By: James Ross Kiefer
There becomes a point when mundane objects such as clothing, jars, plates and other items transcend a basic functionality. They develop a meaning to us, evoke an emotional response and at times have their own personality. On opening night June 3, this is what the Weatherspoon Art Museum’s new “Single Channel Catalyst II” exhibit sought to explore.
Located on the corner of Spring Garden and Tate Street, the museum has remained an important hub of modern and contemporary art for the Greensboro community, and the southeastern United States. “Single Channel Catalyst II” begins in the Falk Gallery and features an assortment of paintings, sculptures and repurposed items.
One of the first pieces greeting visitors to the exhibit is a photo by Andy Warhol. The black and white photo presents a few articles of clothing hanging on a rack. Appropriately titled “Flea Market,” this piece captures the casual and simplistic nature of shopping at an open and informal market.
The clothes appear to be clustered together, and differ in style, pattern and type of apparel. This follows the idea of objects presenting a persona, as they are akin to the variety of shoppers that would be found a flea market. It’s worth noting that photography is a departure for Warhol, as he’s typically known for his paintings.
A more technical piece within the exhibit is a wax and polyester resin casting of books. Artist Stella Waitzkin created a stack of several books, juxtaposing the white and orderly base with a staggered, colorful top. Chips and other imperfections around the sculpture give the books an aged look. The accompanying plaque to the piece explains how Waitzkin has a polarizing relationship to books, seeing them as both places for knowledge, but also as a source for misinformation.
The exhibit also exudes a more playful tone. A piece by Christo and Jeanne-Claude is simply a repurposed box wrapped in brown paper and string, already post marked. The only thing that distinguishes the piece from a normal mail parcel was that if the recipient of the box were to open it, they are treated to a piece of paper informing them that they ruined a piece of art.
Extending into The Leah Louise B. Tannenbaum Gallery, the physical art of the exhibit is partnered with a short film by artist Alejandro Almanza Pereda. Titled “Better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all,” the black and white film establishes a manipulated still life, as it is shot in an underwater tank as to allow the featured objects to establish movement, and is accompanied by a serene score of strings and acoustic guitar.
At moments the film feels almost voyeuristic. Fruits and vegetables, a cup and pearl necklace are displayed, each seeming to have a specific emotional profile. There’s a squash that comes off as sassy and brash. A lemon that refuses to stay in place, and a deck of cards that tenderly floats out of sight.
Curator of exhibitions Emily Stamey organized “Single Channel Catalyst II.”
“One of the reasons this video is so compelling is that, like all the objects in it that won’t stay put, it’s difficult to pin down,” she said. “All at once it’s nostalgic and whimsical, melancholic and humorous, simple and yet mesmerizing. I’ve seen visitors get up, seemingly haven’t ‘gotten it’ and ready to leave the gallery, only to be captivated by the next scene and continue watching, completely engrossed.”
A commonality between the two sections of the exhibit is that Pereda’s video features many of the same subjects and figures found in the Falk Gallery.
“Paired with the selection of artworks from the collection, I hope the video is not only enjoyable, but also thought-provoking,” Stamey said. “Collectively, these artworks, all of which focus on ordinary objects, pose interesting questions about the meanings, values, and functions of things in our lives.
Being a part of the University of North Carolina Greensboro campus, the Weatherspoon also attracts a fair amount of students. Fine arts student Curtis Hoffmann found inspiration at the exhibit.
“I’ve definitely had an extended interest in texture and its use in painting, especially creatively as a texture. And the fire paintings [“Fire Table Cone D”] really enforced that interest, making sure to adequately use texture in my own works,” Hoffman said. “They’re simple compositions, but they’re impactful.”
UNCG alumni Anna Sorenson visited the Weatherspoon for the first time and saw the exhibit. Sorenson said “Better To Have Loved” struck a personal chord with them.
“I saw a statement about the gentrification of women, and acknowledging that women have lives separate from men,” Sorensen said. “I could also interpreted it as trying to see people outside the context of yourself, and how people still have lives going on outside of your own.”
“Single Channel Catalyst II” will be on display at the Weatherspoon until Aug. 20.