Points of View – “I AM: Money Matters”
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?
"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?
"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.
"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).