Production Site: The Artist’s Studio Inside-Out reflects on the singularly tense position between projection and the real (that of both audience and artist) occupied by the artist’s studio. The exhibition at the MCA Chicago includes the works of 13 artists and coincides with Studio Chicago, a year of programming spanning the city.
The exhibition begins with a select timeline of artists’ renderings of the studio, in which the space appears as a metonymic portrait or self-portrait. A Rembrandt featuring the artist in his studio and a Stephen Shore photograph of Andy Warhol seated in The Factory, in particular, highlight the schism between authentic and personified portrayal that hinges on the myth of the artist.
A walk-through of this exhibition compares to a marathon of studio visits, as nearly every artist occupies one full room, which gives each installation a theatrical quality while playing down formal comparison. Justin Cooper adds a layer to this staged feeling by exploring the studio as a map and an index of the artist’s brain. His video, Studio Visit (2007), addresses the anxiety associated with a visit from an outsider such as curator or critic. Shot to assume the perspective of an unseen creature attempting to draw a still life, the frantic and frustrated tone of the video culminates in an outburst of destructive havoc. Cooper’s creature wheezes and pants, while the viewer considers the point at which both artwork and studio might be best socialized.
For his seven-channel video projection MAPPING THE STUDIO II with color shift, flip, flop & flip/flop (Fat Chance John Cage) All Action Edit (2001), Bruce Nauman left a video camera to record his absented studio at night. Little occurs, although occasionally a mouse, cat, or moth crosses the frame. The artist’s belongings lie abandoned, glowing under steady infrared light. The screens gradually change color and the screens flip at uncoordinated time intervals, forcefully comparing the studio visit with surveillance such that the viewer must ask him or herself what they are looking for, exactly. Deb Sokolow frames her treatment of her Chicago studio building as “the paranoid narrator” in You Tell People You’re Working Really Hard On Things These Days (2010). In floor plans and written descriptions, she’s depicted the police discovery of a methamphetamine laboratory, and sketched Richard Serra as a mobster. During the exhibition’s run, Sokolow updates the drawing with events in her building, transposing studio to exhibition site. Paranoia, it seems, is no obstacle.
In three video works by William Kentridge, the artist alchemizes artistic procedure to cinematic technique. The seven-part live-action and animated suite, 7 Fragments for George Méliès (2003), sees the artist filming himself drawing in his studio. The edited footage plays forwards and backwards, breaking from a linear depiction of production. Kentridge tears up a self-portrait, which reverses into a mending gesture, and never has the anxiety of production seemed more like play.
MAPPING THE STUDIO II with color shift, flip, flop & flip/flop (Fat Chance John Cage) All Action Edit, 2001. © 2010 Bruce Nauman / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.