Contributed by Rob Kaiser-Schatzlein / Katie Bell‘s work, comprising scavenged construction debris, skirts the line between sculpture and assemblage. Bell combed Miami for a month to source the materials for “Backsplash,” her most recent solo show, which opened at Locust Projects September 10. Among the must-finds on her list were, as she says, “scraps of drywall, scraps of wood, house paint, and a hot tub.”
The gallery put out a call to its network of members, collectors, and benefactors; Bell began her search as soon as she arrived in Miami. “It was all a little surreal. I was going in fancy homes in gated communities, just to check out their leftover house paint in a closet in the most seamy corner of their house,” said Bell. “Another member of [Locust’s] board builds and owns hotels, so she had a full construction crew, and I got to go look through warehouses full of junk.”
During the two weeks she spent driving all over Miami-Dade County, there were also, she said, “a lot of wild goose chases to meet Craigslist people.” Still, said Bell, “I feel like I got good stuff because I was able to really hold out for certain things. In that way, it ended up being more about the place I made it than other installations I had done.”
What’s gained from her insistence upon the right material is reflected in “Backsplash,” wherein objects are specifically of Miami, yes, but also of the passing moment. The work this consolidates cultural memory.
Bell was especially determined to locate a hot tub. In past works she had used large fragments of a fiberglass Jacuzzi, which seem to conjur a potent evocation of empty bourgeois luxury. For Bell, the tub adds elements of beauty and spatial dynamism to the work as a whole. Many of the tubs she saw failed on both counts, but she finally found one worth salvaging. “After going to look a lot of different hot tubs, some too nasty to even use, the one I found was in a house for sale. It was just trashed like everything else in the house.”
“Backsplash” is divided into two rooms, one a wall installation, the other a sculpture (of sorts). As Bell describes it, the front (installation) room is “like the explosion,” and the back room is “the aftermath.” The “aftermath” is a 24-foot long piece of collected debris on cork flooring. A walkway flanks the long edge of the room, causing the viewer to look at the piece as if it were a stage or natural history museum diorama. This room could be interpreted as a handsome rendering of the future ruins of Miami, but it is still in motion, warning of chaos yet to come. Dowels pierce the walls and jut out at all angles; giant springs abound; a faux-Grecian column tilts without regard for gravity.
The work has an experimental quality, as encouraged by Locust Project. “I’m not sure how to talk about it yet,” Bell said. “There’s something important about composing an image in a painting space, unlike a sculptural space where you walk around it. It was like a dream that happened only in Miami. Now I’m back in Brooklyn, still wondering what happened.”
Antonia Wright:Under the water was sand, then rocks, miles of rocks, then fire
Saturday, September 10
Conversation with the artists: 6:30-7:30pm
Opening reception: 7:30-9:30pm
Wright’s installation will shift from “night” to “day” at 9pm during the opening reception. The shift will then occur at 5:30pm each day for the duration of the exhibition.
Exhibitions on view through October 8, 2016
UNDER THE WATER WAS SAND, THEN ROCKS, MILES OF ROCKS, THEN FIRE
Locust Projects is proud to present Under the water was sand, then rocks, miles of rocks, then fire by Miami artist Antonia Wright. For the first time, Wright presents a new film work within an ambitious large-scale site-specific installation that has been specially designed to engage the senses and provoke a heightened emotional state in the viewer.
For the duration of the exhibition, day will become night in Locust Projects’ central space, so that Wright can enclose the viewer within a maze of flowering Night Blooming Jasmine plants. Upon entering through a curtain, the viewer will be immersed in darkness. They will detect the scent of jasmine flowers, and experience a specially composed soundscape by experimental jazz musician and composer Jason Ajemian. The viewer negotiates their way through the maze of plants, which are suspended from the ceiling in boxes, and moves towards the light emitted by the film projected at the center of the room. Reenacting an event from her youth, Wright – dressed in a flame-colored suit – crosses a frozen lake, eventually falling through the ice into the water. Through the duality of light and dark, the exertion of control over elements from the natural world, and the reenactment of an incident from her life, Wright considers the fragile border that separates life and death.
As the regular day draws to an end, a timer will activate the lighting, deactivate the video projections, and transition the space into a sculptural light installation. As the room becomes light, the Night Blooming Jasmine flowers will close. Visitors will be able to watch this short choreographed transition at 5:30pm each day.
