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Santa Barbara Museum of Art opens Labour and Wait exhibition

Santa Barbara Museum of Art opens Labour and Wait an exhibition on view July 2–September 22, 2013.

Jane Wilbraham, Index, 2010–11. Sycamore. 6 3/4 x 5 1/8 x 4 in. Courtesy of Hales Gallery, London.
Jane Wilbraham, Index, 2010–11. Sycamore. 6 3/4 x 5 1/8 x 4 in. Courtesy of Hales Gallery, London.

Labour and Wait explores the ideals of labor and craftsmanship in contemporary art, and, the pathology of such practices—from historic phenomena, political activism, and spiritual will to contemporary viewpoints and market economies. Emphasized are works that illustrate current-day representations of the analog, exemplified through tropes found in pre-industrial processes, ideals in Romantic literature, and constructs representing mysticism. Are such works viable in today’s world? Are such tendencies an action or a reaction to technological progress? These questions and more are explored throughout the exhibition, catalogue, and related public programs.

The exhibition features approximately 15 artists/artist collaboratives, many whom have not exhibited before in Southern California museums. Highlights of the exhibition include Peter Fischli and David Weiss‘s seminal film The Way Things Go (1987), contextualized in a way that emphasizes its vitality as a critique on labor, time, and product. Wim Delvoye, another progenitor of this group, is represented by his “Delft” series (1980s), illustrating the merging of craft, romanticism, and technology. Works by David Thorpe demonstrate utopian ideals of the spiritual harmony of work. Several hand-painted ceramic vessels and a large tapestry by Grayson Perry, who has called craftsmen “the product of collective belief system,” are also featured. Also crucial to the project are works by emerging artists such as a film installation by Mika Rottenberg, and another produced with the artist Jon Kessler, which peculiarly and poignantly explore human labor and value by combining fantasy with an absurd sense of futility.

Tim Hawkinson‘s work speaks to multiple consequences of the exhibition theme, demonstrated in multimedia works constructed from unlikely materials and an unimaginable amount of handiwork. Josiah McElheny creates finely crafted glass objects, many of which he learned to create through the result of an extended apprenticeship with a master glassblower. His carefully arranged displays speak to the history of craft and its relationship to major historical movements in art and design, but also to notions of meaning and memory. Theaster Gates’s poetic objects employ or “reclaim” objects or remnants that bear the social and political impact of their use.

Colin Darke is represented by his magnum opus work, The Capital Paintings (2007), a group of 480 paintings that serve as a reinterpretation of his earlier work that translated into text and imagery the initial three volumes of Marx’s influential tome Capital (1867–1894). Andrea Bowers explores the realms between art and social activism, and is represented by large and small drawings related to recent and historic labor protests. Allison Smith addresses American colonial and Civil War histories in her large-scale installation titled Stockpile (2011-13). Jane Wilbraham‘s recent sculptures are exhibited for the first time in a United States museum, including (The long arm of) Captain Swing (2010), referencing the historic English Swing Riots of 1930.

Other artists include Ricky Swallow, whose wood sculptures create a dialogue between personal and public iconography as well as the permanent and ephemeral. Daniel Dewar and Grégory Gicquel take their investigations into hand-crafted materials and processes to a level that some may consider extreme, realizing from scratch works that include traditional stone carving, tapestry weaving, and clay and porcelain techniques. Tonico Lemos Auad‘s crocheted chandeliers address in a prescient and contemporary way the spiritual aspects of craft and artmaking.

Accompanying the exhibition is a 160-page catalogue with essays by Glenn Adamson, Deputy Head of Research and Head of Graduate Studies, Victoria and Albert Museum, and author of The Craft Reader (2010) and other publications; Britt Salvesen, Department Head and Curator, Wallis Annenberg Department of Photography, Los Angeles County Museum of Art; William Gibson, renowned science fiction author; and Julie Joyce, exhibition curator and SBMA Curator of Contemporary Art.

Also featured is an array of programs for adults and children, including the result of a special commission with exhibition artist Allison Smith that activates the Museum’s Family Resource Center, a lecture by scholars Julia Bryan-Wilson and Jenni Sorkin, and a special lecture by exhibition artist Grayson Perry.

Santa Barbara Museum of Art
1130 State Street
Santa Barbara, CA
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 11am–5pm,
Thursday 11am–8pm
T 805 963 4364