Till Now: Contemporary Art in Context

Lecture Series, Spring 2017

Although its use is now widespread, the term “contemporary” refers neither to a specific aesthetic style nor fixed historical period. Contemporary art—including the visual, performative, and literary—can designate a range of forms and theories extending from works produced today to those made half a century ago. So what makes contemporary art contemporary? 

“Till Now: Contemporary Art in Context” is a year-long speaker series hosted by the University of Houston School of Art and the Blaffer Art Museum that brings together leading voices in the field of contemporary art. Through public talks and intimate seminars and studio visits with UH students, internationally recognized scholars, curators, artists, and critics will investigate the idea of the contemporary as both a temporal and aesthetic framework to broaden critical understanding about how we situate current artistic practices.

All lectures are free and open to the public. Directions and parking information can be found here.


Matthew Ritchie
Surrender to the Diagram: Moving Towards a Complete Theory of Picture
A performance-lecture in collaboration with UH School of Art and College of Architecture and Design students

Thursday, March 2
5:00–6:00 pm in the atrium of the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design

New York-based artist Matthew Ritchie presents a new performance-based work, “Surrender to the Diagram: Moving Towards a Complete Theory of Picture.” “Surrender to the Diagram” is a movement-based performance-lecture developed by Ritchie in collaboration with students from the UH School of Art and College of Architecture and Design within the framework of the seminar “Diagrammatic Visualization in Art and Theory” led by art history professor Dr. Natilee Harren. In the presentation, students are invited to become a living history of diagrams, referencing an operable dimensionality.

Ritchie presents diagrams, seen and hidden, as the pivotal mental architecture for exchange between the expansive spaces of prediction, memory, fantasy, language, metaphor and instruction. Looking at diagrams can help us question scale, distance, proximity and imagined immunity that define our use of shared informational spaces. By proposing new conventions of connection, these diagrammatic movements hope to reinvigorate theories of picture and extend the possibilities of agency within them. The exposed, enacted, diagram is a trace of our collective efforts to articulate and negotiate that almost impossible circumstance—reality itself.

This presentation forms part of Ritchie’s ongoing project to explore the diagram as an essential mode of artistic practice and offers both an artist’s history of the diagram and a partial overview of its status, presence and use today. Variants of this project have been installed at the Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York, the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles and the Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Cork. A related text focusing specifically on Graham Harman’s diagram has been published in Realism Materialism Art (Bard CCA, 2015). An artist edition published by the Getty Research Institute is forthcoming.

Ritchie’s visit forms part of the Blaffer’s “Innovation Series,” which explores the role that the arts play in providing a bridge to widely different disciplines, and underscores the importance of cross-disciplinary dialogue.

Matthew Ritchieʼs (b. 1964) installations integrating painting, wall drawings, light boxes, performance, sculpture and moving image are investigations into the complex and transient nature of information. His works describe generations of systems, ideas and their subsequent interpretations in a kind of cerebral web, making ephemeral and intangible theories of information and time concrete. Ritchie has engaged in many cross-disciplinary collaborations, extending his own projects to explore the possibility of shared systems and aggregations in contexts as diverse as opera, contemporary music, architecture, horticulture, urban design, theology and science.

Ritchie’s work has been shown in numerous exhibitions worldwide, including the Whitney Biennial, the Sydney Biennial, the Sao Paulo Biennial, the Venice Architecture Biennale, the Seville Biennale and the Havana Biennale, and is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and other institutions worldwide, including a permanent large-scale installation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is currently a professor in the Graduate Visual Arts Program at Columbia University, New York.

Till Now: Contemporary Art in Context

Spring 2017

Matthew Ritchie
Surrender to the Diagram: Moving Towards a Complete Theory of Picture
A performance-lecture in collaboration with UH School of Art and College of Architecture and Design students
Thursday, March 2
5–6 pm in the atrium of the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design

Gloria Sutton
The Interrogative Imperative in Durational Media
Assistant Professor of Contemporary Art History and New Media, Northeastern University
Thursday, March 30
Reception 5-6:30 pm, Lecture 6:30 pm
Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design Theater

Harry Gamboa Jr.
Illusions of Urbanscape
Thursday, April 20
6:30 pm at the Jose Quintero Lab Theatre, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts (3351 Cullen Boulevard, UH Entrance 16)
Pre-performance reception from 5–6:30 pm at the Blaffer Art Museum


Gloria Sutton
Assistant Professor of Contemporary Art History and New Media, Northeastern University

Thursday, March 30
Reception 5–6:30 pm, Lecture 6:30 pm
Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design Theater

The Interrogative Imperative in Durational Media
Drawing on the recent record-setting survey of Pipilotti Rist’s work at the New Museum, Sutton’s talk presents a close reading of Rist’s work arguing that the distinction between analog and digital image media is not ontological, but rather scalular—registered in degrees and subject to increases in speed, volume and spread. The result is that distinct from those artists whose durational works remain in dialogue with the grammar of lens-based images (namely photography and film), Rist begins to outline the difficulties and interferences of new media—networks and software. Continuously working against the medium’s established commercial conventions for image refinement, sound synchrony, and material stability, Rist’s artworks revel in the format’s glitches, revealing the denigration of its quality controls. In doing so, her works offer a contemporary feminist methodology (not just replacing male protagonists with female ones) to counter the modernist notion of authorial mastery in contemporary art.

Gloria Sutton, author of The Experience Machine: Stan VanDerBeek’s Movie-Drome and Expanded Cinema (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015) is Assistant Professor of Contemporary Art History and New Media at Northeastern University. A Research Affiliate of the Art Culture and Technology Program at MIT, Sutton is the inaugural editor for Art Journal Open. Her current book project provisionally titled, Pattern Recognition: Durational Conditions of Contemporary Art, provides a critical analysis of the rise of network culture within visual art after 1989.

 

Harry Gamboa Jr.
Illusions of Urbanscape

Thursday, April 20
6:30 pm at the Jose Quintero Lab Theatre, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts (3351 Cullen Boulevard, UH Entrance 16)
Pre-performance reception from 5–6:30 pm at the Blaffer Art Museum

This event is free but tickets are required. Reserve your seat here.

“Los Angeles is built atop a desert creating a mirage of sophistication and mystique while primal activities take place beyond the scope of consciousness.” —Harry Gamboa Jr.

For more than forty years, Harry Gamboa Jr. has aimed his lens at the Los Angeles urbanscape exposing its subtle layering of codes, rules, and visual markers that contribute to making a sophisticated living space for millions of people. In this new performance lecture, Gamboa delves into the notion of myth in contemporary society with images and videos of his work. He discusses the various creations that he has directed with his current performance troupe, Virtual Vérité, and earlier works (1970s and 1980s) with Asco, the young and pioneering group of Chicano artists who produced new methods of art making in bold and public ways.

Often with a strong dose of subversive humor, many of Gamboa's works are publically staged narratives performed for still photography, video, and an immediate live audience. Most of the works are never announced beforehand nor advertised in any way and are usually presented via scholarly publications, mass media, the internet, and word-of-mouth. 

 Harry Gamboa Jr. is an artist, a writer, and an educator whose art has been exhibited in museums and art spaces throughout the U.S. and internationally. He is a faculty member of the Photography and Media Program at California Institute of the Arts.

This “Till Now” event is co-presented with the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts at the University of Houston as part of CounterCurrent, a free festival of performance, installation, and ideas.


Funding for Till Now: Contemporary Art in Context is generously provided by an Innovation Grant from the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts at the University of Houston.