Sunday, December 28, 2008

15th exhibit: THE QUALITY OF QUANTITY curated by Joanna L. Kao

Exhibition dates: March 29 – April 26, 2003
You’re cordially invited to a potluck reception on April 12, 2003, 2-5pm.
Viewing hours are 3/29, 4/5, 4/12, 4/26 from noon - 5pm.
Additional viewing hours Monday through Friday evenings are by appointment.

Image: Particiapting artist Alison Safford at work.

(Malden, Massachusetts - March 15, 2003) - - artSPACE@16, a non-commercial gallery in Malden, has invited Joanna L. Kao to curate it's 15th art exhibit. Based on the quote by V.I. Lenin who observed, 'Quantity has a quality all its own', Kao aims to artistically explore the effect of the use of a large number of objects through this curated exhibition. Kao posts these ideas for artists who answered this CALL: "What concerns can be addressed and what messages are intended by the use of a quantity of sub units? Does the resulting whole become greater than the sum of its parts?"

Joanna L. Kao has selected 13 artists to participate in the Quality of Quantity exhibit. They are:

Leika Akiyama - Arlington
Aparna Agrawal - Cambridge
Sara JH Ashodian - Nahant
Anya Belkina - Durham
Christina Chang - Woburn
Chris Lan Hui Chou - Allston
Joanna L. Kao - Jamaica Plain
Riki Moss - Somerville
Cuong-Quoc Phu - Malden
Leslie Roitman - Milton
Alison Safford - Jamaica Plain
Matthew Weber - Unionville
Kristin Zottoli - Somerville

Image: Detail of a mixed media wall installation by Leika Akiyama.

Joanna L. Kao received training as a painter at Boston University's School of Visual Arts and currently teaches art at the Winsor School in Boston. Kao accentuates her exhibition concept for The Quality of Quantity - “The use of quantities of objects has long been my interest in producing my own art works and in viewing those of others, even though it contradicts the usual concept of the work of art as a unique object. As I think about this theme, it is more than obvious that the nature of the objects, their quality, makes all the difference to the meaning of the piece." She continues, “The arrangement of the objects is also of key importance. Finally, their quantity counts, but basically exists in interdependence with the foregoing elements.”

Joanna L. Kao works with sculptural media such as paper mache and various types of clay, often combining components into more complex mixed media pieces that reflect eclectic cultural sources. Among recent subjects, she has made a series of shrines dedicated to the memory of her parents, as well as tiny porcelain human figures, heads, animals, stoneware furniture and house structures.

Kao states, “For some artists, subjecting themselves to great limitation by the repetition of a piece such as a coin, the work becomes far more interesting than the sub-unit itself.” She gives Chris Burden’s piece from 1979, the Reason for the Neutron Bom, as an example. It featured a vast room with thousands upon thousands of nickels arrayed in a grid, each nickel representing a tank in the Soviet arsenal. The piece was made during the height of the Cold War.

Image: Work by Riki Moss - Detail of 911/Signs of Life installation, encaustic and digital images, 5’ x 5’.

“The reasons behind other such accumulative pieces are, of course, as varied as the artists themselves. Ideas of community and extended family, the suggestion of events involving masses of individuals or of one gender or the other, all can be represented by this approach, as can ideas of form, shape and mass.” Kao interprets.

“The making or the collection of a quantity of any one thing often is an obsession-based activity,” Kao emphasizes, “the strong feeling about the unit in question, or about the repeated act to the completion of the piece.”

Joanna L. Kao has shown widely in New England and held solo shows last summer in China and South Korea. She curated the exhibition entitled, 'Engendered Species' at U. Mass Boston's Harbor Gallery through the Institute of Asian American Studies in 1998. In 2001, Kao and Sand T co-curated a large -scale exhibition entitled 'Out of Bounds' which was held at the Cyclorama Boston Center for the Arts. 'Out of Bounds' was a part of CreAsian, the PanAsian Arts Festival co-organized by the Asian American Resource Workshop and the Boston Center for the Arts.

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Image: mixed media work by Joanna L. Kao - Gesture, 7" x 14.5" x 2", two boxes.

