Thursday, April 28, 2011


By Nancy Condit

 The OVAC recepients of the Art 365 grant at the reception at
[Artspace] at Untitled are, left to right, Geoffrey Hicks, Grace Grothaus,
Liz Rodda, Frank Wick, and Aaron Hauck. Photo by Nancy Condit

            The opening of Art 365 was exhilarating as the yearlong projects of five Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition grant recipients showed their work at [Artspace] at Untitled in Oklahoma City. The artists’ projects were made possible by the by $12,000  grants to each, for a total of $60,000, grant in the second installment of the project.
            The artists were selected from 100 applicants in a statewide call for proposals by guest curator Shannon Fitzgerald, a writer and independent curator and previously Chief Curator at the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis.

The public is invited to a closing reception and catalogue release party May 6, from to The exhibit continues at [Artspace] at Untitled through May 7.

            The winners were Grace Grothaus of Tulsa, Aaron Hauck of Ada, Geoffrey Hicks of Tulsa, Liz Rodda of Norman, and Frank Wick of Norman.

            “We look at it as a way to give artists time and space to experiment,” Julia Kurt, executive director of OVAC, said at the reception. “We view the exhibition as an investment in research and development for the artists,” she wrote in the press release.  Art 365 fulfills specific needs for area artists to receive both funding and feedback, allowing them to explore their vision and improve their work.

 “Besides the money, we think the interaction with the curator gives them a knowledgeable resource to talk to about their work. Shannon is exceptional. She has so much focus on the artists and their work.”

            “I worked with five emerging artists at five places in their career,” Shannon Fitzgerald, curator of Art 365. “As curator I helped them move to the next level with help that OVAC provides, and I think the exhibition demonstrates that when you provide worthy and critical curatorial support they excel. I feel that’s achieved in this exhibition.

“The best artists don’t make work in isolation. They need feedback, context, and a sense of criticality. They deserved a sense of curatorial placement.”   

Grace Grothaus’ Synthetic Landscape: The New OK is composed of nine panels of richly colored and textured layered plastics making panoramic abstract paintings of contemporary Oklahoma agro-industrial history. The sites include the luxuriant aqua painting of the Salt Flats, the oil refinery at Ponca City, the tank farm at Cushing, and wind farms across the state. The paintings, 48” by 26” x 6”, were then backlit with LEDs, with sensors cycling the panels through color, light and shadow. 

“Being able to take my ideas and fully execute them through this project allows me to see how mush further I can take it in the future,” Grothaus says. “From the air flight across Oklahoma to the materials and process I work with are very expensive, but what was more important was curatorial feedback in the process of developing my work.” She is donating a percentage of any sales from this series to the non-profit Oklahoma Sustainability Network.

 Grace Grothaus stands between two panels of
Synthetic Landscape: The New Oklahoma.  On the left
is a center pivot irrigation system, and on the right
are the Salt Flats.  Photo by Nancy Condit

            Grothaus, from Tulsa, earned a BFA in interdisciplinary art and art history from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2007. Her work has been exhibited in solo exhibitions including the Tulsa Artists Coalition Gallery, and the Leedy Voulkos Art Center in Kansas City.

            Aaron Hauck, Ada, created Transmutations of the Stone Age and “I Generation” to explore the evolution of culture and consumerism on the Clovis point, an artifact of the earliest human settlement in Oklahoma. In Transmutations three cases of contemporary Clovis points, cast of polyester and polyurethane, are accurate in scale, and presented in cases like arrowheads. They’re individually formed, and “come in a wide variety of colors, textures, opacity,” some resembling rocks and minerals, with one, for example,  painted in hot pink and black zebra stripes, and another painted with the face of a roaring tiger. “The varied appearance is meant to mimic the way that people today seek to individualize everything that we use in public, most specifically our tools used for communication and other social media like smart phones,” Hauck said in his signage. In High Technology Forager, Clovis points, 44” high and brilliantly colored, “are displayed on the wall as if they are commercial signage like those found at box stores or fast food restaurants.”

            “I think I learned a lot of processes, like casting resin, that I’ll use for the rest of my life, and that’s just invaluable,” Hauck says. “Without the generous funding from OVAC I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this.” He used the money for buying materials like plastic and different resins.

            The grant has “gotten me a lot of exposure and, hopefully, it will open a lot more doors.”

            Hauck earned an MFA in sculpture from Montana State University in 2007, and has studied in Sweden, Italy and Missouri. He is an assistant professor of art at East Central University who has exhibited nationally in curated, juried and invitational exhibitions.

            Geoffrey Hicks, Tulsa, backed up his statement, “I have always been fascinated by robots and automated technology” by training a six-foot tall, 800 pound repurposed robotic arm – originally used for automobile welding, into “a photographer like myself.”

