Much like Rorschach tests, art can often be interpreted in myriad ways and our interpretations can often reveal a lot about ourselves. I Think It’s In My Head, the latest exhibition at alternative art space Girls’ Club in downtown Fort Lauderdale, showcases works by women that ask the question: What do you see?
Girls’ Club was founded in 2006 by artist Francie Bishop Good and philanthropist David Horvitz as a space to showcase contemporary art by women. While the space is modest in size compared to other private collections in South Florida, it has one major trump card: It is the only private collection open to the public dedicated to women artists.
The space shows a small selection from the more than 700 works in the couple’s private collection, which includes pieces by many of the most important artists working today as well as emerging artists.
The exhibition’s title comes from an installation on display in the show by British artist Tracey Emin, whose neon works took center stage at a recent solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami. The show was curated by Miami-based TM Sisters, a collaboration between artist siblings Tasha and Monica Lopez de Victoria that has become known for its self-described “electro-tropical multimedia” work.
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While the program says the 50 works by 40-plus artists were chosen for their “sympathetic vibrations, vivid metaphysics, transformation of all varieties, elements of the supernatural and explosions of psychic power,” the TM Sisters explain the recurring theme in simpler terms: the narratives that intentially are left open to interpretation.
“We want viewers to question whether the feelings from the works are just in their own head or if it’s our collective ideas or collective consciousness,” said Monica Lopez de Victoria.
The structure of the show is a refreshing change from traditional art exhibitions. Works almost overlap in tight arrangements on walls painted in shades of purple. The geometric bands of color were inspired by Power Versus Force author David Hawkins’ map of consciousness, which categories states of being into a rainbow ranging from shame (red) to enlightenment (purple).
“Normally you see these museum-quality works on white walls or in a very clean, pristine space, so putting these works in this installation almost forces you to see the works in a new way,” said Monica Lopez de Victoria.
This is evident in the first work one encounters when walking into the space, ARNO by conceptual artist Jenny Holzer. The LED work features emotional yet vague phrases like “I watch you,” “I feel you” and “You are my own.” The text can be seen scrolling solid at first, then flashing rapidly in various patterns before her words eventually erupt in digital flames, charging the work with an escalating urgency.
The exhibition’s photographs are among the most ambiguous of the works on display. A self portrait by the late reclusive photographer Vivian Maier depicts the artist both as a large alien-like shadow on a grassy ground and also as a smaller distorted reflection in a metallic lawn ornament. Gregory Crewdson, one of the few male artists who made it into the show, stages a scene depicting a contemplative-looking woman wearing only her underwear standing outside a home in an eerie suburban neighborhood.
The mysterious power of nature plays a role in many of the works. German-born, McArthur Genius Grant-winning photographer Uta Barth’s polyptych of four images turns landscape photography on its head by depicting a serene landscape blurred so intensely that only shadows of color and light remain. Documentary photographer Catherine Opie’s Alaska Landscape #3 shows a rock formation along a body of water that is serene yet eerie, a picturesque vista that is also disquieting in its stillness.
While many works are filled with ambiguity, there are a number that wear their messages on their sleeve. Among those is a piece from American graphic designer-turned-confrontational visual artist Barbara Kruger, who emblazoned the phrase “Belief + Doubt = Sanity” over the image of a blindfolded woman. Puce Moment from Cecily Brown is a grotesque painting that teeters on the line between frankly figurative and abstract expressionist as it depicts an endless orgy of sex, flesh and color.
While the show features a wide selection of renowned national and international artists, it also includes artists who lived in South Florida but left to grow their art practice, as well as those like Tara Penick and Samantha Salzinger, who are South Florida natives and have stayed. Salzinger’s works depict what appear to be ethereal, natural environments but are actually constructed to closely resemble geographic realities. Penick photographs a woman being carried out of a room, all but her legs and feet visible to the viewer; the circumstances of the situation the subject is in are left for you to decide.
Jiae Hwang, a Korean-born artist who up until recently lived in South Florida, created a work for the exhibition that features a 3D sculptural drawing and video that interact with each other. Combined, it depicts the artist playing the sculpture like a “phantom fictional instrument” inspired by the playful, experimental process many artists use to discover ideas and create new works.
“I think it’s interesting to think about how sound affects the visual field, and vice versa. I want to understand how my thought and creation process relates to abstraction. Can sculpture produce a video and a print and a sound? Or is it the notion of sound the driving force behind abstraction?” Hwang said in an interview.
Hwang, along with Dinorah de Jesus Rodriguez, AdrienneRose Gionta and Harumi Abe, have participated in Girls’ Club’s annual Artists in Action series, in which South Florida artists engage in a dialogue with the public about their practice and the inspiration behind it. In addition, they have created art editions for purchase at affordable prices, often less than $100.
For Girls’ Club director Sarah Michelle Rupert, focusing on both art world superstars and emerging local artists is a key component of the foundation’s mission.
“We think it’s important to showcase internationally recognized artists while also highlighting and supporting the work of South Florida artists as it helps strengthen our artist community on every level,” Rupert said.