EXHIBITION VISIT – AMIE CUNAT

AMIE CUNAT

MEETINGHOUSE AT VICTORI + MO

May, 2018

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THIS EXHIBITION IS A FULLY IMMERSIVE COMMITMENT TO A VERY SPECIFIC IDEA- CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW YOU CAME TO DECIDING ON THIS WORK IN THIS SPACE?

I visited the Hancock-Shaker Village (Hancock, NY) in 2016 and was (still am) completely in awe of the museum’s history, buildings, and craft. I went to the village not knowing much about Shakers, apart from their furniture and distinct mode of worship. Although they are historically a hermetic culture, when I walked around the property, I was struck by the way many of the buildings’ structures gave off a kind of gentility toward communal functionality. In other words, the buildings were made in service of/for their community. I also learned that they supported the equality of the sexes and accepted members of different racial groups. In a broad sense, these aspects got me thinking about how a building is a framing mechanism for people. Meetinghouse was made for the gallery’s visitors.

In addition to this, the Shaker interiors were amazing! I walked into the rooms and became aware of the forethought and planning that was needed to create it. The recessed cabinetry, the pegs rails, baseboards, ceiling treatment…etc. Basically, every Shaker peg rail has been measured and everything is customized for that particular interior. So when I recall a Shaker interior, I think about this place as a modular experience. Every component is made with an installation site in mind, then all of these components come together to construct a specific room. When I was invited to create an installation at Victori + Mo, I knew that I wanted to reflect a similar modality. All of the components of Meetinghouse were made with this space in mind.

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Coincidentally, Victori + Mo told me that my show would be participating in Sculpture 56, a fair where the galleries at 56 Bogart in Bushwick would exhibit the work of sculptors. Keeping this in mind, I thought about how I can utilize the behavior of my wall paintings (environmental) coupled with the material physicality of my cardboard work for the show.

HOW DO YOU FEEL LIKE THIS WORK IS DIFFERENT FROM EXHIBITIONS YOU’VE DONE IN THE PAST?

It’s different in several ways. For one, everything in the show can be taken down and kept. With the wall paintings, the imagery reacts to architecture of a particular space by drawing and paintings over or on top of a gallery’s interior features (like walls, pipes, doorways, molding, windows). To shift gears and make an object-based installation, there was a lot more planning and measuring involved, then hoping and praying that it would all work out when I get here. During the whole process, I realized that the Shakers are total geniuses when it comes to measuring things, and I am NOT, so ultimately most of the things you see here had to get cut again and resized when installed on the premises. That was really stressful, but you learn.

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Meetinghouse is different in that it’s probably one of the more referential works that I’ve ever made. In my paintings, the abstraction borrows from behaviors from things that already exist in the world, but at the same time, pushes its sources away to open a new experience. For example, trees become goopy finger things that sort of envelope the space, or for The Clock is Taking a Nap (Knockdown Center, Queens) churches become biomorphic forms, etc. So there’s always a nod to something that exists in the world, whereas here there’s a bit more of a direct one to one.

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The Clock is Taking a Nap (Knockdown Center, Queens)

There’s also a shift in this work relative to its politics. In the past, I’ve made installations with ideas relating to camouflage/assimilation, theatricality/spectacle, but here, as a result of the space’s “recognizability”, and perhaps believability, I’m tugging less on a person’s imagination than on their understanding of real. All of the installations I create are political in that they make a gallery visitor become a participant of the work. Their tactility is also significant (human made objects during an increasingly digital/mechanical world).  Meetinghouse is political in that it takes on the language of Shaker meetinghouses, and subsequently addresses or rejects the community’s own social politics (pacifism, celibacy, radicalism, modesty). In addition to this, I’m making this work now, a time where the United States is experiencing significant turmoil as a result of its President. These politics are aspects of my installations that I have been thinking about, and I hope can be propositions for a visitor to Meetinghouse.

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CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE PROCESS OF MAKING THE WORK FOR THIS SHOW- HOW MUCH WAS DONE IN YOUR STUDIO VS. ON SITE?

