Feature Articles

August 2013

Artspace in Raleigh, NC, Offers Works by Maureen Cummins, JJ Jiang, and Nsenga Knight

Artspace, a non-profit visual art center in downtown Raleigh, NC, will present several new exhibits including: Accounts, by Summer Artist-in-Residence Maureen Cummins, on view in Gallery 1, from Aug. 2 through Sept. 7, 2013. An exhibition Sneak Preview & Discussion with Maureen Cummins will be held on Aug. 1, from 6-7:30pm; Figurative Works, featuring works by JJ Jiang, on view in the Upfront Gallery, from Aug. 2 - 31. 2013. A reception will be held on Aug. 2, from 6-10pm; and Ritual and Revolution, featuring works by Nsenga Knight, on view in the Artspace Lobby gallery, from Aug. 2 - 31, 2013. A reception will be held on Aug. 2, from 6-10pm and an artist’s talk on Aug. 15, from 6-7:30pm

Accounts will present half a dozen select artist books by Maureen Cummins, made over the past twenty years, including new works created within the past year and during her residency at Artspace.

Cummins released a new limited edition artist book, Accounting, in 2012. In it, she incorporated antique business ledgers into many of the works to connect human accounts with financial ones. She uses this framework to tell stories about oppressive economic systems with original, first-person testimonies.

Cummins’ artist books are strongly influenced by her interest in books, history, and the social construction of knowledge. She often works with found printed matter, making use of original photographs, documents, and everyday ephemera to create new meanings. In her words, “I employ beauty–in the form of sensuous material, compelling imagery, and centuries-old craft techniques–to draw the reader/viewer in to histories that are painful and difficult.”

While at Artspace, Cummins will work on a new, limited-edition book, entitled Bestiary that will explore the relationship between “autistic” and “artistic.” The book will incorporate, with her own words, drawings and collages, drawings and stories by her son Quinn, who is on the autism spectrum. Bestiary will also investigate the experience of being viewed as different, strange, or exotic.

Cummins graduated from Cooper Union, New York, NY, with a BFA in 1985. She has produced over 30 book editions and has worked from California to the Eastern Arctic. She received a Pollock-Krasner grant in 2009, the Pyramic Atlantic Book Fair Critics Award in 2008 for Anatomy of Insanity, and received a special opportunity grant from the New York State Council of the Arts to study with Master Binder Daniel Kelm in 2007. Her experience with teaching and working residencies is international and deep, and Artspace is thrilled to host her this summer.

Artspace Artists Association member JJ Jiang exhibits a small selection of his drawings and watercolors of the human figure in the Upfront Gallery in his exhibition Figurative Works. He has chosen the work with care from pieces he has created over the past decade. Connecting figure study with its long history in art, Jiang delved into drawing and painting the human form because he had not yet mastered it in his professional training.

Jiang’s work coincides with a national rise in interest in the past decade of strengthening the ability to classically represent the human form, resulting in realist ateliers, including that of Stephen Early, based in Philadelphia, PA, at the Studio Incamminati, and Robert Liberace, based in Alexandria, VA. Both Early and Liberace will visit Artspace to teach workshops in 2013.

Artspace and Jiang both host live figure drawing sessions on a regular basis. Artspace hosts life drawing every Tuesday night from 7:30 to 10pm. Jiang hosts it at his studio, the Village Art Circle, in downtown Cary, each Monday from 12:30 to 3:30pm. For more info, visit (www.villageartcircle.com).

Jiang was born in China, and trained as an architect and architectural historian with professional degrees from both the US and China. He practiced architecture and taught architectural design and history. He is a signature member of the Watercolor Society of North Carolina and is a juried member of Artspace Artists Association in Raleigh. Jiang currently resides both in Cary and Oriental, NC, the state he regards as full of natural wonders and inspiration.

Regional Emerging Artist-in-Residence (REAR) Nsenga Knight will exhibit her work in a solo exhibition, Ritual and Revolution, as a conclusion of her six-month residency at Artspace. This concept-driven artist explores abstraction and conceptual art in a range of media as they inform and coincide with traditional Islamic Art. Knight is interested in how Muslim art and culture can be misrepresented and misunderstood in Western culture, and she uses photography, drawing, painting, performance and video to explore the ways.

Knight’s work explores concepts including unity in multiplicity, repetition, and transformation of forms. An identical twin, Knight developed an interest in multiples that appear similar but have distinctions. The seriality expresses itself with systems, like those made historic by Conceptual American artist Sol Lewitt (1928 – 2007).

Knight used her residency to continue working on her Last Rite project, which is “an interdisciplinary visual art project whose narrative pivots between Malcom X’s pilgrimage to Mecca in 1964 (his fulfillment of his last religious duty) and his funeral rites – the final ritual regarding his physical presence on earth.”

In a series of new drawings, Knight stencils words excerpted from the book Hajj (The Pilgrimage) by Dr. Ali Shariati. She layers the quotes and produces each set in a series of four, painted in oil stick and mixed media. The order of text, and direction it is written in, follows a system. One layer is top to bottom, left to right, with every other line going upside down; another layer is in a circular direction. In one series of four, the first layer of text is painted in white, and the next layer in black; in another series, the first layer is black, the next layer white. In one evocative iteration, the first layer is black, and the next layer is done with olive oil, so the stenciled letters are partially transparent and take some of the black oil paint from the first layer of words.

Among the quotes are “as a butterfly who encircles the candle until it burns, its ashes are gone with the wind, disappearing in love and dying in light.” Whether the words quote the Koran itself or Shariati’s text, the language demonstrates the complexity and beauty inherent in Islamic culture, and ways in which contemporary visual art can help others learn more about it.

Knight has a MFA in Photography and Cinema Studies from the University of Pennsylvania and a BA in Film Production from Howard University. Her recent exhibitions include The First Year, Galveston Arts Center, Galveston, TX, Muslim Voices of Philadelphia, International House, Philadelphia, PA, and Reading with Jamal Cyrus, New Museum, New York, NY.

Artspace is a nonprofit visual art center dedicated to providing arts education and community outreach programs, creating an environment of more than 100 professional artists and presenting nationally acclaimed exhibitions. Located in downtown Raleigh in the historic Sanders Ford building, Artspace has been providing the community with the opportunity to interact with working artists and to participate in hands-on arts education since 1986.

For further information check our NC Institutional Gallery listings, call the center at 919.821.2787 or visit (www.artspacenc.org).

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