Hang In There at the Co-Prosperity Sphere | Art opening
Beyond the commercial realm of tapes, books and inspirational posters, some of the most meaningful forms of motivation are tailor-made. Whether creating a list, mantra or encouraging note to self, we integrate custom motivational tools into our daily lives and yet seldom speak of them. That's what makes the theme of Hang in There—a group show curated by Jason Lazarus—so intriguing: Personal techniques, riffs and rituals go public as 45+ artists from around the country respond to what motivates them and their art practice.
Perhaps it was this positive premise or the crowd buzzing with post-work-week energy, but at the June 17 opening reception, the Co-Prosperity Sphere in Bridgeport sparkled a little brighter than usual. Behind their sleek wooden bar, the guys of Hornswaggler (an art-meets-commerce experiment, in which drink sales aid the purchase of artwork) served hand-crafted cocktails like Earl Grey-infused vodka and lemon- and sage-infused gin with tonic. At a nearby table, exhibition catalogues, including essays by Lazarus, Corinna Kirsch and Nicholas Wylie, were available for purchase.
Mounted on an adjacent wall, legal pads with the Sharpie-scrawled directive "MAKE THE WORK" provided gallerygoers with takeaway inspiration courtesy of Aspen Mays. Columns of empty, crinkled Domino Sugar bags climbed up another wall in All My American Sugar (2007), an unlikely monument to productivity and identity by Czech-born artist Jan Tichy who studied in Israel and lives in Chicago. Visitors could challenge their own climbing abilities in Aron Gent's Grip, Tip, Slip (2011), a rock climbing wall installed inside the Co-Prosperity Sphere. Climbers were instructed to ring a bell upon completion, a "mission accomplished" indicator that resounded throughout the gallery.
Noelle Mason's abstract photographs, Between the illusion of immortality and the fact of death (2011), were taken with a pinhole camera while skydiving. Lofty title notwithstanding, these hauntingly beautiful images convey the unexpected rewards of risk-taking more effectively than any inspirational poster. While these photographs look down from the heavens, Sara Schnadt's performance and sculpture, Making the Case, reached skyward. Clipping together paper airplanes on an illuminated plinth, she erected a delicate tower recalling the aspirational, precarious gestures that define an art practice.
The Hang in There opening incorporated other types of performance as well, including live motivational music. Joan of Arc broke into the recognizable bassline of Queen and David Bowie's "Under Pressure"—and repeated that line over and over incessantly (for what felt like 40 minutes but was probably 15). An impressive display of focus on the band's part, the performance created a scenario where the musicians could've caved to audience pressure and finished out the song, but instead plodded along on their mission.
Staying the course is a motivating idea indeed. In curating this sprawling show, Lazarus’ aim was for artists' ideas and gestures to radiate outward, for participants to not simply “MAKE THE WORK” but "begin to reinvigorate a notion of motivation" that continues well beyond the exhibition.
There's much more to see in Hang in There. Hours by appointment through July 2. To schedule a viewing, email firstname.lastname@example.org