By David LaGaccia
Lasting art provokes new questions; ephemeral art creates new mysteries. Taking a cue from Egyptian (and later Hellenic) myth, the 2015 fall season of Grace Exhibition Space will begin this Saturday the 19th in a curatorial series called The Sphinx Returns.
A half-human, half-lion creature of antiquity—the sphinx asks us the riddles that we consistently fail to answer. A monster of ancient mythology, the sphinx has gone from an idea passed down, to literature, to giant a stone statue guarding the pyramids of Giza.
“I imagined the experience of confronting the sphinx, and the idea of questioning in general,” said Whitney Hunter, curator of the season. “I’m looking at the art, the performance artists as myth makers; they are creating whole new worlds—ideas that are questioning our existence in the world. The phenomenon of living—it’s an object of mystery in itself. It can put you in a place of inquisition.”
Performance art is in an odd period of development with the identity of what performance is—is becoming increasingly muddled. Questions linger in the art form, ranging from how to value performance and make it a profitable artistic practice (or even if that should be a goal), to questions on how to differentiate between performance art, contemporary performance, and even contemporary dance, to questions on how to write criticism on performance: self-inquiry by action, the medium is forming it’s identity. A glance at the list of artists confirmed to perform this fall looks to instigate such questions.
This Saturday’s artists include live performance from The Illustrious Blacks (two artists, Manchildblack and Monstah Black), Lion Ayodele, Hector Canonge, and Annabel Gueredrat with Henri Tauliaut. Video installation work will also be present with work by Andrew Braddock, David Ian Griess and Elizabeth Lamb. Hunter said he chose this season’s artists through a committee of three people, a process that he found “efficient and very enlightening because it allowed me to see new artists.” He said he wanted to show a range of work through the season.
”I’ve tried to keep a keen eye to artists who had not performed at Grace, and introducing these new artists to the Grace audience,” said Hunter, talking about his curatorial decisions.
Hunter has a significant background in dance, working in the Martha Graham Dance Company, while also creating work as an artist and a curator in performance art. He has curated work for the Invisible Dog Art Center, Work/Space in 2011, and for SITE Project at Long Island University. He performed a week long performance and installation, OPEN PRACTICE at chashama gallery last May as a part of his ongoing project, the 1st American Shapist House for the Practice of Performance/Ritual.
“I think Whitney is a very rare person,” said Jill McDermid, owner of Grace Exhibition Space. “He can instill in people a quality in doing something great. The way he will ask us [Erik Hokanson] a question, and is willing to listen to us answer— he respects what we’ve learned in the eight years of running Grace Space. He comes from a dance background, he comes from a performance background, and he comes from an academic background. I trust him completely.”
Programming for the gallery runs until December 19th. This Saturday’s show begins at 8 P.M. with a suggested donation at the door. For more information about this weekend’s artists and future artists refer to the Grace Exhibition Space website.