Over the past 41 years, the Mattress Factory has shown approximately 700 artists, and its staff, over those same decades, has been in constant motion just keeping up: dismantling, reconstructing, and altering the patchwork of spaces in an unrelenting collaboration between institution and artist. This current exhibit had demanded no less rigor, and the artists selected and shown here, with their exciting and insightful bodies of work, extend and compliment the Mattress Factory's historical oeuvre, presenting both critical and presentational challenges for those of us tasked with the exhibition.
The work presented, though each is independent in conception, pose relationships between body, space, and time. These three touchstones of existence are a departure point for examining the paradoxes of the self—how we engage, create and relate to our ever-changing physical and psychological environments.
Karina Smigla-Bobinski's interactive installation ADA, leads us into a space of almost prehistoric gestures and mark-making, mitigated by an inflated element which, while mathematically derived in its relationship to the space, could only exist through a combination of the most basic tools (charcoal) and more modern materials only available in the last century. Its composition is always being added to and altered by the action of participants over time.
Similarly, William Earl Kofmehl, III hosts performances in which he invites participants to navigate/alter its elements. Entitled Lessons, a division of space is created in the gallery producing an accessible and inaccessible lay-out. This functions like a physical dichotomy (like that of theory and practice) pitting the concrete against such countervailing subjectivities as storytelling, historical washing, coding, and obscurity—in essence, the piece over time is courting ambiguity among layers of concise and direct information.
Christina A. West's installation Screen, positions scale-shifted, life-like representations of the body among altered and repeated architectural facades, mirrors, and delayed 'real-time' video elements. Her approach has bodies in space integrated with the gallery as focal points, externalized emotive-objects-as-artifice to engage introspection. The green-screen theatrical setting and the subtle gestures of the figures combine to conjure a disorienting, mutable space for self-analysis.
As with West's use of monitoring the respond the the viewer's presence within her installation, Laleh Mehran's The Interstitium incorporates cutting edge technology wich traces your movements within the space. In her interactive installation, the viewer is focused upon and lit by the animated entities 'growing' out from the nebulous wall material—nearly a metric ton of beguiling coal byproduct. Here the viewer is the focal point—the vessel and ingress to the conflated frameworks of personal myth, spiritualism and ideology.
The gallery-spanning installation Lyrical, by OSGEMEOS—two twin brothers from São Paulo, Brazil—invites a combinatory experience of dreams, time, myth, music and motion. Through the entrance, the viewer gains access to another realm or a surreal and mystical world combining influences from the artists’ collection, family and their own dreams. (Lyrical was curated by Margery King.)
In light of the passing of founder/Co-Director Barbara Luderowski, it has been an extraordinary and bittersweet honor to curate this section of the Mattress Factory's Artists in Residency. As with any exhibition of works on this scale, the timeframe from planning to execution is typically years, including the run of the show. Knowing this, I set out from the beginning to engage artists who continually re-adjust, re-tool and set forward pieces that require the participation of viewers/outside actors to augment or continue to form the pieces—the notion of collaboration being something of a first principle, after all, for an institution founded by an artist, governed and preserved by artists for artists, and which, by some estimates, functions as an artwork itself.
Within what is continual and what is collaborative, there are a million adjustments, iterations, hard choices, and individual assessments. Change is the name of the game. Flux. Growth. Mutation. Evolution. Even for an institution with an unwavering thesis. A paradox our friend and mentor Barbara no doubt delighted in.