Please join us Saturday, June 28th from 7-10pm for the solo exhibtion of Tessie Whitmore with Bessie Kunath exhibiting in the Project Room.
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Main Gallery: Space Face
The uncanny cacophony of cult-like objects that make up Whitmore’s art practice create a space where nostalgia and interventionism challenge our ‘ready-made’ expectations. This ‘mixed’ status carries across her paintings, collages and errant idols in a way that allows us to put performativity and worship in question, and not just in the white cube, but also in the greater world of ritual behavior. Moving between counter-culture symbols and the motifs of abstract art, Whitmore’s work collides the formal and the spiritual in a mode of artistic shamanism that embraces paradox and contradiction. Throughout her various bodies of work we find the emblematic designs of the new age movement colliding up against the iconic purchase of high modernism, allowing us to reflect not only on the melancholia of the post-historical age, but on the constant slippage between two disparate types of ‘cultural’ production.
Whether directly engaged in a performance, or re-presenting footage of a certain happening, or even making a space for viewer participation within her installations, Whitmore’s art practice asks us to engage in thinking about how presence operates in the twenty-first century. By bringing everyday experiences into a place of alter-like reverence, and using common materials and processes to produce a meditative aesthetic, Whitmore’s pieces have the ability to transfix the viewer without relying on a transcendental signified. Repetition and reduction, as well the dynamic use of image, sound and language, all work to create a space in which aesthetic experience connects us to questions about cultural as a form of resistance.
Whitmore’s newest works push these dialectic antagonisms even further by bringing a heightened sense of absorption together with a deep historical engagement that examines the notion of ‘belief’ writ large. By colliding baroque motifs with a wholly immersive aesthetic, the gallery space is transformed into an arcane study in cultural iconography. Bringing the idea of the total work of art – or a complete installation – together with aspects of minimalism, color field painting, sacred geometry and secular mysticism, makes us ever more aware of the kinds of aesthetic conflicts that Whitmore traffics in. Caught somewhere between romantic disavowal and a hidden desire for transformative experience, we find that the duplicitous desires that drive Whitmore’s art practice just might provide the curative effects and ecstatic experiences we need most in a culture of intensive commodification and near instant co-option. One might even say that the most poignant aspect of Whitmore’s project is that it allows for the redemption of contrasting modes of experience by letting the ephemeral and the transcendental comingle is a space of equal repose.
Bio: Whitmore studied at Claremont Graduate University, MFA 2012 and California State University Long Beach, BFA Drawing and Painting 2009. She is a 2011 recipient of the Albert B. Friedman Grant Award and the 2013 Artist in Residence at Coastline Community. She was included in Mas Attack II, Torrance Art Museum, Torrance, CA, GLAMFA 2012: Greater Los Angeles Master of Fine Arts Exhibition, California State University Long Beach, Long Beach, CA, andBOOM Southern California MFA Invitational. She recently has been curating shows with her collective Manual History Machines including The Familiar Unfamiliar, Wonder Valley, CA and Are Friends Electric I at Fellows of Contemporary Art and Are Friends Electric II at Claremont Graduate University receiving the 2014 Curators Lab Exhibition Award.
Project Room: Free Normcore
The works of Kunath challenge how we think about interpretive modes of making as well as theoretical models of knowing. With past bodies of work like “auction items”, and “everyday scenery”, the fine line between commerce and aesthetic commentary is held in abeyance. But this is not to say that Kunath’s work is absent historical references, or that it aims at merely repositioning the mundane. Instead, what we are presented with is a repurposing of the transient elements of culture in a manner that activates a variety of social, material and aesthetic presuppositions.
In Free Normcore, a term that further extends the claims made on behalf of the de-industrialized fashion movement, Kunath brings together a selection of ‘free’ and found objects for exhibition that have been rejected from commercial trade. By abutting cultural dejecta with programmatic premises, Kunath’s works are able to occupy a space between aesthetic interventionism and the anti-aesthetic urge that puts both positions in question. Simultaneously reductive and random, Kunath’s chromatic recasting of found materials underscores how notions of value, fragility, and outmodedness can challenge the insularity of interpretation that haunts the hermeneutics of meaning production.
In this way, Kunath’s works openly embrace the productivity of ambiguity by lightly effecting found materials, as well as highlighting various forms in an open-ended and provisional manner. Thus, by challenging the rhetorical devices of re-presentation, and making selective interventions in domestic and discarded objects, we find that the threat of overdetermined meaning is constantly decentered by the encounter between artist and object, spectator and object, and culture placed in a broader context. Within the bounds of Kunath’s projects however, there remains a subtle hinting at the larger architecture that frames the contemporary art world, given over to us through the use of sculptural objects as a type of edifice that is everywhere implicated in our current culture of disposability. In this way, we can say that ecological and social responsibility are part of the strata of expectations that attend the productivity of the art object, and Kunath’s practice as an artist in particular. What is revelatory in Kunath’s work however, is how the substrate of the common object can become a language that signs the present moment in a myriad of unpredictable and unforeseen ways, making a piece of cast-off commerce into a morphological experience of collected meanings that are as prescient as they are untimely.
Bio: Bessie Kunath lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. She holds an M.F.A. in Studio Art from University of California Santa Barbara and B.A. in Art and Education from the University of San Francisco. Kunath has actively participated in exhibitions in San Francisco, Orange County and Los Angeles. Kunath has been curating art exhibitions as well since 2005 and is a member of LA-based collective, Manual History Machines.