“The ability to play is critical not only to being happy but also to sustaining social relationships and being a creative, innovative person.” –Stuart Brown
The concept of play is undergoing a renaissance. Whereas once it may have been applied to immature behavior, or used to describe the wasting of time, now it is recognized as an essential form of intellectual work for both children and adults, as well as a path to creative productivity and social wellbeing.
Animals, including humans, play under the most adverse of circumstances; it is irrepressible. And research shows that consistent playtime fosters empathy, makes us smarter and more adaptable, and builds a framework for complex social behavior.
Each of the artists in Play! is vigorously engaged in the practice of play, and together they illustrate the myriad of ways this can be done. Andy Warhol and Billy Kluver’s immersive Silver Clouds and William T. Wiley’s Punball machine were imagined as instruments of play. Berlin-based artist Hans Hemmert uses balloons, a material we all recognize as a play object, to build a slowly deflating castle barely contained by the walls of the gallery. Dana Hemenway and Terry Berlier turn everyday objects into the stuff of play, while painter Robert Burden and installation artist Nils Volker use familiar imagery to recover the wonder they experienced as children.
Each of these artists believe what more and more researchers, educators, and creatives are upholding as truth — that play is integral to the psychological wellbeing of each of us as individuals, as well as to the health of our families and communities.
Through That Which Is Seen January 20 – April 8, 2018
This exhibition will include sculpture, photography, painting, and video spotlighting the use of dioramas in contemporary art.
The history of dioramas goes back at least as far as 2600 BC, when ancient Egyptian royalty and nobles were buried with carved illustrations of everyday life, including boats setting sail, granaries, and scenes of bread and beer preparation. They were meant to ensure that the deceased would be taken care of in the afterlife, and included tremendous detail. For example, at least two boats were usually placed in tombs — one rigged for sailing south with the prevailing winds, and one rigged for rowing north with the current of the Nile.
Much can be been said about why the practice of creating miniature worlds persists, and in particular why so many contemporary artists find this art form to be a useful tool of expression. Dioramas can turn even the most mundane of subjects into something special and worthy of attention; they direct focus and consideration on their narratives, encouraging an extended gaze; they are a means of escape from the everyday and a window into the dream world; they facilitate a suspension of belief; and at their best, like those earliest examples, blend fantasy and reality so seamlessly we are magically transported into another dimension.