For me, absorbing contemporary art in a museum setting is always a challenge. I’m not entirely sure why, but this has always been the case. I love looking at contemporary art in galleries, pop up spaces, public spaces, online, and in auction houses…but not museums, except for the Aldrich. Besides the Met, this little museum in Ridgefield, CT, is one of my favorite museums to visit every year.
They had four wonderful exhibitions up last month when we visited, one each by Peter Liversidge, Kim Jones, David Brooks, and Virginia Overton. Each exhibition aims to connect the interior of the museum with the exterior (whether it be two feet outside, or the entire town).
Peter Liversidge was the hardest to understand without context, so I’m glad I read the full catalog. For example: we walked by a tiny canon ball imbedded in the wall of the gallery — this ended up being a nod to a real, Revolutionary War-era canon ball of the same size that is lodged in the wall of a local institution in town. The artist had war re-enacters shoot a canon at the wall, which was later installed in the gallery. We also walked by a grouping of spotlights on the floor, which are installed in 12 other locations throughout Ridgefield. Overall, the exhibition was called “Peter Liversidge: Proposals for The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum,” and the highlight of the show was the artist’s sixty proposals hanging on the wall. The whole thing was a little gimmicky, but I really appreciate the site specificity, the concept, and the artist’s willingness to experiment. I do not, however, appreciate the artist’s use of townspeople and workers to create the art for him. For one proposal, the Liversidge mailed a ton of hardware to the Aldrich. The woman who normally delivers the mail to the museum was tasked with organizing the objects on their shelf, and this feels like the artist copped out a bit. I love mail art, but the mail lady should be listed as an honorary curator for the show!
Now on to the deeper, darker exhibition of the four: Kim Jones’ “White Crow.” Before reading about this exhibition, it is useful to know about two tragedies that deeply affected this artist: he was sick when he was younger and couldn’t walk for three years, and he was a marine during the Vietnam War. Now living back in the States, Jones considers himself an outsider, or a white crow (which is extremely rare). It’s hard to describe his work, but they are kind of like…deformed assemblages covered in rusty material. A lot of his assemblages are pieced together with children’s cars that appear to drive all over the gallery walls. There are also a lot of rats and black crows through the exhibition, most of the rats being covered in pantyhose (I later read in the catalog of a story he wrote about drowning a rat in a puddle when he was in Vietnam). The last room in the exhibition is the camera obscura room, which is a permanent room in the museum and the only room that contains any white crow imagery at all. A stuffed white crow sits atop a tree drawn on the wall. It was rainy when we went, so we could only see outlines of the outside town reflected against the wall. It was very eerie. Outside of this particular exhibition, I also learned about the artist’s 70’s and 80’s performance persona, Mudman (see above). I NEED to do more research on this.
(Image: The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum)
The first exhibition that you see when you walk in the museum is David Brook’s “Continuous Service Altered Daily.” Simply put, this exhibition consists of every single piece of a disassembled John Deere industrial sized tractor. There are more pieces than you would think. I feel that this is a case of “make the art first, figure out the meaning after.” This is definitely a nod to the readymade (think: Marcel Duchamp’s urinal), but I’ve never quite seen something so huge and commercial completely deconstructed. There also seem to be a lot of layers: the idea of past, present, future…and the idea the environment (the entire exhibition is organized by “nine ecosystem services that occur continuously in our biosphere…). I didn’t entirely buy that part, but this show was a feast for the eyes.
(Image: Wilton Bulletin)
The last exhibition I want to write about was my visual favorite, called “Untitled” by Virginia Overton. She is an environmental artist, so most of the works on exhibition are made up of logs from a felled pine tree outside of the museum. My favorite pieces were her Untitled Log Stands, because they tie in elements of Minimalism and Land Art, and they are also absolutely monumental, they fit right into the site/room, and they are reminiscent of dinosaur bones (which brings a playful element).