Undoing

Artists Brenda Goldstein, Grace Hong and Michael Watson pose in front of one of Goldstein's pieces which is featured in the "Undoing" exhibition at GMoA.

The Greenville Museum of Art (GMoA) will welcome community members to experience the “Undoing” art exhibit reception on Oct. 8 where guests have the opportunity to meet the featured artists who created the abstract pieces in the exhibit.

The reception will open at 5 p.m. to GMoA members, then to the public at 6 p.m. while the exhibit will remain on display in the museum until March 11. 

Trista Reis Porter, executive director of GMoA, said the four artists involved in the show, B.R. Goldstien, Michael Watson, Grace Hong and Krista Clark, came with a proposal for the exhibition together. Although they are from all across the country, they went to graduate school together at Parsons School of Design in New York City. She said they share a similar artistic style that uses found objects and unconventional materials to create their pieces. 

“They all kind of use a similar type of material that’s not conventional to like what you would typically find in an exhibition about paintings or like ceramics or other kinds of sculpture, so that kind of the underlying theme of the show,” Porter said. “The title ‘Undoing’ sort of refers to those uses of materials and the kind of undoing of what you would sort of expect to see in a museum setting for materials that are used.” 

Porter said the exhibit’s title, “Undoing,” works as an invitation to think about and rethink the role these materials play in our daily lives. She said the exhibition is also about how these materials function as a type of language in the context of the art as one brings their predisposed notions of the materials to the pieces.

The exhibit will be unlike a lot of what people have seen or would expect to see in an exhibit in an art museum, Porter said. She said there are some East Carolina University students who do similar work but for most people this will be a totally new experience. She said unlike a conventional exhibition, the idea with “Undoing” is to derive meanings from the work based on things that are personal to the viewer. 

“I think this kind of installation based work, is really, just because of the nature of it, and its abstract and not really specific what its about, I think that it'll really be evocative for people and kind of I think everybody will come to each artwork with their own kind of set of memories and emotions and responses to it,” Porter said. 

One of the artists in the show, Hong, said she started out in painting but transitioned to sculpture and mixed media art in graduate school. She said her artistic process is based on experimentation with materials, namely thread and materials that produce lines which she uses to create repetitive designs. 

Hong said the materials she uses include items she accumulates that most people would throw away, like burned out light bulbs, and items to which she has a special personal connection. She said, for instance, thread is often at the center of her works because her family owns a dry cleaning business so that material has always been in her life. 

“The sculptures that I’m showing (in the ‘Undoing’ exhibit) is a collection of all these materials that are in my life, that are in my everyday life, in my surroundings, so that’s how I’ve incorporated found objects,” Hong said.

For people who would come to see the exhibit, Hong said she hopes they will come with an open mind. She said the type of art she creates is intended to be subjective to each person who looks at it. 

Hong said she has a personal connection to her own artwork due to the time and energy she spent creating the work, but she likes to hear how that work is received by those who view it. 

“Especially with abstract work it's not really rooted in one idea one type of practice or method of art-making, or it’s not usually by a history of a tradition, its very much about like the immediacy of encountering the artwork and that's what I’m usually interested in when I show my work is, I’m curious,” Hong said.

Another artist in the show, Watson, said he began to make art when he was young as his dad was an artist. He said because of his traditional artistic upbringing, he learned mediums such as painting, sculpture and drawing before he began to practice abstract and experimental art.

Watson said his work in the “Undoing” exhibit is a representation of his abstract processes throughout his last five years of creating pieces. He said he works to make art that is nontraditional and experimental. 

“Since I had such a traditional upbringing I'm always looking for ways to make art that are untraditional and take control away from me and force me to try and do things or to rely on things like chance and risk,” Watson said. 

All of his pieces in the exhibit were created after COVID-19 began and a reaction to the pandemic and the “political climate in the U.S.” during the 2020 presidential election, Watson said. He said his work represents what he was feeling during 2020.

Watson said some of the items he used in his pieces include surgical masks, synthetic hair and rocks. He said he wants viewers to see that he transforms the materials he uses in his work to represent the way he perceives reality.

Guests should attend the exhibit with an open attitude and try to understand where the artist of the work was coming from when creating the piece, Watson said. He said abstract art can be perceived to have no meaning, but he believes that it expresses the human experience.

“The reason why is that it becomes more of not only something that we look at and think about but it’s also something that we experience, like Grace says, in the moment,” Watson said. “It also captures the bodily experience of its making.”

Watson said he believes that while abstract art is conscious and subconscious, it can capture a moment of time with everyday materials. 

When approaching materials to use in his work, Watson said he keeps in mind the destruction and reconstruction process. He said he processes his ideas and his work to undo the “conventional thoughts” of the viewers of his work, then reconstitutes them.

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