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Archives    Marya Summers art news Marya Summers is the former editor of Pandemonium art and literary magazine and  also the former art and theater writer for Free Press, Palm Beach County's alternative source for art and news.  Now, she's a freelance arts writer, a poetry and theater artist-in-residence in the public schools, an English instructor at PBCC, and the host of a weekly poetry slam in Delray Beach. www.delrayslam.com .

Metropolitan Art in Suburbia

This spring, the Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art made its debut in Lake Worth in the building which formerly housed the Museum of Contemporary Art.  With its first exhibit Making Time: Considering Time as a Material in Contemporary Video and Film,  the PB/ICA carved its niche in Palm Beach County as the local source for the avant-garde.  The show featured work typical of a larger, metropolitan art "scene." 

Most works in Making Time were limited to images on the screen.  The image was the art object.  A few, however, incorporated structural elements -- like multi-colored skateboard wheels attached to the tops of televisions --  in addition to their film or video.   Some, like the twelve hour documentary of a flagpole's shadow moving across a public square, did nothing but consider the texture of time, especially of waiting. 

In the staid and conservative Palm Beaches, eyebrows were raised to speculate "Is it art?"  However, the question was usually put forward as an addendum to comments that the exhibit was interesting and provoking.

Conservative eyebrows may be raised even higher with the PB/ICA's sophomore exhibit, Against Design, especially now that the seasonal residents -- those who frequent metropolitan art exhibits and are accustomed to nontraditional art -- have left for the summer.  Even the PB/ICA staff will admit that many will see this show as nothing more than a room full of furniture.

Against Design features work by ten artists from Appel to Zittel (see complete list of artists below), all of whom were born in the 1960's.  The exhibit has everything from house plans and beds and bathrooms to slick S & M travel posters and explores where design -- whether it be architectural, interior, landscape, graphic or any other -- collides with art. 

The exhibit's title is as much a work of art as its objects. Against Design intentionally plays on the dual meaning of "against."  Just as the preposition could mean "opposed to" (as in "I'm against limiting things by categorizing them")  it could also mean "along side of"  (as in "Place it against the wall").  Always, however,  the term suggests a collision whether ideologically or spatially.

Traditionally, art's distinguishing feature has been its uselessness.  An "art" that presumes pragmatic function becomes a "craft."  Take wood sculpture and kitchen cabinets as examples.  The first is the work of an artist, the second that of a craftsman. 

Yet in this art exhibit you'll find cabinets and bookshelves posing as art.  Some pretend to be pre-fab while they are actually handmade.  Others are prefab but are modified either for function -- like the addition of plywood in a pre-drilled, veneered bookcase -- or aesthetical non-function.

Against Design features works that beg the question whether their functionality excludes them from being construed as art.  It challenges the viewer to overcome his mundane and pragmatic perception and to pay attention to what the objects "say."

Whether Palm Beach County residents, many of whom live in pre-fab homes in one-size-fits-all  communities, will be ready to hear furniture talk remains to be seen.

See Against Design June 30 - September 10 (Tuesdays - Sundays 11 am - 5 pm, and 1st and 3rd Thursdays, 11 am to 9 pm)  at Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art, 601 Lake Avenue, Lake Worth, Florida 33460.  Call 561/582-0006.

ARTISTS INCLUDE:  Atelier van Lieshout, Angela Bulloch, Roy McMakin, Jorge Pardo, Joe Scanlan, Tobias Rehberger, Pae White, Kevin Appel, Andrea Zittel, and Clay Ketter.

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