resource review: pablo helguera workshop, talk and book ‘education for socially engaged art’.

a couple of weeks ago i had the great pleasure to see pablo helguera speak at my school.  he is a social engagement artist, director of adult and academic programs at MOMA and the author of many books including ‘education for socially engaged art’.  as i prepared for the lunch seminar he would be leading by reading his book, i was immediately intrigued.  he mentions in his introduction that he wants this book to act as an introductory reference and i appreciated the fact that he offers up his definitions and criteria for art that is termed socially engaged or social practice.  he dismisses the term social practice because it doesn’t claim art explicitly and proposes instead socially engaged art because it makes it clear that the work is first and foremost art and not say, anthropology or social work.

i found that super interesting coming as i do from a family of social workers and from my planned parenthood background.  i love social work and i love ‘doing service’ to borrow (perhaps inaccurately) from bell hooks.  and i love doing art work and am interested in where these seemingly disparate trajectories can come together.

for his lunch seminar helguera focused on a critique of social engagement art.  in fact we literally critiqued three projects that he presented to us (just to name one, he proposed a “poverty project” in which the artist would spend no money what so ever but would live in a gallery and/or a fancy all expenses paid residency in france.  hilarious).  the majors criticisms of the projects were that they were self-centered, indulgent, not really helping or bring attention to the cause they purported to, etc.  totally valid and i was glad to hear him critique this kind of arty behavior but then i was even more surprised to see his own artist’s talk.  it was kind of a snore and i honestly didn’t see where his work really intersected with anything social.  his work was in my opinion self-centered and self indulgent.  in one project he didn’t have childcare so he took his daughter with him and performed a reading of a play, while holding his daughter and comforting her when she fussed.   in the second he has created this elaborate system of envelopes that will be mailed long after his death.  i wasn’t really sure how they enriched society at all or how they might “affect the public sphere in a deep and meaningful way” to quote his book.

not that they had too or that it was his intention but after reading the book and sitting in on the lunch seminar that is what i was expecting.

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shigaraki peops: meaghan gates and yumie shukuya

2 three month residents are finishing up.  they both mounted amazing exhibitions last week.  meaghan gates, an artist from california just finished her undergrad at chico state and came to shigaraki as part of a trip funded by the presigious windgate grant she received last year.  before coming to shigaraki she spent a month at a pottery in seto, japan and after she leaves next week she will go to san bao, china for a month.

yumie shukuya is from the gumna prefecture but lives in tokyo.  she recently graduated from tama university, one of the top tier programs for art in japan, where she studied sculpture.

both artists went to undergrads that nurtured conceptual sculpture  thought they both use the wheel in some areas of their work.  the also both make work that falls beneath the umbrella of biomorphic abstraction.  meaghan uses the wheel, almost exclusively, to creae repeated  shapes that she brings together into complex organic compositions.  Some are particular abstract, others evoke more recognizable animal forms such as fowl or mammals which the artist calls comforting.

yumie’s sculptures begin from the idea of a flower, which she sees as a stand in for the human body.  she uses molds to create base forms which she alters and adds onto.  her glazes push the flower-like qualities forward, with thick feldspathic nodules that sit on top of the form like button mushrooms or crawl off the clay body leaving what looks like a naturally occurring pattern.  she also employs variegated glaze colors that bring to mind orchid or hellebore petals.  these colors are echoed in the ink washes she applies canvases which are set behind the installed work.


i’m really thrilled i got to work with these artists this month and see their shows go up.

shigaraki peops: naoki koide

i have been having a great time at shigaraki and one reason for that is all the awesome artists i am getting to know and work next to.  in this little series of blog posts i hope to briefly introduce these awesome people.

koide-san with figure.

naoki koide has appeared in this blog before, in this post about the paul clay show at salon 94.  his work is in the second picture, the pink cloud-like figure in the foreground.  that was my first time to see his work in person.  all i really knew about him was that he was represented by tomio koyama gallery, where agatha and i curated think warm: miami draws for you back in 2006.  turns out he saw the show too!  i’m a big fan of his work and am now a fan of the person as well.

koide-san spends about a week of each month at togei no mori (shigaraki ceramic cultural park) and does his clay work exclusively here. he studied at tokyo zokei university and was at one time a student/assistant of yoshitomo nara.  like nara, he used to work in plastics.  they are both featured in a show at the Museum of Contemporary Ceramic Arts right now (titled doki doki) which features artists working in other media who have created works in ceramic and variety of ceramic artists.

though he is kicking some serious butt with clay he is also beginning to explore sculpting wood, which he can do at his studio at home.  he mentioned that he gets huge chunks of wood from generous wood firing friends around shigaraki.

maquettes and small figures for mini trade

koide-san said his work is always about his family.  earlier works talked about his parents and brother and in his current work he explores his small family of three.  in sculptures of heads, which in scale are much larger than life, he portrays his wife and himself.  he often portrays his wife as larger than himself.  when i asked why that was he said that it is because she possesses more power than he.

