The Contemporary Austin Reopens Jones Center Site with Habitat, Polish Artist Monika Sosnowska’s Largest Solo Exhibition in a U.S. Museum, and a Major OUtdoor Installation by Jim Hodges
August 12, 2016
Renovation and expansion of the Jones Center increases gallery space to 7,000 square feet and enhances the museum’s roof deck with a 21-foot-high, open-air canopy.
Museum also unveils American artist Jim Hodges’s With Liberty and Justice for All (A Work in Progress), 2014, a large-scale outdoor sculpture along the Jones Center’s new Moody Rooftop, transforming Congress Avenue—the main thoroughfare for the city’s many parades, marches, and protests.
Jones Center reopening celebration featuring Monika Sosnowska: Habitat and Jim Hodges’s With Liberty and Justice for All (A Work in Progress) to take place December 16.
AUGUST 12, 2016, Austin, Texas – The Contemporary Austin is pleased to announce Monika Sosnowska: Habitat, the inaugural exhibition in its newly expanded Jones Center location. Designed by Paul Lewis of LTL Architects, who was also the architect of the original building renovation in 2010, the expansion increases gallery space to 7,000 square feet, along with significant enhancements to the museum’s infrastructure, allowing The Contemporary to organize larger-scale original shows conceived by the museum’s curators, host touring exhibitions of greater size and breadth, and display larger-scale works of art.
Habitat, the Polish artist Monika Sosnowska’s largest solo museum exhibition in a U.S. museum, is a fittingly expansive, and intriguingly inviting, inaugural exhibition for the renovated Jones Center. Sosnowska will fill the museum with large-scale sculptures and constructed spaces that transform the galleries into site-specific backdrops for her works, drawing on the artist’s experience living and working among the post-Communist architectural detritus of Warsaw, where she has been based since 2000. Including massive sculptures composed of industrial materials such as steel, concrete, and PVC pipe, Monika Sosnowska: Habitat features several major sculptures commissioned specifically for this exhibition, along with a series of existing works from the last two years situated within a labyrinthine, wallpapered environment newly conceived by the artist for this site.
The Jones Center galleries and the exhibition Monika Sosnowska: Habitat will open to the public on Tuesday, November 22, 2016. Museum admission will be free on opening day. Monika Sosnowska: Habitat is on view through February 26, 2017.
The renovation and expansion of The Contemporary Austin – Jones Center also includes enhancements to the museum’s roof deck, now named The Moody Rooftop in recognition of a transformative grant from the Moody Foundation of Galveston, Texas. A new permanent, 21-foot-high open-air canopy will provide shelter and shade in inclement weather, add versatility to the space, and enhance the experience of being part of historic Congress Avenue in downtown Austin.
On the occasion of the building’s grand reopening, the museum also unveils a major new art installation on the rooftop. Floating above the roof’s parapet and visible from the street, surrounding buildings, and the roof deck itself, Jim Hodges’s With Liberty and Justice for All (A Work in Progress) is composed of seven-foot-high colorful letters, glimmering with iridescent dichroic film, lit from within by LED lights, and stretching nearly 145 feet across the museum’s prominent south- and east-facing facades. In conjunction with this artwork, The Contemporary will present a series of public programs and community initiatives organized on behalf of the artist, engaging a broad range of communities within the city over the life of the work.
The newly renovated building and rooftop, Monika Sosnowska: Habitat, and Jim Hodges’s With Liberty and Justice for All (A Work in Progress) will be celebrated during a special Member-only event on Friday, December 16, 2016, at the Jones Center. To extend the celebration, on December 17 the museum will offer free admission at both its locations, the Jones Center, 700 Congress Avenue, and the Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria, 3809 W. 35th Street.
“The Contemporary Austin launched in 2013 with the mission to represent the spectrum of contemporary art through all that we do,” said Louis Grachos, Ernest and Sarah Butler Executive Director of The Contemporary Austin. “The expansion of the Jones Center serves that mission, allowing us to mount exhibitions—like Monika Sosnowska’s—that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to bring to Austin. Along with the increased capacity for the rooftop to host films, concerts, lectures, and more, and the stunning new work by Jim Hodges that will become an icon along Congress Avenue, the enhancement of the Jones Center solidifies its place as an epicenter for contemporary art programs in the region.”
MONIKA SOSNOWSKA: HABITAT
November 22, 2016 – February 26, 2017
The Contemporary Austin – Jones Center, 700 Congress Avenue
Born in Poland in 1972, Monika Sosnowska creates works inspired by architecture, especially the harsh, Soviet-era architecture constructed in Warsaw in the 1960s and 1970s and the subsequent urban landscape of upheaval and rebuilding. Working in a studio surrounded by the crumbling remnants of the Soviet period, Sosnowska refabricates and manipulates its forms in works that become fantastical new compositions constructed primarily of steel and concrete.
