Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Kohl Gallery Hosts Multi-Media Installation by Internationally Acclaimed Artist and Washington College Faculty Member Monika Weiss

CHESTERTOWN—On Friday, February 25 the Kohl Gallery will open a one-person show by internationally acclaimed artist and Washington College faculty member Monika Weiss. “Lamentations (Sustenazo): Recent Works by Monika Weiss,” will run through April 15 at the gallery, which is located in the Gibson Center for the Arts on the Washington College campus, 300 Washington Avenue.

Weiss is a Polish-American artist who works in drawing, projected video, musical composition, performance and sculpture, often combining these elements in her public installations. The new exhibition, which is being shown for the first time in the U.S., is drawn from a larger exhibition of 2010, “Monika Weiss: Sustenazo,” held at the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw. Weiss completed the work while on junior sabbatical leave from Washington College, where she serves as assistant professor and coordinator of the studio art program in the Department of Art and Art History. The U.S. Embassy in Warsaw provided a major grant for “Sustenazo,” which also received support from the Central Medical Library, Warsaw, the Warsaw Rising Museum, the Historical Museum of Warsaw, Media in Motion, Berlin, and a number of individuals, including a physician. The exhibition later traveled to Berlin.

“Lamentations” is curated by Donald McColl, the Nancy L. Underwood Associate Professor of Art History at Washington College and former Director of Kohl Gallery. The first of several special events planned around the show will be the opening reception, Friday, February 25 at 6 p.m. On Wednesday, March 2, from 4 to 6 p.m., the Kent County Arts Council will host a “Town & Gown” event for the local arts community that will include a talk by the artist, a walk-through of the exhibition and a reception. And on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 30, internationally renowned art historian, critic and curator Dr. Julia P. Herzberg will come to Chestertown for a lecture on Weiss’s work and a conversation with the artist. Each event is free and open to the public; some content may not be suitable for children.

Sustenazo is a Greek word meaning to sigh or to lament inaudibly together. Weiss’s exhibition on this theme was inspired by a specific event that took place at Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, when it was a hospital—and actually was installed there, in the cellar, the only portion of the castle to survive. On August 6, 1944, during the onset of the Warsaw Uprising, the German Army forced more than 1,800 patients and medical staff to evacuate the hospital overnight. With that incident as its reference point, Weiss’s art explores visual and musical aspects of the ancient ritual of Lament and its historical connection to feminine expression, especially as contrasted with the notion of the heroic myth within the narrative of war. “An important part of this work is the motif of lament as a form of expression outside language,” she says.

“Lamentatons” speaks to the essence of a hospital as a metaphor for healing, but in the context of the specific horrors of the Nazi evacuation of Ujazdowski Hospital and the general oppression of human rights throughout history. The artist’s original sound composition (Weiss trained for many years at Warsaw’s Conservatory of Music) incorporates the voice of a surviving witness of the hospital’s expulsion along with voices of average Germans reading passages from the second part of Goethe’s classic play “Faust.”

Weiss’s installation also juxtaposes original objects and documents related to the hospital’s exodus—mostly old books and small pieces of medical equipment—with other images, including video. The interplay of all these visual layers in video projection with the mix of voice and music creates a poetic environment in which viewers can form their own assumptions and conclusions. “Much of my art investigates the relationships between memory and history, but I build it from multiple narratives in order to leave the meaning open to interpretation,” says Weiss, who teaches drawing and new genres at Washington College.

London-based art critic Guy Brett has written of Weiss, “Her work is a remarkable, individual counterpoint between technological media (video projection) and the ancient activity of drawing. Sound is also an important element, meticulously composed by the artist. It lifts the silent filmed actions into another emotional register.” The result, he says, “is an alternative experience of space and time, … steady and enduring, establishing and deepening a human presence.”

Curator McColl adds that Washington College is “exceedingly fortunate” to have Monika Weiss on the faculty. “She not only maintains a complex, thoughtful, and highly successful international practice—one based on cutting-edge trends in media and culture, as well as a deep-rooted knowledge of history, literature, language and myth, let alone everything from philosophy to medical theory—but she also holds such deep convictions about teaching and the mentoring of our students,” he says.

Weiss’s past exhibitions include the 2005 “Monika Weiss: Five Rivers,” a comprehensive survey of her work at Lehman College Art Gallery, City University of New York, which was favorably reviewed in The New York Times, and a two-person exhibition with the pioneering filmmaker and performance artist Carolee Schneemann at Remy Toledo Gallery, New York, in 2004. She has also exhibited at such venues as the Muzeum Montanelli in Prague, the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation in Miami, the Frauenmuseum in Bonn, and the Kunsthaus Dresden in Dresden; examples of her work are also in the permanent collections of places from Vienna’s Albertina Museum to the Drawing Center, New York.

Weiss’s work is featured in the book on contemporary drawing practices Drawing Now: Between the Lines of Contemporary Art, (I.B. Tauris, London). Her papers have been published in books and journals, including Technoetic Arts: A Journal of Speculative Research (Intellectbooks, Bristol, UK) and Being Syncretic (Springer, Vienna/New York). She co-edits the contemporary drawing magazine Tracey, published by England’s Loughborough University.
Weiss is represented by Galerie Samuel Lallouz (Montréal) and Remy Toledo Projects (New York). A member of the Washington College faculty since 2006, she lives in Chestertown and New York City.

"Lamentations" is sponsored in part by the Chestertown Spy. To learn more about the artist and her work, please visit: http://www.monika-weiss.com and http://art.washcoll.edu/faculty_monikaweiss.php.

Kohl Gallery is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 5 p.m., Fridays noon to 6 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays noon to 5 p.m. (Closed Mondays and Tuesdays).

On exhibit in the William Frank Visual Arts Hallway outside the Kohl Gallery through Sunday, Feb. 27 is the photography exhibit, “Photography Exposed,” curated by Brian Palmer, manager of the Multimedia Production Center at Washington College. Each photograph has an accompanying QR Codes, or “Quick Read” matrix barcode, that can be scanned by any iPhone, Android phone or new generation iPod (those with cameras) to gain access to a video or text message from the photographer.

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