The title of the exhibition is drawn from Dave Eggers’ novel You Shall Know Our Velocity! (2002):
At that moment I was sure. That I belonged in my skin. That my organs were mine and my eyes were mine and my ears which could only hear the silence of this night and my faint breathing, were mine, and I loved them and what they could do. There was so much water in so many places, rushing everywhere, up and down, the water on top moving so much faster than the water below it. Under the water was sand, then rocks, miles of rocks, then fire.
Under the water was sand, then rocks, miles of rocks, then fire was made possible with major support from the Funding Arts Network.
Special thanks to Darling Green, Inc., Daniel Joseph, Alex Pearson, Jason Ajemian, Siobhan Morrissey, Lee Pivnik, Ruben and Otis Millares, and the artist’s family.
ABOUT ANTONIA WRIGHT
Antonia Wright (b. 1979) studied at the International Center of Photography, and The New School in New York City where she graduated with an MFA in Poetry. She has exhibited, and been awarded artist residencies, nationally and internationally. Recent solo presentations include Spinello Projects (Miami, FL); Luis de Jesus Gallery (Los Angeles, CA); NSU Art Museum, Ft. Lauderdale; Vizcaya Museum and Gardens (Miami, FL); and Art@Work at the Mosquera Collection, The Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami. International shows include Ping Pong (Basel, Switzerland); Faena Art Center (Buenos Aires, Argentina); The National Gallery of Art (Nassau, Bahamas), and Aeroplastics (Brussels, Belgium). Wright was the first artist-in-residence at the Lotus House Shelter for women and children in Overtown, Miami, in 2012, and was more recently awarded residencies at Pioneer Works (2015) and the Leipzig International Program (2016). Wright’s work has been presented in publications including The New York Times, Artforum’s Critics’ Picks, Art In America, and The Art Newspaper.
Locust Projects is pleased to present Backsplash, two new site-specific works by Brooklyn-based artist Katie Bell.
Bell has mined Miami for the items that form the palette for the works that she has created in Locust Projects’ front and back spaces. She uses common building materials as ingredients to be sawn, cut, thrown, stacked, and coerced together. Utilizing wood, laminate, paint, foam, hot tub fragments, shock absorbers, cork, and rope, the artist has created physical, sculptural paintings.
The exhibition’s title refers to the location itself, as Locust Projects’ walls and floors act as painting “supports”, in that they have collected –and now exhibit – the detritus of Bell’s activity within the space. Large objects that evoke the domestic sphere have been transformed into painterly elements. The artist’s materials become abstracted from their original purpose, and act as ruins and relics.
Bell’s works act as still life paintings that threaten to rupture the viewer's space. They give the impression that the artist’s materials have been through an unusual storm, which has left them strewn about the space in a state of freeze-frame, as if holding their breath until the viewer leaves.
Special thanks to Annika Northland, Avra Jain, Douglas Castro, and Laura Raiffe.
ABOUT KATIE BELL
Originally from Rockford, Illinois, Katie Bell (b. 1985) received her BA from Knox College where she studied fine art and race and gender studies. She graduated in 2011 from the Rhode Island School of Design with an MFA in Painting. Bell has shown at venues including the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Knockdown Center (Brooklyn, NY); Nudashank (Baltimore); PLUG Projects (Kansas City); Okay Mountain Gallery (Austin); and the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum (Lincoln, MA). Her work has received coverage in BOMB Magazine, Art F City, Hyperallergic, and Paper Magazine. In 2011 she was an artist in residence at the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation’s Space Program. Bell was recently awarded a fellowship in painting by the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Saint-Gaudens Memorial Fellowship. Bell lives and works in Brooklyn. This is her first exhibition in Miami.
ABOUT LOCUST PROJECTS
Locust Projects is a not for profit exhibition space dedicated to providing contemporary visual artists the freedom to experiment with new ideas without the pressures of gallery sales or limitations of conventional exhibition spaces. Local, national, and international artists are encouraged to create site-specific installations as an extension of their representative work. Locust Projects supports the local community through educational initiatives and programming that are free and open to the public.
Locust Projects exhibitions and programming are made possible with support from: The Alvah H. and Wyline P. Chapman Foundation; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; Cowles Charitable Trust; FAENA; Funding Arts Network; The State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture; The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; The Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners; The National Endowment for the Arts Art Works Grant; Locust Projects Exhibitionist and Significant Others Members.