            “In our daily lives we interact with robots all the time, perhaps at an ATM machine, or while pumping gas… Our culture has trained us to accept this as the new normal.  As a photographer who has taken hundreds of portraits over the past few years, I know how personal the experience of photographing another person can be.This project explores what happens when you remove the human element of a person behind the camera,” he says in his signage.

            “I had been wanting to buy a large robotic arm. I wouldn’t have been able to buy all the software and get the arm I bought on Ebay running without the grant.  The year ‘s worth of curatorial guidance was invaluable,” Hicks says.

            The face detection and tracking technology is licensed from Pittsburgh Pattern Recognition, Pittsburgh. Hicks also used open source software from Openframeworks, an online C+++ library designed to assist the creative process by providing a sample and intuitive framework for experimentation.

            Hicks studied at the University of Oklahoma and the California Institute of the Arts. He is a self-taught computer programmer whose technology-based work has been exhibited in solo exhibitions at the Tulsa Artists Coalition and installed in juried group exhibitions regionally.

            Tomorrows is intended to offer ways of thinking about what is currently indefinite or unknowable,” says Liz Rodda, Norman. “I am interested in what is beyond here and now.”

            To look at this, Rodda created Triple Possibilities, in which three Chinese fortune tellers interpret two of her dreams as representative of her future, each translated from the Chinese on one of three TV monitors. In The Future Is Not What I Used to Think – a four foot long paper and ink flow chart “illustrating the dramatic actions I may take in response to the premonitions,” Rodda says in the signage, “I become pregnant in one, die in another – things that I have no control over,” she says. She wrote on the chart that she would use poetry as a way of dealing with the pain following one thread. 

A friend of Rodda’s told her he became anxious, then meditative for five minutes while watching a video loop of a splendid theater curtain, in Curtains, that moves slightly. She says it “suggests infinite waiting in which viewers anticipate nothing more than anticipation.”

            Rodda chose to do Triple Possibilities in 2009 when she was asked to give a lecture at Renmin University in Beijing. “The money helped give me rent my studio, and choose the best way to do it.  Budget didn’t impede (me).”

 Rodda earned an MFA in the Studio for Interrelated Media Program at Massachusetts College of Art. She has exhibited her work nationally and internationally at such venues as the Domino Gallery, Liverpool, Takt Kunstprojectraum, Berlin, Dumbo Arts Center, Brooklyn, the 808 Gallery, Boston, and the Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga.

Frank Wick stands beside his work New Age Proud,
part of his series Tussin Space, "which refers to Robitussin, a pharmaceutical drug
that is used recreationally by teens and adults," Wick writes in his signage. Photo by Nancy Condit

            Frank Wick, Norman, made Tussin Space a body of work of five or six sculptures to represent something very modern, something science fiction, with objects referencing culture with a 70’s color theme.“I am exploring ideas related to attraction and repulsion and the concept of futility.

 “These objects, made of expanding foam and painted in psychedelic colors, are meant to appear in psychedelic visions reminiscent of science fiction horror movies in which alternative timelines and imagined realities coexist,” Wick writes in his signage.  DEATH DRIVE – a dripping mass of foam standing on a base of repurposed materials – speaks to Sigmund Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle… Freud theorized on the individual drive towards death, self-destruction, and a return to the inorganic. In Pain Killer, swelling tactile pillars conjure images of smoke trails and rocket launches. The hyper-feminine color palette, however, subverts the masculine imagery.”

Speaking of the grant, he says, “I was able to afford a studio – a large space, which I hadn’t been able to do in a long time. This allowed me to experiment, allowed me to create a cohesive body of work for the show, and, in doing that, allowed me to make more work in the same vein.
“Doing more allowed me to organize my thoughts. I’ve signed for two more years on my studio.  I wouldn’t have been able to afford a studio comfortably. I’m not studied in the ways of marketing. I’m going to try to figure out what professionals did before me.”

Wick earned an MFA in sculpture from the University of Miami. He has shown both in the United States and abroad in such venues as Projektraum M54, Basel, Switzerland, Twenty-Twenty Projects, Miami, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami.
            The exhibition is funded in part by OVAC founder John McNeese & John Richardson, Jean Ann Fausser, the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation, which provides funds for catalogues, the Kirkpatrick Foundation, which gave general support, the George Kaiser Family Foundation, which helped support the two artists from Tulsa, the Oklahoma Humanities Council, which paid an honorarium for the curator and writers of the catalogue, the National Endowment for the Humanities, which gave general support, the Oklahoma Arts Council, and Allied Arts.

              Art 365 will travel to Living Arts in Tulsa, July 1-22, with an opening reception on July 8.

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