Brendan Carroll curated this show, which opens Thursday, around the poem of the same name by August Kleinzahler. I’m happy to be introduced to this poem, as it takes place where I live, and I’m familiar with a lot of these landmarks and places. The park with the stone bears (and stone buffalo!) is my cue for when to yell “next stop” to get off the bus from New York. It’s great to know that the landscape that inspires me has inspired other artists and writers long before me. It makes me feel like I’m part of a larger conversation.
As the press release says:
The poem, Snow in North Jersey was chosen to be the theme of the exhibit because of its vivid imagery. “One of the motifs in Kleinzahler’s poem is the collision between the natural world and industrialization,” said Carroll. “This forceful coming together of disparate entities is jarring. It’s like a fight between a stick of cotton candy and a ball peen hammer.”
I love that last line. Here’s the poem:
Snow in North Jersey
Snow is falling along the Boulevard
and its little cemeteries hugged by transmission shops
and on the stone bear in the park
and the WWI monument, making a crust
on the soldier with his chinstrap and bayonet
It’s blowing in from the west
over the low hills and meadowlands
swirling past the giant cracking stills
that flare all night along the Turnpike
It is with a terrible deliberateness
that Mr Ruiz reaches into his back pocket
and counts out $18 and change for his Lotto picks
while in the upstairs of a thousand duplexes
with the TV on, cancers tick tick tick
and the snow continues to fall and blanket
these crowded rows of frame and brick
with their heartbreaking porches and castellations
and the red ’68 Impala on blocks
and Joe he’s drinking again and Myra’s boy Tommy
in the old days it would have been a disgrace
and Father Keenan’s not been having a good winter
and it was nice enough this morning
til noon anyhow with the sun sitting up there like a crown
over a great big dome of mackcrel sky
But it’s coming down now, all right
falling on the Dixon-Crucible Pencil factory
and on the spur to Bayonne
along the length of the Pulaski Skyway
and on St Bridgit’s and the Alibi Saloon
closed now, oh dear, I can’t remember how long
and lordjesussaveus they’re still making babies
and what did you expect from this life
and they’re calling for snow tonight and through tomorrow
an inch an hour over 9 Ridge Road and the old courthouse
and along the sluggish, gray Passaic
as it empties itself into Newark Bay
and on Grandpa’s store that sells curries now
and St Peter’s almost made it to the semis this year
It’s snowing on the canal and railyards, the busbarns and trucks
and on all the swells in their big houses along the river bluff
It’s snowing on us all
and on a three-story fix-up off of Van Vorst Park
a young lawyer couple from Manhattan bought
where for no special reason in the back of a closet
a thick, dusty volume from the Thirties sits open
with a broken spine and smelling of mildew
to a chapter titled Social Realism
Spent a few hours yesterday collecting materials for shrines building, which will start on October 1st in SOHO20’s studio residency.
This included hunting around for a good patch of cordgrass for weaving, and I found one:
The plant sent multicolored runners along the ground, alternating cream & magenta segments. Never seen this before.
Finally finished. Check it out!
A new interview with me by Jessica Scherlag is up at fyeahwomenartists.com. Here is the full text:
Anne Percoco was born in Boston and lives and works in Jersey City. She received her B.A from Drew University, attended Rutgers for her M.F.A., and has had solo exhibitions at such locations as A.I.R Gallery and NUTUREart. Below is a recent interview with the artist. For more information on her work, check out her website and her blog.
Jessica Scherlag for Fyeahwomenartists: Many of your art projects take place in public, in nature, and in countries that you have visited. How do you feel about the sometimes “temporary” nature of public art/your work?
Anne Percoco: It comes with the territory of making site and situation-based work. On one level, it’s a relief not to have to keep track of and store large sculptures. However, documentation is critical for these pieces because it’s the only thing that most people will see. Usually I do the photography myself or get help from talented friends. Sometimes there’s a backstory that can’t be communicated through photographs. In that case, I’ll often put together a little book.
Indra’s Cloud; site-specific performance in Vrindavan, India; plastic water bottles, plastic rope, boat; 8 x 6 x 14 feet; 2008.
FY: I am fascinated by your use and reuse of found objects. What draws you to your materials?
AP: Conceptually, I’m interested in to materials that are widely considered to be worthless: phone books, junk, plastic waste, natural materials, etc. This allows me to deal with questions of value. The way we assign value or valuelessness to things is arbitrary—it’s usually based on our own agenda and not on the material itself. By recontextualizing waste materials, I can find great value in them. Also, the way our waste disposal systems are structured does not account for the fact that we live in a closed system. As we know (but sometimes forget), nothing disappears, even if it vanishes from sight. I’m happy to bring our waste back into our view and our thoughts. I’m aesthetically drawn to these materials as well. Often, their wear and tear and texture is beautiful; it tells of an object’s history, which then becomes part of my work and enriches it. I also enjoy the process of collecting/gleaning, as this gives me an excuse to explore my surroundings. Finally, these materials are usually free or very cheap. There are so many benefits!
