply meaningful. People continue to talk about that project, as they do the mobile Trailer Park and the exhibit of Small Moons SuttonBeresCuller brought to Louisville two years ago.
Like Brent, John Sutton, Ben Beres and Zac Culler spent weeks creating these works, gathering materials from all over the community to build the Moons. When the exhibition was finished, they gave the armature of the Moons to 21c, which will allow us to one day recreate this project with another community. That degree of public engagement, and the longevity of the project, is fantastic. And Chris Doyle extended his artwithoutwalls project, The Underglow, from a projection in Stockholm into a printed façade installation on Main Street in Louisville, as well as a new projected animation, Rondo, which is now part of 21c’s collection and can be reconfigured to future sites.
Working with Chris on Underglow remains an unparalleled experience. Having learned about his Creative Capital project, Leap, Chris seemed the best candidate to propose for a commission supported by then-Ambassador to Sweden and his wife, Matthew and Brooke Barzun, to enliven a park in Stockholm with public art addressing the darkness of Scandinavian winter. Chris created an animation exploring “a different kind of light” that was projected from the rooftop of the Ambassador’s residence onto the ground below; his canvas was the snow. The realization of this most ephemeral project was permanently transformative, expanding my—and many others’—understanding of what art can be and do.
Video: Chris Doyle’s Underglow, 2011, Stockholm, Sweden
Jenny: We’re so honored that you’re presenting this group exhibition in conjunction with Creative Capital’s 15th anniversary. What are some of the highlights from the show? Any pieces that you are particularly excited about?
Alice: This will be the third (and largest) group exhibition of Creative Capital grantees that 21c has organized in conjunction with Louisville’s IdeaFestival. This year, the exhibit will fill three galleries at 21c Louisville, and present a broad selection of works by grantees in the 21c collection, as well as works on loan from the recent grantees presenting in IdeaFestival with Ruby. It’s a great opportunity to present both older and very new work—Nick Cave’s Soundsuit is already getting rave reviews, as is Franco Mondini-Ruiz’s Mojado series of ceramics. Simone Leigh’s Meridian joined the collection just a few months ago, and will be shared with the public for the first time, and this will also be the first exhibition in Louisville of Eve Sussman’s Fergus Lifted (from her Rape of the Sabine Women). Eve drew a standing room only crowd when she spoke at 21c two years ago, so there will be a lot of interest in that piece. Works by Braden King, Kalup Linzy, and Dread Scott will also be on view for the first time, representing the film and performing arts fields that Creative Capital also supports.
Additions to the exhibition of 21c works include Sam Van Aken’s new photographs of Blind Spots, which are related to his fascinating new exploration of weather manipulation; videos documenting performance and projects in progress by Robert Karimi and Juan William Chavez; photographs by Kerry Skarbakka; and an installation by Julia Christensen. All five artists will discuss their work at IdeaFestival the first week of October; we are thrilled to be able to show their art to the public for the next few months. Julia Christensen’s contribution to the exhibit, Burnouts, will occupy the 21c video gallery. It is already creating a buzz, as the project itself—the transformation of discarded iPhones into projectors showing animations of constellations no longer visible to the human eye because of increasing levels of light from the earth—is so current and so compelling. Julia is a native of nearby Bardstown, Kentucky, so 21c is very proud to feature her work in our celebration of Creative Capital’s 15th anniversary.
“21c Celebrates Creative Capital: A 15th Anniversary Exhibition” and “Julia Christensen: Burnouts” open September 30 and run through March 2015 at 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, KY.