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Emerge’s Acquisition for the MCA Annouced

On Tuesdays, April 13th, EMERGE convened to select the newest piece of art for the Museum of Contemporary Art. This meeting marked the inaugural year for the EMERGE group and their role in selecting and acquiring a work of art for the MCA’s collection. The three finalists were Kate Gilmore, Anthony Pearson, and Mitzi Pederson.

Before the presentation, Emerge members engaged in a lively discussion about the works up for debate. MCA curators and staff mingled with Emerge members, helping to answer questions and facilitate the conversation.

The discussions centered on which of the three worked best in the MCA’s Collection; whether the work being considered was the best representation of that artist’s work; and which one had the greatest potential to stand the test of time.

Five previous meetings and discussions were held to narrow down the selection of works and define the decision process. All of the final works were by artists not already represented in the MCA collection. The overall budget for the acquisition was $13,000.

Julie Rodrigues Widholm, MCA Pamela Alper Associate Curator, gave a final presentation on each of the works to prepare for the final vote.

Following the presentation, Emerge members went to the MCA’s Café to fill out their ballots and enjoy a Spanish tapas-inspired menu provided by Wolfgang Puck’s. A curator sat at each table to facilitate discussion and to give more insight into the merits of each artist’s work in relationship to the collection. Votes were tallied while Emerge members dined, and the results were announced at dessert time.

Finalists:

Kate Gilmore (acquired)

The Emerge members gave Kate Gilmore the most votes, so both of her videos will be accessioned into the MCA Collection. The videos chosen are:

Between a Hard Place, 2008. (link to HD video) Single channel video, running time: 9:42 min.

Blood from a Stone, 2009. (link to HD video) Single channel video, running time: 8:09 min.

Kate Gilmore is a video artist who takes on the gendered legacies of recent art history with documented performances that employ constructed sets and feats of physical labor. Her short videos, usually under ten minutes, show the artist dressed in stereotypically feminine clothes accomplishing tasks she has established for herself, such as breaking through walls, digging herself out of a hole, or extricating herself from uncomfortably constricting spaces, making reference to body art and violent or durational performance art.

Gilmore’s videos employ a decidedly low-budget aesthetic; she uses one or two fixed cameras to make her work and usually appears alone in the frame of her crudely edited videos. Gilmore often ties her work to popular cultural notions of love through her titles, playfully contrasting saccharine sentiment with assaulting imagery in videos such as With Open Arms (2005) which shows Gilmore in a party dress defiantly trying to maintain a broad smile and literal open arms while being harshly pelted with tomatoes. Other works borrow puns of figures of speech, literalizing them in works such as In the Red (2009) in which the artist breaks out of the floor of a drywall space into a nest of interlocking pieces of wood below, covered in red paint and dripping onto the wood. With a sense of irreverence and sharp humor, Gilmore’s videos can be shocking in their straightforward depiction of painful, dangerous, or strenuous activities — giving us a contemporary image of feminist performance art.

In Blood from a Stone, Gilmore appears dressed in an embroidered white dress and a red cardigan on a dark slate-gray set. On the back wall we see ten simple gray shelves protruding at right angles from the wall at head-height. Over the course of the approximately eight-minute video Gilmore laboriously picks up what appear to be quite heavy light-gray blocks just off screen and hoists them on to the shelves. As she places each block on the shelf and pushes it against the wall, a burst of white paint appears, trickling down the wall. Gilmore becomes more and more exhausted as the video progresses, struggling to get the block up on the shelves and using her body and face as a brace for the weight of the block. When Gilmore finishes her task a Minimalist tableau is left, the blocks evenly arranged in a Donald Judd-like wall sculpture while traces of white paint leak down the walls, a reference to another kind of 20th century masculinist art, action painting.

Blood from a Stone, 2009

Gilmore’s video Between a Hard Place offers a similarly uncomfortable feat, the artist crashing through walls in a black dress, gloves, and yellow heels. Gilmore uses her hands and feet to punch, kick, tear, and claw her way through a series of grey walls constructed out of drywall. Each wall give way to another wall behind it, forcing Gilmore to create a sort of tunnel through them as she progresses. After she has broken through a number of the walls, she comes upon a yellow wall, perhaps a real architectural wall, and heaving for breath, she turns to face the camera while removing her gloves, her task completed.

Between a Hard Place, 2008

Kate Gilmore was born in 1975 in Washington, DC, and lives and work in New York. She received her BA from Bates College in Maine in 1997, and her MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York in 2002. She has had solo exhibitions at a number of galleries in the United States and abroad. She has participated in numerous group exhibitions including Reflections on the Electric Mirror: New Feminist Video at the Brooklyn Museum of Art; 100 Years at PS1/MoMA, Queens; and was included in the 2010 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Gilmore is not currently represented in the MCA Collection but her work resonates with a number of works in the collection including videos by Bruce Nauman, Pipolotti Rist, Ann Hamilton, and Jeanne Dunning.

Mitzi Pederson (runner-up)

Mitzi Pederson’s sculpture came in a very close second. Her work is meant to be viewed from multiple perspectives, and subverts and changes how you look at images. It references both Minimalism and Post-minimalism — the MCA has a strong holding of works by Minimalist artists.

Pederson’s work includes two different colored ribbons that are more noticeable upon closer examination. The ribbons keep the structure in balance. Pederson made the blocks in her sculpture, and often uses found materials.

The work includes 20 pages of detailed instructions about how to put it together for museum preparators.

Untitled, 2008, cement and ribbon

Anthony Pearson (runner-up)

Pearson has a studio-based practice and he aims to create something new and distinct in the world. Each of his works are unique and are not serialized. Pearson was interested in not losing the physical processes of photography through the printing process. Elements of chance are in the construction of each work. There were two separate works that examined the materials of photography.

This work was made of bronze, and had positive and negative space:

Untitled (Pour Arrangement), 2008

This work incorporates a physicality related to the body, and displays a painterly gesture with photography:

Untitled (3 Part Solarization), 2010