Position / Opposition
2 – 23 July 2011
Opening Saturday July 2 at 14:00
Opening address by Max Yela (Head, Special Collections, UWM Libraries; Adjunct Associate lecturer, UWM Department of Art & Design; Adjunct Instructor, UWM School of Information Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA)
Preview by appointment
Exhibition catalogue available (please scroll down for online version)
Walkabout: Jessica meuninck-Ganger and Max Yela will conduct a public walkabout on Saturday 2 July at 11:00
Walkabout for artist-printmakers: A special walkabout/information session for artist-printmakers will be held on Sunday 3 July at 14:00
Jessica Meuninck-Ganger’s first solo exhibition at GALLERY AOP revolves around one large artist’s book: 1.2 x 2.3 x 6 meters, when completely open. According to Meuninck-Ganger: 'The larger than human scale book structure requires two handlers to manipulate and unfold its contents, and demands the arduous actions of opening, accessing, handling, and navigating the pages. Designed to be intentionally cumbersome and awkward, it initiates an interaction between the participants that closely mirrors the inter-personal exchange depicted in the imagery.'
The artist’s book has an invidious position in the arts. It always has occupied a vital yet ambiguously defined position in the eyes of the bibliophilic community and the world of fine art. But innovative elements of these two disciplines sporadically emerge from their literary and artistic domains to realize the amazing potential of words and art joined into a unified whole. In the minds of many bibliophiles, the art and artists associated with the resulting books receive undue attention, often at the expense of the author, designer, or printer. In turn, many in the art world consider artists’ books to be peripheral to an artist’s oeuvre. Though a book may be interleaved with multiple graphic works, some people find a book hard to comprehend as a work of art. At an inherent disadvantage when compared to a painting, sculpture, drawing or print, the nature of a book’s construction does not permit its aesthetic impact to be instantly gauged or easily displayed. These are the issues Jessica Meuninck-Ganger challenges with her artist’s books: she adopts a performative, process-based approach to book arts.
Meuninck-Ganger is a ‘context-provider’ (rather than a ‘content-provider’, in the words of British artist Peter Dunn) in this installation at GALLERY AOP of prints, folios, and books that combine traditional processes of etching and lithography with new technologies, and incorporate the structural techniques of sculpture and book arts. 'I compose autobiographical memoirs that unfold like journal pages made for public view. An enthusiast of fine papers, prints and books a subjects, I am interested in people’s interactions with them as physical forms and conceptual spaces.'
Her work exemplifies the contemporary art theoretical notions of what Suzanne Lacy calls, the ‘new genre’ of ‘public art’. Or what Ian Hunter and Celia Larner term ‘literal art’ to evoke the hybrid or in-between nature of this kind of practice. ‘I am interested in the potential of the large-scale book to provide a ‘quadralogue’ between the artist, the two subjects, and its participants. Conversely, the small artist’s book and suite of prints on display illustrate very different interactions, dialogues and trialogues that are inherently influenced by how the content is uniquely revealed via each presentation,' Meuninck-Ganger explains. Her work can further be explained and understood by means of such theoretical constructs as Nicolas Bourriaud’s ‘relational aesthetics’, which holds that an artwork is based around communication and exchange. Or her work can be read by means of Hombi Bhabha’s notion of ‘conversational art’, or Tom Finkelpearl’s notion of ‘dialogue-based public art’. It was, however, Russian literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin who initiated the grand theory that a work of art can be viewed as a kind of conversation: a locus of differing meanings, interpretations and points of view.
Meuninck-Ganger’s work involves the creative orchestration of collaborative encounters and conversations well beyond the institution of the gallery. Her artist’s books are catalysts or surprisingly powerful transformations in the consciousness of their ‘readers’. The conversations they generate become an integral part of the work itself, which is collaboratively achieved.
The exhibition is described by Meuninck-Ganger in the following manner: 'Position/Opposition is an installation of over one hundred etchings and drawings assembled in a variety of presentation formats, including: a suite of six hanging print assemblages (45 x 66 cm), a large book (1.2 x 2.3 x 6 m – open); and one work from an edition of five artist’s books (maquette versions of the large book). Each work is a compound composition of expressive faces and hands that embody an emotive collaboration between two subjects. All of the prints on paper are participatory in nature and utilize the same subject imagery, but due to the ranging formats and scale, each depicts a unique conversation.'
The catalogue accompanies the exhibition, with a full-length, highly evocative and insightful essay by Max Yela (who will also open the exhibition on Saturday, July 2 at 14:00). Yela is Head of the Special Collections Department at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and teaches book arts courses for the Department of Art and Design at the University.
Jessica Meuninck-Ganger’s prints, artist’s books and large-scale mixed media works have been exhibited in museums and both experimental and commercial galleries regionally – near her home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin – nationally in the US and internationally. Her works on paper and her artist’s books are included in several private and public collections, including the Weisman Museum of Art and the Target Corporation, and in contemporary publications, such as Richard Noyce’s recent book, ‘Printmaking Beyond the Edge’. She has received residencies and fellowships all over the world, and has instructed printmaking courses and workshops throughout various states in America. Jessica received her MFA in Studio Arts from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2004 and is currently Head of Printmaking at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, USA.