Featuring Artists: Bob Braine, Mark Dion, Kelly Kaczynski, and Nari Ward
Presented by: the Main Line Art Center
Curated by: Denise Markonish
Past Presence: Contemporary Reflections on the Main Line will present four newly commissioned works by nationally-known artists, Bob Braine, Mark Dion, Kelly Kaczynski, and Nari Ward. From April 24 through October 22, 2004, the four artistsí large-scale, temporary, outdoor installations will be on view in Lower Merion Township. These artists develop artworks based on their personal and the publicís interaction with a communityís material culture and social history. They all re-contextualize the past in a dialogue with both contemporary art and society.
Each of the four artists choose specific aspects of the Main Lineís history and environment to focus on, including Braineís exploration of the Mill Creek drainage basin, Dionís re-creation of an 18th cemetery dedicated to Philadelphiaís noted naturalists, Kaczynskiís examination of the milestones once used to mark distance and location, and Wardís investigation into the material culture of the Main Line collected from local yard sales. The finished projects contain within them aspects of history however, they will also be infused with the more recent history of their own making.
An accompanying exhibition of the artistsí proposals and other project specific work will be on view at the Main Line Art Center from April 16 through May 16, 2004. For more information on this project visit www.mainlineart.org or call the Main Line Art Center at 610/525-0272.
High Swamp of Lower Merion is a monument to an extinct condition of landscape and topography. To echo both past and presence and show the divide between the natural and the built environment, this work presents both the native and the invasive species of Lower Merionís ecology. The installation will be located in Austin Park, along† Lancaster Avenue, on the edge of the drainage basin of Mill Creek. The artwork consists of a utility-style tower on top of which will be a shallow tray divided into two sections. On one side of the tray will be a selection of the indigenous vegetation characteristic of the original marshy area found at the top of the Mill Creek watershed, and on the other side, a selection of the non-native plants that have successfully colonized and in most areas displaced the indigenous plants.
Mark Dionís artwork consists of a cemetery with 8-10 headstones surrounded by a dry stone wall created in the spirit of historic 18th Century cemeteries still found in the Lower Merion area. Dionís work represents an "ideal cemetery" including monuments to all the great 18th Century naturalists who once lived in Philadelphia and collected specimens in Lower Merion. These notables include Charles Wilson Peale, John James Audubon, and Alexander Wilson among others. The headstones in Dionís cemetery will not reproduce these naturalists existing stones, rather Dion will write witty new epitaphs that reference the cemetery residentís connection to Lower Merion. The work will be sited next to the Ludington Library.
This project will use the language of the construction or utility work-site to highlight the presence of 14 historic milestones located in Lower Merion Township while at the same time referencing the topography of the area. Originally set in the mid to late 1700s, the milestones were used to expedite postal service along roads going west from Philadelphia. By sighting the markers, postmen, tradesmen, and travelers understood how many miles they needed to travel towards their destination. At the same time, the milestones served as identifiers for specific locations like the Merion Friends Meeting House and the Price House.
At each of the 14 milestones, Kaczynski will construct pseudo work-sites that also relate to characteristics of the Lower Merion landscape by combining built environments with fabricated construction materials such as plywood, gravel, construction cones, etc. Within any social community, be it urban or rural, the construction and utility work-site is a visible beacon. This beacon attracts awareness which ultimately enhances caution and curiosity. Kaczynskiís 14 beacons will highlight the milestones, the notion of distance, as well as the markings of the landscape.
Great American Revival explores ideas of material culture and the personal histories that surround objects. Ward started out by visiting Lower Merion yard sales throughout the summer and fall of 2003, buying various objects and interviewing their sellers. Wardís finished project takes as its inspiration the spectacle of American consumer culture and the religious revival movement. The artist will erect a large revival-style tent near Wynnewood Train Station. Contained within the tent will be a circular room made from strung beads inside of which will be the collected yard sale objects suspended in a spectacular display. This visual experience will be accompanied by audio tracks of Wardís interviews with yard sale sellers. A quilt of un-stuffed dolls, also collected in Lower Merion, will cover the ceiling of this carnival-like display. The artwork can be experienced from a circle of chairs arranged inside the tent. In Great American Revival, viewers stand as witnesses to the objects and the stories that evoke the past and presence of Lower Merion residents.
The Main Line Art Center promotes the appreciation of the arts and the growth of diverse audiences by offering a variety of high quality programs and instruction. The center offers affordable and accessible classes, workshops, exhibitions, lectures, trips, and outreach programs that support the development of visual artists of all ages and abilities.
For more information on this project call the Main Line Art Center at 610/525-0272 OR visit the Main Line Art Centerís website after February 1, 2004 at www.mainlineart.org.