For Habitat at The Contemporary Austin, the artist directs her attention to domestic structures, with works that twist, duplicate, and otherwise distort simple architectural elements such as stairs, corridors, railings, and beams. The museum’s first floor is defined by Sosnowska’s new, site-specific work Antechamber, 2016, an arrangement of angular walls that transform the cavernous gallery into a complex, star-shaped space surrounded by smaller rooms that each house a single work of sculpture. The interior walls of Antechamber are covered with a wallpaper pattern that relates to Texas domestic interiors of the 1960s and 1970s. The exteriors of these walls, however, are left unfinished as the backdrop to deceptively light and graceful sculptures of steel and concrete. The forms’ genesis from architectural elements is not always explicit, as in Untitled, 2015, in which a flowerlike “spray” of metal bands bursts from the concrete cone that grounds the piece. Sosnowska plays with the viewer’s perception of the materials with which she works. Heavy materials appear illusively light and architectural elements that are expected to be sturdy and permanent are made to appear ethereal and malleable.
In contrast to the labyrinthine warren of small rooms on the first floor—a sculpture in and of itself—the Jones Center’s second floor—one large, unobstructed gallery with nearly 16-foot-high ceilings—will be left as it is and will feature three large-scale works commissioned by The Contemporary Austin for this exhibition. Demonstrating a similar approach to materials as the more moderately scaled works below, these large pieces include both freestanding sculptures, Façade and Stairs, both 2016, and a new “wall drawing,” Handrail, 2016, that is distinctive among the artist’s work. The material reference for Handrail is a long, slender banister, in the style of 1960s and 1970s Polish modernism, which one would expect to use when navigating a steep stairway. In this work, Sosnowska has refabricated this serpentine stretch of steel and red PVC pipe, bending and winding it around the walls of the museum as if drawing with a red pencil.
Constructed from twisted and bent reproductions of a Polish building facade and staircase, respectively, Façade and Stairs are quintessentially monumental, dystopian sculptures that together command the room.
“In the trajectory of large-scale contemporary sculpture, Monika Sosnowska is among the most interesting young practitioners, proposing an approach to form and materials that is at once abstract and grounded in a deep and personal interpretation of her geography and the history of Poland,” said Heather Pesanti, Senior Curator of The Contemporary Austin. “It’s been transformative to initiate and organize this project with her, her largest monographic museum exhibition in the United States to date, to spend time with her in Poland, and to bring her artistic voice to the forefront of contemporary art dialogue both in Texas and internationally.”
Sosnowska’s related, large-scale sculpture The stairs, 2011, has been on view at The Contemporary Austin’s outdoor site, the Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria, since 2015.
JIM HODGES, WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL (A WORK IN PROGRESS), 2014
The Contemporary Austin – The Moody Rooftop at the Jones Center
Opening Fall 2016
For the reopening of The Contemporary Austin – Jones Center, the museum is also proud to unveil a large-scale outdoor sculpture by Jim Hodges that will extend across the museum’s roofline, elevated prominently over Congress Avenue and 7th Street.
Touching on universal themes of justice, equality, community, and the underserved, With Liberty and Justice for All (A Work in Progress)—previously installed at the Aspen Art Museum and newly configured for The Contemporary Austin—is also an elegant and visually beautiful artistic statement. The sculpture comprises seven-foot-high letters installed 51 feet above ground level and extending a total of 144 feet 8 inches across. Coated in iridescent dichroic film and lit at night from within, the letters seem to shift colors with changes in light and the observer’s location and angle, bringing the viewers into the work as participants. A previous version of the sculpture was installed at the Aspen Art Museum in 2014 and was newly reconfigured for The Contemporary Austin.
Hodges created With Liberty and Justice for All (A Work in Progress) as an open-ended platform. He noted that the multiple interpretations and conversations that the piece may elicit are as integral to the work of art as are the materials with which it was constructed, and hopes that the piece will prompt questions and dialogue both within the museum and among the Austin community as a whole, particularly among individuals who may not otherwise engage with contemporary art.
“This work extends the artist’s long-standing use of simple gestures to powerful effect, as well as his interest in text to convey open-ended concepts. Most importantly, it will be visible and available to all,” said Heather Pesanti. “Although Hodges intended no particular political or didactic meaning, we look forward to the conversations that it will spark, especially poised, as it is, over Congress Avenue, just blocks from the State Capitol building.”
With Liberty and Justice for All (A Work in Progress) will offer numerous opportunities for events and programs that explore the many interpretations of equality, social justice, and diversity. These will take shape throughout the life of the piece and will provide opportunities to partner with a range of local organizations and educational institutions.
“With a phrase taken from our Pledge of Allegiance, Hodges’s words can be meaningful to many with diverse opinions and platforms,” said Andrea Mellard, Director of Public Programs and Community Engagement at The Contemporary. “It also raises questions about who does and doesn’t have access to liberty and justice. It’s a pledge, a mantra, a call to action, a reminder of our highest goals and idealism.”
With Liberty and Justice for All (A Work in Progress) is on long-term loan to The Contemporary Austin and is expected to be on view for several years, giving the public ample time to experience and reflect upon it, and offering many opportunities for meaningful programs about the work and the many ideas that it provokes.
