An archive of nonperishable cultural sustenance from friends around the world.
In our latest installment of Shelf Life, current Nasher Public artist, Vicki Meek, sends along a thoughtful essay on the influences on her decade’s long career focused on social justice for the Black community, a show called Stony the Road We Trod, on view January 7 – February 14, 2021. Taking its title from a lyric of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” the Black national anthem, Vicki Meek’s installation offers a contemporary shrine dedicated to the Black community. Drawing upon the culture of Yoruba belief, Adinkra symbols of Ghana, and other metaphorical elements, Meek has transformed the Nasher Store Gallery into an uplifting space of healing and encouragement. Previously, in 2013, Meek was part of Nasher XChange, the city-wide public art exhibition celebrating the Nasher’s tenth anniversary, and currently she is the subject of a career retrospective at Dallas’s African American Museum.
Artist Matthew Ronay’s vibrant, small-scale wooden sculptures cull from the vocabularies of organic things—flora and fauna from land and sea, human anatomy, and water systems. Fantastical architectures find form, too—gateways and towers—in the artist’s technicolor array of soft-curved and intricately honed formations. In 2022, the Nasher will present an exhibition of Ronay’s work, and so we checked in with him and to see what he’s been researching and considering these days. His list herewith is as visually and conceptually intelligent as the objects he makes with his hands, and just as wildly layered.
Over the last ten years, writer and freelance arts, culture, and travel journalist, Julie Baumgardner, has covered the scene in her native New York, as well as reported on the cultural nooks and crannies of far flung places, from a treehouse hotel in Africa to the off-the-radar wheelings and dealings of Asia, for publications like Bloomberg, Fodor’s, New York Magazine, the New York Times, and Wall Street Journal. She’s also offered her witty and incisive voice for our very own The Nasher magazine, where she reported on the rise of small-scale art fairs in 2017. For her Shelf Life entry, Baumgardner delivers a rich list of influences and thematic collections that propose nuanced and dimensional ways of becoming better citizens not just of the art world, but of the REAL one. Part Dorothy Parker, part Tina Fey, Baumgardner’s tour of her quarantine mind is a goldmine.
Dallas-based artist Xxavier Edward Carter is one of the artists invited to participate in Nasher Windows, a series of exhibitions on view in the entrance windows of the museum while it is closed. Carter’s work culls from “personal interactions, media bombardment, observed and lived experiences, and material excess/waste influence” pointing towards “a complex revolutionary promise.” He sends along this Shelf Life list that recommends an array of cultural material for a world in need of an array of healing.
It’s fitting that art historian Ann Reynolds is an expert in archival research of 21st century art and visual culture, as she sends this Shelf Life list, adding to this record of our cultural consumption at this moment.
In 2016, during the presidential election, American artist Kathryn Andrews presented the exhibition Run for President at the Nasher, which considered the circus-like absurdities of the American political system and its close ties, actual and imaginative, with the entertainment industry. While it seemed certainly prescient then, four years later Andrew’s work is even more of a bell clanging out a warning about the state of the nation. We checked in with her to see what she’s been thinking about during this time of lockdown and digital consumption, and she sent along these thoughts.
Artist Tom Burr, whose decades-long body of work considers built spaces and their particular histories, offers this deeply felt and insightful collection of readings on the current pandemic crisis. With a historian’s sensibility for the long view, Burr’s list looks to what this moment means for the future’s experience of shared but intimate place.
Icelandic artist Egill Sæbjörnsson is a friend to Dallas, having presented an immersive video work here last year as part of Soluna Festival, in partnership with the Dallas Art Fair, an extension of his 2017 Venice Biennale presentation for the Icelandic Pavilion, complete with lecherous but hilarious trolls. For Shelf Life, he sends this heartfelt and generous dispatch.
Earlier this year, full of vim and vigor and after a year of planning, the artist-curator team of Finn Jubak and May Makki helped launch a space called the RISO Bar, dedicated entirely to the Risograph, a printing process that’s like, let’s say, a cross between screen printing and a photocopier. Housed in the Pollock Gallery at Southern Methodist University, Riso Bar was briefly the vibrant hub of self-publishing activity and book presentation before everything shut down in March: “a collaborative exhibition that engages with the vast riso network, exploring the risograph’s potential as a tool for learning and experimentation.” Since then, Jubak and Makki have deftly pivoted the Riso Bar online, with hopes of an IRL presentation again soon. They send herewith a list of their favorite recent risograph publications.
Seth Knopp, dear friend to the Nasher and Artistic Director of the museum’s highly acclaimed chamber music series Soundings, has lately been encamped in Putney, Vermont, where he is also Artistic Director of Yellow Barn, an influential chamber music center. While the pandemic lockdown led to the cancellation of a much-anticipated Soundings concert with Sylvia Milo this month, this Shelf Life list from Seth—sent in daily installments and full of deeply felt meditations on nature and his craft—is music to our ears.
Artist and writer Kendra Greene is a fixture at the Nasher Sculpture Center where she often leads artist workshops and is a favorite of the Nasher Education team and visitors alike, as well as frequent guest at institutions throughout the country. With a deep well of insight into the many ways museums function within culture, Greene recently turned her eye to the quixotic museum collections throughout Iceland in a book called The Museum of Whales You Will Never See and Other Excursions to Iceland’s Most Unusual Museums, just published with Penguin Books. In celebration of the book’s launch, we asked Greene to give us a sense of what else is keeping her occupied during this time of quarantine. No surprise, she’s sent this beautiful collection of thoughts.
