The Nasher Will Spend Several Million Dollars on a Dallas-Wide Public Art Installation

The Nasher Sculpture Center announced its grand 10-year celebration plan this afternoon, and it comes at an interesting time for the Dallas art community. They've already raised $1 million of the required funds for a program called Nasher Xchange, which will commission 10 site-specific works of public art by 10 contemporary artists for 10 locations throughout the city.

They've worked for more than a year choosing the spots, asking community higher-ups for their opinions and doing site visits and evaluations before making their final picks. They've promised that all parts of the Dallas compass will be included, from North to South and everything in between.

The exhibition will run from October 19, 2013 to February 16, 2014, making the Nasher the first museum to organize a public art program of this geographical scale in the United States. Two of the 10 chosen are even from around these parts: Good/Bad Art Collective out of Denton -- which has been bringing artful whimsy and mischief to the Metroplex since '94 -- has been reeled in for the task. Vicki Meek, a sculptor and installation artist who's garnered tremendous local respect for her tireless efforts as Manager of the South Dallas Cultural Center, completes the pairing.

While I accidentally eavesdropped on Good/Bad collective meeting on Sunday night, I can only say -- look out, it's going to be a little bit awesome. And Meek tells me she's planting her work in a highly underutilized portion of South Oak Cliff.

The eight other commissioned artists run the gambit of fame's barometer, but all share a common passion of interplay, by either using their work as a direct response to, or continuation of, a specific space.

I've thought about public art a lot lately, really since the State of the Arts lecture held last month at the DMA. It was a good talk, one that seemed to energize the crowd of emerging, working artists who filed into the Horchow's available seating. What repeatedly came up was a suggestion that we need more people to advocate for art, to carry the conversation about art out to the public. That we need more voices speaking for these artists who are making work, here, today.

I agree with this, to an extent. I think we need to broaden the conversation by first expanding the audience. I think we need to encourage growth here, in our city, among those curious about art but who don't know how to enter the conversation. Until we do that, we're really just opening more channels with the same beginning and end points: We're reaching a static number of people. That isn't making the pond bigger, just the fish that live inside it.

When batting all of this around, I kept coming back to public art. It serves as a purpose medium for precisely that. By naturally evoking casual conversation, you've bridged the toughest barrier. If someone walks up to a massive, foreign structure that they've never encountered before, they notice it. They Instagram it, Tweet it, Facebook it. Soon, it's a destination, a target of conversation. When we feel comfortable discussing it, we want to learn more. We seek out information, we look for those voices telling us what's happening here, in the arts.

That's how you increase the size of the pond. And the Nasher's doing it.

Now, meet the 10 artists whose work will be shown at the city-wide public art installation project, Nasher Xchange. Bios and video courtesy of the Nasher.

Lara Almarcegui /Rotterdam, Netherlands Lara Almarcegui is a Spanish artist currently living in Rotterdam. Her work examines processes of urban transformation brought on by political, social, and economic change. She collects historical, geographic, ecological, and sociological data about vacant or abandoned areas in urban spaces that will inevitably change. Her art, intended to generate discussion on the past and future of a place, takes many forms including publications, installations, slide projections, documentary photography, cartography and tours. She has implemented numerous international projects, from the restoration of a market hall slated for demolition in San Sebastián to close studies of derelict lots in Rotterdam, Bilbao, São Paulo, Lisbon, and Amsterdam. Almarcegui has participated in the Taipei Biennial, Gwangyu Biennial, LIAF Arts Festival, Svoelvaer, Sandretto Foundation, Sharjah Art Biennial, the Sao Paulo Biennial, Seville Biennial, Momentum, and the Nordic Festival of Contemporary Art, Moss. Solo exhibitions include the Gallery Ellen de Bruin Projects, Amsterdam; Sala Rekalde, Bilbao; Gallery Pepe Cobo, Madrid; Malaga Centre of Contemporary Art, Malaga; the FRAC Bourgogne, Dijon; and INDEX, Stockholm. Almarcegui will represent Spain at the 2013 Venice Biennale.

