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PULP explores paper as subject matter

2/25/2016 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

New Akron Art Museum exhibit opening Feb. 27

Richard Misrach’s “Playboy #97 (Marlboro Country)” is one of his images of pages from a Playboy magazine that had been used for target practice.
“One Person Story,” by Pavel Banka, captures kinetic action in still images.
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Paper — so integral to the artistic process — is the subject of the Akron Art Museum’s latest photography show.


PULP, curated by Assistant Curator Liz Carney, is an exhibit of more than a dozen varied works from the museum’s collection that opens Feb. 27 and will be on display through July 31. It features photos in which paper is used as the subject matter but not always in an expected way.

Carney said she was inspired to assemble the exhibit by Aaron Siskind’s work “Chicago,” one of the pieces included.

“It’s a really beautiful example of his photography,” she said of the abstract image of paper peeling from a wall. “He was really interested in the overall beauty of a picture, as opposed to taking a photo of something and documenting an event or place.”

She then discovered the museum’s works by Richard Misrach from his Playboy series, and was inspired when she placed them with Siskind’s works.

“They’re very different in geography and timewise, but there’s an interesting conversation when you put them next to each other,” she said.

Misrach’s two works in the exhibit are of photos he took of the pages of discarded Playboy magazines used for target shooting practice that he found in the Nevada desert. The bullet holes through the pages of advertisements and photos of women elicited a reaction from the artist.

His “Playboy #97 (Marlboro Country)” shows a western-themed ad with cowboys on a glossy page that has been riddled with bullet holes, while “Playboy #38 (Warhol)” features artist Andy Warhol in an ad for hair products, also marred by bullet holes.

“These set the tone for the whole show,” said Carney of the two artists’ works. “Banal pieces of paper can really make something very, very new even though it’s very simple.”

In coming up with the title, Carney thought about how paper is made from pulp but also the other meaning of the word for lowbrow entertainment like scandalous magazines and novels that were printed on paper.

Gloria DeFillipps Brush’s “Untitled (2870.5)” is from a series in which the artist used architectural models to play with scale.
Photos courtesy of the Akron Art Museum
Two works convey the latter meaning. Ralph Steiner’s “Creaking Chair,” a photo that Carney said was likely taken in 1926, features imagery of handbills on a wall that advertise a stage show promising  “thrills, shudders and laughs.” Documentary photographer Esther Bubley’s “Newsstand,” from around 1944, shows a well-stocked street vendor’s stand with a visually interesting array of publications — with names like Lawbreakers and Witness — that appear to focus on crime and salacious aspects of society.

Gloria DeFillipps Brush is represented with two pieces from her series The Christine Suite that was dedicated to a friend who was suffering from a severe illness. The overwhelming emotion that comes from dealing with such a situation is conveyed in the piece “Untitled (2870.5),” which features a close-up view of a rolled up newspaper inside an architectural model.

Carney said the work implies an anticipation of loss, as the newspaper presents the unknown until is unrolled. It also speaks to the mental space strife can take up, she added.

Newspaper and other discarded paper is the subject matter of works by John Willis and Tom Young, who collaborated on a series of photos taken at a recycling plant around the year 2000. Willis’ “#29” shows cascading shredded paper overlapping recognizable imagery that includes an infant, most likely from an advertisement. Young’s “Light Cave” is an abstract look at towering piles of paper and the light that is peeking through from above.

Other works in the exhibit include Czech artist Pavel Banka’s ghostly “One Person Story,” Judith Golden’s “Untitled” from her “Magazine”series and two screenprints by Robert Rauschenberg.

Carney will speak about the images during a gallery talk April 7 at 6 p.m. at the museum, 1 S. High St.

The Akron Art Museum is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the exception of Thursdays, when the museum closes at 9 p.m. Admission is $7 but discounted to $5 for students and seniors 65 and older. Admission is free daily for members and children 17 and younger, and for all every Thursday.

For more information, call 330-376-9185 or go to akronartmuseum.org.

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