The Nasher’s unofficial in-house comedian, Curator of Education Anna Smith, is also the mother of toddler twins. During these long days of juggling the creation of ever-greener digital education content for the museum with the rearing of her daughters, Smith has deployed the classic American in-house babysitter to help: Sesame Street. In her Shelf Life list, Smith juggles two more things: brilliant armchair TV critic and bartender. Cheers!
When the pandemic hit and lockdown was enforced, Dallas artists Jeff Gibbons and Gregory Ruppe, curators of a small subterranean space in The Power Station called CultureHole, snapped into action, developing a new digital arm of their curatorial endeavor: CultureHole TV was born. For it, Gibbons and Ruppe have asked artists to submit short videos that describe this particular moment in time, offering imaginative perspectives from around the world. To get a sense of what Gibbons and Ruppe are themselves thinking about just now, they sent along this thoughtful dispatch.
Dallas artist and urban farmer, Cynthia Mulcahy, has changed the way Dallas understands its natural spaces and its dedication to the community’s use of them. Mulcahy’s recent fly-poster publication, A Field Guide of Fauna of Dallas, Texas, catalogues the wildlife of her hometown—Tawny Emperor butterflies, White Ibis, Wood Storks and more—through a series of watercolors and attendant research. From her Edenic garden here for Shelf Life, Mulcahy cleverly reflects upon the role nature plays in city life and the ways she has found new meaning in her environs, both in the landscape and the mind.
Scottish writer and curator, Gavin Morrison, director of a storied art center in eastern Iceland, delivers a quixotic list that offers various modes of escape during these shelter-in-place days.
Artist and author Darryl Lauster reflects on three books in which he finds new meaning after these months spent in quarantine.
English teacher turned award-winning food critic, Eve Hill-Agnus, reflects on the meter of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s nature poetry, which strikes a new chord in her during this strange spring spent in isolation. And with ever a love of beautiful food on her heart, Hill-Agnus looks to certain cookbooks for colorful inspiration while she spends her days cooking for herself and dyeing fabric using the shibori method.
Writer, editor, and sometimes The Nasher magazine contributor, Stephanie Madewell, sends word of quarantine life from Cleveland, Ohio. An avid reader and lover of nature, Madewell’s Shelf Life list roams through books about heroic swimmers to a look at an 18th century bon vivant, with detours into Google’s annals of images of insects, the growth of mushrooms, and Louise Bourgeois drinking Coca-Cola.
Frieze magazine’s Associate Editor Evan Moffitt sends a Shelf life list about voyeurism, mystery, and levity in works by Georges Perec, Chantal Akerman, Ottessa Moshfegh, and others, including two Instagram-famous animated lizards.
Playwright Will Arbery--shining young light of the New York theater scene and a recent Whiting Award winner (and Dallas native)--dispatches a Shelf Life list that has him waxing nostalgic over a boyhood love of movies and poetry, and freshly considering a certain photograph of Giacometti and Beckett.
New York-based artist Arlene Shechet—who currently has a show in Pace Gallery’s viewing room while the gallery is shuttered—sent this little ditty of a list, covering the full range of human feeling just now, from death to the erotic. Shechet has even contributed a humorous and totally endearing short mediation video that’s feels like a lesson in how to look at sculpture.
Artist and Nasher staffer, Rachel Rushing, is spending her time in isolation thinking of what it means to work—as an artist, as a citizen, and as a steward of nature—with this rich and tangled reading list that includes the likes of artists and educators Michelle Grabner and Pablo Helguera to Henry David Thoreau and Charlotte Bronte.
True to form, Dallas Morning News architecture critic and biographer of Philip Johnson, Mark Lamster, is reading a lot about what makes or breaks a built place. He’s also taking delight, in this moment of being home and still, in the speed of car racing and the thrill of crime shows, as well as the creativity that comes from a fugue state.
New York-based artist Cheryl Donegan shares her reading list of histories of slavery in America. “It’s been a bracing course of study,” she says.
Nasher Curator Catherine Craft, quarantined in New York, sends home a list of research materials, as well as a hearty roster of sofa entertainment.
Among other things, Tyler Green, author and host of the Modern Art Notes podcast, is reflecting on the fourth and fifth century hermit, Saint Jerome, the patron of librarians, translators, and encyclopedists. Also, women’s soccer and tennis.
Will Evans, stalwart literary advocate and publisher of Deep Vellum books, is the go-to guy for all things book-related and has a slew of new ones for consideration, and even admits to watching some TV during quarantine.
Dallas’s Zac Crain, Senior Editor at D Magazine, dispatches beautiful moments from his daily walks, recommends some honest books, and preaches the benefits of good old-fashioned longhand writing.
Randy Kennedy, Hauser & Wirth Gallery’s Director of Special Projects and Editor in Chief of Ursula magazine (as well as author of the outstanding novel Presidio), suggests some literary and art world treasures made by people dwelling outside the realm of human contact.