Recreate history

Three solo artists rehash classical art

From parenthood to 3D printers and the regeneration of life, three solo artists are premiering collections that stem from completely different inspirations. 

Actual Contemporary is presenting the work of Grace Nickel, Erica Mendritzki and Ian August to kick off its third season of programming on Jan. 22. 

“I’m very happy to be showing alongside strong artists,” Nickel says. “Actual Contemporary has a real knack for pulling together artists whose work is completely different, but possesses a common thread. In this case, all three artists make reference to classical art.” 

Actual Contemporary, located at 300 Ross St., is a gallery that presents contemporary art to local and national audiences while fostering an appreciation for the style. 

Nickel will show Arbor Vitae, a body of work that includes unusually large porcelain forms, among other pieces, that stem from Nickel’s exploration of new technologies and processes. 

“I want people to leave with a feeling that they’ve seen something they haven’t seen before,” Nickel says. “(Arbor Vitae) reflects on the circular nature of existence and experience, and the cycle of loss and regeneration.” 

Nickel hopes the work gives viewers the sense that ceramics can “communicate and contribute to a cultural dialogue, addressing relevant personal, social and political issues.” 

Mendritzki is presenting Planned Parenthood, which also touches on social, primarily feminist, issues. 

“I made this body of work while thinking through some of the philosophical and practical problems that confront female artists,” Mendritzki says. 

Looking back on the history of art and ideas, she says the art created by men was more readily available and that’s a hard fact to face as a female artist. 

“How do we place ourselves within this masculine lineage?” Mendritzki says. “One of the things I did in making this work was try to adopt that lineage and make it my own – to plan my own parents, so to speak.” 

Planned Parenthood exhibits drawings of historic sculptures paired with rough textures. Mendritzki says it’s representative of the dissonant and surreal relationships found in the drawings. 

The third gallery, Plunder Dupes, is also a reference to pre-existing art. 

Using household items as sculpture materials, August recreated some of the artifacts that went missing from The Iraq Museum during the U.S. invasion in 2003. 

After making the sculptures, he painted still lifes of them on canvas. Both forms of the project will be on display at Actual Contemporary. 

“With the information I did find online, I tried to recreate those objects so that there would be a record for the world,” August says. “And I tried to do them as faithfully as I could to like the size and all the details.” 

In capturing the artifacts as sculptures, August hopes to have his version of the missing antiques available as a design to 3D print so everyone can enjoy. 

“I plan to have it printed on a 3D printer so that the objects can live on,” August says. “I have a kid and she plays with a toy phone and she’s not even going to know what a real phone looks like. Objects can get forgotten real quick.”

Published in Volume 70, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 21, 2016)

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