Monday, November 1, 2010
Two Artists Explore the Ruins of the 20th Century
The Hirshhorn announces a new two-person “Directions” exhibition featuring the work of Cyprien Gaillard (French, b. Paris, 1980) and Mario Garcia Torres (Mexican, b. Monclova, 1975), on view Nov. 10–March 27, 2011. These artists represent a new generation of conceptualists who examine the architectural and artistic “ruins” of the recent past. They use similar materials and forms to create works that investigate the successes and failures of modern history’s idealistic movements. Kristen Hileman, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Baltimore Museum of Art, is the guest curator for the project. The work, with video shot by the artist along with found footage, proves poignant in a montage that includes hand-to-hand combat between rival gangs in Eastern Europe, the demolition of a building outside Paris, and a dizzying helicopter flight around a monolithic compound near Kiev, Ukraine.
Gaillard engages with the built environment, revealing the failure of modernist architecture yet preserving a sense of nostalgia for the utopian thinking often associated with it. “Geographical Analogies” (2006–09) is a selection from Gaillard’s archive of approximately 900 Polaroid photographs depicting decaying buildings in locations from Chernobyl to Detroit. These images are organized in cases constructed of wood and glass that evoke traditional methods of specimen display and offer comparisons between ancient and contemporary ruins. Also included is the three-part video composition “Desniansky Raion” (2007), scored by Gaillard’s musical collaborator, Koudlam.
Garcia Torres has revisited projects by artists active in the 1960s and 1970s, such as Michael Asher, Robert Barry, Alighiero e Boetti and Daniel Buren. He examines how the structure and significance of their artworks have been affected by the passage of time and the evolving expectations of participants and viewers. “Je ne sais si c’en est la cause” (2009), is Garcia Torres’ meticulously researched meditation on an early mosaic project by Buren that decorates a luxury resort in the Virgin Islands. Incorporated into the room-sized installation are two slide projections juxtaposing images from the heyday of the hotel with current photographs of the structure crumbling and overgrown. Meanwhile, a turntable plays a haunting tune and unspools a spoken-word narrative about the commission Buren would eventually come to disavow and the decline of the site where it is located.
Both Gaillard and Garcia Torres examine idealistic movements of the past to raise the provocative questions of whether the convictions and achievements of today’s artists and architects will prove any more enduring than those of previous generations. Beyond simply evaluating the success of the endeavors, Gaillard and Garcia Torres consider what kind of foundation they provide for today’s visual output and cultural thinking.
Gaillard and Garcia Torres discuss recent and upcoming projects with Hileman on Wed., Nov. 10, at 7 p.m. in the Ring Auditorium.
The Hirshhorn offers a range of interactive educational experiences designed to engage people of all interest levels in contemporary art. Friday Gallery Talks are weekly lunchtime chats with artists and scholars that focus on one work in depth. The museum’s ever-expanding library of podcasts (featured on iTunes in the top 100 Arts and Entertainment podcasts) make gallery walk-throughs and interviews with artists accessible internationally.
About the Hirshhorn
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Smithsonian Institution’s museum of international modern and contemporary art, has nearly 12,000 paintings, sculptures, photographs, mixed-media installations, works on paper and new media works in its collection. The Hirshhorn presents diverse exhibitions and offers an array of public programs that explore the art of our time. Located at Independence Avenue and Seventh Street S.W., the museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (except Dec. 25). Admission to the galleries and special programs is free. For more information about exhibitions and events, please visit hirshhorn.si.edu. To request accessibility services, please contact Kristy Maruca at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 633-2796, preferably two weeks in advance.