Good/Bad Art Collective /Denton, Texas
Good/Bad Art Collective was a Denton, Texas based group of artists that organized several events and exhibitions in Texas and New York from 1994-2001. As many as 70 artists participated during this time period, averaging 20 or so active members at a time, resulting in a collective that The Village Voice described as "Fluxus with ADD." The group averaged one opening or event every two weeks, with many of them lasting only one day. Inspired by a conceptual art course at the University of North Texas offered by artist Vernon Fisher, the group created installations and events that were often shocking and thought-provoking. Some of the main participants included Martin Iles, Erick Swenson, Elliott Johnson, Richie Budd, Rod Northcutt, Heather Grace, Chris Weber, Will Robison, Tim Kaminski, and Dan Bailey.

Rachel Harrison /New York City, New York
Rachel Harrison is a New York-based artist known for using a wide variety of materials including a bevy of consumer products and found objects alongside abstract forms she creates by hand to create combinations of seemingly incongruous things. Describing her work as a conversation between "the museum, the canons of art history, and the supermarket," she draws from a wide range of influences, wittily combining art historical and pop cultural references through a diverse play of materials. She hopes that viewers will commit to enough time with her sculptures to experience every nook and cranny and develop their own sense of what stands before them.

Harrison has participated in the Whitney Biennial, exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Walker Art Center. A traveling survey of her work originated at Bard College in 2009. Her work can be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Harvard Art Museums, among others.

Harrison has been wary of public art commissions thus far because she strongly believes that her studio work, often made with ephemeral materials, would not translate well outdoors. On a recent visit to Dallas, she expressed interest in working in new ways and was excited at not being asked to modify what she does in the studio for a public setting. A personal interest of hers is to photograph how museums and galleries stanchion art, thereby adding security at the cost of creating a barrier between artwork and viewer. At her most recent gallery show at Greene Naftali, Harrison exhibited Lazy Hardware, a sculpture made from wood, styrofoam, cement, and acrylic paint, that she "strangled" with a set of museum stanchions in a tongue-in-cheek critique of such practices. On a visit to Dallas City Hall, Harrison was surprised to see Henry Moore's The Dallas Piece surrounded by metal barricades. This experience triggered a preliminary idea to explore developing artist-made stanchions that could work with the sculpture, rather than obstruct it. This project would be her first public art commission.

Alfredo Jaar /New York City, New York
Alfredo Jaar is a Chilean-born artist, architect, photographer, and filmmaker living in New York. Trained as an architect rather than as an artist, Jaar describes his working method as how an architect would approach a new commission. He studies each new place "not only in physical but also in social, political, as well as cultural terms," in the search for the defining essence or issue that will guide his artistic practice. Through compiling first-hand accounts and detailed research, Jaar often brings attention to issues that are very real for some, but often ignored by others, such as homelessness, pollution and genocide. He is best-known as an installation artist, often incorporating photography and covering socio-political issues and war - his best-known work perhaps being the six-year long The Rwanda Project about the 1994 Rwandan genocide. He has also made numerous public intervention works, such as The Skoghall Konsthall one-day paper museum in Sweden; an early electronic billboard intervention, A Logo For America; and The Cloud, a performance project on both sides of the Mexico-USA border. Jaar's work has been shown extensively around the world, notably in the Biennales of Venice, São Paulo, Istanbul, Kwangju, Johannesburg and Seville. His work, Park of the Laments, was part of the 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park which opened in 2010 at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Important solo exhibitions include the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome; Fundación Telefónica, Santiago; Musée des Beaux Arts, Lausanne; the South London Gallery; and most recently in a three-museum retrospective of his work in Berlin.

For new public art commissions, Jaar spends as much time as possible exploring a place and talking with locals in an effort to identify a guiding issue.

Liz Larner /Los Angeles, California
Liz Larner is a Los Angeles-based artist whose work over the past 25 years has been characterized by a tireless examination into the nature of sculpture. She has employed a wide range of materials and working methods to create sculptures and installations that push the boundaries of fundamental aspects of three-dimensional object making such as the use of line, color and form.
Larner has had numerous solo exhibitions at venues such as Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; 303 Gallery, New York; Galleri Nordanstad-Skarstedt, Stockholm; Jennifer Flay Galerie, Paris; and Galerie Peter Pakesch, Vienna.

