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Incredible Shrinking Art World
This article by Nicole Plett was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on
January 14, 1998. All rights reserved.
@INITIAL CAP+ = It has become a truism over recent decades that
communications and commerce have made the globe a much smaller place.
the arts, too, have played a singular role in shrinking our world.
Throughout this century’s hot wars, cold wars, and propaganda wars,
have been continuously attracted to each other. With the fall of the
Curtain, this perennial art world internationalism has been allowed
to blossom. At Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of the Arts Galleries in
New Brunswick, two companion exhibitions open this Thursday, January
15, each focused on the seismic political and social changes in
and Eastern Europe.
"3 Penny Exhibition: 3 Installations from Yugoslavia, Ukraine
and Russia" features works by Milica Tomic of Belgrade;
Savadov/Senchenko, a Kiev arts duo comprising Arsen Savadov and Yuri
Senchenko; and Group AES, a Moscow collaborative team comprising
Arzamassova, Lev Evzovitch, and Evgeny Suyatsky. The exhibit is
Konstantin Akinsha, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow in Washington, D.C., who
considered a leading critic on contemporary Russian and Central
art. Akinsha is also a key figure in the research and distribution of
seized by the Nazis and Soviets during World War II.
"Not Only for Art’s Sake" is the companion show, the annual
fellowship exhibition of the Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and
Paper. The show features leading artists from Latin America, Russia,
South Africa, the United States. These include Puerto Rican artists
Pepon Osorio and Carmen Inez Blondet; six Latin American women
two South Africans; and six New Jersey women artists.
The Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paper (RCIPP) was founded
in 1986 by Judith K. Brodsky, a noted artist in her own right, and
professor of visual arts at Mason Gross School. Since its inception
more than 200 artists have been awarded residencies at the center,
with project-based fellowships that ranged from two weeks to two
The center’s master printer is Eileen Foti, and its papermaker is
Gail Deery. RCIPP was originally known as the Center for Innovative
Printmaking but changed its name to reflect its interest in using
paper in creative ways rather than as just a support for the image.
The center now has a full handmade papermaking studio at Rutgers.
Under both names, and from the outset, internationalism
has been RCIPP’s focus. "Our longevity is quite an achievement
for a self-supporting art organization," says Brodsky. She modeled
the art center on the more familiar model of a science center that
works within a university. RCIPP raises $150,000 a year from grants
and sales to support its projects.
"Right from the start, we set up a program with the Union of
in what was then the Soviet Union," says Brodsky, "and after
the collapse of the USSR we expanded the program to include artists
from various East European countries." Since then the center has
built connections to artists of Latin America and Asia. Its most
outreach has been to work with artists in South Africa.
Brodsky says the title of the RCIPP Fellowship show, "Not Only
for Art’s Sake!", is a specific reaction to the new focus of the
international art community.
"Unlike radical artists at the end of the 19th century who
to outmoded forms and created the `Art for Art’s Sake’ movement,
artists are responding to the world with art that addresses the
of new national, racial, cultural, and personal identities" says
Brodsky. "Their art looks outward rather than inward, and draws
inspiration from real life, not only art itself."
"Art for Art’s Sake" have been watchwords of the Western art
world ever since the 19th century when artists from the
in France to the Non-objective painters in Russia responded to the
crisis in traditional art by turning to the elements of art itself.
"Now the opposite is taking place," Brodsky explains.
are reacting to `art for art’s sake’ modernism and saying — `It’s
not enough. We want to comment on the world. We want to do things
that will be interventions in the world as well as interventions in
art.’ This is an absolute contrast in fin-de-siecle attitudes of the
19th and 20th centuries.
"There’s no question that art is recognized internationally as
an important means of political expression," says Brodsky.
it’s a way of expressing things that a person would possibly be
for. There’s a code of reading artworks in terms of comment on
and social issues.
"Artists of color in this country see art as a powerful tool also,
and we’ve made it our mission to work with artists contributing new
narratives to the cultural mainstream. There’s such tremendous energy,
and so many American artists of color focused on commenting on the
social and political structure of the country."
Six Latin American women artists who were in residence were Catalina
Parra, Annalee Davis, Anaida Hernandez, Yolanda Lopez, Amalia Mesa
Baines, and Magdalena Campos Pons. Parra of Chile literally sews
and eyes shut, or stitches the pieces of a landscape together to
a metaphor for repressive censorship and the damaged environment.
Also in residence were Russian artist Valery Orlov, and South African
artists Charles Nkosi and Nhlanhla Xaba.
