This chiefly photographic group show that opened over the weekend at Noble & Superior Projects features work by Eric Fleischauer, Joseph Grigely, Jason Lazarus and an anonymous artist who rather appropriately contributes two ransom note-style collages on cardboard.
Despite the self-reflexive sounding meta-title, the show thoughtfully examines the relationship between artist and audience specifically, and between making and viewing generally, in several complex but accessible ways.
Eric Fleischauer. Universal Paramount. Digital image, archival inkjet print, 2010. Image courtesy of Noble & Superior Projects and the artist.
Fleischauer’s cheeky Universal Paramount depicts the iconic Hollywood Hills sign replaced by the words “You Tube”. The image is an inkjet print made by photographing a computer screen, hence its intentionally downgraded, gritty resolution. With Universal Paramount, as well as the essay he contributed to the exhibition’s catalog (also titled “You Are Looking at Art About Looking at Art”) that features a reprinted letter by Kenneth Goldsmith about UbuWeb, Fleischauer investigates the relationship between producer and consumer. In both instances, the artist deftly leverages this inquiry, expanding it to encompass issues of user-generated media versus passive consumption of canonical material.
Grigely’s installation features an oversized bulletin board blanketed with exhibition ephemera ranging from postcards, posters, press releases, calls for participation and even the solitary lost and found poster. The way in which the ephemera captures a singular image or aspect of these events, and as time passes, serves to commemorate them, lends a weighted importance to these traditionally transitory, impermanent items. As a whole, this archive of material, amassed between 1996 to the present, is an interesting meditation on the mediation of artworks and artists themselves. The installation demonstrates how the art experience is defined, packaged and disseminated by those who operate galleries, museums, fairs and schools.
Joseph Grigely. The Information Economy. 1996/2010. Mixed media. Image courtesy of Noble & Superior Projects and the artist.
The monumentality of Jason Lazarus’ inkjet print of the book flap and end pages of the exhibition catalog for MoMA’s renowned “Family of Man” exhibition from 1955 belies the tender sentimentality of the personal inscription contained there. The clever interplay between the authoritative summary of the equally authoritative exhibition by the curator Edward Steichen is juxtaposed with the emotional, but equally as erudite dedication that “Leslie” makes to “Bill,” which opens with a Shakespeare quote and ends with several lines from John Fowles book The Magus. This professional versus amateur dichotomy helps to underscore and contrast the objective tone of the publication’s academicism with the compassionate subjectivity of this personal inscription.
Jason Lazarus. Untitled. Archival inkjet print. 2010. Image courtesy of Noble & Superior Projects and the artist.
In an adjacent room, Lazarus also has a series of self-described “impossible” art ideas projected onto the wall. Even though they’re screening in small format, the ideas are enormous, and include the almost beatific directives such as, “Change ten words in the Bible,” “Whisper in Johnny Cash’s ear,” and “Move the US next to China.” It seems fitting that a piece that traffics in idealistic impossibilities would share a space with the prodigious pile of unlimited edition texts and prints that Noble & Superior Projects have produced, free of charge, over the course of their existence.
Neither a not-for-profit nor a commercial gallery, Noble & Superior Projects, co-curated and run by Patrick Bobilin and Erin Nixon, rejects the notion that an exhibition space is essentially a repository of stuff, in favor of engaging the audience in their own utopian brand of experimentation. The sentiment of striving to be a “productive site of opposition,” as Nixon describes it in her catalog essay, is echoed by several other Chicago projects and spaces, like InCUBATE, that functions without tax shelters and grant monies, and The Suburban, a space unfettered by curatorial hyper-mediation.
Noble & Superior Projects represents an emerging and engaging breed of art historians and art administrators who consider their facilitation of artist projects as their own artistic practice in itself. Again, as Nixon states more eloquently, “collaboration is my practice and the exhibition is my artwork.” This type of leadership, built out of resource sharing with roots in the gift economy, is akin to many artists whose social and political activism is their medium. But rather than re-hash bygone institutional critique tactics, Noble & Superior Projects is forging ahead with a program set not on dismantling the system from within, but re-imaging the system from alongside existent paradigms. In that sense, maybe they can be thought of as, “An Apartment Gallery Looking at the Practices and Functions of Apartment Galleries.”
-Thea Liberty Nichols, ArtSlant Staff Writer