‘Made Here Winter 2015’ group show runs through Jan. 4

GUTTENBERG – Guttenberg Arts Gallery presents “Made Here Winter 2015,” a group exhibition of the current artists in residence, running from Dec. 5 to Jan. 4, 2016. The works included in the exhibition were created during the artist’s residences this past summer. The title “Made Here” carries not only multiple definitions, but multiple conceptual meanings, ranging from location to identity, the politics of materials and the historical nature of place. All of these new works deeply consider many of these issues and are only just the beginning points for deeper reflection.
Artists included in the exhibition are Seung-Jong Isaac Lee, Diana Shpungin, Chad Stayrook, Elisabeth Smolarz, and Roberto Visani. The group show opening reception is on Friday, Dec. 11 from 7 to 9 p.m. For more information contact studio@guttenbergarts.org or (201) 868-8585.
Guttenberg Art Gallery at 6903 Jackson St. is free and open to the public by appointment.
Seung-Jong Isaac Lee’s newest lithographic prints and rubbings deeply consider ideas of living life in New York City as a foreigner and immigrant. As Lee tries to resolve these issues in his daily life, he chooses the manhole as a metaphor for his journey. Manholes are seen as an escape route or connection to a new world; the manhole cover as a gate. Thus, Lee creates inter-dimensional portals in his lithographs using the image of the manhole as a symbolic gateway between cultures, nations, and identities. Manhole covers are a reflection of a town’s civic pride, as they are produced by foundries and local authorities. They are also the doors which guide his work to an unknown and underground path, that imply that hardships and storms of life are prerequisites to the new world of escape or freedom. Through these ideas, he reinterprets the manhole covers from an aesthetic viewpoint and raises questions about the escape from many things: a routine, daily life and, by extension, nations, ethnicities, and disputes. These escapes lead to freedom and the hope of a better life.
Diana Shpungin’s new works are experimental ceramics in combination with graphite pencil. Shpungin’s use of the graphite pencil as an elemental tool, both permanent and denoting erasure, is the foundation of her practice. These new works reflect an evolution in material and a reflection of its meaning. Where ceramics become sculptural installations, they also function as drawing and vice versa. While she meticulously coats objects with graphite pencil as if they removed themselves from the two dimensional plane and into our bodily space providing an ever greater intimacy and physicality with the object itself, these pieces refer to many of the drawings that are further used to create animation works, “purposely failed animations,” or “moving stills.” Ultimately, all these methods maintain a peculiar sense of longing. The subject matter may directly address this, a formal sensibility of tension may be employed, or longing can be implied by way of a self-imposed conceptual failure. Often they have a purposeful yet ambiguous sense of incompletion.
Elisabeth Smolarz’s work utilizes objects as portals to memory by collaborating with individuals to create shrine-like installations of their own objects in their home environments, thus creating a self-portrait. The installation of their precious objects, which embody their sense of selfhood and identity, tells the story of each individual, and forms a series of intricate non-concrete portraits following the tradition of symbolism of early still life paintings. As the first community-based artist in residence at Guttenberg Arts this summer, Smolarz focused on the population of the town of Guttenberg and all its inhabitants are represented. This series of self-portraits together makes up a larger community portrait and one that shows what it means to be one of the most densely populated incorporated towns in America. Smolarz also used the Guttenberg Arts Instagram feed to document her process over the three months that she was in residence.
Chad Stayrook’s work combines video, installation, and performance to present narratives of adventure and discovery. He gathers source material by exploring natural phenomena and unusual landscapes, allowing the world around him to become a playground for storytelling. Unknown places are a starting point for Stayrook’s practice. He leaves room for play and spontaneity in all of his work in order to retain a spirit of true exploration. In his newest works, “spacetime vessels” Stayrook deals with the relationship between materials, dimensionality, and temporal experience. The independent mediums of ceramics, sculpture, drawing, photography, and video are combined to form a single interwoven continuum. The result is a melding of ancient, modern, and contemporary techniques and symbols that may or may not describe, in a more formal way, the workings of the universe.
Roberto Visani uses assemblage to create many of his sculptures. The specific materials and objects formulate metaphors which connect the gun to the circumstances surrounding its use and its relationship to the body. The sculptures of firearms made from steel are, initially inspired by colonial era improvised firearms. The series has evolved to consider guns across time and place and those selected refer to different contexts, present and past, national and foreign, collective and individualistic. As an ergonomic form, Visani sees the gun as carrying both a physical and psychological relation to humanity.

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