Art exhibits fresh views

On display at the Fort Worth Contemporary Arts is an exhibition by artists Rebecca Barron, Richard Wentworth and Tom Sachs. Attempting to explain the world we live in, the artists examine the idea of archive as it exists within society and within culture. It is the first exhibition of the 2008 season and runs through Oct. 12.

“The archive can be anything from the library that you go into, and there are all these books, to personal archives, like your recipes,” said Gavin Morrison, museum curator. “It’s any place where all of this information is brought together in kind of a systematic way.”

Some of the works on exhibit are reflective of a dialogue about the nature of the archive within itself and within particular instances, and others question how archives get meaning from things that are archived within them.

Wentworth’s photographic series, “Making Do and Getting By”, finds meaning in the everyday task of roadway striping. Street painters use simple methods like measuring by their own foot length, to devise elaborate systems of drawing and measurement. From this system, Wentworth suggests world meaning and understanding is transferred in an accidental, unconscious sort of way. The artist finds instances within the urban landscape where people use what is around them to solve or get around immediate problems- a potted plant or block of concrete may be used to prop open a door. These instances of ingenuity are the seeds of the archive and may suggest of the archive being processed within the individual who views it. The individual then begins to see the world in the artist’s light.

“There’s this wide-wide range of work that I would term experimental,” said Barron, a filmmaker. “It sort of falls outside of conventions of narrative and conventions of documentary.”

Barron’s notion of the archive can be seen in the 16mm film, The Idea of North, which uses recovered photographs from the 1897 failed expedition of Swedish explorers who attempted to reach the North Pole by hydrogen balloon.

“The images were so compelling that I decided to do some research,” Barron said. Those initial found objects became the catalyst for considering, not just the expedition, but considering the role of photographs, the relationship to film, how meaning lies within the discreet moments, and trying to piece it all together.

Sachs used the fragments of bricolage to create a cultural questioning within the archive. He created an exact replica of the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing Module in his NASA film, examining the ways in which culture thinks about the space program, in particular during the 1960s, when there was a sense of heroics associated with the space program and there was reflection on The Cold War. Sachs seeks to introduce a wider understanding of what culture is by circumventing these ideals and introducing ideas with a different cultural context. He uses music, which obviously wasn’t there, and presents scenes in which astronauts are smoking and drinking.

The Fort Worth Contemporary Arts, established in 2007, is funded through a university grant and is administered by the Art and Art History Departments.

“The university wanted to develop a facility for the university community and to reach out to the wider North Texas Community and provide international contemporary art that perhaps wouldn’t be seen in the area otherwise,” Morrison said.