The Life Instinct; 9 x 9 x 9 feet; three chairs, a bike rack, styrofoam, old TVs, cardboard, string, tape, woven reeds, tree branches, cloth, the top of a garbage can, egg cartons, paper, plastic bags, CDs, and cushions; 2012.
FY: How has your participation in residencies impacted you?
AP: It’s an incredible privilege to have the space and time to focus (e.g. Vermont Studio Center), and the networking and exhibition opportunities sometimes provided are valuable (Residency Unlimited). I find international residencies to be especially fruitful. Being in another country allows me to step outside of my own culture, which is like taking off blinders. In India, I created a residency situation for myself with the NGO Friends of Vrindavan, and I also attended Sandarbh Artists Workshop and Bangalore Artists Center. In the Netherlands, I participated in a residency at Extrapool, co-organized by Sandarbh. I’ve got a residency at SOHO20 Gallery, in Chelsea, coming up in the fall!
Weather Shield for a Migrant Dwelling; site-specific intervention in Partapur, India; plastic food wrappers & packaging tape; 8 x 5.5 x 8.5 feet; 2009.
FY: If you could go back in time knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to yourself 5 years ago?
AP: Every time I’m working towards a deadline, there is an unpleasant period of self-doubt before I figure out what to do. This can last for weeks or even months. I’ve learned that this is unavoidable and to trust myself and my process – to welcome the uncertainty. Nothing comes into the world fully formed.
FY: What creative people inspire you?
AP: Francis Alys, Mierle Laderman-Ukeles, Ann Hamilton, Robert Smithson, Fischli & Weiss, and Rebecca Solnit.
Field Studies; collage from NY and NJ phone books; 14 x 8.75”; 2011.
FY: Did you always know you wanted to be an artist? What did you want to be growing up?
AP: I was into lots of different things growing up, and I didn’t feel pressure to choose. I think I started focusing on art towards the end of high school. In college I double majored in Art and Art History and minored in Chinese!
FY: What upcoming projects are you working on?
AP: This summer I’m starting a shrine project in Jersey City. This will involve building shrines out of found materials, dedicated to infrastructural elements in abandoned, overgrown junkspaces. There might be an augmented reality project in the works as well. I’m also thinking about what to put in the Bronx AIM Biennial next summer.
Kilmer Shrines, Site 5; site-specific project in Piscataway, New Jersey; wood & found materials; 2’ x 2’ x 3.5’, 2007-8.
Two pieces of press this week for The Life Instinct:
Art As Instinct: In Conversation With Anne Percoco — An interview with Vanessa Saraceno
In her latest project Life Instinct, currently on view at Nurture Art, Anne Percoco created a makeshift shelter, combining creative resourcefulness with the playful improvisation of a child’s fort. This hut is made with materials — both synthetic and natural — Percoco found on the streets of New York. In this project, the hut and all of its joyful grace act as the visualization of a positive creativity that favors resourcefulness and self-sufficiency. Celebrating at the same time makeshift solutions with a survival instinct, this exhibition draws attention to a re-consideration of the values and functions for every object. In saving all these objects once categorized as refuse and bringing them to a new life, repairing becomes a creative act.”
The Life Instinct, at Brooklyn’s NUTUREart gallery. The show, which opened in late April and will run until May 29th, is a solo exhibit of work that, in the words of the studio, celebrates “makeshift solutions, survival instincts, and the reuse of discarded material.” This apt description, while applicable to the entirety of her show, resonates strongest with Percoco’s largest sculpture on display: a hut consisting of the empty frame of an old television set, venetian blinds as part of a roof, twigs and twine, ropes and styrofoam, and that can be entered and sat in. It is too pertinent not to refer back to Koolhaas when he writes, “the built… product of modernization is not modern architecture but Junkspace.”
Ise Cultural Foundation – 555 Broadway, NYC
curated by Saori Kashio
Show runs from March 9 to May 3.
Photo: Amanda Browder snoozing atop “Heap” – photo by David Smith.
My solo show at NURTUREart opens in about two months. Here’s a little summary of what’s going to to happen:
The Life Instinct will celebrate, as Michel de Certeau has written, “opportunities that must be ‘seized on the wing’… maneuvres, polymorphic situations, joyful discoveries, poetic as well as warlike.“ Inspired equally by children’s couch forts as well as makeshift emergency shelters, Percoco will use scavenged materials and woven reeds to construct a small hut in the gallery. A projected slideshow documents her experiments with miniature huts constructed in a vacant lot and photographed in situ. Her zine, cataloging repaired objects, will investigate how value is lost and reclaimed and how repurposed objects can shift, sometimes humorously, from one role to another. Guest artists will lead a series of public skill-sharing workshops to promote resourcefulness and self-sufficiency.
And here’s another shelter: