By Christine Benedetti | December 1, 2015 | Culture
A quintet of female artists takes over the Aspen Art Museum.
After years of obscurity, the late deaf-mute artist Judith Scott has finally been getting her due, thanks to her powerful fiber sculptures like Untitled (1993), on view this spring at the Art Museum.
Some might consider it serendipitous to have works from five female artists under one roof. But Heidi Zuckerman, CEO and director-curator of the Aspen Art Museum, says it’s simply a reflection of the industry. Given the breadth of talent in a series of upcoming exhibits by female artists at the Aspen Art Museum, it’s a good thing the roof happens to be a big one: the Shigeru Ban–designed, 33,000-square-foot, six-gallery museum that opened downtown in summer 2014.
Beginning in February, solo exhibitions by Judith Scott, Liz Larner, Lynda Benglis, Rachel Rose, and Mickalene Thomas open in staggered succession at the museum. “There are five solo shows, and each of these artists works in a variety of mediums—they all have different approaches to the practice of making art,” Zuckerman says. “They span different generations [as well]. It just shows how broad and diverse the field has become.”
The curator explains that what distinguishes programs at the Aspen Art Museum from others in the US is their focus on diversity: “It’s our ongoing and continuous showing of one-person exhibitions from female artists and artists of color,” says Zuckerman. “It wasn’t intentional to stack up so many solo exhibitions of females at one time.” But for the exhibitions opening this winter, from Larner’s main-floor sculpture works to a video installation by Rose—the youngest artist in the group—there isn’t one unifying theme that ties the exhibits together, and Zuckerman prefers it that way. She’d rather visitors judge the artists on their work rather than their gender.
“We need to stop thinking about female museum directors, female artists, and female CEOs,” she says. “That’s an underlying goal for these exhibitions in general. [Guests] have the opportunity to consider [these artists’] production and accomplishments outside of their gender role.”
Judith Scott: To Sculpt a Voice
Zuckerman has maintained many of the fortuitous relationships she forged in her former role as curator of the Berkeley Art Museum, like the one she cultivated with Creative Growth Arts Center. The Oakland-based gallery and art center was the first in the world to offer studio space for developmentally disabled adults to create art. Judith Scott was among the first Zuckerman met there.
Born with Down syndrome and profound deafness, Scott, who passed away in 2005 at the age of 61, was misdiagnosed with severe retardation at an early age and placed in a state institution for more than 30 years. Her twin sister, Joyce, eventually pulled her from the institution and moved her to California, where Judith started to create fiber sculptures by layering cloth, yarn, woven fabric, and found objects together. For the last 17 years of her life, Scott spoke through sculpture, finding a voice in artwork in a life in which she had none. March 11–July 10, 2016
Art-world provocatrix Lynda Benglis’s wax fountains, including Pink Lady (For Asha) (2013), one of three similar structures comprising Pink Ladies, come to the Art Museum this winter after a solo exhibition at Storm King Art Center in New York.
Lynda Benglis: Status Quo?
After half a century, 74-year-old Lynda Benglis is still on the edge of art’s avant-garde. Her staunch independence, exploration of materials (wax, latex, glitter), and predilection to provoke (she appeared in a rather unforgettable 1974 Artforum ad—nude, sex toy in hand—that bucked conventional notions of how artists should represent themselves) have solidified not only her indelible mark on contemporary art but also her standing atop it.
The sensuality and physicality of her sculptures and poured-wax/latex works create, or rather force, a conversation with the audience. After Zuckerman saw Benglis’s recent solo exhibition at the Storm King Art Center, in New York, she immediately knew which piece she wanted for the Aspen Art Museum: Pink Ladies, a working fountain cast in hot-pink polyurethane. While beautiful and unexpected, says Zuckerman, it’s also “spunky and fun.” April 22–October 30, 2016
Mickalene Thomas’s je t’aime video (2014) will be on view this winter and spring as part of a power-gal takeover of the Aspen Art Museum.
Mickalene Thomas: Portrait of the Lady
On the other side of the life-death spectrum are works from 44-year-old Mickalene Thomas, the first artist to create a solo portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama. Known for her elaborate paintings made from rhinestones, acrylic, and enamel, Thomas explores ideas of life and womanhood while expanding—or resisting—common conceptions of beauty.
On display in Aspen is a series of photographs and videos, almost entirely new works, focusing on the home, specifically the furniture, objects, and family photos people keep, and what those items say about their humanity. March 11–June 12, 2016. 637 E. Hyman Ave., 970-925-8050
Liz Larner’s stainless-steel X (2013)
Liz Larner: Spatial Awareness
Sculpture often speaks to the space it occupies. Artist Liz Larner’s X—the letter rendered in stainless steel in the approximate shape of a hemisphere—actually counts on that concept, as the piece is designed to play off of the architecture of the museum itself.
“I am very interested to see how X relates to Shigeru Ban’s woven-wood-panel façade and the overlapping grid structure of the windows inside,” says Larner, 55, who has exhibited work at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and the Whitney Biennial. “I think the mirror-polished stainless steel will focus and retransmit [images of] the people, atmosphere, weather, and activity around the museum, creating a [realtime] reflection of all that happens around it, as its curving form reshapes this constant change.”
Although X will occupy the public space outside the museum’s entrance, wall sculptures ranging in size from 30 inches to 15 feet will fill Galleries 2 and 3 on the museum’s main floor. X will be on display October 16, 2015–November 30, 2016. Wall sculptures in Galleries 2 and 3 will be on display February 26–June 5, 2016.
Rachel Rose’s video installation Everything and More (2015).
Rachel Rose: Moving Stills
At 29, conceptual video artist Rachel Rose, who opened her first-ever solo exhibition at New York’s Whitney Museum in October, is the youngest of this group, a fact not evident from her artistic obsession: mortality. Through her own film footage and found materials, she meditates on the theme of death through diverse subject matter (zoos, robotics, the Revolutionary War) and a focus on the meaning—and the ubiquity—of images and what they may or may not represent. The New York City–based artist is most celebrated for her video installations, like Everything and More, which will be on view at the Aspen Art Museum. March 11–June 12, 2016
photography by Jerry thompson, Courtesy Cheim & read, new york art Lynda bengLis/LiCensed by Vaga, new york, ny (Pink ladies); CreatiVe growth art Center, photography benJamin bLaCkweLL (Untitled); photography Courtesy of regen projeCts, Los angeLes (X); Courtesy of MiCkaLene thoMas, LehMann Maupin, new york and hong kong,
and artists rights soCiety (ars), new york (je t’aime); Courtesy of the artist and piLar Corrias gaLLery (everything and more)