ABAiR 2011 July 21 – August 14, 2011
Arts Benicia’s Artist in Residency (ABAIR) Project for Installation Artists
|Installation Open Hours:
7/24, 7/25, 7/31, 8/1, 8/7 & 8/8
August, 12 – 20 12:00-5:00 pm
Thursday – Sunday
Thursday, August, 12, 7:00-9:00 pm
|Family Art Day:
Saturday, August, 14, 2:00-4:00 pm
Saturday, August, 21, 1:00 pm
From July 20 to August 20, 2010, Arts Benicia opened its doors to installation artists Alex Potts and John Ruszel. These artists were given the unique opportunity to create an installation in Arts Benicia’s gallery space over the course of four weeks, a substantial length of time that is unusual in the art world.
For this project, Potts and Ruszel created a “site-specific installation”. In this contemporary form of art, the artist deals with the totality of a given space. Just as painters will use colors, lines, and shapes to create art on a canvas, installation artists create art within the space of a gallery using a variety of materials. In this way, they create an environment in which the viewer not only looks at the art, but is immersed in it.
Good craftsmanship and a comprehensive use of space were important to both artists. With over 2,000 square feet of gallery space at Arts Benicia to “play around in”, they were able to explore the possibilities of their art on a much larger scale.
John Ruszel said: “In the past, my sculptures have been limited in scale and scope by the spaces where I can install them. The ABAIR program will give me the opportunity to more thoroughly explore and experiment with my ideas in the much larger context of the Arts Benicia Gallery.”
The ABAIR project also provided both artists with ample time to work out ideas in Arts Benicia’s galleries, which is situated in the heart of Benicia’s historic Arsenal District. Installation artists are usually forced to work within the constraints of a typical exhibition timeline. They may need a few weeks to create something in the space, but are given four days, which is what a painter or sculptor would need. With the ABAIR program we gave them four weeks to work in the space, but the final work was displayed for just one week.
Alex Potts said: “Having installed large-scale, interactive sound sculpture pieces in various venues across the U.S. and Europe on often very tight deadlines, I’m very excited to engage in a residency at Arts Benicia where I will have significantly more time to install new work, allowing me to give more consideration to the environment in which the art will live and different ways in which the audience may interact with it.”
Alex Potts is a sound sculptor who works with gourds. Alex places speakers in each of the dozens of gourds hanging in his installations and uses them to amplify ambient sound. The gourds are arranged in the space to create sweeping shapes that transform it visually as well as sonically.
Artist Alex Potts said: “Gourds are significant, as they are known to be the first plant domesticated by humans. They traveled around the Earth millennia ago during human migrations – from Africa, through Asia, to the Americas. Used as vessels since ancient times and throughout countless cultures today as musical instrument resonators, gourds are used in this installation as vessels to carry the sounds of people.”
Both artists looked forward to expanding upon their previous artwork.
Ruszel said: “With this installation, I plan to expand my explorations of physical forces such as gravity and tension to include the more subtle and subjective relationships between separate structures – the ways that components need not touch to interact, and the ways that parts can form a whole. Hopefully, these structures will press people to move beyond the regular viewer/artwork mindset and experience the work more intimately.”
Potts said: “The ABAIR residency will permit me to create an installation piece that will uniquely relate to Arts Benicia’s gallery in the historic Benicia Arsenal. I plan to explore and show new interactive kinetic pieces that expand upon my previous suspended sound sculptures while involving the community in tuning and giving feedback on the “living” nature of the work.”
Alex Potts holds a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree from San Francisco State College. His work has been shown widely in the Bay Area, and also in New York and Copenhagen, Denmark.
John Ruszel recently earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington.
Over the course of the ABAIR project, the public was able to engage with the artists at work on the weekends of 7/24, 7/31, and 8/7 from 1-5 pm. After the work was completed, the gallery was open Thursday-Sunday, 12-5pm, from August 12-August 20.