Ordinary Madness at Carnegie Museum of Art, October 15, 2010–January 9, 2011, Heinz Galleries
Opening Reception and Film Screening: 7–9 p.m., October 14
Pittsburgh, PA…Carnegie Museum of Art will present Ordinary Madness, an exhibition that mines the museum’s rich holdings of contemporary art to suggest an unsettling observation: that the ordinary is in fact laced with the contradictory, uncanny, and surreal.
On view will be a wide array of works that engage the everyday from various vantage points, illuminating the bewildering experiences we subconsciously accept as part of our daily lives. At the heart of the exhibition are the strengths, quirks, and unique history that comprise the museum’s collection of contemporary art.
“Ordinary Madness came together from my desire to present a series of comparisons across media and art historical categories that would articulate how artists engage with everyday experience, and the way art can be used as a powerful tool to navigate a complex and disconcerting world,” said Dan Byers, curator of Ordinary Madness and associate curator of contemporary art at Carnegie Museum of Art.
Ordinary Madness will revisit major works acquired from past Carnegie International exhibitions, and presents the opportunity to show a wide range of permanent collection works alongside recent acquisitions, creating juxtaposition and dialogue that otherwise might not be apparent. The exhibition takes place in the Heinz and Forum Galleries and will include a 16 mm film series in October and November in CMA Theater.
From 7 to 9 p.m. on October 14, there will be an opening reception, free and open to the public. No RSVP is required, and a cash bar will be available. For this evening only, the proto-psychedelic film Heaven and Earth Magic (1957–1962) by American artist Harry Smith will be shown in the Hall of Sculpture. Smith is known to many as the creator of the 1952 Anthology of American Folk Music, which ushered in the folk revival along with a renewed interest in the “old weird America.” Smith was also a highly original artist and filmmaker,and made this major work by painstakingly animating cutouts from 19th-century catalogues and magazines.
About Ordinary Madness
Ordinary Madness presents art from the museum’s contemporary art collection thematically as a way to explore connections and comparisons between different works. But overall, the exhibition examines how life is filled with the bizarre and unusual and how art reflects those observations.
Ordinary Madness begins as visitors climb the museum’s stairs to the Heinz Galleries and encounter a television on the floor outside the galleries playing Vito Acconci’s 1973 video Theme Song. The artist, in the video, is lying on the floor and smoking cigarettes while songs by The Doors, Bob Dylan, and Van Morrison play in the background. Acconci looks directly into the camera and addresses the viewer with a coaxing and unsettling monologue saying, “look at me with your eyes and I’ll look at you,” and “there’s got to be somebody out there watching me, somebody who wants to come in close to me.”
Beyond, positioned just within the Heinz Galleries’ glass doors, stands a diminutive four-and-a-half-feet tall model of Richard Serra’s Carnegie, the 466-feet-tall behemoth steel sculpture that currently stands outside the museum’s Forbes Avenue entrance and serves as an unofficial landmark for the museum. This presentation of a familiar structure with a disorienting shift in scale sets the tone for the exhibition.
Highlights of Ordinary Madness include groups of Charles Burchfield paintings and Ken Price ceramics; a gallery of glass and mirrors featuring works by Dan Graham, Barry Le Va, and Jim Lambie; photographs by Larry Clark and photo-collages by John Bock; representations of the nude by Pawel Althamer, Willem de Kooning, and Paul Cadmus; a darkened gallery of distorted bodies in video and sculpture by Robert Arneson, Lynda Benglis, Peter Campus, Anne Chu, and Tony Oursler; monumental paintings by Philip Guston, David Hockney, Laura Owens, Neo Rauch, and Peter Saul; major sculpture by Anthony Caro and Mike Kelley; new works to the collection by Giovanni Anselmo and Damian Ortega; and Karen Kilimnik’s recently acquired large-scale installation I Don’t Like Mondays, the Boomtown Rats, Shooting Spree, or Schoolyard Massacre.
As part of Ordinary Madness, the Forum Gallery will contain a special presentation of artwork, documentation, and correspondence by the enigmatic Detroit-born artist James Lee Byars (1932–1997). Other than an impromptu performance in the Museum of Modern Art’s emergency exit in 1958, Byars’s first United States museum performance was at Carnegie Museum of Art in 1963. Entitled 1 X 50 Foot Drawing, the work was performed by Byars in the Hall of Sculpture. Later in 1964, Byars returned to the museum for the performances A 1000-Foot Chinese Paper and The Mile Long White Paper Walk in the same space.
During the past year, staff from the contemporary art department rediscovered in the museum’s archives correspondence, art, and related ephemera—such as intricately inscribed scrolls, large fold-out hearts and circles made of rice paper, and postcards—Byars sent to Gustave von Groschwitz, the museum’s director from 1963 to 1969. On view in the Forum Gallery from October 15, 2010, to February 20, 2011, these never-before-displayed materials will be presented alongside paper sculptures and documentation of Byars’s 1960s performances, one of which featured famed dancer and choreographer Lucinda Childs.
Ordinary Madness Film Series
Ordinary Madness will also highlight the museum’s outstanding collection of films and videos from the 1960s and 1970s with two evenings of screenings in the CMA Theater. Both screenings are organized by Amanda Donnan, curatorial assistant, contemporary art. Some of these vintage prints haven’t been screened in decades.
