INFLUENCE, curated by Oliver Wasow, at the Kleinert/James Center for the Arts
Exhibition dates: March 6 – April 19, 2015
Opening reception: Saturday March 7, 4:00 – 6:00 pm
Curator’s talk: Saturday March 7, 3:00 pm (precedes the opening)
Location: Kleinert/James Center for the Arts, 36 Tinker Street, Woodstock, NY 12498
“Traditionally, shows that explore creative influence are focused on the ways in which artists draw on the work of other artists,” says Oliver Wasow, curator of the exhibition Influence, on view at the Kleinert/James Center for the Arts from March 6 through April 19. The oft-used word influence is at times stripped of its complexities by art history and critical writing alike — it seems it can’t help but ratify unsubtle, putatively linear evolutions of artistic trends.
Not so in the case of the exhibition at the Kleinert/James. Wasow, himself a visual artist, has a critically innovative tack on defining influence, positing the nostalgic, understated, even surreptitious creative relationships artists have with what he calls “the mundane and everyday cultural detritus” in their studios. And so he invited a group of both well-known and emerging artists to curate their conglomerations of personal objects, suggesting “book covers, an object bought in a flea market, a family photo, an article of clothing, an ashtray, a children’s toy, an album cover, a tree branch, a cereal box….the stuff you have pinned to your studio wall, or stored on your hard drive” as potential candidates for inclusion in the exhibition. During the exhibition’s run in the Kleinert/James, Woodstock’s premier contemporary art space, objects chosen by the artists will be displayed in close proximity to one of their artworks. The exhibition includes the artwork and influential “stuff” of Kamrooz Aram, Black Lake (Susan Jennings and Slink Moss), Dike Blair, Tim Davis, Gail Fitzgerald, Dana Hoey, Alix Lambert, Miranda Lichtenstein, Cameron Martin, Carl Ostendarp, Alexander Ross, Peter Rostovsky, Lisa Sanditz, and Matthew Weinstein.
Wasow clarifies: audiences should not necessarily expect literal translations of an artist’s chosen objects of influence into the artwork on view. Only sometimes, and circuitously, do these objects actually make their way into a completed project. Influence, rather, queries how those objects intermingle with artistic practice, which Wasow suggests is defined at least in part by the things artists gather around themselves. “It’s been my experience,” he points out, “that these things are quite often as much of an influence on creative practice as the works of other artists, and that it’s through this material that we can perhaps best understand and gain insight into an artist’s true interests.”
Himself a photographer and conceptual artist, Wasow, along with John D. Monteith, created the installation Artist Unknown: The Free World at the Kleinert/James in 2013. Comprised of thousands of photographs culled from social media sites like Facebook and Tumblr (displayed as prints or on looping digital frames), the installation divulged what Wasow called a “crowd-sourced curatorial practice” in which random photographic accumulations were transformed into archaeological orderings of human idiosyncrasy. Of a related project, critic Martha Schwendener has written “Wasow works more like an archaeologist . . . Just as archaeologists favor ancient garbage dumps for the mother lode of information they provide about a past culture, Wasow’s Expansible Catalogue also focuses on junk—or at least the kind of photography that doesn’t make it into art history books.” Supplanting “junk” with “stuff,” Influence summons a similar amalgam of archaeology and art history to produce quasi-biographical sketches of artists via their personal artifacts: potent, if in some way ephemeral, documents of what Wasow calls “the interior narrative world of artists.”
Oliver Wasow will give a curator’s talk at the Kleinert/James at 3:00 pm on March 7, just preceding the opening reception for Influence. Both events are free to the public
Left: Alexander Ross, Untitled, 2001, oil on linen, 39″ x 39″ // right: Alexander Ross’s copy of Barflyze, a comic book by Basil Wolverton