A new and exciting initiative at The University of Texas at Dallas has been the development of an interdisciplinary curriculum that fosters collaboration at the intersection of arts and humanities, science and engineering. The university has also invested in a new Arts and Technology building (ATEC ) in the middle of campus, set to open in fall 2013, that will serve as classroom space and laboratories for the partnership between the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science and the School of Arts and Humanities.

Charles Long /Los Angeles, California
Charles Long is an American artist from Long Branch, NJ, currently residing in Mt. Baldy, CA. A truly multidisciplinary artist, Long is known for working in a variety of materials and ways, and has collaborated extensively with non-visual art artists such as the band Stereolab, Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo and the renowned choreographer Merce Cunningham. Since Long's relocation from New York to California his work has been inspired by the Los Angeles River. Each year, after the flood season, an abundant growth of grasses, thickets and trees emerges amongst the discarded office furniture, bedsprings and shopping carts that are washed into the concrete channel providing a dwelling for mallards, osprey, crayfish and heron. Captivated by the river and inspired by its unbiased intermingling of these elements, Long creates photographs, video and sculpture in and about the river that explore the myriad of imagery and meanings it offers.

Long is an internationally exhibited artist with more than thirty solo shows at such venues as Site Santa Fe; St. Louis Art Museum; Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach; Sperone Gallery, Rome; London Projects, UK; and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, NYC. Long has taught at California Institute of the Arts, Art Center College of Art and Design, Otis College of Art and Design, Harvard University and currently is faculty and chair of the UC Riverside Department of Art. His newest public art piece, Pet Sounds, opened in Madison Square Park in spring 2012.

Long has been interested in the intersection between art, sound, and viewer participation since
he collaborated with the band Stereolab in the mid-90's to create sculptures with sound components that could be accessed through headphones. For Pet Sounds, Long evolved his ideas as new technological possibilities were developed with a special focus on activating sound through touch. His XChange proposal, Fountainhead, is an interactive, waterless fountain that extends his ongoing investigation into the viewer/ artwork relationship through the use of new technologies. The work will consist of a large abstract head shape with video projections of dollar bills floating over its surface. Three kiosks with iPads, card readers and coin slots will be placed around the form. When a visitor donates as little as a penny, a cartoon coin will appear on an iPad that can be flicked across the screen at the head. This action will trigger a series of ambient sounds and corresponding ripples in the flowing money signaling the coin's movement through the air and into the form. Long hopes to donate the proceeds to a charity much like the up to €3,000 a day netted at the Trevi Fountain that goes to Caritas, a charity that assists the poor in Rome. Nasher staff is working with Long to identify a site that can reach a large number of people and provide for the upkeep and protection of the work.

Rick Lowe /Houston, Texas
Rick Lowe is internationally respected for one of the most successful community art projects in the world, Project Row Houses, located in Houston's Third Ward neighborhood. He and his team saved a series of shotgun houses from being demolished and transformed them into galleries, classrooms, and community gathering spaces. Instead of allowing the history of an area to be erased, he created a place that nurtures a sense of togetherness and exchange resulting in what he calls "social sculpture." In addition to Project Row Houses, Lowe has worked as a guest artist on a range of projects, including the Rem Koolhaas-designed Seattle Public Library; the Borough Project for the Spoleto Festival 2003 in Charleston, S.C.; and the Delray Beach Cultural Loop in Florida. His art has been exhibited at the Phoenix Art Museum; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Neuberger Museum in Purchase, N.Y.; the Gwangji Biennale in Korea; the Kumamoto State Museum in Japan; and Houston's Contemporary Arts Museum and Museum of Fine Arts.

