Anything from a photo of a body to an intricately weaved basket can be used to portray intimacy.
Intimacy can manifest itself in many ways depending on the creator, said graduate student Cherisse Gray. Works created by MFA students across Southern California that revolve around the theme of intimacy are on display in the “New Wight Biennial 2019: Circadian Regions” exhibition at the Broad Art Center through Oct. 10. The exhibit seeks to explore how intimacy can be viewed differently based on each artist’s perspective.
“We realized that the central theme was intimacy, but not necessarily as it manifests in the idea of a two-partner romantic relationship,” Gray said. “It can be anything that qualifies as intimacy, whether it is the intimate act of cooking someone a particular meal or the intimate relationships between continents as a result of colonialism.”
Each year, the New Wight Biennial alternates between showcasing international and local artists. This year, curator and graduate student Sam Richardson said they selected a pool of local artists by visiting different universities and studios in order to address the variety of forms that intimacy can take.
Gray said there was no hard criteria set for the exhibit’s selection process, as their proposal was broadly stated for submissions to revolve around any kind of intimacy. As a result, each of the pieces they chose was conceptual and interpreted intimacy in myriad ways across all artistic mediums, Gray said. For example, some artists used material from their biographies to talk about trauma or history whereas others put up walls to resist expectations on them, especially artists with marginalized identities, Gray said.
“Everyone has a pretty unique relationship with the given medium they’re working on, whether it’s photography, drawing or installation,” Gray said. “We wanted works that were dynamic, complex but also quiet. It didn’t give you all the information right away, you had to work for it.”
Some of the work for “Circadian Regions,” such as Dana Washington’s, takes the form of poetry, video and photography. Richardson said the curators were inspired by Washington’s use of these mediums to explore subjects such as memory and privacy. Her piece “Measures for Healing” involves digital images of her body that her partner photographed while she was experiencing health issues, she said.
As the images are displayed, audio of a voice asking “What does it mean to photograph the body?” and “What does it mean for a body to rest?” plays in the background. By displaying these images, Richardson said the piece asks the viewer to question what it means to give away so much of one’s self. Providing a glimpse into the artist’s private life gives the art a deeply intimate feel, she said.
“(‘Measures For Healing’) interrogates this dynamic of subject, maker and image and uses it as a beautiful dedication for intimacy,” Richardson said. “It confronts the viewer on their own voyeurism and questioning ways of who that intimacy is for.”
Some of the “Circadian Regions” pieces explore intimacy as viewed through a person’s traditions. Kenneth Yuen, an MFA student at the California Institute of the Arts, said his piece “Untitled Dish; Basket” focuses on the duality of traditional objects through sculpture. His piece was created through the traditional process of basket weaving, but he then coated it in automotive paint so it could appear to be a manufactured object. Combining these two techniques keeps viewers from associating an object with a specific identity. Much of his piece’s intimacy comes through the vulnerability of sharing something that reflects one’s own tradition, he said. He does this by creating objects he feels have their own place in the world.
“I’m interested in making objects that reference … cliche art objects like the cube, the fish or the idea of the modernist painting,” he said. “I’m interested in referencing these things but using a process that is not often included in the conversation of contemporary art.”
The curators of “Circadian Regions” wanted to represent multiple versions of intimacy, which Gray said is reflected in the title. A “region” is an amorphous shape and can be thought of in terms of dialect or land, while “circadian” refers to cycles and the nature of life, Gray said. The various ways artists approach subjects like intimacy, history and violence are all interconnected, Richardson said.
“Though (intimacy) can be experienced and expressed in a myriad of ways, we want to challenge the traditional notion of what intimacy is culturally understood as, which is much more finite and accessible to a lot of people,” Richardson said.