DOPPELGÄNGING, the exhibition currently on view at Work | Release, features video works by international contemporary artists. The carefully selected works depict imaginary worlds, and artists don alter egos to create immersive experiences / installations and performances.
One of the things that I was struck by when viewing the show is that many of my art crushes/heroes are being exhibited right here in our city! They have managed to bring together local and international legends in the contemporary art world. It’s incredible that people who might just be going to grab some drinks and dance dance dance will stumble upon some of the most cutting edge and famous artists working in the field today. The “high art” and “night time entertainment venue” cultures rubbing up against each other is fascinating and something that is unique to an experimental space like Work | Release.
In full transparency, the curators, George Terry and Brett Day Windham, are my dear friends, colleagues, and former roommates from graduate school. The Rutter Family Art Foundation approached them to develop an exhibition that was dedicated to the medium of video. Being that they are both incredible sculptors in their own right, they put together an exhibition full of color and texture, stories and montages, unbridled in its ambition and truly entertaining. I corresponded with them about their process and ideas:
Charlotte Potter: You two are artists, married and in love. How (if at all) did this factor into your collaborative curatorial process?
Brett + George: Over the past few years, we’ve worked collaboratively on both art and curatorial projects, and have been able to find our best individual roles in the process. Living together and sharing daily activities has been essential to our process. Mundane activities such as long car rides become important brainstorming time. Being in love (and staying in love!) means respecting each other’s strengths, and letting them shine. George is great at generating ideas and enthusiasm, organizing studio visits, and technical can-do. He handles details, and stays positive. Brett handles a lot of the writing, editing, and design. She is good at developing loose threads to find themes and big-picture ideas. We both absolutely love working with other artists, getting to do studio visits, laying out the narrative flow of an exhibition, and talking about the work.
As we were chatting late night after the install you mentioned that the video screen flickers like a fire, seizing the human eye and is mesmerizing in its movement. Why was video a captivating medium to organize this exhibition around?
As you mention, the light and motion from a video is naturally captivating, and makes sense to present in a multifaceted space like Work | Release. But even more importantly, video encompasses the multidisciplinary aspects of each of the included artists’ studio practice. For example, there is no better way to communicate that an artist like Esteban Del Valle is a stunningly talented draftsman, creates beautiful papier-mâché props, and has an incredible ability with narrative and with editing HD video. Through his new work, Viable Option, the viewer is able to enjoy the full scope of Esteban’s talents. Irvin Morazan makes powerful costumes out of everyday objects like Cheetos dispensers and old boom boxes, and uses them as surprising punctuation in his spiritual yet iconoclastic videos. The same ingenuity and diversity of media could really apply to any artist in the show, as they all employ sculpture, sets, paintings, drawings, and handmade ephemera to communicate with us.
In your curatorial statement you mentioned you did not go into this project with a specific theme in mind. How did you arrive at the idea of Doppelgängers?
We started out looking for artists working with video, and as we both love evidence of the handmade in any artist’s process. That was a strong factor in our initial wish lists. Through months of studio visits, email, Skype and website-combing, we began to gravitate towards the works we felt spoke to us the most clearly – and those that started to speak to each other.
As those wish lists became more focused, natural themes among the works emerged. That’s what we mean by working from the inside out: find the strongest work from inside of an extended community, and let it speak for itself. The connections are there; they don’t need to be super-imposed or chosen before the fact. The strongest of those connections was the idea of a stand-in, or a double for the artist.
As one experiences the show, there are some interesting parallels between the works. Can you speak at all to the notion of the masking or being masked?
There is such a long rich tradition of the creative alter ego, and with good reason – our alter egos are allowed to act out in ways that we never could in daily life, and that freedom is crucial for creativity. Your word, masking, though, is interesting. To be masked is to be hidden, or to disguise, and that’s as crucial a part of art making as role-play. There is a fascinating binary relationship present there, as people are simultaneously protected and freed by a disguise.
Of the twelve artists selected for this exhibition there is much diversity; male and female, local and national stars, and people of all different ethnic and social backgrounds. Can you speak a little bit about your selection process?
It happened pretty naturally, but we were certainly aware of keeping a balanced group of men and women and of artists from varied backgrounds. It is true that there is no better way for an audience to feel included then to see themselves included in the work, whether that means gender, race, cultural background or just their own supposed private weirdness.
Work | Release is an incredible arts and events venue. There is the curious and interesting challenge of curating a show in the space which transforms at night into a dance party. I’m impressed by the way that you decided to invite the artists to come do performances with their work to integrate out of the white box and into the rave–can you please share some of the upcoming events that people can experience?
images | Ben Boshart
Yes. This weekend marks the last chance for the public to enjoy a live event in conjunction with DOPPELGÄNGING: Irvin Morazan and Cooper Holoweski will premiere “The Spoil,” a brand-new collaborative multimedia performance this weekend, Saturday the 8th, at 6pm.
We really support the Rutter Family Art Foundation’s mission to reach out and bring the art to the people… it’s definitely a challenge to organize a show where the work will be dynamic, exciting, sophisticated and still be physically safe in such a multi-event venue! We also tried to work in concert with the type of events that draw such huge crowds to Work | Release on the weekends, and think about programming that would enhance the content of the show while bridging that gap. The artists we chose to perform and speak reflect that thought process: having an incredible triple threat like Los Angeles artist Rachel Mason (artist, singer/songwriter, filmmaker) perform her rock-opera libretto “The Lives of Hamilton Fish” on the opening weekend was such an honor. Norfolk native Brian Bress (who makes stunning videos depicting sets and characters he created in his Los Angeles studio) visited and gave a wonderful lecture last week.
It’s an interesting experience as an artist and curator to have traditional roles flipped – we as artists often speak only to our own circles, and expect others to work hard to join us in that conversation. To create an exhibition for Work | Release we definitely had to stretch – to reach out to the general public and truly engage them; it’s a worthy undertaking. That unorthodox engagement can be elevating…and fun and gorgeous.
Other things you wanted to touch upon?
Thank you so much for your generous and thoughtful questions, and also for the fun opportunity to discuss the show publicly with such a trusted confidant.
We think Norfolk is incredibly unique. It’s so unusual for such a small city with a tight knit community to be so committed to the arts. Visual art – especially contemporary art – can be an unwieldy, abstract, and difficult beast, and this behavior makes it an unpopular choice for civic investment. A community that believes in nurturing and understanding that beast is a special and rare place. We are so pleased to be able to contribute to the burgeoning Arts District, and grateful to the Rutter Family Art Foundation for their invitation and support.
The exhibition DOPPELGÄNGING runs October 16th – November 21st, 2015. Work | Release is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings beginning at 6pm. Guests can view the exhibition, have dinner, enjoy a drink and catch musical and cultural performances until late at night. Work | Release is located at 759 Granby Street Norfolk, Virginia, 23510