LOS ANGELES — The Craft & Folk Art Museum presents Artifacts of a Life Lived by the Living (To Live), curated by contemporary artist Chris Johanson. This interdisciplinary exhibition celebrates the meditative ritual of the artmaking process for a group of artists who are compelled to create art to sustain a certain balance and order in their lives. Johanson has selected a group of artists that he deeply admires, whose works include drawings, painting, site-specific installations, sound, performance, and movement. Featured artists are Alex Cohen, Alicia McCarthy, Carmen Papalia, John Ratliff (Swan), Justin “Kutmah” McNulty, Kal Spelletich, Kim MacConnel, Liz Harris, Michael Bernard Loggins, and Sue Tompkins. The exhibition will be on view from September 29, 2013 through January 5, 2014.
Johanson chose this selection of artists, whom he considers “beautiful people in the sea of life,” based on their intriguing stories—individuals “who create with intention to be in rhythm with the world,” he adds. Each artwork serves as a document of the energy these artists use to make their lives livable. His intention is to share the idea that making magic often involves a creative balancing act or meditative ritual that creates a space for personal peace.
A large number of the exhibition artists create work that is interactive and involves a high degree of audience participation. Portland-based artist Carmen Papalia, who is legally blind, leads walking tours in which the participants experience their surroundings through non-visual methods of interpretation. These tours are documented with text, audio, and photographs. Bay Area-based artist Kal Spelletich is known for making kinetic, interactive sculptures using found materials. For the installation “Head in the Clouds,” Spelletich will project the faces of visitors into a video installation that invokes the open sky.
Alicia McCarthy’s delicate abstract paintings embrace a punk/folk aesthetic that combines the street culture of San Francisco with forms of folk art. Made with humble non-art materials such as house paint and discarded wood, McCarthy’s work recalls the intricate patterns of démodé textiles. Kim MacConnel, whose work has been featured in the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial on five occasions, creates sculptures and installations from plastic that has washed ashore the beaches by his home in San Diego.
A few of the artists use text and the written word as a vehicle to contextualize their anxieties and concerns. Glasgow-based artist Sue Tompkins manipulates the rhythm of written and spoken words for her installations and performances, in which words, and not their content, are centerpieces. John Ratliff, also knows as Swan, is a poet, journalist, and former television news reporter who creates a daily newspaper. Diagnosed with schizophrenia many years ago, Swan spends his days in the Mission District of San Francisco taking care of animals. He has been living on the streets for over a decade.
Michael Bernard Loggins is an artist who has been creating writings, drawings, and paintings through a program in San Francisco called Creativity Explored. In 1995, Loggins began listing his fears and 138 were published in zine format called Fears of Your Life. Over the next seven years, Loggins’ list of fears grew into another zine, which was published in 2004 by Manic D Press. Fears of Your Life was also read on NPR’s “This American Life” in 2004.
The repetition of motifs and patterns in drawings help center artists such as Justin “Kutmah” McNulty and Liz Harris. Kutmah is a London-based artist and DJ of Egyptian and Scottish descent, who was deported in 2010 without advance warning from his home in Hollywood, CA. He was detained for two months in New Mexico under immigration charges, during which time he sought solace in drawing. In order to keep himself sane, Kutmah used only a short pencil and an ID card to create a collection of 39 drawings.
Harris’ meticulously calculated hand-rendered images display an almost obsessive attention to line and pattern. Mirroring the repetition of line as mantra, the act of painting becomes a mode of meditation through which Harris both acknowledges her inability to make perfect lines, and questions the utility of such perfection in the first place. Harris is also known as Grouper, a solo sound artist who combines the music genres of ambient sound, drone, and folk.
Alex Cohen is a 22-year-old painter, ceramicist, and installation artist studying at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. His socially and politically charged works and installations are influenced by his love and involvement with hip-hop, graffiti, and skating.
Artist and curator Chris Johanson was born in San Jose, California in 1968. He was part of a community of artists formed in San Francisco’s Mission District in the late 1990s, and gained widespread attention for his participation in the 2002 Whitney Biennial. Johanson has exhibited widely in museums and galleries internationally over the past decade. He has had solo exhibitions at museums including the Malmö Konsthall, 2011; Portland Art Museum, 2007; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 2003; and the UCLA Hammer Museum, 2001. His notable group exhibitions include Dialogue of Hands, Glasgow International 2012; A New York Minute, Depart Foundation, Rome, Italy; the 2006 Berlin Biennale, Germany; the 2005 Istanbul Biennial, Turkey; Monuments for the USA, CCA Wattis Institute, San Francisco; Beautiful Losers: Contemporary At and Street Culture, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati and Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA.
The opening reception for Artifacts of a Life Lived by the Living (To Live) will take place on Saturday, September 28 from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. The reception is open to CAFAM members and the public.
This exhibition is supported in part by the Antonia and Vladimir Kulaev Cultural Heritage Fund and the Andrew Will Winery. Special thanks to Roberts & Tilton and Flaunt Magazine.