WEST, featuring Elena Ailes (MFA 2015), Lucas Briffa (MFA 2015), Matthew Coleman (MA 2015), and Alison Reilly (MA 2015), deconstructs romantic stereotypes about the American West while questioning how humans mythologize the land. This interdepartmental collective will explore the conflation of memory, dislocation, and myth, and investigate the power of ideology, secrecy, and mediation within the West’s perceived emptiness.
Because of its expansive nature and seemingly endless possibilities, land artists of the 1960s like Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt, and Michael Heizer used the West as a spiritual and intellectual tabula rasa. To what extent is this fetishization of the West primitivist? And further, what motivates a continued attraction to remoteness? By investigating their own insecurities, prejudices, and curiosities about the place they call home, these artists and art historians will challenge current dialogues.
Elena Ailes’s sculpture and Lucas Briffa’s photographs realign connections between memory and myth. Their respective landscapes suggest that there is much more to the West than a remoteness wherein one can find spiritual enlightenment, but rather a highly self-reflective stitching together of memories attached to the land. One may look at their work and see traditional depictions of western landscape, but what emerges are intensely personal re-contextualizations of home. They transform sites into non-sites and construct fiction out of memoir to create a West that belongs to them.
Government surveillance server farms, nuclear production complexes, and expansive mining sites are constructed in deserts and remote areas, and yet in the void of those spaces lay the data, identities, memories, and myths of society. Through art historical research and site visits, Matthew Coleman and Alison Reilly investigate how the West’s perceived emptiness is filled with ideologies and memories.
(Re)contextualizing the West: A roundtable discussion with Andrew Hunter | Saturday, September 20, 2014 | 12:00-2:00 P.M.
The LeRoy Neiman Center, 37 S. Wabash Ave.,1st Floor
Andrew Hunter, curator of Canadian Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario, will lead a roundtable discussion with WEST artists and art historians, Elena Ailes, Lucas Briffa, Matthew Coleman and Alison Reilly. The group will question how remoteness, dislocation and mythology relate to communities and art practices within Chicago.