Kidspace: Under the Sea

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© Courtesy of Mass MOCA
Kidspace: Under the Sea

87 Marshall Street
North Adams, Massachusetts 01247
October 1st, 2011 - May 28th, 2012

United States
Wed-Mon 11-5
photography, video-art, sculpture


Visitors to Kidspace at MASS MoCA will find themselves surrounded by artistic renderings of sea creatures, plant-life, and other natural elements when Under the Sea features six internationally-acclaimed artists who explore the ocean as habitat, myth, and a necessary element of life on earth, opens on October 1. Through various themes and innovative materials, the artists examine the mystery and power of the ocean as well as the catastrophic consequences of our abuse of this natural resource.

With just cardboard and paint, James Grashow creates a school of brightly-colored fish and a larger-than-life mermaid that swim through the gallery. As each cardboard sculpture eventually would dissolve in water, the viewer is invited to ruminate on the transience of these sculptures of supposedly sea-worthy creatures as well as the transience of all things.

Sculptor Aurora Robson uses only plastic bottles and paint to create colossal coral reefs and plankton that serve as a meditation on our overconsumption of plastic and our pollution of the ocean. Based on childhood nightmares of sea creatures, Robson's work illustrates the power of transformation as a once-feared entity becomes one of beauty, and what was once garbage becomes art.

A self-proclaimed "river-gazer" since childhood, sculptor Ginger Ertz works with chenille stems to depict the movement of waves and ripples in the water. Her work, which also includes an oil spill, invites the consideration of the effect of our pollution on the ocean. Because each sculpture evolves during her artistic process, she views it as a metaphor for how life changes over time, a metaphor also reflected by the movement of water. Just as no phase in the sculpture is better or worse than any other, so are the phases in life, as we must learn to accept.

Manhattan-based photographer Dirk Westphal shares the inherent beauty of clownfish and damselfish through colossal, wall-sized photographs of astounding clarity. Having first encountering damselfish at the ocean as a child, Westphal seeks to invoke the awe he feels for the fish, which are not afraid of anything.

Part science, part art, the sculptures and video art of Deborah Wing-Sproul invite the viewer to meditate on the vastness and strength of the ocean and the corresponding fragility of human life and the consequent implications. Her sculptures of spoons and slippers made entirely of seaweed will disintegrate with time, illustrating the important connection between the inhabitant and its habitat, for only out of water does seaweed become brittle. Her video art inspires the viewer to ponder the ocean as a connector for all cultures, as its strength and fragility require the humility and compassion of people across the globe.

Sculptor Johnston Foster shows alternative uses for discarded items by creating his sharks entirely from materials salvaged from roadsides and dumpsters. Intrigued by the fascination that people have with sharks as a predator and the sensationalism surrounding them, Foster constructed sharks displayed on traffic cones. Although his work began as a physical exploration of the material, the material itself encourages the viewer to think more about the connection between the plastic deposits in the ocean and the traffic cones, tires, and plastic which comprise his sculptures.

James Grashow's sculpture has been exhibited nationally including at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, CT and DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Massachusetts. Also a well-known woodcut artist, Grashow's prints have been regularly published in the New York Times. Grashow received his B.A. and M.F.A. from Pratt Institute and has shown his sculptures in the Allan Stone Gallery since 1966. Aurora Robson earned her B.A. at Columbia University in 2000. Her recent solo exhibitions include those at the Salve Regina University Art Gallery in Newport, RI and at the Project 4 Gallery in Washington D.C., both in 2009. Her work has appeared in solo and group exhibitions in over 20 locations nationwide as well as in Rome, Italy.

Ginger Ertz received her M.F.A. from Johnston State College/Vermont Studio Center. Her work has been shown at the Albany International Airport Gallery, Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, Schenectady Museum, and the Southern Vermont Art Center, among many others. Dirk Westphal received his M.F.A. from California Institute of the Arts. Exhibitions of Westphal's work have appeared in JFK International Airport, Cordova Museum in Alaska, Irvine Contemporary in Washington, D.C., and many other locations nationwide. His work has been featured internationally in Sydney, Australia; Toronto, Ontario; and Hong Kong.

Deborah Wing-Sproul received her M.F.A. from the State University of New York at New Paltz. Her work has exhibited at Islip Art Museum in New York, Rose Art Museum in Massachusetts, and the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, to name a few. Her work was featured in Taiwan in 2008, and she is the recipient of the 2011 Individual Artist Fellowship in Media/Performing Arts from the Maine Arts Commission.

Johnston Foster received his MFA from Hunter College in New York City. His sculpture has been shown in solo and group exhibitions in numerous locations, including PS 1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City, NY and Brigham Young University Museum of Art in Utah. His work has also been featured in Prague, Czech Republic and Grenoble, France. He is represented by Rare Gallery in New York City.

Kidspace has an extensive program planned for the school groups in the North Adams Public Schools and North Berkshire School Union. As part of their school curriculum, students from Greylock, Brayton, and Sullivan schools in North Adams and from Clarksburg, Florida, and Savoy will visit the exhibition with Kidspace staff and education interns to view the work and create their own art in response to the exhibition. An interdisciplinary curriculum guide developed by two local educators will be presented to the participating teachers and made available on Kidspace's website Students will visit Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA), MASS MoCA, and the Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute to continue improving their image literacy and exploring the topics brought up in Kidspace.

Under the Sea will open to the public on Saturday, October 1, 2011 from 11 am to 1 pm. The artists will be present to meet and greet the public and provide demonstrations of their art-making techniques. Many fun art-making activities will take place throughout the opening. Refreshments will be served.

During the school year Kidspace is open to the public every day, except Tuesdays, 11am to 4pm. Art-making takes place on Fridays - Sundays, and during school breaks.

Kidspace is a collaborative project of the Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute, Williams College Museum of Art, and MASS MoCA. Major season support for Kidspace is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ann R. Avis and Gregory M. Avis Fund, and an anonymous donor. Additional support by the Brownrigg Charitable Trust, Milton and Dorothy Sarnoff Raymond Foundation, and Alice Shaver Foundation in memory of Lynn Laitman; the Holly and Bradford Swett Foundation; Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne; the James and Robert Hardman Fund and the Gateway Fund of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.