An Icon Returns
The Pulitzer reopens with explorations from arts most fundamental level: the line.
When Pulitzer Arts Foundation closed for renovations in August of 2014, it created avoid in the city’s art scene. The space has always walked the line between museum and avant-garde—going beyond the former to flirt with the latter, transforming art from a one-way viewpoint to an interactive experience. Now the city has its laboratory back: The Pulitzer re-opened May 1 with “Press Play,” its slate of summer programming incorporating three seasonal shows—two of them located in new gallery spaces carved from staff offices—that promises to enhance patrons’ experience of art.
This marks the first time the Pulitzer’s been able to facilitate multiple shows opening at once, and in a coincidental nod to its rebirth, each of the three shows pays homage to art’s most basic element: the line. For “Calder Lightness,” in the original exhibition space on the main level, curator and Guggenheim Bilbao-veteran Carmen Giménez broke Alexander Calder’s mobiles down into four components.
First, and most essentially, there’s line: “Really Calder just tears down everything into small gestures and lines that make the work seem very dynamic,” Pulitzer Associate Curator Tamara Schenkenberg says. Second, brilliance, “which defines how the ambiance of the light-filled spaces interact with the work,” she adds.
Third is gravity and fourth, movement: “The works themselves are not static,” she says. “They swivel; they move. These qualities are translated to lightness—the basis for the show.”
Rather than have audiences crane their necks up to see Calder’s work, artist Christina Kim of Dosa has created large cushions for the floor, so guests can recline, view and contemplate—a nod toward the Pulitzer’s intent of being somewhere people can go not just to see art, but a place to simply “go.” The space, curators hope, can transcend the “event” of going to a museum—its hushed tones and separated existence from daily city life—by becoming a spot to go to during lunch breaks, to talk in, to get comfortable with the art in.
THE NEW GALLERIES
Moving downstairs to the first new gallery, Schenkenberg has curated Fred Sandback’s 1975 “64 Three-Part Pieces,” where three rooms within the gallery each house a line of yarn stretched out to “animate the space,” at eye level or below, she says.
In Sandback’s designs for the piece, there are 64 ways in which this yarn can be manipulated, so each week, Pulitzer staff swap out the permutations.
“He considers these three lines and the space together as a single work,” says Schenkenberg. “One of the reasons I was drawn to this piece is because upstairs with Calder, you’re prompted to look up, and here you’re prompted to look down—so in a slight way changing how the body moves and responds in space.”
In the second of the new galleries, the position of the viewer and the art shifts once more, to another line-centric installation by Richard Tuttle. Tuttle installed the work himself, drawing a line on a wall with pencil, then unwinding floral wire to follow it—or not. Light plays an important role in his work: A third line, one of shadow, is created to add to the other lines, also “delicate and immaterial,” says Schenkenberg. “People often describe it as really poetic and very intimate because he installs them at eye level, only as big as human arms can reach—so there’s a very human presence to them.”
EXPERIENCING THE WHOLE
Together, the three exhibitions are a survey of the line, that most basic of building blocks for art, and in the new Pulitzer, visitors can explore the fuzzy lines of Sandback, the “jittery, nervous” lines of Tuttle and the fluid lines of Calder. “All these artists are sculptors, but they work outside traditional definitions of what space is—they don’t create an object and put it on a pedestal,” says Schenkenberg.
The experiential nature of the art is critical to the shows: “They take space into account and so it addresses its surroundings and the viewers and animates the spaces they inhabit,” says Schenkenberg. “For us, looking at the building in a new light, it was imperative to learn how galleries behave. We have three sculptors who strive to sit where art doesn’t overwhelm the space but takes visitors into account. We could have something really meaningful and powerful.”
Beyond the exhibitions, the “Press Play” programming will activate the space through embedded musical performances, interactive viewing experiences, film screenings, meditation, artist residencies and more (there’s even a baby yoga class).
The exhibitions and programming will run until Sept. 12.
Photo credit: Alise OBrien Photography, courtesy of Pulitzer Arts Foundation