A CALL TO ACTION
EXHIBITION IN ARIZONA
Text and Images Courtesy of Lisa Sette Gallery
Above: Ann Morton Blue MAGA, 2020, Official “Donald J. Trump Make American Great Again Hat – Red Red Cap / Red”, blue embroidery floss, 8” w x 10.5” deep x 6″ high.
The color blue is a latecomer among hues; ancient peoples in Arizona and around the world created the first known artistic expressions in marks of ochre, brown and yellow—colors that could be quickly obtained from the earth. Enduring and effective blue pigments are a product of generations of human experimentation, resulting from processes formulated by natural philosophers and artists from diverse cultures and traditions. When blue pigment did finally enter the story of human expression, its cultural and spiritual impact was unprecedented. Aquamarine, cobalt, and indigo arrived like a miracle, changing the nature of artistic and cultural expression, suggesting the brilliance of the sky, and embodying human aspiration.
Blue, a timely exhibition opening this fall at Lisa Sette Gallery, traces the significance of the color blue in art history, while drawing from it a powerful metaphor for the politics of our time. The exhibition was conceived before the coronavirus pandemic, and was set to open in September, 2020, ahead of the presidential election. At the opening reception, now delayed until we can gather in a smart and safe manner, there will be a voter registration table for those wishing to register or update their information.
The color blue becomes an agent of change, in both its physical manifestation and in the political philosophy that it represents—and Lisa Sette, the gallery’s founder, sees Arizona as a state on the verge of transformation. All of the artists in Blue are from Arizona, or have a strong connection to the state.
“Blue is a color, an emotion, a state of mind and,
like our population, it continues to evolve.
Now, for us, it is a call to action.” – Lisa Sette
Including works by Merryn Omotayo Alaka & Sam Fresquez, Máximo González, Valerie Hammond, Chris Jagmin, Alan Bur Johnson, Yves Klein, Michael Koerner, Mayme Kratz, Annie Lopez, Michael Lundgren, Matt Magee, Carrie Marill, and Ann Morton, Blue traces the color as an aesthetic or political ideal, and a theme central to each artist’s conceptual intent.
Above, top left: Carrie Marill Not so United State of Arizona, 2012, acrylic on linen, 45″ x 31″. Top right: Carrie Marill Dear Arizona, 2012, acrylic on linen, 45″ x 31″. Bottom: Yves Klein Table Bleu Klein TM ou (Table IKB®), dry pigment in glass, Plexiglas and chrome-plated legs, 14.25″ x 49.25″ x 39.25″.
Blue pigment was so sought after that it was at times more valuable than gold. One of art history’s seminal moments was the patenting of a blue pigment invented by the artist Yves Klein; accordingly, Lisa Sette Gallery’s exhibit includes a Klein piece in which International Klein Blue (IKB), in sumptuous drifts of brilliant blue powder, is encased in a transparent table.
Carrie Marill and Ann Morton masterfully weave together highly crafted objects with contemporary commentary: Morton embroiders a red MAGA hat with thousands of small blue stitches, in a months long process of covering and obscuring the current administration’s deceptive motto, while Marill’s picturesque landscapes featuring serene images of Arizona’s red sandstone spires deliver a sharp political punch in the accompanying text.
Left: Merryn Omotayo Alaka & Sam Fresquez It’s Mine, I Bought It, 2018-2020, Kanekalon hair and braid clamps, dimensions variable. Above: Michael Koerner Finger Prints #6175, 2018, collodion on tin, 6″ x 8″ plate, Unique.
In Merryn Omotayo Alaka & Sam Fresquez’s collaborative installation It’s Mine, I Bought It, blue-black tassels made from synthetic hair are used as symbols of power and prestige. Tassels function to prevent unraveling, and hair is often viewed as having the ability to give confidence, hold us together, and reflect personal identity. This piece ties together the history of hair and tassels with contemporary ideas of identity, social hierarchies, and the expectations associated with the presentation of a person of color’s hair.
Michael Koerner’s stunning tintype print, Finger Prints #6175, presents eerie reactive clouds and crystalline formations produced by collodion on tin. In somber, chemical cerulean, Koerner’s work hearkens to an early method of photographic development and to his own family history; his mother survived the bombing of Nagasaki as a child, and Koerner is the sole survivor of his immediate family, the others having succumbed to cancer and genetic disorders.
Annie Lopez’s poignant cyanotype works printed on a dress made from tamale wrapper paper feature images of her grandparent’s alien identification cards – they entered the US in 1919. Her work reminds us of the fraught experience of living in a border state as a person of Latin American origins.
Above: Mayme Kratz Blue Moon 3, 2020, resin, seeds, bones, blossoms, wasp nest, Cicada wings on panel, 24” x 24”.
Mayme Kratz’s evocative work underscores the natural beauty that surrounds us and the urgent effort we must take to preserve our planet through political means. Following the current administration’s reduction in size and removal of protections from nearly two million acres of federal public lands that hold incomparable archaeological, paleontological, cultural, and natural significance, says Kratz: “I am overwhelmed by a sense of longing when I think in terms of what might just…go away. At this moment it feels that if we don’t speak about it, no one is going to.”
Each work in Blue exemplifies an engagement with cultural transformation. Often, the artists offer an oblique or direct challenge to the economic and societal structures that give rise to states of corruption. And yet in the gesture of challenging the current state of affairs, and in the action of working raw materials into something uniquely reflective of the human experience, the artists of Blue, like the color blue, offer the infinite hope of progress in this simple promise: we will always develop new ways of seeing the world, and of sharing that vision with one another.
September 12, 2020 – January 2, 2021
Lisa Sette Gallery