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Culture & Religion

Work in Progress

One of the biggest criticisms of contemporary art is that it has no connection to the community. These works seemingly exist in a vacuum with no ties to the people who may not necessarily consider themselves art lovers. With its NEW FRONTIERS: Series for Contemporary Art, the Oklahoma City Museum of Artlooks to bring contemporary art to the contemporary public, beginning with the work of New York City-based sculptor Jason Peters in Jason Peters, Anti.Gravity.Material.Light.

Peters works with the materials at hand to create fascinating works that glimmer and twist as if alive, such as the 2008 sculptures shown. What makes this exhibition especially exciting is that Peters will not only create new sculptures especially for the installation, but will also be working for a month with local students to create the art. Known for sometimes working with trash, Peters will create treasures that exist not just for the moment of the exhibition, but will live on in the imaginations of the students he includes in the process. “People encounter such installations as a speed bump in their perceived reality,” Peters has written in explanation of his art. “Once the installation is removed, the memory of that ‘bump’ is a lingering consciousness of the limitations we impose when restricting reality to face value alone.” Anti.Gravity.Material.Light asks us to slow down in the race of our lives and look behind the scenery surrounding us to the deeper truths. Like much contemporary art, Peters’ work pushes against old boundaries and, if you will, finds new frontiers of consciousness, awakening us to witness whole new purposes to everyday materials that may inspire us to find whole new purposes to our everyday lives. Taken to a metaphorical extreme, each of our lives is an installation—a temporary work of art—that lives on afterwards, if at all, only in the memory of others. Such ideas are not purely contemporary—they’re timeless—but contemporary art at its best makes us ponder them best—in the here and now.

“NEW FRONTIERS underscores the Museum’s commitment to the art-of-our-time and complements the 19th- and 20th-century collections of American and European art on view in the Museum’s galleries,” explains Oklahoma City Museum of Art Director Glen Gentele. “It is important for the Museum to include living artists in its broad exhibition and education programs, and we look forward to further community enrichment and actively engaging audiences in thought-provoking experiences of art, through NEW FRONTIERS.” I’m as guilty as anyone of gravitating to the next Picasso or Renoir exhibition. Those artists and others like them work on such a deep level that we can never reach the bottom of their greatness. However, in an age when big-ticket exhibitions with the big-name stars seem the only means of survival for museums, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art reminds us that art lives in the present (and future) as well as in the past and belongs to us as a community, a nation, and a planet. In a courageous and necessary move, they show us the work of art in process—unfamiliar, unfinished, and undeniably exciting.

[Image: Sculpture by Jason Peters from 2008.]

[Many thanks to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art for providing me with the image above for the exhibition Jason Peters, Anti.Gravity.Material.Light, which runs fromJanuary 28 through April 11, 2010.]


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