Call for Artists

Amulets, Nazars & Evil Eyes: Artists Looking Forward

Exhibition Dates: May 2 – June 29, 2012

Application Deadline: Friday, March 23, 2012

Application fee: none

Queens College Art Center presents an open call for artists working in all disciplines on the theme of Amulets, Nazars and Evil Eyes for a group exhibition, Amulets, Nazars & Evil Eyes: Artists Looking Forward. Many cultures believe an evil eye can cause injury or bad luck for the person at whom it is directed for reasons of envy or dislike. Attempts to ward off the curse of the evil eye have led to proliferation of talismans around the Mediterranean, especially in Turkey. Artists are invited to submit contemporary work on personal histories of the evil eye (nazar) and the submitted work should seek commonality within their own practice and culture. All traditional and non-traditional media are acceptable for submission and artists working in any discipline may apply.

 

Successful applicants will be contacted by March 30, 2012. We will only contact artists invited to be in the exhibition. For further questions or queries, please contact frances.chan@qc.cuny.edu.

 

To submit your materials by email:

Email by Friday, March 23 at 11:59 EST all materials (resume (PDF), statement (PDF), biography (PDF), image list (PDF) and 5 jpeg images) to artcenter@qc.cuny.edu.

Each image jpeg must not exceed 1 MB in size and be labeled in this format:

lastnameofartist_title_numberofslide.jpg

 

To mail* your submission:

Send all submission materials to:

Queens College Art Center

Amulets, Nazar & Evil Eyes

Queens College, CUNY

Rosenthal , Room 601

65-30 Kissena Blvd,

Flushing, NY 11367-1597

 

*To be considered, mailed submissions must reach Queens College Art Center by end of business day on March 23 and will only be returned to applicants including an SASE.

Queens College Art Center

UTOPIA : in perpetuum | forever_
by Charlie Schultz

On the opening night of UTOPIA : in perpetuum | forever_, G Lucas Crane performed Nova Crimes (2011) with a video recorder, a projector, and a homemade mixing board that played cassette tapes. The recorder was aimed at a bright rectangle of light shooting out of the projector so the visual element effectively became a closed circuit, a cycle of illumination feeding off itself. Crane twisted at the cassettes’ sprockets and tossed tapes around as he switched them in and out of his mixing board. The music was ambient, deep waves of bass and warbling trills colliding and dispersing all throughout the circular gallery. Utopia was the exhibition’s theme and this made sense to me as its soundtrack, a sonic soup that favored no single melody, a primal ground from which all species of sound might flourish.

The focal node of IP / forever_ was William Corwin’s installation, Utopia (2011). Reaching upwards from the floor to the ceiling, the 2' x 4' structure that defined the sculpture’s rectangular body looked on the brink of collapse, as if its once sturdy frame had been badly shaken. Precariously balanced on multiple tiers—none of which were evenly spaced nor necessarily aligned horizontally—sat piles upon piles of little cast plaster blocks. These too were rectangular, like tiny books, stacked as if by a child with no mind for order. Schematic sketches I couldn’t initially identify flanked the installation on either side along with drawings of chessboards and actual chessboards whose squares were inscribed with the names of famous battlegrounds from Samothrace to the Alamo. Handwritten lists of all the battles fought in the first three years of the American Revolution were interspersed among the gaming boards. In a sense the show originated from this work, though you wouldn’t know just from looking.

The exhibition, curated by Tara Mathison, occurred in two stages. First, Mathison invited Corwin to create a site-specific work in the Queens College Art Center (QCAC), located on the top floor of the Benjamin Rosenthal Library. He had a month to produce his piece before the second phase began, at which point Mathison and eight others made work in response to Corwin’s creation. The group included a playwright, a novelist/poet, a sound artist/performer, a pair of painters, a photographer, a creative writer, and an artist/art educator. Mathison imagined a dialogue could be opened. So once the responses had begun Corwin was free to alter his work as a rejoinder, to which the other artists might then respond, and so on ad infinitum. That this exchange was paramount to the exhibition is evident in the title; the IP comes from the Latin phrase in perpetuum, meaning forever. In theory this formula could have generated an ultimately open-ended exercise rampant with loose tangential ends. It turned out to be impressively coherent and determined. In addition to the thematic relationships born out of Mathison’s curatorial program, the participants utilized the gallery’s unique spatial qualities in such a multitude of ways that the exhibition’s overall exchange with the space itself was greatly enhanced. As Corwin expressed to me after the opening, I was stunned by how site-specific the whole show became. [1]

