The New Whitney Building


The new Whitney building has been well-discussed elsewhere, but let me just say, it was a pure pleasure to visit it today. Not least because of the way the building incorporates itself into the neighborhood and the colorful Mary Heilmann chairs (a temporary work entitled Sunset) meant to encourage hanging out. Inside the building, the exhibition of the re-installed permanent collection, “America Is Hard to See,” looks fantastic. Admittedly the current crowds make it a little harder to appreciate all the works on view, but I look forward to going back soon.


Review on Burnaway: A “Cryptophonic” Sound Art Event

Sacred Harp singing by Jesse P. Karlsberg and Sacred Harp singers at "The Cryptophonic Tour" at Oakland Cemetery on May 2, presented by the collective Callosum.

Sacred Harp singing by Jesse P. Karlsberg and Sacred Harp singers at “The Cryptophonic Tour” at Oakland Cemetery on May 2.

“Imagine 11 graveside sound art installations, four musical performances, three graveside chats, one continuous Widow’s Walk performance, and five hours in which to see it all. This was the scene at Atlanta’s historic Oakland Cemetery on Saturday, May 2. A crowd of art lovers, babies and dogs in tow, came to see and hear “The Cyptophonic Tour” in the cemetery’s 48-acre “rural garden.” The event, which received funding from Idea Capital, was an audiophile’s dream orchestrated by the sound art group ROAMtransmissions, a project of Atlanta’s Callosum Collective. ROAMtransmissions curated the content and co-produced it with Arts at Oakland, a new annual arts day series at Oakland Cemetery, long a venue for historical tours and lectures—as well as burials.”

Using Oakland Cemetery’s archives and audio collected on the cemetery’s grounds as source material, ROAMtransmissions’ artists presented immersive performances and installations that recounted various narratives about Oakland’s occupants. Head over to Burnaway Magazine to read my review of this sound art event here.

Suburban Backyard Aesthetics: Jessica Machacek at the Georgia Museum of Art

plot, 2015

plot, 2015

With a rectilinear arrangement in white, accessorized by a looping yellow line, Jessica Machacek transforms materials from the garden section of any Home Depot or Lowe’s supply store into a sculptural installation of clear aesthetic intent. What the work on view in the MFA Candidate Exhibition at the Georgia Museum of Art, entitled plot (2015), suggests is the equally transformative, aesthetic nature of people’s efforts in their own plots of land: the suburban American yard.


Detail, plot, 2015

Suburban America is invoked not merely in the yellow rubber hose, coming from a water spigot attached to the museum’s wall, but in the perfectly level grass of white, synthetic turf and pavement it lays upon. Absurdly the hose is not functional, nor does the artificial grass require watering. On the wall, a grid of nine white plaster squares backs this tableaux. A spotlight from a bulb on a tripod refocuses the viewer’s attention on what seems to be a product built for decorative garden edging, a pile of white rocks. In fact, the artist made each rock by hand, replicating an easily obtained consumer object through time-consuming and repetitive labor. Consumerism fascinates the artist. Machacek’s labor not only critiques the easy consumerism with which we prune and ornament our little fiefdoms of outdoor space, but indicts the artist as a willing participant in the endless cycle with which we try to uphold artificial standards for natural beauty.

Vivarium Dream

Vivarium Dream (Model #701634), 2015

The consumerist interests of the artist are subdued in the ghostly plot, which functions like the photographic negative of a twinned work, Vivarium Dream (Model #701634). Vivarium Dream, a multi-part installation comprised of a commercially available greenhouse, sound, garden items of faux materials, and printed images, formed the basis for plot quite literally. The artist cast the white plaster squares of plot’s back wall from the clear plastic windows provided for the DIY greenhouse. The turf and tile in plot matches the footprint of the greenhouse, which also contains handmade rocks. The artificial ambitions of man’s engagement with “nature,” as manifest in the American backyard, is seen more clearly in Vivarium Dream, where an impossibly long and bright fake fern dangles in front of the reproduction of a waterfall.


Detail, Vivarium Dream (Model #701634), 2015

Taken together, these works show the artist’s concern with clarifying her and our relationship to something as simple as a smooth green lawn. Particularly in an installation like plot, one sees how much ideas of nature have become unnatural. While such considerations are hardly new—one need only look as far as the picturesque reaction to the formal gardens of Versailles—in Machacek’s work they speak to a contemporary American moment inherited from the 1950s and closely tied to suburbia and the American dream.

Detail, Vivarium Dream (Model #701634), 2015

Detail, Vivarium Dream (Model #701634), 2015