Suzanne Bocanegra: I Write the Songs
For more than twenty years, Suzanne Bocanegra has created works in a range of media which exhibit a deep engagement with music, performance, art history, and material culture. I Write the Songs primarily focuses on works made within the last ten years and includes six multi-dimensional pieces.
Translation and collaboration are integral to Bocanegra’s process and her work often involves the active transformation of two-dimensional objects such as paintings, drawings and fabric into three-dimensional installations, soundscapes, and performances. The resultant works create expansive experiences attune to the structure of artworks that in many cases have a strong personal resonance for the artist.
The works in Bocanegra’s All the Petals series (2001-08) destruct 17th century paintings by Jan Brueghel the Elder. In one work, Bocanegra creates a silk sculpture based on all the flower petals in the 1618 painting Sense of Smell. Focusing in on one aspect of the painting highlights what may be overlooked, while provoking a deeper understanding of the structure of the composition.
Similarly, Little Dot (2010), the most recent work in the exhibition is inspired by Georges Seurat’s 1889 Young Woman Powdering Herself, a painting Bocanegra grew up looking at in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The painting is a paradigmatic example of Pointillism, a painting technique invented by Seurat in which individually articulated dots of color are closely juxtaposed to create a composition. Through prolonged examination of a reproduction of the painting with a magnifying glass, Bocanegra indentified the colors and numbers of dots used to construct the painting. Little Dot is an installation of ballet shoes in fourteen different colors corresponding to the fourteen different colors used in the painting. The shoes sit on poles with markings indicting how many times a particular color was used in the painting, and serve as a script for a dance periodically performed en pointe by a ballet dancer who interacts with the installation.
Other works involve amateur and professional musicians in the translation process. After Rerememberer used the patterns in a fragment of a Danish textile to create an hour-long performance involving an accordionist, a weaver on an amplified looms, and fifty untrained violinists, among other elements. I Write the Songs, first performed at the River to River Festival in New York, featured the FLUX Quartet interpreting as music, the drawings created on sheet music by audience members.
Bocanegra’s work has been featured in exhibitions at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Serpentine Gallery and the Hayward Gallery, in London as well as the Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, and UCLA’s Hammer Museum among others. Her performances have been presented at several international venues, including the Museum of Modern Art New York, the River to River festival New York, and the Athelas Festival in Copenhagen. Bocanegra lives and works in New York.
This exhibition was curated in conjunction with the artist by Ian Berry, Susan Rabinowitz Malloy ’45 Curator of the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY. It debuted at The Tang in 2010.
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