When the Benjamin Rosenthal Library was publicly dedicated in November of 1988 the college president, Shirley Strum Kenny, expressed his belief that it would become the future of the college. “If there was ever a building to inspire creativity,” he announced, this is it.[2] The QCAC is the library’s crown. Shaped like a ring with an inner wall of glass, there are no obstructed site lines in the entire space. Natural light pours through windows in the southern and western arcs of the white outer wall and filters down into the gallery from an enormous conical skylight that caps the building’s tubular design. If you peer out the glass wall you can see the floors below, students at tables, the lobby and checkout desks, but what rules the view is a gigantic American flag suspended by thin cables that allow it to hang perfectly still.

I remember learning in grade school the red stripes symbolized the lifeblood of the nation and that they were particularly emblematic of all the blood shed in the American Revolution. Perhaps, to acquaint himself with the space in his first month, Corwin wrote his lists for this flag? I was pondering on that possibility when I gazed out the southern window and noticed that the structure of the clock tower matched the inky shape of Corwin’s sketches as well as of his sculpture. That’s what those schematic drawings represent!

Cairn Riley took the space adjacent Corwin and her piece, Utopia Diagram (2011), was especially site-specific. Using colored chalk on a wall she primed with dark grey paint, Riley created a circular line drawing, reminiscent of an astrological chart or a Chinese horoscope, directly on the wall. She also pinned preliminary sketches of her final painting nearby, which resonated with the sketches Corwin produced for his sculpture. Riley’s chart could be read like a map; it was a representation of the exhibition broken into color coordinated geometric components. The piece had a strong holistic character, illustrating the interdependence of the individual artworks while simultaneously portraying the exhibition as a single body, a complete whole. It also seemed to account for the building’s clock tower, perhaps as the germinal seed.

In a statement about her piece, My Utopia (2011), Shervone Neckles wrote, I cannot imagine a utopia without including the voices of the next generation. Neckles, an educator, transcribed a number of brief statements from her teenage students about their conceptions of utopia in black vinyl letters that adhered to the wall. For the youngest, a fifteen year old named K. Edwards, ending the violence in Brownsville would be a first step. I wish we could just all come together and agree to help each other better ourselves, mused the young man, it takes more than one person to make a community a better place. In addition to her students’ hopeful sentiments Neckles fixed blurbs from travel magazine advertisements and social movement slogans to the gallery’s glass wall such as, Beautiful and Revolutionary or A Place with a Climate of Freedom. The former were personal and intimate, like thoughts you might whisper in prayer, while the latter seemed crafted solely for chanting in large numbers.

The words of Ellis Avery, a novelist and poet, were similarly displayed on the wall of windows. Avery composed a haiku in letters that dwarfed Neckles’s text though echoed the wishful thinking of her students, Table left out on sidewalk: we sat, hoped for a better country. Feared. When I asked Corwin about the exhibition’s theme he noted that he’d always been interested in the destructive potential of utopia, but the word “feared” in Avery’s text had a powerful impact on him. As he said, it evokes the anxiety that exists even before we embark on trying to make the world a perfect place.[3] Of course the fear is that of failure, of our hopes going unfulfilled. The hope in Avery’s haiku is for an improved nation; it’s a simple yet powerful poem to display caption-like above such a big flag.

The poem seemed especially relevant to Tommy Mintz’s Occupy Wall Street (2011) installation. Mintz is a photographer and most of the images he tacked and taped to the gallery wall of protestors in Zuccotti Park were his. He printed his pictures on newsprint and interspersed them with pages from actual newspapers. Like Neckles’s piece, Mintz’s collage juxtaposed personal visions with public pronouncements, though unlike the clear separation Neckles achieved in her work, Mintz blurred the distinction between the two.

Scrutinizing his photographs I wondered how much fear, how much anxiety and how much unrestrained hope I could find in the protestors’ facial expressions and body language. Mintz’s images were not bombastic, if anything they recorded the slow banal reality of holding one’s ground. Incorporating “the news” also invoked the power of citizen activism, which has risen like David to bring down crooked governmental Goliaths whose propaganda machines all seem to be coming unhinged.