Six New Jersey artists were 1997 fellows at RCIPP where they worked
in collaboration with Deery and Foti. They are Miriam Beerman,
Das, Kate Dodd, Roberta Harley, Dot Paolo, and Debra Sachs.
In terms of internationalism, RCIPP’s exhibit reflects various global
disruptions that have brought many new groups of immigrants to New
Jersey in recent years; so much so that the state is now an
Anuhadra Das of Somerset has created a handmade-paper installation
about the lives and status of Indian women in her native country.
Her paper sculptures show angelic figures of Indian women whose
manage to rise above the repressive conditions in which they still
Pepon Osorio, a New York artist of Puerto Rican
whose work emanates from direct experience with community situations.
For his RCIPP residency, he worked with a family that is on welfare
in New Brunswick. "His print project is a lifesize print of a
baby’s crib, and onto it is projected a videotape of the live baby.
The mother of the baby is 15 years old. There was a moment, I think
it even startled the artist, when the baby started crying and she
climbed into the crib to comfort the baby," says Brodsky.
"Artists who were dealing with social and political issues were
not allowed to show their work in the USSR, and they became the
or non-conformist artists," says Brodsky. It happens that Rutgers’
Zimmerli Museum has become home to the world’s largest repository
of such art, the Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist
Art from the Soviet Union. This, she notes, was the result of pure
"There’s a famous story of one show in which tanks were sent in
to bulldoze an exhibition — to cover it with earth, literally.
Art was very much feared for what it could do in the Soviet
Moscow’s Group AES is tremendously influential in Europe right now,
Brodsky reports. Their exhibition installation is a commentary on
how ideologies demand enemies, and thus how countries have to hate
each other. "They suggest there’s a neo-Cold War going on now
between the Western and Moslem worlds, a propaganda war that’s being
promoted by both sides."
The AES installation consists of futuristic digitized images of cities
of the world into which have been inserted mosque domes and other
Moslem realities. One image represents a group of Moslems resident
in historic Red Square. Another shows the exterior of the Guggenheim
Museum embellished with Arabic lettering.
RCIPP is also in its third year of a unique
development project in the cloud forest area of Ecuador. Here all
the adults from four village are employed in a papermill that makes
a variety of art papers and art paper products from locally grown
Sisal is a plant that yields a strong durable white fiber, once used
extensively for cordage and twine. Since the advent of plastics, the
market for sisal cord has all but vanished, endangering the livelihood
of these farmers.
"Gail Deere did all the research on sisal and how it could provide
a wonderful substitute for wood pulp," explains Brodsky with
"She also developed ways it could be processed without bleaches
and other pollutants. It’s an environmentally sound development
that is funded by CA.R.E. So often you hear of development agencies
supporting the arts, but this is a case of arts supporting
Graduate students from Rutgers traveled to Ecuador to train the
to make the papers. Brodsky says that although the center had been
prepared to purchase all the output from the papermill, there is a
big enough market in Quito for the paper products to support it. Now
the center buys art papers for its own needs, with the rest going
to market in Quito. Art remains the place where these far flung
— Nicole Plett
International Art, Mason Gross School of the Arts,
Civic Square Building, 33 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick,
"3 Penny Exhibition: 3 Installations from Yugoslavia, Ukraine and
Russia" and "Not Only for Art’s Sake!", the annual
exhibition of the Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paper. Both
open January 15 and continue to March 1. Gallery hours are Monday to
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; weekends 1 to 4 p.m.
Related events (free and open to the public):
Public programs for the exhibitions are Tuesday, January
27, with artists talks and receptions for both shows. At 2 p.m.,
New Jersey artists who were 1997 RCIPP fellows speak about their work
in the galleries. At 4:30 p.m., Russian-born art historian Boris Groys
gives a talk, "What is Total About Totalitarian Art?"
Russian-born art historian and critic Boris Groys gives a slide
talk on the late Soviet and recent Russian conceptualism featuring
the work of Ilya Kabakov on Wednesday, January 28, 6:30 p.m.
"3 Penny Panel: Visual Arts Today in Russia, Central and
Eastern Europe," features curator Konstantin Akinsha, with artists
Milica Tomic of Belgrade; Arsen Savadov and Yuri Senchenko of Kiev;
Tatyana Arzamassova, Lev Evzovitch, and Evgeny Suyatsky of Moscow’s
Group AES; critic Marek Bartelik; and photographer Viktoria Buivid,
Tuesday, February 17, 7 p.m.
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