Cleveland Foundation supports CIA students with “Heterotopia: sites of culture represented, contested and inverted”

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Fri, 09/29/2006 - 00:13.

In a unique and powerful arts development in town, the Cleveland Foundation has started an initiative to showcase artists studying at the Cleveland Insitute of Art in a series of exhibitions at the Foundation offices, at 1422 Euclid Ave., Suite 1300, starting with "Heterotopia", now showing - the public is welcome to view the exhibition at The Cleveland Foundation offices Monday through Friday during normal business hours (8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

“Heterotopia” is a small, excellent showcase of very talented artists - concentrated in paintings but with some nice multimedia as well - I'd noticed the work of many of these artists at the 2006 CIA student exhibition, last Spring, and it is exciting to see how their work has developed - and more of it... I won't elevate one artist/work above any of the others (although one of my favorite works is shown above) - they are all great, and there are some great bargains to be had (yes, the work is for sale - all proceeds go to the artists). As for the concept of the show, I can say I'd never heard of the word “Heterotopia” before, and dictionary.com didn't help matters much... but the curator's statement makes the pieces fit. Check out the show for yourself, and learn more about the Cleveland Foundation in the process... props to them for putting this together!

Curator’s Statement - By Ellen Rudolph

heterotopia: sites of culture represented, contested and inverted

“Heterotopias: Real places…which are something like counter-sites, a kind of utopia in which all of the real sites that can be found within a culture are simultaneously represented, contested and inverted. Places of this kind are outside of all places…”

In his 1967 essay “Of Other Spaces,” French philosopher Michel Foucault claimed, “I believe that the anxiety of our era has to do fundamentally with space.” This exhibition at the Cleveland Foundation offices charts a select but varied group of artists’ explorations of space outside of everyday society.

Collectively, these artists’ visions represent, as Foucault puts it, “a sort of simultaneously mythic and real contestation of the space in which we live.” Here we can observe a quest for new dimensions of space, for the reinvention and reorganization of spaces. Heterotopias by nature embody binary pairings, many of which are suggested in the works in this exhibition: open and closed systems, the accumulation of all time or a transitory moment, the totality of the universe or a single location.

These works depict environments that are generally outside of the places we inhabit, removed from our everyday comings and goings. The artists do not provide specificity in terms of location or time, yet the sites they depict are familiar because they reflect multiple aspects of society and culture at once. All of the artists here draw inspiration in part from aspects of popular culture, including music, television, film and societal rhetoric. They appropriate and recombine elements from these varied influences to establish their own groupings of human sites.

The practices of recombining and appropriation lend easily to a collage (the combining of different media, materials, styles, images into a single work)-based aesthetic, which runs through the works in the exhibition. Such an aesthetic is naturally compatible with the notion of representing multiple aspects simultaneously, for different times and places are implied through the presentation of imagery culled from various sources. The notion of collage is apparent in the work of John Haughwout, who employs diverse painting techniques and styles, bringing together disparate elements that together point to a personal yet epic vision. Meanwhile Tom Spoerndle and Mike Dotson each combine elements in their paintings, reorganizing them into fully integrated, seamless compositions.

A mood of optimism pervades these spaces, suggesting that these artists have an upbeat outlook on their “other“ places. Their visions take the form of playfully altered sports arenas; glittering mountainscapes; brilliantly colored, sliding slices of land; and abstractly floating planes. Rainbows suggest utopian dreams, and bands of color bind space.

In tandem with the optimism, an air of questioning, examination and a tinge of uncertainty also flow through many of these works, in which the artists have ultimately created spaces in which to question their own sense of identification with culture and the landscape. While Foucault may not have conceived of the contemporary suburban landscape as a heterotopia, Laura Marsh’s lush suburban-scapes offer a subversive promise of abundance through allegiance and conformity. Here Marsh presents spaces to which we have ready access, yet alienation and isolation abound. Marsh’s suggestion of “the American dream” serves to highlight the influence that many of these artists are fleeing from or reacting to in their work. Together, these artists’ environments create a varied and diverse reflection of the one in which we live.

Heterotopia: sites of culture represented, contested and inverted is a collaborative project of The Cleveland Foundation, Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Institute of Art. The exhibition will run from Sept. 26, 2006 through Jan. 5, 2007. The exhibition includes paintings, drawings, video and sound.