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Points of View – “I AM: Money Matters”

Posted September 22, 2014 in Events

Written by MFA student Aj Cooke, Points of View explores local gallery exhibitions in order to spark an open and accessible exchange of ideas and nurture collective intelligence about the art being created and displayed in our community.

I AM: Money Matters
The Fed Galleries at KCAD
August 21 – October 12

Though technically not open until September 24th, the monster of ArtPrize is upon us. Many artists have already installed their work to specified venues, and exhibitions like KCAD’s “I AM: Money Matters,” located in The Fed Galleries, have officially opened to the public. The title of KCAD's exhibition is broad, leading to varied expectations and/or assumptions by the viewer regarding value, yet the proposition offers a refreshing theme in terms of pushing through what some might consider a hush-hush topic of monetary funds, and is well-placed in the very appropriate setting of ArtPrize, where people weigh in on good or bad art in terms of cash rewards.

Likewise, the show’s statement asserts that the exhibition “raises bold questions about currency, consumption, and value while exploring their influence on human beings, our emotions, and our understanding of the world around us.” The exhibition features eight artists, a variety of media, and some installations that invite the public to transcend their role of viewer to become active participants. There are works in the gallery that are expected to be in a show with the word “money” in the title, and there are other creations that are quiet and still, requiring a pause to really discern how this image relates with our personal experience of value.

One such work is Wendy Kawabata’s wall installation, “Grow in Light”, which is made up of painted wool flowers pinned in a square formation and addresses the idea of land use as a commodity. The square structure of the flowers presents an instant visual contradiction that questions the balance of industry and nature. There’s also perhaps a clash between tradition and change that can be seen in Kawabata’s use of the domestic craft of crocheting altered by the artificiality of silver paint. Delicately placed in the gallery space, the arrangement of blossoms pinned to the wall at different depths create dimension and allude to a hierarchy of worth among the organic shapes. What is the value of land? How is land best used?

Wendy Kawabata - Grow in Light"Grow in Light" by Wendy Kawabata

Sonya Clark is also facilitating a dialogue between two worlds by bringing the craft of “Black hair” into a conventional art space. “The Hair Craft Project” is a visually stunning sequence of large color photographs and fiber art that concentrate on the hair designer’s skill, both on Clark’s own head in the photographs, and then on a more traditional surface – the canvas. In her artist statement, Clark says that she reframes “the mastery of these artists in a new context, the gallery.” The contrast in surface questions the viewer’s own idea(s) of art, artist and the concept of an art world. What is art? Who values art? Where do we look for it at?

Sonya Clark - The Hair Craft Project"The Hair Project" by Sonya Clark

Located in the back room of the gallery is Denis Beaubois’ video installation, “Currency – The Division of Labor.” This work documents people employed to smile for a workday of seven hours, allowing the viewer a voyeuristic experience of watching the employees become increasingly fatigued while trying to maintain a happy face (insert bad joke about money buying happiness). Even though these people sought the employment and were paid a minimum wage for their service, is this exploitation? By whom? The artist? The viewer? An economy? Consider how much you value your time, and how much you are worth.

Denis Beaubois - Currency: The Division of Labor"Currency - The Division of Labor" by Denis Beaubois

“I AM: Money Matters” raises bold questions indeed. What were some questions that came to mind as you viewed the exhibition? Feel free to share questions, thoughts, impressions, and ideas in the comments section below, or join the conversation on Facebook.

The views expressed in Points of View do not necessarily represent those of Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD).
 

2 Comments

  • Jackie Kilothought September 30, 2014

    I know a lot of artists over the years have made statements about money, and what it’s really worth, but I appreciate exhibitions like these because our society is going to need to be hit with questions like these a LOT (as in, a lot) if the perception of currency being such an important thing in life is ever going to be altered at all. It’s really easy to forget how meaningless money is—or if not completely meaningless, definitely not worth spending one’s life in pursuit of, any more than it’s worth it to spend one’s whole life watching the same movie or playing the same video game. Yes, questions about the real worth of “dosh” have been raised before, but if it’s been said so much, why are so many people putting all their efforts in pursuit of it?

    After eating, shelter, and some miscellaneous enjoyment, what exactly are we in the United States earning—or trying desperately to earn—these HUGE amounts of money for? Why is it that people who otherwise wouldn’t give two cares about money end up spending so much time thinking about it and comparing their [financial] worth to others’? Why do we accept the idea of owning “land” as if it’s just another commodity? Sorry for spouting off, but, I suppose, that’s what an exhibition like this is supposed to cause.

  • Aj Cooke October 1, 2014

    Jackie,

    Thanks for the comment, and feel free to “spout off” in response to critical discussion at any time.
    You raise a lot of questions that deal with the notion of value - which is what this exhibition was going for.  I think there may be those who would disagree that money is meaningless (or nearly meaningless) in a capitalist society where consumption is a daily routine within a system that promotes the individual over the many.
    However, what I appreciate about the range of artwork in this exhibition (made evident by your comments/questions) is that the individual is present, but the greater context of a society is really the subject, which allows us to analyze the how and why.

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