Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary

September 1, 2008 - March 1, 2009

"Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary" Inaugurates Museum of Arts and Design's New Home at Columbus Circle

Groundbreaking Exhibition Explores Global Trend of Transforming Ordinary Mass-Produced Objects into One-Of-A-Kind Works of Art

New York, NY (September 18, 2008)

The Museum of Arts and Design inaugurates its new home at Columbus Circle with Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary, a special thematic exhibition featuring 54 contemporary artists from 18 countries who transform discarded, commonplace, or valueless objects into extraordinary works of art. On view from September 27 through February 15, 2009, Second Lives includes new commissions and site-specific installations, created from gun triggers, spools of thread, tires, hypodermic needles, dog tags, old eyeglasses, and telephone books, among other manufactured and mass-produced objects. Highlighting the creative processes that repurpose these objects, the exhibition explores the transformation of the ordinary into the extraordinary and stimulates debate on function, value, and identity.

“Reflecting the Museum’s core mission of celebrating materials and process, Second Lives explores the creative approaches of contemporary artists who give existing objects new life and meaning by transforming them into compelling works of art,” said Holly Hotchner, the Nanette L. Laitman Director of the Museum of Arts and Design. “We live in a world populated—and sometimes overpopulated —with consumer products. These artists make magic using society’s castoffs and overlooked items. While the focus of the exhibition is neither on sustainability nor recycling, the works in the exhibition are catalysts for thought and discussion about these issues. Second Lives is especially timely as MAD marks its own second life as a renewed institution and as Columbus Circle enjoys its own renaissance.”

Organized by Chief Curator David Revere McFadden, Curator Lowery Stokes Sims, and Adjunct Curator Brian Parkes, Second Lives reflects a current interest among international artists in using ordinary objects as raw materials. The works on view bear implicit social commentaries and explore themes of power, politics, identity, and value. Moreover, each work remains faithful to the highest standards of craftsmanship. These artists underscore the meaning of making and the transformative nature of creativity.

“Our perceptions of objects as functional or aesthetic, cheap or invaluable are directly challenged by the works on view in Second Lives,” said McFadden. “The 54 artists featured are working in ways that resist categorization and that underscore a breakdown in the hierarchy that has traditionally separated art, craft, and design. Instead, these intricately crafted works reveal an intense engagement with ideas, meaning, materiality and process.”

The exhibition includes selected works from the 1990s by such designers as Tejo Remy, Ingo Maurer, and the Campana brothers, among others, that provide an introduction to the repurposing of objects in design. The exhibition traces the development of this concept through a group of works created within the past eight years by both established and emerging artists, including Therese Agnew, El Anatsui, Hew Locke, Devorah Sperber, Cornelia Parker, Xu Bing, Do Ho Suh, Susie MacMurray and Fred Wilson, among others. Highlights from the exhibition include:

Brave #2 (2006) by American artist Boris Bally, an intricate necklace made entirely of pistol triggers, delicately incised with hatch marks to give the finger a better grip. Bally, who has long been involved with violence prevention programs, obtained the triggers from weapons turned in as part of a Pittsburgh-based gun “buy-back” program.

Madame C. J. Walker, by U.S. artist Sonya Clark, an 11-foot-high portrait of Walker (1867-1919), the first African-American millionaire, whose fortune was made from developing and marketing hair products and cosmetics for African-American women. Clark’s imposing portrait is constructed of thousands of black hair combs, creating a pixilated image of the famous woman.

• Ghana-born and Nigeria-based artist El Anatsui’s new, site-specific tapestry made entirely and unexpectedly of foil from liquor bottles. Anatsui’s rich shimmering tapestries speak to issues relating to the African slave trade, when liquor was used as payment for slaves, and to questions of sustainability that are challenging Nigeria’s rapid population growth. His work also references traditional Kente craft and weaving.

Trinity: Grandma, Spike, and Bubbles (2007) by American artists Andy Diaz Hope and Laurel Roth. These custom-chromed chandeliers are designed in traditional neoclassical form, but are made of hypodermic needles, gelatin capsules and Swarovski crystal, which reflect drug culture themes. While seductive in their beauty, the chandeliers are a chilling reminder of a darker side of contemporary life.

• American artist Jim Rose’s meticulously proportioned and finished pieces of Shaker style furniture, made entirely from abandoned steel found in junkyards. Plain rust-patinated steel is used for the structures, while multi-color inset panels are fitted into the frame in their “found” state.

• Fred Wilson’s Untitled table-top installation, featuring a potpourri of white ceramic tchotchkes and vessels used in everyday life that surround a large plaster reproduction of a classical sculpture. Set against this pervasive whiteness, a mammy-headed cookie jar sparks a conversation about race, colonialism, and cultural hierarchy, which have been the fodder of art discourse since the 1980s.

As the centerpiece of the Museum’s inaugural exhibition program, Second Lives is presented in MAD’s new special exhibition galleries on the fourth and fifth floors of its home at Columbus Circle. Also on view are two permanent collection exhibitions, showcasing the most significant masterpieces from MAD’s distinguished holdings of more than 2,000 objects.

Second Lives is accompanied by a 200-page, fully illustrated catalogue, which includes essays by MAD curators David Revere McFadden and Lowery Stokes Sims, and an introduction by Director Holly Hotchner. Individual biographical and critical essays on all 54 artists in the exhibition are accompanied by full-color illustrations of their work. The catalogue is designed by Pentagram, and is available through the Store at MAD.

In February 2009, the Museum will host a symposium exploring the materials, processes and concepts behind the work of the artists in Second Lives. This daylong inquiry will focus on how artists blend an implicit ethos of sustainability with artistic innovation, and how timeless themes such as virtuosity, functionality, value, and identity are expressed through these very contemporary works.

MAD's public programs connect visitors with working artists, and act as the bridge between exhibitions and their broader historical and social contexts, contemporary issues of sustainability and design, and new developments in technique and materials. Programs include artists’ demonstrations in the Museum’s unique open studios, as well as performances, workshops and lectures in the Museum’s new galleries, education center, and theater. Hands-on opportunities for visitors of all ages are offered each Sunday, as well as daily exhibition tours and open studio demonstrations. Programs delve into aspects of the permanent collection and developments in design and architecture, and studios will feature artists whose work is on exhibition in the galleries.

Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary is organized by Chief Curator David McFadden and Curator Lowery Stokes Sims at the Museum of Arts and Design, and Adjunct Curator Brian Parkes. The exhibition installation will be realized in the museum’s new special exhibition galleries by Exhibitions Curator Dorothy Twining Globus, working with architect Todd Zwigard.

Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary is made possible by American Express, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Greenwall Foundation.

The Museum of Arts and Design explores how craft, art, and design intersect in the visual arts today. The Museum focuses on contemporary creativity and the ways in which artists and designers from around the world transform materials through processes ranging from the handmade to cutting-edge technologies. The exhibition program explores and illuminates issues and ideas, highlights creativity and craftsmanship, and celebrates the limitless potential of materials and techniques when used by creative and innovative artists. MAD’s permanent collection is global in scope and focuses on art, craft, and design from 1945 to the present day.

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