Just Announced: Art by Rachel Owens at The Frist and Track 13


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Keep your eye out later this month for artist Rachel Owens: She’ll be everywhere. The Brooklyn-based artist will be exhibiting a sculpture at The Frist’s Demonbreun Street entrance, and ZieherSmith Gallery will be hosting a solo exhibit of her work at the nearby Track 13.

A few quick notes about Owens and her work:

• Her broken glass sculptures have been in Nashville before — at the 2011 ZieherSmith pop-up gallery show, I asked Cheekwood president Jane Offenbach to pick a favorite piece, and she immediately pointed to Owens’ buffalo skull.

• The sculpture at The Frist includes an audio element: whale songs. I’m already imagining a West Side Story-style gang war between this piece and the box that blasts commercial country hits that's installed across the street.

• On Thursday, March 21, Owens will be joined by Will Ryman — the artist responsible for those giant roses on the Broadway-facing side of The Frist — for an artists’ forum. Both sculptures were created and publicly exhibited in New York City under the auspices of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. I sense a trend … anyone willing to bet on what’s coming next?

Full press release is below.

Rachel Owens: Inveterate Composition for Clare
The Frist Center for the Arts, Nashville
March 18 — August 1, 2013
Artist forum, Thursday, March 21, 6:30 at Frist Auditorium (see additional information below)
Rachel Owens: Soft Edges
Track 13 Gallery
Behind Cummins Station, 209 10th Ave S. Nashville
March 22 — April 16, 2013
Artist Reception, Friday March 22, 6-8 pm

To be installed at the Demonbreun Street entrance to the Frist Center, Inveterate Composition for Clare (2011), by Brooklyn-based artist Rachel Owens, is composed of dismantled sections of two replica military Humvee shells, which have been reconstructed and welded together in a monumental, quasi-cubist form. The central iconography of rebuilt military vehicles suggests the fragmentation of war, while alluding to the extra layers of metal that American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan welded onto their Humvees and other transports to provide added protection from the improvised explosive devices (I.E.D.s) used against them. This work is at once a reflection of the horror of war and a memorial to those who have sacrificed their lives in its conduct. The artist states: "Though this piece does not propagandize, it sits in solidarity with freedom of speech and battles against oppression."

A stereo system inside the sculpture initially hints at the music that soldiers riding in military vehicles use to psych themselves up for combat. But instead of hip-hop or heavy metal, the soundtrack is composed of the songs of whales and crashes of glaciers; haunting sounds that make an emotional link between human conflict and environmental vulnerability. Painted metallic white, the angular form of the sculpture suggests the jagged edges of an iceberg, establishing a connection between the global warming that is shrinking the ice pack and the consumption of fossil fuels that lies at the heart of many Middle Eastern conflicts. With its whale songs, the hulking white form also brings to mind Moby Dick, the great white whale that has come to signify humanity’s blind ambition to control forces larger than itself, whether in the context of war or the struggle with nature.

The work was developed with the support of the late Clare Weiss, curator for the New York City Parks Department, and supported by The Foundation for Contemporary Art, Brooke and Daniel Neidich, Jerry Speyer and Katherine Farley, The Warner-Stanton Family, The Estate of Theo Westenberger, among others. It was first exhibited in Manhattan’s Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza, across from the United Nations.

A few blocks away, a concurrent solo exhibition of work on paper, entitled Soft Edges will be featured through April 16th at Track 13 Gallery, located behind Cummins Station. The title refers to the method of rebuilding dunes and mud flats around flood zones as protection during major storms. Owens lost her Red Hook (Brooklyn) home of over 10 years due to flooding from Hurricane Sandy.

Featuring works on paper, textile, and video, the exhibition is directly related to both the artist’s post-storm experience as well as to Inveterate Composition For Clare. Over a dozen of her woven collages juxtapose images both personal and from the internet, relating to the storm’s environmental and socio-political impacts. The physical process of weaving the imagery gives the work a bas relief dimensionality.

The newest in a series of leather works, Black Hole is a patchwork skin of Antarctica hand-stitched made from bits of salvaged clothing, handbags, fur coats, and rubber. The soft, mostly black piece is a contrasting companion to Inveterate Composition.

Finally, the video Negative Space captures and contrasts some of the many activities that took place around Inveterate Composition at its original location by the UN ranging from political protests to a music video by a girl pop group.

Owens recently completed a live, “fishbowl” residence in the front window of the New Museum, New York. A related leather work was prominently featured at the most recent Next Wave Art exhibition at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music). Her work has exhibited internationally and she is represented by ZieherSmith. Born in Atlanta, she received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Though she has been a nomad since the storm, she will soon have a new residence back in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn.

The Track 13 Gallery will be open Thursday-Saturday, noon-6 pm and by appointment. Inquiries can be sent to info@ziehersmith.com or call 917-837-7201.

A special thank you to Zach Liff and Cummins Station for their support of Soft Edges. Beer for the Soft Edges opening reception is lovingly provided by Brooklyn Brewery.


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