Summerland

CCS Bard Galleries, March 18 – April 15, 2012

Artists: Peter Hutton, Tony Oursler, Olivia Plender, and Kiki Smith

CCS Bard installation: March 18, 2012 – April 15, 2012
Bard Hall installation: March 18, 2012 – April 1, 2012 

A manifestation of the historical and spiritual Summerland at Bard College through a constellation of artworks by Olivia Plender, Tony Oursler, Peter Hutton, and Kiki Smith.

Summerland is the name given to the spirit realm by Spiritualists, adherents of a religious movement that began in the 1840s in the Hudson Valley and upstate New York and is still practiced today. Central to Summerland, the exhibition, is the legacy of certain religious and spiritual practices which are inscribed in the geographic region surrounding Bard College. By linking the past with the present, various artistic perspectives materialize a contemporary narrative based on research into regional histories and traditions which have been largely ignored by mainstream culture.

Contemporary artists, however, such as Plender and Oursler, actively engage with historical Spiritualism in their practice and research while others, like Smith and Hutton, consider the current possibilities of a spirit-centered approach to art production. Taking a nineteenth century religious movement as its starting point, Summerland assembles works by a diverse group of living artists to consider current belief systems untethered to dogma and orthodoxy.

Installed in two locations at Bard College, works included in the exhibition may be seen at the Center for Curatorial Studies, from March 18 to April 15, and in Bard Hall, from March 18 to April 1.

Curated by Theresa Choi

Artist Biographies

Peter Hutton (b. 1944, Detroit) is one of cinema’s most ardent and poetic portraitists of city and landscape. A former merchant seaman, he has spent nearly forty years voyaging around the world, often by cargo ship, to create sublimely meditative, luminously photographed, and intimately diaristic studies of place, from the Yangtze River to the Polish industrial city of Lodz, and from northern Iceland to a ship graveyard on the Bangladeshi shore. Whether seeking remembrance of a city’s fading past or reflecting on nature’s fugitive atmospheric effects, Hutton sculpts with time; each film unfolds in silent reverie, with a series of extended single shots taken from a fixed position, harking back to cinema’s origins and to traditions of painting and still photography.

Tony Oursler (b. 1957, New York) is perhaps best known for his use of video footage of human faces projected onto spheres, dolls and other three-dimensional surfaces. His art covers a range of mediums working with video, sculpture, installation, performance, and painting. Psychological disorder, the relationship between mass media and the human mind, youth culture and wireless communication are among the themes evoked and explored in Oursler’s vividly surreal imaginings. He completed a BA in fine arts at the California Institute for the Arts, Valencia, California in 1979. Oursler’s work has been exhibited in prestigious institutions including the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Documenta VIII, IX, Kassel, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Skulptur Projekte, Münster, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, Tate Liverpool. The artist currently lives and works in New York City.

Olivia Plender (b. 1977, London) draws on social history and historiography to interrogate the ideological framework around the narration of history and the way in which society produces knowledge. The forms the work takes include performances, installations, videos, and publications, which deliberately contrast an authoritative and didactic mode of presentation with non-establishment voices such as that of the amateur historian or autodidact. Her work about the Modern Spiritualist Movement explores the way in which disenfranchised groups often use alternative religion as a means of challenging the established hierarchies of knowledge. The movement is linked with the Campaign for Women’s Suffrage, and as such can be broadly termed as left wing or radical. These are themes which Plender has explored in the form and content of her recent book A Stellar Key to the Summerland, as well as in lecture performances such as In Search of the New Republic, a walking tour of Kensington commissioned by Serpentine Gallery, London. She has also presented material related to the Modern Spiritualist Movement in installations such as The Medium and Daybreak (shown in Manchester and Auckland), a museological reconstruction of a contemporary Spiritualist chapel from the north of England. The work incorporates historical information presented from the perspective of a Spiritualist amateur historian, thereby creating confusion around the authority of the voice narrating this history.

Kiki Smith (b. 1954, Nuremberg, Germany) is a major figure in the world of twenty-first century art. Most of Smith’s visual art is related to the body and to the natural world. It often has a handmade quality to it, and it is deeply rooted in a tradition of art that values the final object as a marriage between vision and craft. A recurrent theme in Smith’s work has been the body as a receptacle for knowledge, belief, and storytelling. In the 1980s, Smith turned the figurative tradition in sculpture inside out, creating objects and drawings based on organs, cellular forms, and the human nervous system. This body of work evolved to incorporate animals, domestic objects, and narrative tropes from classical mythology and folk takes. She has been the subject of major survey exhibitions organized by The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice; and the Kunstmusem Krefel, Germany.

 

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