'Quantity has a quality all its own.'
from a conversation between Lenin
and Stalin about Russian tanks

A Curator Statement
by Joanna L. Kao

The task of a curator is an interesting one: to form the idea for an exhibition, which is then cast out into the world as broadly as possible, acting as a sort of conceptual net. The art work gathered in depends upon how the artists responding interpret the basic idea. The curator's dream is to discover work that sheds new light on the selected theme. Artists answering the call for this show proffered a great variety of work, some of which, although interesting, did not correspond to the motivating concept closely enough for me to discern the connection. At the other extreme were submissions so unimaginably new to me, despite my having long dealt in my own work with this very concept, that I felt astonished and humbled.

There are works of art that intend to overwhelm by the power of sheer accumulation. Chris Burden's piece from 1979, 'The Reason for the Neutron Bomb,' is one well known example. Fifty thousand nickels arrayed in a grid on the floor of a huge room symbolized the number of tanks in the Soviet arsenal at the height of the Cold War.

For Allan MacCollum, who described his work in a recent lecture at Harvard University, the nature of the objects in the piece titled Individual Objects mattered little, as long as each one in the accumulation was unique. He was excited by the idea of a massive number of small, rather mechanical looking objects, three groups of about 10,000 each, that collectively constituted the art work. He wanted to contradict the more traditional concept of the piece of art as a unique, single object.

Image: Artist Sara JH Ashodian with her work, Identity Obscura, made of terra cotta, stone ware, Approximately 2’ x 3’.

Among the thirteen exhibitors in The Quality of Quantity, Sara Ashodian heaps a pile of tiny ceramic containers onto the floor, an arrangement gaining authority from its numbers. Organic looking, it resembles a swarm of seashell-like forms that evoke a twinge of claustrophobia. Ashodian's objects bring to mind things created by life processes;

Image: Detail shot - sculpture by Aparna Agrawal, Together, mixed media, 37.5” x 48”.

Aparna Agrawal's small rope structures also use natural materials assembled by hand. A group of these arrayed in a grid represents beds remembered from childhood, when her extended family slept outdoors on hot summer nights. These forms represent her effort to keep alive the memory of family, distant now in time and space.

Image: Detail shot - Installation by Kristin Zottoli, The Modes of Organization, Tea stained braille paper and wood, 9’ x2” x 2”.

Kristin Zottoli similarly uses a regular arrangement of many sub-units, small squares of tea stained Braille papers attached to the wall, to suggest the encoding of information in a system of organization, however fragile and ephemeral.

Image: Artist Matthew Weber posed with his sculpture entitled "Cedar Shim Constaruction", built with Cedar Shims, 8” x 33” dia.

Matthew Weber's sculptural piece is sturdy by contrast, invoking the natural origins of wood by means of large numbers of ordinary building shingles or shims, assembled radially to form a thick cylinder. Variations of light and dark create a rhythmic, tactile pattern, adding to the appeal of this weighty structure, for which the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts.

Image: Artist Alison Safford posed with her Installation Tengo Sed: made of Steel, wax, plaster, spoons.

Unexpected combinations of materials and mechanisms furnish a further surprise with Alison Safford's installation. Sections of the lower face, identifiable by the mouth's fleshy and prominent lips, hang on the wall, pursed and ready to receive nourishment from silver spoons installed before them. The spoons hover in space, mounted on tall stands which rock on curved runners, referring to the repeated motions of feeding or eating.

Image: Mixed media work by Leika Akiyama entitled Pink Zippers, 12" x 12".

If the nature of the objects used, their quality, makes a difference to the meaning of an accumulative piece of art, their arrangement generally matters as well. Sometimes a whole class of people, the feminine gender, for example, is represented simply by the use of many of a kind: the pairs of cast paper mache Barbie doll legs, for example, in one of my pieces. Multiple views are created to expand upon the vision of a single theme, or to indicate a developmental or evolutionary sequence, or to explore the uses of kitsch. Finally, the production of many units of one kind could represent the results of an obsession based activity. 'The Quality of Quantity' is an exhibition rich in contrasts of all kinds.

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Image: Riki Moss with Fred in front of her work.

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