I thought about young K. Edwards and how many Occupy movements grew out of a single call to action. My stomach gurgled. It takes tremendous guts to even attempt to improve a community, let alone the world, but there are a few who manage to do it and I imagine those people must believe in their efforts unconditionally. For better or worse, that kind of conviction is incredibly powerful. Consider every dictator from Mao to Pol Pot to Hitler—men history has proven to be mass murders—they all had utopian ideals.

There was an interactive component to Mintz’s collage that lightened the mood of the piece while conceptually mimicking the communal spirit of Occupy Wall Street (OWS). Crayons and markers sat on a neat white plinth and all were welcomed to use them on his piece. While Mintz’s gesture was one of total openness and inclusion, the comments ranged from sincere and heartfelt to utterly jejune, which was perfect for two reasons. First, because it reflected exactly what happened on a larger scale with OWS itself, and second, because that is the reality of a utopian idea like an “all-inclusive” movement. If you will not exclude anyone you must permit the scroungers and delinquents the same privileges as the helpful and diligent.

Two works stood out for their humor. Ben Gotlieb composed an elaborate artist bio for a fictional character that shares Gottlieb’s name and is afflicted with a rare medical condition known as Situs Inversus. Not only are the fictional Gottlieb’s internal organs reversed, but he also has a lost “mirror twin.” Appropriately, much of his artwork deals with issues of reflections and reversals. The piece was presented as a wall text, except it was so long that the paper on which it was printed continued down the wall and halfway across the floor of the gallery.

Sean Cunningham used the gallery space to stage The Utopia Short (2011), a theatrical production about Moses of Astoria and a follower searching for the Promised Land. It’s comical—the protagonists yearn for Pringles, which they expect to be plentiful in the Promised Land—but it also raises an interesting hypothetical conundrum. Neither Moses nor his follower recognize there is art in the gallery until they’ve left it, at which point they realize they must have been in the Promised Land all along because that’s where the art is. So they return and in doing so complete a narrative cycle that is analogous to the physical shape of the gallery itself. That the Promised Land only appears to Moses and his follower when they are outside of it is the twist that allows the plot to come full circle. It also sets up a scenario through which to wonder whether we would know utopia if we were in it, or if we would have to leave it to see it? After all, the inhabitants of the Garden of Eden didn’t realize they occupied a little slice of paradise until they were given an outsider’s perspective.

Anne Sherwood Pundyk took a different approach. She created her piece, Utopia Manifesto (2011), in the solitude of her studio. It didn’t seem possible, she explained, for her to make genuine work in such a public space.[4] But she knew the lead theme; she’d interfaced with Corwin and Mathison, and she’d exhibited work in QCAC before. So despite a physical separation she maintained a close connection with the group.

Pundyk’s piece was another that fused elements both personal and social. The central component of her installation was a series of photographs that captured stages of one of her paintings in progress. The photographs (inkjets on computer paper) were stitched together like a quilted photo-collage and hung behind three antique vases situated on a white plinth. A wooden chair from the library was placed beside the plinth. There was a rawness and vulnerability in the photos that was absolutely absent from the vases and chair. These latter two components seemed rather to symbolize the kind of objective production that is in total opposition to the subjective decision-making embodied in the shift from one photograph to the next.

Dialogue between the artworks twined increasingly. The juxtaposition of personal documentation with professional production in Pundyk’s installation seemed to reflect the approach Mintz used to create his OWS collage. When I thought about that mirroring I remembered the lost “mirror twin” of Gotlieb’s fictional tale, which returned me to the playfulness of Cunningham’s make-believe. As Cairn Riley’s piece had shown, the art was operating interdependently and this raised another question, how does one bridge individual visions of utopia with a community’s utopian ambitions?

A few artists took this issue on directly. Gottlieb made his opinion clear in a text printed on the show’s poster; whether personal or general, visions of utopia are necessarily narrow. His logic is simple: what’s good for me might not be good for you, and so how could we have a “group good?” It’s a scenario that leads straight to stalemate if no parties will permit concessions to their desires. Pundyk envisioned a more symbiotic relationship. In an artist statement she wrote, the fruits of self-reflection will flourish in a world with: good quality day care centers on every block, mass transit and electric cars, job retraining, addiction rehabilitation, and concluded with a question for the viewer, what would you add to the list? These could all be elements of the better world that is hoped for in Avery’s poem, and they are perfectly in keeping with the visions of the students transcribed in Neckles’s piece. If there is a maxim here it might be that the quality of life for an individual is directly correlative to the state of the community in which that individual lives. Or, to be truly responsible for oneself is to be responsible for all.

