Spring 2012 Talks
Using diverse and non-traditional materials—from jet engines to bovine parts to nitrates and salt—Roger Hiorns’ sculptures, performances, and installations broadly investigate the possibility of transformation in found objects, social encounters, and urban situations. He is well-known for his 2009 ArtAngel commission, Seizure, in which the artist pumped 75,000 liters of copper sulfate solution into an abandoned South London council flat to create a crystalline growth on the walls, floor, and ceiling. Transformation, by way of such chemical and organic processes, is central to much of his work and is often connected to considerations of meaning and rhetoric. For his February 8 talk, Hiorns will consider this subject in relation to a new body of work.
Public Art Fund is pleased to present a talk by distinguished American artist Fred Wilson. Appropriating curatorial methods and strategies, Wilson’s work investigates how interpretations of historical truth and cultural value are shaped by institutions and systems of display. His work recontextualizes icons and artifacts to expose the Eurocentric bias within cultural institutions, and many of his projects involve extensive community outreach and research in the cities where they are shown.
Recently, the Central Indiana Community Foundation cancelled the public sculpture it had commissioned Wilson to create for its Cultural Trail Public Art initiative. His proposed sculpture, E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One), would have appropriated the figure of an African American ex-slave depicted in another of the city’s public sculptures, the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument. In Wilson’s version, the figure’s broken shackles would have been removed, and in his hands would be a flag representing the African Diaspora. Following several years of debate among local government and community groups—in addition to numerous presentations by Wilson himself—the project was discontinued. For his upcoming Public Art Fund Talk, the artist will discuss his recent experience within the broader context of public art and the aims of his artistic practice.
Public Art Fund is pleased to present a talk by Josiah McElheny, an American artist whose multifaceted artistic practice has incorporated decorative and functional traditions of glass, as well as research, writing, and curating to explore materiality and its relationship to the ways in which we see and experience objects. Often using narratives inspired by the histories of art, design, and glass as points of departure, McElheny has created massive sculptures of shining chrome and transparent glass that layer myriad references as diverse as twentieth-century fashion, modernist design, sixteenth-century Italian painting, and even the Big Bang theory. One of the artist’s seminal public projects, The Metal Party, commissioned by Public Art Fund in 2001, was a re-creation of a party organized in 1929 by students of the Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany. Taking the original "Party" as a point of departure, McElheny produced a hyper-reflective environment of metallic surfaces complete with mirrored and clear glass spheres that alternated on the ceiling above an aluminum floor. In recent years, McElheny’s use of diverse forms of artistic practice – from publishing to working with institutional collections, among other platforms - has embraced new model for public engagement that extends the very notion of public art.
Public Art Fund Talks are organized by the Public Art Fund in collaboration with the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School.