Representations of death often tend toward the trite: holograms, star clusters, or gilded gates leading to puffy buoyant clouds, for example. None of these conventional methods of representing death are currently on view at the Chapel of the Chimes, the Julia Morgan–designed crematorium in Oakland, though. Instead, viewers will find more unorthodox artifacts—pop-up children’s books and Shakespeare, a pair of Dixie cups, a reproduction of a Buddhist stupa, or a spider weaving her web–among the more customary flowers and well wishes.

The placement of art in this non-traditional space defies convention but adheres to definition; after all, a museum is “a building in which objects of historical, scientific, artistic, or cultural interest are stored and exhibited.”1 Architect Julia Morgan, best known for building the extravagant Hearst Castle, created an elaborate but discernibly more subdued place of repose in the Chapel of the Chimes. The Chapel was a proud recipient of the 2009 Best of the East Bay award, “Best Place to Spend Eternity.” Levity aside, the curatorial collective OFFSpace believed the Chapel was the perfect venue for art that engaged a living public with examinations of the hereafter, and spent months persuading the establishment’s administration to allow art to be installed in vacant niches. They succeeded, and Ever After became the first official art exhibition for the Chapel of the Chimes.

Since each work is limited to a niche, the works tend toward two extremes: minimalist or sensationalist. Luther Thie’s piece, The Count (2011), humorously depicts a pair of battling sock puppets. The playful skirmish is a duel to the death (pun intended) that counters and rivals the romanticized view of a peaceful, regret-free death. Although some artworks appear as part of the environment, others, like Thie’s puppets, are clearly meant to stand out, and become further magnified by their unlikely surroundings.

Luther Thie's, The Count
Luther Thie. The Count, 2011; mixed media; 18.5 x 24.5 x 11.5 in. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: Dorothy Santos.

Although art in a crematorium may seem unlikely and, to some, a discourteous or flippant look at loss, Ever After seeks to flesh out our collective presuppositions and neuroses surrounding eternal rest. OFFSpace prevails in testing the boundaries of exhibiting art in alternative spaces, and consistently creates well-curated, provocative exhibitions. The bottom line: a show without controversy is a show that’s probably not worth seeing.

Originally posted to Shotgun Reviews on Art Practical, please click here to view.

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NOTES:

1. From the New Oxford American Dictionary, Third Edition.

Ever After, an exhibition curated by curatorial collective, OFFSpace, is one of the most memorable art openings I’ve experienced (ever). The show resides in what most individuals would consider a rather unorthodox and unusual place for an art exhibition – a columbarium. Yes, you read that correctly. This show is in a columbarium. Currently in the process of revising and editing pieces for publication and rest assured (no pun intended), my review of Ever After is in the works. For now, please view some of the photos from the opening.

Visitors looking at Andrew Witrak's piece, Dixie Cup Phone (2011), Paper, silk thread, gouache paint, dimensions variable
Exploring Julia Morgan's architecture work while searching for the artwork spread throughout the columbarium
Walking around and getting lost
In Blessed (name of the room), searching for Marya Krogstad and Emmanuelle Namont Kouznetsov's work. Found Krogstad but learned Kouznetsov's work had to be moved.
Elyse Hochstadt's work, Untitled (Reliquary) (2011), Ash, 36" x 12" x 4"
Chimes Chapel entrance

Ever After @ Chapel of the Chimes

OFFSpace, with guest jurors Lauren Davies (Kala Art Institute) and Robert Wuilfe (diRosa Foundation) are very pleased and excited to invite you to the opening reception for Ever After.

Here are the details:

WHERE: The Chapel of the Chimes Columbarium, 4499 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

WHEN: Sunday, September 18th from 5-8pm

COST: this event is free and open to the public

FEATURING WORK BY

Voted Best of the Bay’s, “Best Place to Spend Eternity”, the Chapel of the Chimes is playing host to living artists with this first ever exhibition of visual art in the Julia Morgan designed chapel and columbarium in Oakland.

Most stories end with “happily ever after” — but the stories being told by artists in this show are using Ever After as a starting point. Poignancy, playfulness, and sharp insights into the nature of the Eternal are the common threads used to weave a series of site specific mini-installations through chapel niches. From the minimal to the Baroque, artists use these unique spaces to reflect upon notions of ritual, remembrance, loss and celebration with critical alacrity and humor.

There will be an evening of performance & sound works on Sunday, November 13th from 5-8pm–more on this later!

Source: OFFSPace 

Few artistic movements are surrounded by so much debate and controversy as conceptual art. For conceptual art has a tendency to provoke intense and perhaps even extreme reactions in its audiences. After all, whilst some people find conceptual art very refreshing and the only kind of art that is relevant to today’s world, many others consider it shocking, distasteful, skill-less, downright bad, or, and most importantly, not art at all. Conceptual art, it seems, is something that we either love or hate.

~ Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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After attending the Spread opening night exhibition at the SOMArts Cultural Center (San Francisco, CA), there’s a lot of reflection (and reading) I’ve got to do. There’s so much to say!! For your viewing pleasure, I posted a slideshow of some photos I took during the opening. I will, certainly, return with a deeper, lengthier piece (or several posts) on the entire show. Initial reaction: an incredible showcase of established and emerging conceptual artists. The overall conversation between the pieces was present and enthralling. Lastly, amazing use of the space.

Deeper reflections to follow…

With the artist’s reception in a large Budget rental truck, accompanied by a performance piece involving libations and black lights, “Proliferations Part 2” was both provocative and engaging. Viewing the show itself meant being escorted by minivan through a security gate to a roll-up-door storage unit, which was brought down once participants had entered. Viewing works in close proximity not only invoked a strong sense of anticipation, but a participatory aspect to the actual exhibition. “Proliferations Part 2” comes from the curatorial collective OFF Space, which is composed of artist-curators Kathrine Worel, Elyse Hochstadt, and Emmanuelle Namont Kouznetsov. The exhibition included works by Alexis Arnold, Alicia Escott, Michael J. Ryan, and Erica Gagsei. The pieces exhibited were constructed from man-made objects, transformed into organic shapes and forms that were then deliberately set against a wooden backdrop.

With their technologically based pieces, artists David Stein and Peter Foucault utilized this confined location to illustrate the dichotomous nature of excess and lack within a space. Michael Kerbow’s Meat Map simulated a pull-down wall map, thus creating a simulacra of memory based on grammar school geography classes.

In comparison, a viewing of “Proliferations Part 1” at Rhodes & Fletcher Wealth Management offices congruently emphasized the various ways in which environment plays a role in our perception and reading of art. Although no special code was needed, “Part 1” required permission in the form of an appointment to view the works. In “Part 1,” there was a clear distinction between art and venue, whereas “Part 2” drew heavily from the environment to provide the viewer context. Artists from “Part 2” palpably incorporated the environment to have each piece function and become experiential. Although extremely different settings, both sites obligated the viewer to engage in a process of perception and valuation. This engaging was as much a part of the exhibition as the work itself, though that might not have been the original intention. Overall, it would be difficult for a viewer to ignore the environment in these exhibitions, as they are so different from the typical gallery setting we have become so accustomed to.

Originally published to Art Practical for Shotgun Reviews March 2010

Photos from Proliferations-Part 2

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