All of the work was done off-site, with the exception of the floor, which was painted with a warm sienna hue.This color and the stark white are hues that point to areas of the installation that were already a part of the gallery’s “brick/mortar” interior. I wanted some kind of unifying factor in all three of Meetinghouse’s rooms. The foyer, where people enter the gallery, is a confrontational chromatic space in that there is a very dramatic color shift from the hallway.broomwall The bright mustard and lemon yellows of the walls, combined with the sienna floor, creates a very hot, acidic feeling. From there, visitors move into the “congregation hall” –a communal gathering space for the collective. The “secret room” behind the cabinetry façade (that contains Stacked Boxes) is for the individual. Here the floor reads as the chromatic opposite (orange) which compliments the dominant, cool blues/greens that are in the space.

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I made the pieces in a studio in Kensington, Brooklyn –my husband was actually in the studio adjacent, and so unfortunately for him, I “borrowed” some of his space last month too. He’s been so supportive! An aspect of the show that people might not initially pick up on is how all of the parts aren’t hollow.

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For example, the ultramarine wainscoting is five sheets thick, made from cardboard that have been cut out individually. I glue these forms together, and then wrap them with paper to make a singular whole. The significance of this, because I largely follow that logic throughout, is that I want people to understand its density (not weight). Furthermore, I cut all of the cardboard by hand which produces an irregular edge –there’s a noticeable tactile friction when two pieces (two fields of color) bump up against each other.

I love the way cutting, a reductive process, is not a far cry from drawing. Cardboard and paper are responsive to my hand and it also registers as crunchy. –You know those Oldenburg paper mache sculptures, like his desserts or shirts? That texture is gorgeous. It’s not a super slick thing, it has information that speaks about a human experience.

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NOW THAT THE INSTALLATION IS COMPLETE AND YOU’VE HAD SOME TIME TO PROCESS THE WORK, WHAT DO YOU THINK IT MEANS FOR YOU MOVING FORWARD? DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING FROM THIS SHOW ABOUT YOUR WORK OR YOURSELF?

I now know how cardboard behaves as an environment, not exclusively as a discrete, object. There’s a lot of material things I’ve discovered. When I put cardboard against a wall, I know how to get it to rest correctly and that sort of thing. I’ve discovered certain paints that are better than others, how much time a thing takes to make, how many painted sheets of cardboard it takes to make up an inch thickness…etc. In terms of what to do next, I will continue to produce the Shaker-influenced work. This “pulling forward” while “looking back” is important for what’s going on politically in our country.

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In addition to this, I will continue making paintings. It’s work that I’ve always been excited by in a different way than sculpture or installation. Everything I create–even Meetinghouse–is rooted in painting. My favorite formal moments in the show resemble the language of a reductive or geometric abstraction. For example, the secret room façade: what looks like an organized system of cabinetry or drawers, is also a relationship of rectangles, squares and their chromatic partnerships. These instincts are akin to how I construct or accomplish a painting. I see it as a flat thing.

I would love to do another iteration of the meetinghouse, but I’m also interested in other spaces that signifies the individual. When I was a resident at the Studios at MASS MoCA (North Adams, MA), I created a bedroom. I want to revisit those objects and make them better. My husband noted recently, when I participate in residencies, I seem to have a pattern of making work that looks like bedroom or is installed in a bedroom. It might just mean that I have a tendency to get a bit homesick, or it might be an attempt to find home in a way –seeking intimacy and the personal within expansive unfamiliarity.

DO YOU HAVE ANY PROJECTS OR EXHIBITIONS COMING UP THAT YOU’D LIKE TO PROMOTE?

Yes! I am very excited for the closing performance at Meetinghouse, on May 25th. I’ve been collaborating with the Mook Dance Company for a couple of months and they have been wonderful. Winnie Berger, a fellow Fordham alum, has been choreographing the movements of four women (Jessica Son, Julia Hallissey Horner, Sarah Danelle Roberts, and Brooke Naylor) who will be wearing costumes chromatically tied to the room.

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Closing Performance with Mook Dance Company, Choreography by Winnie Berger, Friday, May 25, 6PM

This fall, I will be participating in a group show curated by Lucinda Warchol at ArtYard (Frenchtown, PA). I will be creating a wall painting that responds to the gallery space. In addition to this, I am working with Elizabeth Corkery of Print Club Ltd. on an edition of prints, which will be released later this year. Not only is Liz a talented and skillful printmaker, she is also an incredible artist, whose print-based installations posit relationships between the natural world and architecture, disorder and pattern. For those interested in charged interiors, look at her Absolute Monarchy or The Modern Interior among other amazing work!

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