February 24 - July 29, 2021
In simple terms, location is the place where a particular object exists. When an object is moved from one place in the museum to another, the museum curator would simply point out that it has been relocated. Relocation is the word used to describe moving from one place to another. Thus the title of the current exhibition.
Nick Lenker, Coyote, 2020, ceramic, custom ceramic decals, luster, epoxy, golf leaf, 14½ x 28 x 9¾ inches, ACAM 2020.22
This sounds quite straight forward. Objects on view in the most recent exhibition drawn from the Permanent Collection have been relocated within the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum gallery. However, this simple act of relocation frequently serves to change the perception of a given object often revealing new, complex and compelling readings.
Museum visitors may ask: “Has that piece been here all along? I didn’t notice it on my previous visit.” An individual’s view and perception of a single work of art can certainly be influenced by its location, the work next to it or by the sequence of works preceding it. The surrounding space can be a very important factor as well. An object placed in a compressed space might read very differently from the same object placed in a generous surrounding space. Height in a particular situation can be very important, particularly in relation to the viewer’s body type. As objects move up in space from the floor or gravitational ground of the presentation space, their presence changes. The relation to gravity shifts as an object is placed below, at or above eye level. This results in different readings - objective, subjective and psychological. This fact is part of the phenomena of experience, which tells us that individuals read works of art with the body as well as visually. As objects are experienced an empathic engagement is commonly intuited between object and viewer, but perhaps not always cognitively recognized on the part of the viewer. Recollection of a work of art may be fixed in memory in relation to how or where it was seen. Its impact and perhaps its meaning may, in fact, be fundamentally an issue of placement in the space and time. I once visited a collector who owned a Jackson Pollack painting. It was installed on the ceiling. Jackson Pollack created his famous paintings by dripping paint as he moved across the canvas situated on the floor. I remember, vividly, the experience of lying on the floor to see the painting.
It comes as no surprise that what we see is a product of what we are thinking prior to looking. What or how we see may be affected by who is visiting the museum with us - what our conversations are like. Additionally, what a visitor reads about an exhibition ahead of time may impact how objects are seen, felt and understood.
To get the most from a museum visit, it is best to always take the opportunity to experience works of art without thought -- without the fear of not knowing. In so doing, it is possible to allow for a direct, unguarded encounter with the reveal the art has to offer - to become receptive to the deep disclosure held within the ideas, materials and processes of art. In essence, art is what it reveals and there is particular as well as universal meaning housed within. Art is not the backdrop that tries to explain it.
Relocation is dedicated to the students, faculty and staff of Alfred University. Many of them have seen the previous installation of the Permanent Collection and have over time, no doubt, seen numerous pieces in the Museum collection. One of the wonderful things about having an art museum on a campus populated by so many artists and lovers of art is that frequent, return engagements with known works is possible. Numerous viewing's deepen insight and appreciation.
Professor of Ceramic Art
The Wayne Higby Director and Chief Curator
Alfred Ceramic Art Museum