Set to Manual at the Girls' Club

From Oct 23rd, 2009 through Sept 30th, 2010.

Once upon a time, contemporary art spectators were required to digest lengthy manifestos and divine obscure subtexts from the flimsiest of art gestures. Today, too-conceptual art is on the wane, as is detached, slick neo-Geometric painting, and art based solely on appropriation of other art. Current art production is rife with obsessive tinkering, elaborate drawing, and one-off handmade technologies. The spare objects of minimalist art have been replaced with rich surfaces, vivid imagery and virtuosic techniques to delight the eye and inspire the imagination.

Opening to the public on Friday, October 23rd, Girls’ Club in Fort Lauderdale presents Set to Manual, an opinionated look at artworks characterized by intense personal manufacture. Works by more than twenty-five artists range from hand-painted animation and hand-altered 16mm film, to pricked paper drawings and artists’ books, from free-wheeling collage and assemblage to site-specific installation and more.

The works on view in Set to Manual were developed and refined by the artists’ hand at every stage of creation. Lavish investment in each work by the artist yields a personalized, customized quality that is undeniable.  In this era of lightning-fast attention spans, built-in obsolescence and corporate mass manufacture permeating every aspect of our daily lives, art made by hand is a welcome invitation to the overloaded spectator. Set to Manual asks us to slow down our span of attention, to become aware of the nuances visible in the works on view, and to be rewarded in the process.

Occupying two levels of Girls’ Club’s architect-designed space, Set to Manual shares with the public works by artists of international renown, such as Vija Celmins, Cornelia Parker, Kiki Smith and Jessica Stockholder, as well as up and coming South Florida artists Rosemarie Chiarlone, Pepe Mar and Jen Stark. By exhibiting emerging artists in the context of those more established, Girls’ Club exposes them to a wider audience and nurtures the careers of artists in our region, a burgeoning art center.

Two modes of artistic practice vie in Set to Manual. There are some artists whose intensity is fueled by quiet precision, even restraint. Vija Celmins, Tara Donovan, Carol Prusa and Michelle Segre steadily build their visual fields with astonishing draftsmanship and elaborate detail. Rosemarie Chiarlone, Ellen Gallagher and Amparo Sard have each developed a vocabulary of subtle mark-making by pricking the surface of paper, a procedure that provokes associations with the vulnerability of skin.  

Other works are boisterous, their colors and textures overflowing boundaries to fill their spaces and complicate their surfaces. Gean Moreno’s trance-inducing collages are visual overloads that swell to immense proportions. Beatriz Monteavaro, Arlene Berrie and Jeni Spota lavishly deconstruct heroes, saints and monster figures using high-key hues and layered impasto paint. Pepe Mar premieres an installation work created especially in response to Girls’ Club’s unique interior.

Younger artists who rebel against the homogenization of art and life can look to pioneers Nancy Spero and Kiki Smith, whose works are on view. Spero married her signature hand-printing technology with texts applied to paper using typewriters of varying sizes. Her room-sized narratives express outrage at the oppression of women throughout history, as well as mythologize female heroines. Kiki Smith restored a sense of play and magic to figurative art via the use of craft technologies.  

Many of these handmade resources have always been available to artists, but were dismissed since the pop and conceptual art movements decided to embrace the machine and remove the artist’s hand. Today, we are witnessing a return to custom-made technologies, an embrace of craft. Needlework, intimately scaled hand sculpted works, quirky and sensual painting styles are in vogue. Imagine the “automatic” switched off, presenting Set to Manual.

The moving image invites experimentation in a fluid medium. The Set to Manual video program includes Yui Kugimiya’s  paintings that move, Dinorah de Jesus Rodriguez’ scratched and distressed found film works and Clifton Childree’s She Sank on Shallow Bank, in which the filmmaker acts as both puppet master and cartoonist, taking the audience through a series of balletic illusions.

On Girls’ Club’s website, Miami artist Felice Grodin has created a web-based project derived from her complex, layered drawings of pseudo architectural spaces. 

Artists in Set to Manual are Arlene Berrie, Vija Celmins, Rosemarie Chiarlone, Clifton Childree, Tara Donovan, Ellen Gallagher, Felice Grodin, Arturo Herrera, Yui Kugimiya, Pepe Mar, Annette Messager, Beatriz Monteavaro, Gean Moreno, Cornelia Parker, Kerry Phillips, Carol Prusa, Elaine Reichek, Dinorah de Jesus Rodriguez, Rosanna Saccoccio, Amparo Sard, Michelle Segre, Kiki Smith, Nancy Spero, Jeni Spota, Jen Stark, Sara Stites, Jessica Stockholder and Paula Wilson.

Girls’ Club
117 NE 2nd Street
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301

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