Ever thought about the way we record what’s happening around us? These artists have.
A new temporary exhibit opening this month at the LSU Museum of Art amasses the work of 20 contemporary artists who explore how we record the world’s chaos, change, big ideas, small moments, beauty and ugliness. The pieces, created in a wide range of media, comprise “State of the Art 2020: Record,” an exhibition organized by the renowned Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. “We feel honored to bring this exhibit to Baton Rouge,” says Daniel Stetson, executive director of the LSU MOA. “It’s part of a huge and very important project.”
About 60 artists participated in “State of the Art 2020” at Crystal Bridges, a museum created by Alice Walton, daughter of WalMart founder Sam Walton. The institution opened in 2011 and has amassed a large and important collection of American art in a stunning, intricately designed contemporary setting.
“State of the Art 2020” first opened in February 2020, just before the COVID-19 shutdown. It was a continuation of “State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now,” which Crystal Bridges first organized in 2014 to showcase the contemporary art being created across the U.S. and to encourage more audiences to see it as both accessible and relevant. With works that included paintings, sculpture, mixed media, video and performance, the exhibit drew more than 175,000 visitors, and sparked a 2019 PBS documentary that followed seven of the original featured artists.
In this ancillary exhibit at the LSU MOA, visitors can expect the same kind of dynamism and energy, Stetson says. It features 20 of the artists who participated in “State of the Art 2020.” They are David Harper, Damian Stamer, Carla Edwards, Jenelle Esparza, Marcel Pardo Ariza, Kate Budd, Mari Hernandez, Tabitha Nikolai, Enrico Riley, Jordan Seaberry, Diego Rodriguez-Warner, Frances Bagley, Peter Everett, Mae Aur, Alex Chitty, Paul Stephen Benjamin, Jill Downen, Nicolas Lobo, Cory Imig and Kellie Romany.
Romany, a Chicago artist, will be in Baton Rouge for the exhibit’s opening weekend, delivering a performance art piece and an artist’s talk and demonstration. Romany is an abstract painter who focuses on bodily representation, materiality and the history of the painting process. She uses a varied color palette inspired by skin tones, and her work is intended to spark conversations about race, the body and femininity.
On opening night, visitors can see her performance art piece, “Can I Get A Witness?,” in which she recites an original poem while dark brown paint cascades slowly from one vessel to another in one of her mixed media pieces.
In another work, “In an Effort to be Held,” viewers find an interactive display of white ceramic saucers, the kind that could hold keys or paper clips, organized on a long table. Each has been painted with splashes of different skin-toned paint.
“Using these ‘catchalls’ is a way for me, as the artist, to connect with the viewer,” Romany says. “There’s a sense of vulnerability in that I made these things, but that people will come and touch them and change them around.”
That’s intentional, Romany says, and part of what she wants people to think about as they interact with the work. In fact, during a past exhibit, one of the saucers was knocked to the ground and shattered, but Romany asked the curator to leave the shards on the floor. It was part of the work’s living history, she says.
Expect to see other immersive works that include digital and video installations, paintings, three-dimensional pieces and photographs. The exhibit is not dominated by one style, but reflects the dynamic and changing times we live in, Stetson says.
That, he says, is the beauty of contemporary art.
“I think of artists as the people who go out into the world, put up their antennae,” Stetson says. “They feel things and ask us to consider things we might not have thought about.”
SEE THE EXHIBIT
March 10-June 19: “State of the Art 2020: Record” at the LSU Museum of Art
March 10, 6:30 p.m.: Opening Reception featuring artist Kellie Romany and her performance art piece, “Can I Get a Witness?”
March 11, 6-8 p.m.: Artist’s talk and making session
This article was originally published in the March 2022 issue of 225 magazine.