ArtComplex: A Pop Up Art Exhibit

by admin on February 24, 2014

ArtComplex, organized by Ernest Jolly & Chris Evans, fills the rooms of a former doctor’s office slated for total renovation near Oakland’s Pill Hill with installations and site-specific artwork by twelve local artists who were inspired through multiple perspectives of the house : the history and future of the surrounding area, the very structure of the building, as well as the tensions between the building’s future and former use. Within the typical spaces for a doctor’s profession: a waiting room, a reception area, administrative offices, and examination rooms on two stories the artists make the familiar foreign, and at times fantastic.

Some of these artists took cues for their installations from the building’s previous medical function, others from the building’s future use as an apartment complex, to the flux and transformation of the space. Installations within ArtComplex by artists Modesto Covarrubias, Tiulescu & Neyman, Chelsea Pegram, Amy Ho and Brett Snyder may engage directly and indirectly the space their works inhabit than other artists in the building. Covarrubias approached his installation in the first floor waiting room, the first room audiences may enter, with thoughtful, yet simple questions loaded with meaning, making his installation one of the most effective in Art Complex to become oriented with the project’s ideals. “My thoughts quickly turned to the many people who spent time in that room… How many minutes had been spent in this space waiting?” Covarrubias writes, and expands his ideas into larger themes: “What does waiting look like?… Is life merely passing time?” Along with a substantial mass of nineteen miles of beige knitting work, Covarrubias leaves the signage, the impressed carpet where chairs and furniture was placed, and stained wallpaper, and protruding nails where pictures hung. Tiulescu & Neyman’s Growing Extreme in what looks like an examination room is part of the partnership’s ongoing project, AggLab, but fits almost seamlessly within the themes of ArtComplex. Tiulescu & Neyman’s work that explores in one part “the philosophical and physical implications of body modification as it relates to social identity” also extracts the space’s heavy, convoluted relationship with larger ideas of corporeality, the politics of the body, and even in some way physical aspects of performance, or ritual.

Installations by artists Karen Seneferu, Malik Seneferu, Matthew Scheatzle, Lisa Carroll, and Nyame O. Brown at Art Complex, however, may be read as engaging with the space more perhaps as it relates to their own artistic practice, enfolding this installation project into an ongoing narrative begun before and continuing beyond this particular project, allowing it to affect and influence their modes of creative investigation and exploration. Oakland artist Karen Seneferu’s powerful installation envelops its audiences into a space she has created that focuses their attention to ideas surrounding healing, remembrance, and the African experience. As she says, “Space dictates meaning. What enters into that space is dictated to by the space or can change the meaning of the space,” and her installation at ArtComplex certainly exemplifies her beliefs about space and meaning; she says this installation is “making what is private public, creating a tension between the institutionalized environment and a room and closet.” Her emotionally-charged film,  “Fruitvale to Florida: Strange Fruit No More,” that has been shown in other venues and recalls a song from the late thirties that exposed racism in America and lynching of African Americans, is a series of beautiful, noble video portraits of local African Americans, from unnamed youth to more familiar faces such as the attorney in the Oscar Grant case, John Burris. The ethereal soundtrack heightens the nostalgic ambiance in the space. Old photographs are dimly lit up inside mason jars, and an abstracted mural adjacent to the video depicts an anonymous, almost ghost-like crowd of people. Shifting from subject to medium, Matthew Scheatzle’s installation on the first floor expands upon his own ideals surrounding the use of particular materials, approaches, and imagery. His installation resembles what a manifestation of his past Reclaimed and Modular series mixed together might look like. Before installing his space, he says “the genesis of this work stems from my interest in Rorschach’s inkblots and bilateral perception…” and the space was chosen for its physical properties, “its symmetry” rather than its history or prior uses. Later, while he forms his installation, he notices “patterns begin organize and accumulate, insinuating ideas that underpin my practice.” There are more installations to see at ArtComplex, and should not be missed.


ArtComplex will be at 560 29th Street through March 23, 2014