I have been on the east coast, my homeland, for about a week and a half now. After the success of the “Eat Peter to Feed Paul” show at Littlefield and the subsequent days of running around New York tieing up loose ends I finally have had a chance to wander down via the Chinatown bus to Raleigh-Durham, N.C.. Durham is my birth place and my father lives in Raleigh now. My first day back I was surprised with the pleasure of going to check out the new Contemporary Art Museum in downtown Raleigh, and I have to say, it is phenomenal! It is on the level as a space and, with regards to its architecture and construction, and as a curatorial happening with any other contemporary art institution, and it is only about a year old. I personally have already begun considering what to propose to them and how to start a dialogue to get a big installation show going back on the soil of my birthplace! All of this to me equates goodness for the future!
Having a proper contemporary art entity such as this in the triangle area to me truly is a testament to the fact that places that were once forgotten such as downtowns that I saw die as a child, are resurging. They are doing so due to a new found passion from those who wish to escape the mega store, neo-mall, Wal-Mart world in a hopes to bring thought, aesthetic and intelligent reconstructive ideas, and a platform for people build a more personalized local future and creative voice to the domestic and world stage. Doing so brings old and beautiful aspects of our cities into a realm of future antiquity which imparts the amazing, rich history of such downtown areas with a new sense of progressive respect, intuitive building and revitalization. The area that it exists in is the oldest part of Raleigh and now it is truly the newest as well both in construction and concept. Certain aspects of the original structure, such as elevator shaft components and brick walls and more have been totally saved and are completely visable. And at the same time the newest of the new in terms of architectural and spacial design forms and materials have been implemented, overlapped and intertwined into a beautiful collaborative platform that itself acts as a living dialogue between a strong, historical, narrative past, and a respectful, flexible, and straight up beautifully realized, ultra contemporary present. These are the things I saw before even entering the exhibitions on hand.
The work in the first exhibition, entitled “Born Digital : Exploring Digital Culture and Interactivity” was a group show composed of very conceptual digital media work, yet was crafted, labored on, and designed in such a way that I truly appreciated the skills of the artist as much as their conceptual prowess which is more often than not a game killer for me with some work. I was in awe of the design brilliance and technical knowledge behind a few, and one in particular which had a series of hanging ivy plants with their vines draping down to the ground which acted as a trigger for different sound prompts linked to the vines by motion senses, which was a fully tactile interactive piece, was absolutely wonderful in its communication of concept and simplicity of design and exhibition. All of the work was interactive in this part of the museum, which was also a plus for me. A big win in my book!
The second gallery, downstairs is in a very interesting space which apparently was the result of taking out a huge concrete slab so natural light could shine brilliantly through the big exterior windows of the museum into the basement level, pretty awesome. ”Close One” by Chris Bradley, a School of the Art Institute of Chicago grad, was highly conceptual, sculptural, almost DaDaist found object installation work. For what it was, it communicated very well and with a good sense of humor and analyses.
My favorite piece in the entire museum was a film piece entitled “Dance” by artist Dara Friedman, in the last space of the basement level. It was a very well edited series of beautiful gritty black and white film reels of dancers in Miami, dancing all over the city out in the public eye. From exotic dancers in street clothes and bikinis doing upside down spread eagle helicopters on street sign poles, to local break dancers, to a handful of different tap dancers tapping it out at bus stops and along sidewalks, to capoeira practitioners, to two young urban “turf” style dancers in totally rehearsed synchronicity, to a fully nude woman on a parking garage displaying modern dance skills, to a young preteen girl in hi tops strutting across blocks and blocks under and expressway overpass or something, almost at a gallop just letting it all go with Lady Gaga or some other power pop techno ballad blaring in the back ground, it was one of the finest video pieces I have ever seen in my life! EVER! Seriously it is amazing!
This place deserves a visit, and consideration by any emerging or established artist as far as exhibiting and possibly working with. You can find them online at http://camraleigh.org/ All the press info a more is available on the website. I’ll be back and definitely looking forward to working with them in the future. – JFAIII All images and text except for the image from “Dance” and the first image in this post of the museum are from JFA III for ArtNow SF, the other two images are directly from the C.A.M. website.