Art21 : Memory

So I decided to hunt around the interwebs for some fine art inspiration, since the majority of my prototypes have been heading in that direction. I came across this site, Art21, who had an hour long documentary about four different artists who have been using memory as a theme in their work. I sat down and watched it, and was very inspired.

The documentary followed the work of four artists: Susan Rothenberg, Mike Kelley, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Josiah McElheny. I was amazed at how different these artists were both in the art they make and their process. However, it was their approach to using memory as an impetus in their work which I found most fascinating. 

In Rothenberg’s current work, there is a sense of displacement and longing. She recently transplanted herself from her studio in New York City, to the South West. The landscape couldn’t be more different, and this change has ultimately had an affect on her work. You can see a longing in her work, and she attempts to capture the essence of the city she left behind. She spoke about how the move changed her ability to produce paintings in a series. No longer are ideas explored over a period of several years. One of two paintings about a particular subject and she moves on.

I was very inspired by mixed-media artist, Mike Kelley. In one of his works, “13 seasons”, Kelley reproduces old sketches that he made when he was first studying art. His process became about the parts he couldn’t remember, and leaving them blank. In another work, “Day is Done, he builds 3-D models of the all the schools and homes he lived in from memory. All the details he can’t recall are left as literal holes. For Kelley, his inspiration is in exploring his past. I feel that the work I have been creating of late stems from a similar vein; motivating from personal experiences to express a larger theme.

Hiroshi Sugimoto continues to use some of the earliest techniques in the field, not giving in to modern day digital imaging. He believes that this is the way to take the best pictures. He talks about photography being the “fossilization of time”. I found that to be so poignant, thinking about how true that statement actually is. It made me think about creating fossils of my artifacts, as a way of preserving my past. It is an idea I am interesting in exploring.

Sculptor, glass blower, installation artist, Josiah McElheny, takes a very different approach in his notions of memory. In his exhibit, “Total Reflective Abstraction”, McElheny creates a series of rooms all filled with reflective sculptures on reflective surfaces. This creates a seemingly infinite commentary on the past. He says that his “work is a memory of objects…derived from a previous source.” The idea of reflection as memory is one I haven’t thought of. I guess I find reflection to be more subjective and critical, where simply remembering is one of experiencing the past.

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