Hole in the Middle of the World: Selections from the Permanent Collection
January 24 -March 7, 2010
Guest curated by Eva Buttacavoli
Framing the thesis of an exhibition around a gallery’s 20 x 22 foot gaping second floor hole may seem like an exercise in futility. But the astounding history of the influences and acquisitions of the Stein Galleries Permanent Collection swirls around that hole with the power of a super nova of defining moments in contemporary art.
Unraveling that history reveals not only a timeline of the galleries, but the transformation of our region itself.
Initiated through a long-standing academic tradition of faculty leading the curatorial direction of exhibition selection, a defining series of site-specific sculptural installations provides important links in the Stein Galleries’ history. Initiated by former art department chair Ed Levine, and continued by sculpture professor Tom Macaulay these installations became the historical markers that connected WSU to the transformations happening in the world of contemporary art, as well as becoming the building blocks of the permanent collection. Installations celebrating, exploiting, or simply banishing the gallery’s second floor hole took place steadily between 1974 and 1991 and included artists that were redefining what is now considered classical examples of installation art – aka: a genre defined by artists’ interest in how the human body relates to public space through the placement and manipulation of structures that comments on the physical or social character of the site. The series boasted installations of the who’s who of this movement including artists Vito Acconci, Terry Allen, Stephen Antonakos, Patrick Ireland, and Robert Irwin. Photo documentation, project notes, and anecdotes of these temporary projects will provide context to the exhibition.
Subsequently, in the midst of this exclusive Midwest backstage pass to the folks that were changing our ideas about participating in art rather than just viewing it, Wright State University Art Galleries became a collecting institution in 1989 and adopted a collecting policy focused on works of art created post-1967 and Western in origin. The year was selected not only because Wright State University was founded in 1967, but it also marked a period of political and artistic turmoil, the aftermath of which caused significant changes in contemporary art. With the help of an NEA Purchase Plan grant and local private donors, the galleries amassed an impressive collection of over 200 works, of which over 60 will be on view here, by such contemporary art icons as Chuck Close, Andy Warhol, Lucian Freud, Joseph Kosuth, Sol LeWitt, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Motherwell, Nicholas Nixon, Phillip Pearlstein, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Ed Ruscha, Cindy Sherman, and Joel Peter Witkin. The Galleries have not dedicated their entire space, hole and all, to an exhibition of the permanent collection since 1989.
The exhibition title, Hole in the Middle of the World, meaning exactly what you think– a hole in the middle of the gallery, in the middle of the earth, or in the middle of your world, whichever version suits you - was inspired by poet/artist/architect Vito Acconci’s working notes for his 1976 Wright State University Art Gallery site-specific sculptural installation Think-Leap/Rethink-Fall. Accordingly, this examination comes at the moment our region is poised to leap . . . or fall. Wright States home base, Dayton, a victim of the recession’s manufacturing bust and a noted Summer 2007 Forbes magazine “dying” city, has been described as that “weird place in the middle of corn fields.” Although the art world knows that all this breeds legions of industrious young artists, hardly thinking at all, moving into rough parts of town and starting up new models of grass-roots, alternative arts booms, the City proper is re-thinking everything So while hanging in there on a national-level through cutting-edge innovations in engineering technology thanks to WSU’s namesake and the bastion of the city – Wright Patterson Air Force Base, on a local level (where we live the poetic version of our lives) there are glimpses of our young artists a-leaping.
Showcasing the permanent collection from a period of political and artistic turmoil to the intersections of our region’s present, Hole in the Middle of the World explores the spirit of place and its relationship with our ideas about transforming our world. By unraveling this history we hope to present new ideas among students and the community.
Hole in the Middle of the World: Selections from the Permanent Collection is guest curated by Eva Buttacavoli, an independent curator living in Dayton and former director of exhibitions and education at the Austin Museum of Art.
There will be a Gallery Talk Sunday, January 24 at 2:30 p.m. in the Stein Galleries. Guest speakers include past and current Wright State art faculty and former Galleries director Michael Jones. A reception immediately following until 5:30 p.m. All events are free and open to the public.
The exhibition is supported by the Friends of the Gallery, Wright State University's College of Liberal Arts, and the Ohio Arts Council.