October 22, 6–7:30 p.m.; CMA Theater
This program brings together works that focus on the irrational, ambivalent, and chaotic aspects of everyday experience and pop-culture phenomena. Challenging to societal codes and customs several of these films were—and remain—controversial milestones.
- Kenneth Anger, Scorpio Rising (1963, 30 min.) and Kustom Kar Kommandos (1965, 3:30 min.)
- Bruce Conner, Cosmic Ray (1962, 4 min.)
- Carolee Schneemann, Fuses (1964–1967, 22 min.)
- Ed Emshwiller, Relativity (1966, 40 min.)
November 10, 6–7:30 p.m.; CMA Theater
The films in this program highlight the junction between art and life and investigate the divide between reality and its distortion in myth, desire, and individual perception.
- George Kuchar, Hold Me While I’m Naked (1966, 15 min.) and I an Actress (1976, 8:30 min.)
- Roger Jacoby, Kunst Life (1976, approx. 30 min.)
- Hollis Frampton, Nostalgia (1971, 38 min.)
- Stephanie Beroes, Valley Fever (1979, 20 min.)
The museum is producing a fully illustrated, free “pocket guide,” containing color reproductions of many of the artworks on view, an exhibition essay by exhibition curator Dan Byers, a text about the film program by Amanda Donnan, an exhibition checklist, and a list of the associated programming.
A number of other programs and lectures will be offered in conjunction with Ordinary Madness:
- Culture Club: Ordinary Voices: Who Speaks for Art/Does Art Speak? October 21, 5:30–9 p.m., Heinz Galleries, $10, includes admission and two drink tickets. Associate curator Dan Byers and a guest artist chat together Ordinary Madness about the fugitive meanings of artworks in the context of collections and exhibitions. The evening begins with happy hour at 5:30 p.m., followed by gallery conversation at 6:15 p.m.; the galleries remain open until 8 p.m., and the bar until 9.m.
- What Are Museums For? Exhibitionists Unite: How Art Exhibitions Are Born, October 28, 6:30–7:30 p.m., CMA Theater, free, reception follows, cash bar. In this, the second in a three-part series exploring what makes museums tick, hear about what it takes to make an exhibition at Carnegie Museum of Art. Using Ordinary Madness and the upcoming show Paul Thek: Diver, A Retrospective as case studies, staff members provide an insider’s glimpse of how museums really work, from generating exhibition ideas to installing the art and involving the visitors in the interpretive experience.
- “Bound Together” Book Club, November 4, 6:30–7:45 p.m., free. Start with a 15-minute gallery talk in Ordinary Madness followed by a discussion of In Persuasion Nation by George Saunders, a writer that the Boston Globe lauded for his ability “to construct a story of absurdist satire, then locate within it a moment of searing humanity.” Space is limited; call 412.622.3288 to register.
- Lunch and Learn: Artists Who Challenged Convention, November 11, 10:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m., $36 members/$45 nonmembers. Discover the “rule-breakers” in art. Elisabeth Roark, associate professor of art history at Chatham University, presents an illustrated lecture on artists, including Caravaggio, Manet, Duchamp, and Warhol, who invented new styles and challenged convention. After lunch, take a guided tour of “challenging” art, including works in Ordinary Madness. Call 412.622.3288 to register. Teachers earn 2.5 Act 48 hours.
Ordinary Madness includes artworks by:
Vito Acconci, John Ahearn, Pawel Althamer, Francis Alÿs, Giovanni Anselmo, Siah Armajani, Robert Arneson, Miroslaw Balka, Lynda Benglis, Lina Bertucci, John Bock, Michaël Borremans, Martin Boyce, Charles Burchfield, James Lee Byars, Paul Cadmus, Peter Campus, Anthony Caro, Paul Chan, Anne Chu, Larry Clark, Willem de Kooning, Trisha Donnelly, Isa Genzken, Robert Gober, Dan Graham, Red Grooms, Philip Guston, Rachel Harrison, David Hockney, Donald Judd, Alex Katz, Mike Kelley, Edward Kienholz, Karen Kilimnik, Nicholas Krushenick, Jim Lambie, Barry Le Va, Christian Marclay, Henri Michaux, Mary Miss, Catherine Opie, Damian Ortega, Tom Otterness, Tony Oursler, Laura Owens, Ken Price, Neo Rauch, Tim Rollins and K.O.S., Ed Ruscha, Doris Salcedo, Peter Saul, Lara Schnitger, Richard Serra, Wolfgang Tillmans, Joe Tilson, Fred Tomaselli, Jeff Wall, Andy Warhol, John Waters, Andro Wekua, Christopher Williams, and Christopher Wool.
Major support for this exhibition is provided by The Fellows of Carnegie Museum of Art, The Henry L. Hillman Fund, the Virginia Kaufman Fund, the Juliet Lea Hillman Simonds Foundation, and The Associates of Carnegie Museum of Art. General operating support for Carnegie Museum of Art is provided by The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Carnegie Museum of Art
Located at 4400 Forbes Avenue in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art was founded by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1895. One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, it is nationally and internationally recognized for its distinguished collection of American and European works from the 16th century to the present. The Heinz Architectural Center, part of Carnegie Museum of Art, is dedicated to enhancing understanding of the physical environment through its exhibitions, collections, and public programs. For more information about Carnegie Museum of Art, call 412.622.3131 or visit our web site at www.cmoa.org.