The struggle to act responsibly, to achieve mutual respect between an individual and a community comes across vividly in Tara Mathison’s art-fiction, UTOPIA: Exhibition Novel (2011), which was displayed on its own plinth and available to be read. In language that is alternately intimate and didactically institutional, the novel tells the story of how IP | Forever came to be from the perspective of a character named Curator. It opens with a famous quote from Robert Smithson that foreshadows the controversy to come, cultural confinement takes place when a curator imposes his own limits on an art exhibition, rather than asking an artist to set his limits. The challenge for Curator is knowing when to allow the artists the freedom to form the exhibition and when to push them to conform to its program, because in this scenario the curatorial terms of exhibition inform the art, but it’s ultimately the art that creates the exhibition. There is no shortage of conflict though resolution is eventually reached. Because the limits of “IP / Forever” are in constant flux the act of defining roles and boundaries becomes major source of contention. As Mathison writes, Curator needed to kick some ass or these artists were going to fuck her up. Whatever tension was created in the process of making the exhibition it was overcome by opening night; the scene was bubbly and jubilant.

As I looped through the gallery I felt like I was psychologically circumnavigating a round table. I knew someone represented the head, but it was difficult to say who. Mathison’s dialogue had grown into a full-blown conversation, but it wasn’t cacophonous at all. A line from Sean Cunningham’s artist statement occupied my thoughts: Utopia is an examination of the relationship between physical structures and the historical forces that shape them and which they shape. I liked that definition; it meant I was in Utopia.

Charlie Schultz is an arts writer living and working in New York City. He is the Managing Art Editor at the Brooklyn Rail and a columnist for Artslant. Additionally, Schultz contributes to Modern Painters, Art in America, and Art in Print.

[1] From an email exchange with the artist.
[2] Westervelt, Robert. “Library Dedicated,” Q.C. Quad [Queens College Newspaper] 9 Nov. 1988: 1. Print
[3] From an email exchange with the artist.
[4] From an email conversation with the artist.

 

ABOUT

Dr. Suzanna Simor, Director

718.997.3771 | suzanna.simor[at]qc.cuny.edu
Suzanna Simor, Associate Professor, has directed the Queens College Art Center since its founding in 1987 and its predecessor, the Queens College Libraries Gallery, from 1980. She is responsible for planning, program development, utilization of resources, staffing, administration and management, facility, cooperation with the college, community and outside partners, development, public relations, writing, publicity, services. She has presented more than 200 exhibition and numerous related programs, contributed to catalogs, and partnered with institutions local to international. Serving on the Board of Advisors (formerly Trustees) of the Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College since 1982, she links the two Kupferberg Center partners. MLS and PhD in Art History, she publishes in art librarianship and in the history of medieval and early modern art. Her book Imaging the Creed is forthcoming from Brepols. She is Head of the Queens College Art Library.

ABOUT

Professor Alexandra de Luise, Curator

718.997.3748 | alexandra.deluise[at]qc.cuny.edu
Alexandra de Luise, Associate Professor (on leave 2010-2011), is Curator of Queens College Art Center since 1991. She helps coordinate planning new seasons of exhibits, gallery talks, receptions and other programs along with Assistant Curator and Director. She meets with current and prospective artists, oversees support work related to installation, gallery maintenance, programs, mailings and publicity, and acts as contact person for service points on campus. MA in Art History and MLS, she is Queens College Libraries’ Coordinator of Instructional Services.

ABOUT

Tara Mathison, Assistant Curator

718.997.3772 | tara.mathison[at]qc.cuny.edu
Tara Mathison, Adjunct Faculty, is Assistant Curator of Queens College Art Center, where she has curated over 25 artists and 15 exhibitions since 2007. She has over 10 years' experience curating exhibitions, focusing on contemporary artists and visual culture. An artist herself, she received her MA and MFA in Printmaking while teaching Drawing at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. A member of the Brooklyn artist collective 3rd Ward, she has exhibited extensively in the United States and internationally. Her work is in collections around the world.

ABOUT

Frances Chan, Administration

718.997.3770 | frances.chan[at]qc.cuny.edu