Pesanti added, “I hope the public loves it, and I hope it moves them. If the sculpture moves someone and causes them to think about issues they wouldn’t normally consider when at a museum, then to me the work is a success.”
Jim Hodges was born in 1957 in Spokane, Washington, and now lives and works in New York.
RENOVATION AND EXPANSION OF THE CONTEMPORARY AUSTIN – JONES CENTER
In April 2016, The Contemporary Austin launched a major renovation and expansion of its downtown museum location, The Contemporary Austin – Jones Center. Made possible by a transformative $1.3 million grant from the Moody Foundation of Galveston, Texas, along with gifts from several members of the museum’s Board of Trustees, the project has increased gallery space from 5,100 to more than 7,000 square feet through a reconfiguration of the interior areas. The renovation also greatly expands the potential of the museum’s rooftop deck—which has been renamed The Moody Rooftop in recognition of the grant—through the addition of a 21-foot-high permanent, open-air canopy. The renovation and expansion was designed by Paul Lewis of LTL Architects, the project contractor is Zapalac Reed of Austin, and the Project Manager is Bob Newell of Austin’s Nelsen Partners. The total cost of the project was approximately $3 million.
With the increase in exhibition space, the museum will have the capacity to organize larger-scale original shows conceived by the museum’s curators, as well as to host touring exhibitions of greater size and breadth organized by other institutions. Achieved through the reconfiguration of staff offices—made possible in part due to the relocation of some staff to the museum’s 14-acre Laguna Gloria site—the change vastly expands the museum’s capabilities while leaving the building’s footprint unchanged.
Behind the visible expansion of exhibition space, the renovations also include a number of critical infrastructure improvements that will facilitate the exhibition of larger works and greatly increase the scope of loans of exhibitions and individual works of art that the museum may accept. First, the renovations address the museum’s need to move large works of art into and out of the building, as well as between the building’s two floors. Larger exterior access panels were installed, allowing art crates to be easily moved in and out of the building. The museum also added a large hydraulic lift to enable movement of works of art from the lower to the upper floor of the building. Similar to the lifts one might see moving cars between levels of a parking garage, the lift will disappear into the building’s infrastructure when not in use.
Second, the museum's humidity controls and fire-suppression systems were vastly improved. This will continue to ensure a safe environment for works of art and will allow The Contemporary Austin to maintain the building specifications needed to conform to the American Alliance of Museums standards for the handling and exhibition of artwork and to receive and care for loans from prestigious art museums and private collections from across the country and around the world.
The Jones Center renovation also included the addition of a permanent, open-air canopy over the rooftop, named The Moody Rooftop in recognition of the Moody Foundation’s landmark gift, which made the project possible Rising 21 feet above the floor of the rooftop, the canopy provides shelter and shade in inclement weather, adds versatility to the space, and enhances the experience of being part of historic Congress Avenue in downtown Austin. Integrated systems were included, allowing the museum to install fans and heaters as needed. Altogether, the enhancements have transformed the rooftop into a primary destination for cultural events in the community, allowing the museum to offer increased public programs rain or shine and across all seasons—including films, concerts, lectures, tours, and events for families and teens.
“The Contemporary Austin – Jones Center’s rooftop has always been a favorite location for Austinites to enjoy the arts through programs such as our Rooftop Architecture & Design Film Series,” said Andrea Mellard, the museum’s Director of Public Programs and Community Engagement. “I am so excited that these changes to the roof will enable more of our programming for adults, families, tours, teens, and more to take place in this beloved and inspiring space.”
In addition to upgrades that will increase the lifespan of the roof, improvements to The Moody Rooftop will also include heightened weatherproofing that will allow access to the rooftop year round and new structural supports and enhancements to accommodate the canopy.
EXHIBITION ORGANIZATION AND SUPPORT
Monika Sosnowska: Habitat is organized by Heather Pesanti, Senior Curator at The Contemporary Austin. The exhibition is made possible through support from Hauser & Wirth, Horizon Bank, Linda L. Brown, MaddocksBrown Foundation, Galerie Gisela Capitain, and Vision Fund Leaders & Contributors.
The installation of Jim Hodges’s With Liberty and Justice for All (A Work in Progress) is made possible by Amanda and Glenn Fuhrman, Agnes Gund, Candace and Michael Humphreys, Jeanne and Michael Klein, Kathleen and Christopher Loughlin, Nancy and Dr. Robert Magoon, Amy and John Phelan, and Lora Reynolds and Quincy Lee. Special thanks to Gladstone Gallery and the Jim Hodges Studio staff.
THE CONTEMPORARY AUSTIN
The Contemporary Austin reflects the spectrum of contemporary art through exhibitions, commissions, education, and the collection. The museum has two distinct yet complementary locations, the Jones Center in downtown Austin at 700 Congress Avenue, and Laguna Gloria, a 14-acre site on Lake Austin at 3809 W. 35th Street, which is home to the Driscoll Villa, the Art School, the Gatehouse Gallery, and the Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria. More information about the museum, its exhibitions, and related programming can be found at thecontemporaryaustin.org.
Nicole Chism Griffin
The Contemporary Austin
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