PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — The David Winton Bell Gallery will present Nostalgia Machines from Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011 through Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012. Exploring the intersection of nostalgia and technology in contemporary sculpture, the exhibition, curated by Maya Allison, features artists Meridith Pingree, Jasper Rigole, Jonathan Schipper, Gregory Witt, and Zimoun.
An opening-night colloquium will be held on Friday, Nov. 18, 2011, at 5:30 p.m. with Italian art critic and curator Domenico Quaranta presenting on his most recent book, Media, New Media, Postmedia (Postmediabooks, 2010). Four of the exhibition artists will then discuss their work in a conversation moderated by Quararnta, followed by a reception. The exhibition and opening events are free and open to the public.
The five artists in the exhibition incorporate very simple machinery in works that evoke aspects of nostalgia. Each artist allows the mechanics of the sculpture to be visible, effecting an atmosphere of reflection or reminiscence, rather than the forward-looking quality normally associated with technology. Allison notes that the texture of the sculptures’ gears and wires are key to the works’ evocative power. “This technology feels familiar, even old-fashioned, from a time before the computer screen hid its technology behind touch screens,” she said.
“Rather than the longing for specific lost moments of time, these artworks develop aesthetic tropes associated with nostalgia,” said Allison, former curator at the Bell Gallery and now an independent curator of contemporary art in Abu Dhabi. “They capture abstract, often visceral registers of the sentiment, whether a sense memory (of rain or of skin crawling), a personal history (moments of key decisions), or a ‘remembering’ aesthetic (such as historical documentary).”
Meridith Pingree’s work has earned critical praise and awards, including a Smack Mellon fellowship and a Skowhegan residency. Pingree recently earned her M.F.A. in sculpture at Rhode Island School of Design. She has since exhibited extensively, particularly in New York. Her works for this exhibition have the distinct quality of a sense memory, of skin crawling, hairs standing on back of neck, and other visceral senses — abstracted, but somehow still familiar to the viewer.
Jasper Rigole is a Belgium-based artist who was featured in the 2010 Manifesta 8 Biennial in Spain, and has shown his work in exhibitions and film festivals throughout Europe. This will be his first appearance in the United States. His work for this exhibition, OUTNUMBERED: a brief history of imposture, gives a distinctly nostalgic first impression — it would seem to be a documentary about the olden days — but a mechanical storytelling machine reveals this to be false, and reminds us that all “documentary” and representations of the past are constructed narratives.
Jonathan Schipper has exhibited widely in Europe and the United States. His work often incorporates mechanical elements to explore metaphysical questions. Measuring Angst, his work for this exhibition, takes regret as its theme, with a machine that seems to keep trying to reverse time and repair what has been broken or relive the moment of the break. He is represented by Pierogi Gallery.
Gregory Witt was recently awarded “Emerging Artist of the Year” and a solo show by Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. His work garnered positive critical press in New York when he showed with his Skowhegan cohort in Brooklyn during summer 2010. He recently earned his M.F.A. from Carnegie Mellon University. His work for this exhibition includes Packing Tape, a small robotic gesture that captures the sound of change — moving out, packing boxes — the moment when the present becomes the past.
Zimoun is a sound and installation artist based in Switzerland. He often multiplies a single motorized component to haunting audio and visual effect. He has exhibited and performed extensively worldwide since 2000. His work for this exhibition creates a sound much like falling rain. The sculpture is abstract, the rain has no narrative referent, but we associate it with scenes of loss — looking back — in film genres such as noir and melodrama, as well as in lyrics of popular music. He is represented by Bitforms Gallery.
The Bell Gallery, located inside List Art Center, 64 College St., is open to the public without charge Monday though Friday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For more information, please call 401-863-2932.