Art Papers  

more from the May/June 2013 issue:

Mike Kelley's
Mobile Homestead:
a re-envisioning of space in public sculpture

by Rana Edgar

Because the Night:
Curating One-Off Nocturnal Events

by Helena Reckitt

Palace of Propositions:
Beyond the boundaries of space and time: Massimiliano Gioni's dual-venue exhibition The Encyclopedic Palace at the 55th Venice Biennale

by Belinda Grace Gardner

May/June 2013
Letter from the Guest Editor:
On Space

"Where is Ana Mendieta?"

This question—first posed in 1992 at the Women's Action Coalition protests of the Guggenheim's male-centric inaugural exhibition at the new SoHo location and then again in 1999 as the title of Jane Blocker's book, which attempted to simultaneously answer and dispel the possibility of answering the inquiry—was intended to prompt the locating of Ana Mendieta's (1948–1985) work in the canon of art history. The reason the question—Where is Ana Mendieta?—is so important to contemporary art today is because the notion of continuing to contemplate and explore ideas and concepts of space (including place, location, and region among others) is crucial to the ways in which we make, view, present, and contemplate art in the world. The multidisciplinary concepts, practice, and works that encompass Mendieta's brief, yet deeply prolific artistic career can be thought of in a myriad of ways as the roots of spatial expressions, provocation, and inquiry in the 21st century. This, the fourth in a series of guest-edited issues of ART PAPERS, touches on a multitude of spatial concepts and considerations in contemporary art, with the intention of embracing the fervent energy and forward thinking present in the work of Mendieta.

Ignited by themes of identity, location, and exile (she was Cuban-born and lived in exile in the US), Mendieta's work correlated with her desire to continue to locate herself through modes of image-making, performance, and sculpture. This impassioned desire to question place amidst a larger sphere of influence is evident in the lively discussion on the pros and problematics of "regionalism" in a discussion with leading museum curators, moderated by Isolde Brielmaier. John J. Corso explores the complexities of navigating identity in an exilic state, in Shirin Neshat's films, video, and photographic works on view at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Stephanie Bailey identifies the assertion of appropriated models for art fairs and biennials that have resulted largely in Western selfsame exhibition formats worldwide, suggesting a shift in this dovetailing structure to enact critical dialog.

The period from the early 1980s until her death in 1985 signaled a transition in Mendieta's work from personal to universal, and in many ways from private—in nature and focused on her own body—to the public realm—making work in a studio and developing stylistically more universal forms. This shift in art-making from private to public space is evocative of a similar leap in Mike Kelley's artistic career that Rana Edgar discusses in her essay on Kelley's first permanent public sculpture and final project, Mobile Homestead. Hesse McGraw's interview with artist Theaster Gates draws on the importance of indeterminable space outside of designated art spaces, while Helena Reckitt's overview of the recent phenomenon of one-night art events lends perspective on the considerations of audience attendance and participation in public space. Mendieta's site-specific earth sculptures and performances remind us of the fleeting nature of space and time. The artist projects in this issue include images of works and installations by New York-based artists Adam Cvijanovic and Xaviera Simmons that lend unique perspectives on the ephemeral outcomes of atmospheric and political spaces respectively. The portability of Cvijanovic's immersive painting installations enlivens the potential for perpetually rearticulated space. Simmons' images and performances depict a rich exploration of archival histories that recontextualize historical narrative patterns to reveal the performative in the political.

Finally, this issue culminates with a preview of the much-anticipated 55th Venice Biennale and a series of provocative exhibition reviews, all of which focus on various aspects of space both in the artists' work and the contexts in which they are shown. Even though a dedicated text on the work of Ana Mendieta is not present in this issue of ART PAPERS, does it still mean that we have not located her work here? On the contrary, this issue focuses on the potential of expanded space—linking Mendieta's concepts and practice with the critical language of today—and broadening the ways in which we continue to examine themes of place and space in contemporary art.

—Erin Dziedzic
Guest Editor

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