Berkeley Art Center’s Make Space group exhibition, which includes artwork by Randy Dixon, Nancy Ivanhoe, Tressa Pack, Erik Parra and Dimitra Skandali explores how space, place, its property and construction affects not only the reading and interpretation of art objects but also audience’s interaction with them. Berkeley Art Center’s new executive director, Aimee Le Duc writes, “The artists in Make Space are confronting architecture as both subject and object. They will incorporate Berkeley Art Center into their installations and work – including both the interior and exterior spaces of the gallery. The exhibition is an experiment to test how physical space informs art practice.” This show challenges its artists, all of whom have already made characteristics and concepts of space and place an important facet in the foundation of their art practice, to re-contextualize their work to function within the the Berkeley Art Center — which, as a civic art space, remains a stalwart haven among the region’s many art venues that continue to close and reform their shape and size amid the economically and culturally shifting San Francisco Bay Area.
Varied in approaches and styles, each artist’s work in Make Space at Berkeley Art Center addresses the significant viewpoints and ideals surrounding the multifarious issues arising from the theme of the exhibition. Randy Dixon’s sculptures of houses and buildings as well as his construed use of architectural language prompts viewers to re-consider how the space is constructed around us to inform and, or influence the behaviors in and around. In a like manner, Tressa Pack’s photographs from her Fictions series, where photography lighting equipment become the subject of the works themselves, she uses the tools and by extension the language of the trade to comment upon the medium itself. Emphasizing their contrived arrangement, Pack surrounds and illuminates haphazardly chosen space while also including the unlighted space around it, Pack prompts an important dialogue between the place of other and inclusion and lays bare the guiding artistic hand in the photograph, that since the invention of the medium has been declared the most realistic and least manipulated medium in art.
Other artists in Make Space directly grapple with the architectural and exhibition gallery properties themselves. In addition to showing their own large-scale work and installations, Dimitra Skandali and Nancy Ivanhoe exhibit collaborative abstract line-work drawn directly onto the walls, grounds and floors of the Art Center that outline the dappled light through the trees, the shadows created from the leaves, and the many spaces in it that are continually in motion. Places that are normally excluded from official exhibition spaces are brought to the fore, as visitors will find smaller installations by Ivanhoe and Skandali in the entryway corner and bridge, and back garden trellises. Lastly, Erik Parra’s installation of a quaint resting space in the gallery where visitors can sit and view his large and small paintings of various landscape types including domestic interiors belie their comforting tone, as it actually seems to further complicate the natural and the artificial of and in the space. Exemplified by the bare back of the couch that reveals the shipping palette from which it is constructed but only if one is outside this special space, Parra’s particularly skillful installation calls attention to the fabricated realities of the gallery, which has perhaps gone unnoticed by the audience until now.
“Make Space” will be at Berkeley Art Center 1275 Walnut St., Berkeley through October 5, 2014