The Utah Museum of Contemporary Art opens its 2019 exhibition schedule on Jan. 25 with a multi-artist show that challenges the stereotype of suburbia as the ultimate ideal lifestyle, a tongue-in-cheek exploration of the ways in which people indulge in self-medication, and experimental artistic videos that compel the viewer to look at mundane situations and commonplace objects in a surprisingly different way.
In addition, there are exhibitions of paintings that portray neighborhoods as warm, inviting states of being, and works highlighting moral messages that are the undercurrents of classic superheroes stories.
SHADY ACRES (MAIN GALLERY): JAN. 25 – MAY 25
The exhibition considers the long-term effects of American suburbanization within the larger context of issues of urban density, homelessness, and outdated infrastructure in disrepair. Shady Acres is the culminating show in a triptych of exhibitions at UMOCA that comprise the relevant community and environmental spaces in their totality.
The first two, respectively, focused on landscapes as well as urban centers and downtown areas. Works of 10 artists will be on display: Albert Gray, Chris Buck, Eric Edvalson, Erick Michaud, Jason Manley, Kelsey Harrison, Paige Turner-Uribe, Tamara Johnson, Aili Schmeltz, Daniel Granitto, Jared Lindsay Clark and Whitney Bushman.
MIKE SIMI: GETTIN’ BY (STREET GALLERY): JAN. 25 – MAY 11
Gettin’ By is a tongue-in-cheek exploration by artist Mike Simi, who explores the various ways in which people indulge in self-medication, as might be marked by class and economy. In addition to the show’s sly winks and self-effacing humor, Simi’s artistic approach blurs the boundaries between self-representation and objecthood in ways that deny their existence in either realm. The approach is manifested, for example, in a sculpture of a pair of Tylenol PM pills fashioned to scale. Other representations show cast pitchers of Miller High Life beer and Bloody Mary cocktails.
“You are more likely to consider something once you’ve laughed at it,” Simi, says. “My work takes the world around us out of context, forcing a quiet spin on a predictable reaction. It creates a diffusion layer between one’s personal experience and the generic nature of branding, language, and imagery.
In particular, this body of work attempts to question the poetics of interaction – presenting everyday experience in a way that contradicts everyday expectation.”
GREG CALDWELL: NEIGHBORHOOD (PROJECTS GALLERY): JAN. 25 – MARCH 16
Caldwell, a Provo-based artist, ponders the connotation of neighborhood as a title or state of being not unlike more conventional terms such as sainthood, parenthood, or knighthood. His paintings portray people as neighbors, being neighborly, or being happy and at peace. The theme also encompasses kindness, friendship and relationships of safety, security, comfort, and trust among neighbors.
As a counterpoint to the Shady Acres exhibit, Caldwell conveys a warm ideal of suburbia, where people wave and say “hello”, give apples as gifts to each other, or are simply comfortable walking around with a cup of water in their hand. The people use simple movements and gestures, while other symbols of houses, airplanes, the sun, stars, and cars can be readily understood by children and adults alike.
LENKA CLAYTON: UNDER THESE CONDITIONS (CODEC GALLERY): JAN. 25 – MAY 11
For three years, Lenka Clayton was the world’s first Artist-in-Residence-in-Motherhood after she founded a self-directed artist residency that took place inside her own home and life as a mother of two young children.
On Mother’s Day 2016 she launched Artist-in-Residence-in-Motherhood as an open-source project. There are currently over 600 Artists-in-Residence-in-Motherhood in 41 countries.
In Clayton’s Under These Conditions, she deconstructs and then reconstructs routine situations and commonplace objects that take on new meanings that may not have been previously evident to its viewer. For Driving Home, a three-minute whimsical video, she uses a portable 1957 Smith-Corona Skyriter typewriter that uses the left-to-right movement to draw her way home. She accomplishes this with hyphens, carets and backslashes that become roads, trees, and houses that pass by while looking out the window.
In the video series, The Distance I Can Be From My Son, Clayton tests the comfort level of both mother and child while measuring the distance between them. She attempts to objectively measure the furthest distance she can be from her son in a variety of environments, including a city park, back alley, and supermarket.
Questions that become significant in the video series include: At what point does the child feel the urge to return to the mother and when does the mother run after the child? and When are you both OK with letting go?
JACOB HAUPT: ULTRA FORCE (AIR SPACE): JAN. 25 – MARCH 3
Jacob Haupt works with photography, video, and sculpture. His work employs pop culture as both metaphor and mirror for addressing the tragedy of becoming an adult.
He also participates in UMOCA’s Artist-in-Residence program, where he created Ultra Force, which is a bootleg Power Rangers/Super Sentai team. The exhibition focuses on how superheroes spend their days off or what would they do if all of the villains were eliminated.
Haupt says that shows about superheroes sometimes include cheesy messages, but these morals tend to take a backseat to epic battles. By focusing on these messages, the “force” in Ultra Force encompasses friendship, kindness, teamwork, and other overlooked superpowers.
UMOCA will hold a reception on opening night of the exhibits, Jan. 25, at 7 p.m., 20 S. West Temple. Admission is a suggested $5 donation. Hours are Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Friday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Photo courtesy of artist Chris Buck: “Suburban Smokers” – Shady Acres exhibit