The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago presents Chicago-based artist Gaylen Gerber, internationally recognized for his series of monochrome paintings he calls Backdrops or Supports. In some instances, he invites other artists to intervene on his Backdrops, layering their artwork over his own, often monochromatic painted surfaces or large sheets of paper. In other instances, he layers his Supports over the artists’ works. This exhibition of Gerber’s work provocatively prods the imagined boundaries among art objects and the physical and social environments they inhabit in museums. Gaylen Gerber is on view May 25 to September 8, 2013, and is organized by Kristin Korolowicz, MCA Marjorie Susman Curatorial Fellow.
Gaylen Gerber is the artist’s first solo exhibition at MCA Chicago and is comprised of two parts. The first component is a new visually sparse, site-responsive artwork in the second-floor lobby in which Gerber reprises a conceptual work by the American conceptual artist Michael Asher (1943 - 2012). In 1979, the MCA commissioned Asher to produce a work for the burgeoning permanent collection. Asher chose to have a selection of aluminum panels removed from the museum’s facade and presented inside the institution’s new second-floor gallery. The work, however, could only be considered part of the museum’s collection if the act of exhibiting the panels was periodically repeated. The gesture challenged a host of institutional resources and unfortunately proved to be too complicated to repeat. The artwork was deaccessioned from MCA’s Collection shortly thereafter.
For this exhibition, Gerber relocates a single panel from the MCA’s current facade to the second-floor south lobby, where he will paint the entire space, panel included, with the white latex paint that the museum regularly uses on its walls. This deceptively simple proposition highlights the visitor’s perception of the MCA’s institutional background -- both literally and figuratively -- recognizing not only an important moment in the museum’s history with Michael Asher but also the much broader and longer history of artists approaching museums as sites to be interrogated and explored.
The second component features a color-saturated installation containing Gerber’s Supports, panels that incorporate silver-leafed souvenirs from the exhibition Crossing Through the Colors, a work in situ by French artist Daniel Buren (b. 1938), which are presented alongside a careful selection of artworks from the MCA Collection -- including work by artists Richard Artschwager, Cady Noland, Jim Nutt, and H. C. Westermann, and an additional work borrowed from Das Institut (Kerstin Brätsch and Adele Röder) with Allison Katz. These works form various associations between seemingly disparate “movements” and artworks. Buren’s and Asher’s practices both function as points of departure for the exchanges that characterize Gerber’s practice.