Vicki Meek /Dallas, Texas
Vicki Meek, a native of Philadelphia, PA, is a nationally-recognized artist residing in Dallas, TX. She
describes the motivation behind her work as a desire, "to reclaim African American history, restore our collective memory and illuminate critical issues affecting the Black community through visual communication." Trained as a sculptor, Meek has focused on installation art for the past 25 years that asks for direct engagement from the viewer in an effort to foster dialogue on often difficult subject matter. Meek's work is in the permanent collections of the African American Museum in Dallas, The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and Norwalk Community College in Norwalk, Connecticut. She was awarded three public art commissions with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Art Program and was co-artist on the largest public art project in Dallas, the Dallas Convention Center Public Art Project. In addition, Meek is an independent curator and writes cultural criticism for Literafeelya, an online art publication and ARTLIES: A Texas Art Journal. With more than thirty years of arts administrative experience that includes working as a senior program administrator for a state arts agency, a local arts agency and running a non-profit visual arts center, Meek is currently the Manager of the South Dallas Cultural Center.

Bishop College was a historically black school founded in Marshall, TX in 1881 that moved to South Dallas in 1961 and closed in 1988. The campus, in the southern sector of Dallas, is now occupied by Paul Quinn College. With the help of Paul Quinn College students and numerous others, Vicki Meek plans to research Bishop College faculty and members of the Highland Hills and Singing Hills neighborhoods situated around the school that were important figures in the African American community in Dallas. She plans to compile the research and commemorate important people and moments with a series of markers throughout the area. An interactive web component with video interviews will be produced to educate and assist visitors as they search for the markers.

Ruben Ochoa /Los Angeles, California
Ruben Ochoa is a Los Angeles-based artist whose interdisciplinary practice includes sculpture, site-specific installations, photography, and drawing. Family members work with concrete, install rebar, and own pallet yards. He incorporates what he has learned from them and his art school training to create a unique body of work that transforms common construction materials into breathtaking sculptures that appear much lighter than they are.

Ochoa was included in the 2008 Whitney Biennial and the 2004 California Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art. He has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; Charles H. Scott gallery at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Vancouver, British Columbia; and SITE Santa Fe, New Mexico. A primary theme in Ochoa's work has been to explore notions of inclusion and exclusion throughout urban areas. A series of work he has been developing over several years abstracts the design of chain link fencing to question the significance of divisions throughout cities.

Ugo Rondinone /New York City, New York
Ugo Rondinone is a New York-based mixed-media artist from Switzerland. Equally comfortable creatinglarge scale sculptures as he is with drawing, painting, video, and sound, Rondinone is the true definition of a mixed - media artist. He has built an international reputation for a body of work that is endlessly inventive and poetic. Known for drawing the viewer in and eliciting emotional and pyschological responses that can be both optimistic and melancholic, Rondinone's greatest strength is his ability to foster contemplation and introspection. Whether it be a single object, a series of related objects or an installation of disparate parts, his art is often sensorial, evocative of the passage of time, and encourages the viewer's imagination in the search for meaning. He has been the subject of major solo exhibitions at the Kunsthalle, Vienna; Museo de Art Contemporáneo, León, Spain; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark; and SculptureCenter, New York. His works are featured in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, NY and the New Museum of Contemporary Art, NY, among others.

In a 2008 exhibition at SculptureCenter (NY), Rondinone installed sculptures in the interior gallery space that were made of bronze filled with lead, and painted to look as if they were real objects (a fireplace, river stone, and a cardboard box). His goal, he said, was "to make the artificial look real." Outside the gallery, along the path to the front door of the space, he painted the surrounding gravel with a bright green fluorescent paint.

His description of that action was simply that he took, "something real (the gravel), and gave it an artificial surface." The presentation of a mirror image, artificial as real alongside real as artificial, is the kind of poetic duality that Rondinone enjoys setting up for his viewers. You are left to contemplate the significance of these ways of thinking and as he puts it, "It's up to the air what it will become." Most recently, Rondinone installed a patch of old snow in Paris. A simple, triangular shape of pink stone, the installation is evocative of Robert Frost's poem of the same name. In that poem, a narrator describes how one might mistake an old patch of snow, covered in grime, for a newspaper blown into a corner. This realization has the narrator questioning, what, if anything, of the news of the day there is to remember. Rondinone's installation, consisting simply of painted stones in a wedge shape, offers another layer of visual interpretation to the scenario. How and what one sees is ultimately up to the viewer. Nasher staff is currently working with Rondinone to find a site that will offer similarly exciting levels of seeing and interpretation.

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