(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) – Three solo exhibitions featuring new and recent work, including several pieces created specifically for the museum, are opening this weekend at MASS MoCA. On Saturday, May 25, 2013, from 5 to 7pm, there will be an opening reception for Hudson, N.Y.-based artist Jason Middlebrook; Northampton native Joseph Montgomery, now of New York City; and Paris-based sculptor Guillaume Leblon. Members are admitted free; others may attend for $8 per person.
Middlebrook will mount a fully functioning, 28-foot high fountain as the centerpiece of his exhibition of new and recent works at MASS MoCA. Montgomery’s Five Sets Five Reps features over twenty new and existing works made between 2007 and today. Guillaume Leblon’s Under My Shoe – his first solo exhibition in an American muesum – will feature fifteen works made over the last five years, including two major new projects created specifically for MASS MoCA, including a woven, metal sculpture and a series of plaster wall works.
“My Landscape” refers to Jason Middlebrook’s longstanding engagement with nature and the particular environments in which he lives and works: the Hudson Valley, in upstate New York, and the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts. Curator Susan Cross explains, “The show and its title also refer to the varied terrain of Middlebrook’s practice. We put a spotlight on the three major vocabularies he employs – site-specific sculpture, painting, and large-scale drawing – and illuminate the connections between them.” The exhibition will run from May 26, 2013 – April 7, 2014.
Responding to the unusual scale of MASS MoCA’s gallery, Middlebrook will be working with planks sourced from a mill in Sheffield, Mass., that in some instances reach heights of 18-20 feet, emphasizing the link between the boards and the grand trees from which they were cut. Middlebrook sees the works as both sculptures and paintings, objects and surfaces, and cites a range of influences from folk art to totem poles of the Pacific Northwest, graffiti, Op Art, and Minimalism. Middlebrook’s series recalls the highly polished painted planks of John McCracken, and, in his use of simple, repeated lines, the influence of Sol LeWitt. In his sense of movement and lack of a single focal point, his series recalls the work of Bridget Riley.
Along with these painted planks, Middlebrook will also create a monumental, hanging fountain-cum-waterfall within the gallery. Titled Falling Water after Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Kaufman residence in rural Pennsylvania, the work addresses the relationship between nature and architecture, while continuing the artist’s exploration of both the power and vulnerability of the natural world. The three tiers of the fountain are made with large Styrofoam boards that Middlebrook discovered on-site at the museum. The remains of a work exhibited many years prior, the scarred Styrofoam illustrates Middlebrook’s interest in repurposed materials and his attention to waste and cycles of decay and regeneration. Distressed and weathered, the work is reminiscent of ruins or crumbling buildings, a reminder of the great destruction that can be wrought by water. The image brings to mind not only the devastation of Superstorm Sandy in New York and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, but also the effects of Hurricane Irene on North Adams and neighboring communities. Middlebrook was born in1966 in Jackson, Michigan. He received a B.A. in Fine Arts from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1990 and a Master of Fine Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1994. He is represented by DODGEgallery, New York, and lives and works in Hudson, N.Y.
Joseph Montgomery’s relief-like paintings examine how the abstract image is constructed in his first solo museum exhibition. Five Sets Five Reps features over twenty new and existing works made between 2007 and today, and will be on view in MASS MoCA’s Brown Gallery from May 26, 2013, through April 7, 2014. Evoking works by a wide range of predecessors, including Paul Klee, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, and Kurt Schwitters, as well as movements such as Arte Povera, constructivism, and minimalism,Montgomery sorts, dissects, and builds upon existing images and image fragments which seem to recur and even self-perpetuate over time.
The title of the exhibition, Five Sets Five Reps, references a weightlifting program based on repetition and accumulation, which pushes body builders past plateaus in development. It is an apt metaphor for Montgomery’s own working method. Each of his works generates and builds on others. All are made with simple components from a base vocabulary of materials: canvas, cardboard, cedar shims, clay, grout, paper, plaster, sheet metal, and wire. He also includes items from his everyday life, from oatmeal to signage from a local grocery store. Layered, painted, repeated, and reworked slowly over time, these elements function individually as brushstrokes. Together they act as a relief map of Montgomery’s process which reveals hidden moments of dissatisfaction, inspiration, and resolution in the studio. Montgomery often cannibalizes his own work, cutting up paintings, and incorporating their material fragments into other pieces. His earliest series, in fact, developed from the artist’s attempts to veil or destroy paintings which he found too earnest. These rejected works became a support for subsequent collages.
Born in Northampton, Mass., in 1979, Montgomery earned his BA at Yale University in 2001 and an MFA from Hunter College in 2007. Since receiving his degrees, the artist’s work has been presented in Basel, Switzerland, Antwerp, and Milan. His work was recently featured in Painter, Painter at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Montgomery lives and works in New York City.
Guillaume Leblon will present two major new projects created specifically for the MASS MoCA show, including a woven, metal sculpture and a series of plaster wall works. He will also record the movements of visitors through the space by installing a linen carpet in the gallery. The exhibition will be on view from May 26, 2013 through early April 2014. To create his recent plaster works, which are reminiscent of Egyptian sculptural reliefs, Leblon places clothes in the wet material, leaving ghostly impressions of the human figure. Reversibilité (2009), a vertical sculpture made from metal shelving and an arrangement of found studio objects, has the aura and composition of a classical Greek statue – a leg cast in plasticine adds to its figurative character. Probabilité pour que rien ne se passe (2011), a wooden apothecary shelf resting on a pile of sand, resembles a discovery from an architectural excavation. The artist’s enigmatic combinations are both seductive and weighty – surprising given the familiarity of their components and their mix of ephemeral and durable materials.
While Leblon makes powerful, individual pieces, he is also known for his manipulation of space. He often carefully choreographs his works into a larger spatial narrative within his exhibition venues. With Under My Shoe, Leblon opens up MASS MoCA’s first floor W.L.S. Spencer galleries to create a single space, punctuated by the building’s original columns. Arranging his suite of sculptures into a constellation-like configuration, Leblon subtly guides the visitor’s navigation of the gallery. A linen carpet will cover the floor and, over the course of the exhibition, will record the movements of visitors through the show, revealing pathways and other traces of their presence.
Born in Lille, France, in 1971, Guillaume Leblon lives and works in Paris. He attended the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Lyon, France, and graduated in 1997 with honors. He was awarded a residency at the Rijksakademie Amsterdam in 1999 and 2000.