maquette of current work.

on one side of these large sculpture an active interior is visible, full of tiny sculptures, paths and, in this series, a large figure symbolizing his young daughter.

back of maquette with inner world.

the seemingly unrelated milieu of items inside the sculpture correlate to the mess of things constantly dancing around in our heads and the placement of the daughter figure explores the different relationships the mother and father have with the daughter.

koide-san with his in progress sculptures. they are only about halfway done!

for the one short week he was in residence koide-san was a great contributor to the fun and comradeship at togei no mori.

his work is up at the new hikarie building in shibuya now.  click the link for images and an interview (with is in japanese but features some great shots of the insides of koide-san’s sculpture).

coffee break.

check back for more run downs on the awesome artists working at togei no mori this month:)

progress

the last week has been kind of bananas.  last friday i had pretty much run out of clay and took the opportunity to go to the clay store and get more, thinking i had another week of building ahead.  that afternoon we had the monthly kiln meeting and i realized i had more like 3 days left.  yikes!

wall collection.

i have amassed a pretty good collection of wall pieces for the installation i will mount before the end of my stay.  i am using a mixture of local clays, both a smooth white and black shigaraki clay and a black clay with the ubiquitous feldspar inclusions.  i am also using (sparingly) arita porcelain from kyushu.

tiny black and white trade pieces.

i have organized a mini- trade with the other residents.  these are my little guys.  see that fake grass under them?  i found a whole case of 12″ x 12″ squares of it in the dumpster and might try to use it for something….

soon to be floor pieces.

floor pieces drying.

lightweight templates.

middle floor piece.

working here the last couple of weeks has been awesome!  i love that all i have to do everyday is just eat, sleep and work.  and being able to wake up and walk right to my studio pretty much rules.

i have been able to put everything else out of my mind and i’ve even had time to do some cooking.  sometimes the residents get together to cook and eat.  i invited everyone to share some nabe one evening and the other night everyone cooked something and shared, kind of like a potlock.

yumie working on her dish.

nabe night.

kimchi nabe.

potluck!

ok, maybe not everything else.  i keep having dreams in which my kitties wonder off.  it’s so weird.  during the day i think “this is so wonderful i hope i can come back and stay longer some day” and at night my brain feels guilty or something.  miss those little nerds:(

violet and junior.

busy day.

field trip.

meal that another american artist and i threw together the other night.

i’m on a mission to learn some proper japanese cooking, this is my attempt at miso soup.

some in progress works, i think i will have a pretty substantial installation or these by the end…

saturday i headed out to kyoto with 2 of the other artists. i had seen some of these sites before (with parents, benny, masa) but despite the droves of us tourists they are still amazingly beautiful and great to see again.

kiyomizudera, i think that translates to pure water temple, but don’t hold me to it. you can, intriguingly, pay a couple hundred yen to take off your shoes, walk into the temple and into complete blackness (you have a rail to hold which leads you around), around a spiral and into a room with a large stone. if you place your hand on this stone you can make a wish. this dark place is considered the womb of the temple. 🙂

star leaves.

turtles.

shopping street.

meaghan, an artist from cali, with some maikos on the streets of kyoto.

shizuka, who is working at the togei no mori for a whole year, modeling a hat in a small shop.

kinkakuji, the golden temple.

ship shaped giant bonzai…

cool trees.

after the golden temple we went to another famous site, ryoenji, which is a temple and a zen rock garden.  i didn’t take any pictures, because i was busy talking with shizuka about art and happiness.  i hope to post pics and some discussion with several of the artists working at the togei no mori in this blog so keep an eye out.

anyway, on the way back to the car…wait for it…..

2 words, cat cafe.

CAT CAFE!? i didn’t go in. but i wanted to …..

tokyo food and friends or friends and food?

as completely pumped as i was to be reunited with all my wonderful friends in japan, i may even have been more excited about the food.  there is a lot of food pride in japan so i think my friends understood.  the whole week i was in tokyo i got to enjoy great company and great meals.  here’s a little smattering of photos, when i remembered to take them before digging into delicious food and of course, the ubiquitous memory lane:)

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shabu shabu with my tokyo gang.

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making tempura with momoru’s mama.

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my favorite ramen in tokyo, rasuta ramen.

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followed by dessert and coffee at mr. donut with masa.

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delicious dinner with my japanese teacher and her family.

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i was so lucky to chat with them about life and art and our old friends.  and chiba-sensei gave me some homemade umeboshi plums to take home.

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okonomiyaki and monjayaki with masa, mariko, and

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surprise!  yuki and blair all the way from australia.

fun times in harajuky with kiyomi, who brought us delicious japanese bakery lunch, sorry no photo!