YSP Blog

Life in the Park, a blog from in and around the 500 acres of Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Find out what's happening in the Park on a regular basis with our blog, Life in the Park. Tell us what you see in the Park by emailing news and pictures to lydia.turnbull@ysp.co.uk

YSP Senior Curator, Helen Pheby visits The Contemporary Austin

72 hours in Austin Texas is not nearly enough time to make the most of this amazing city, but thanks to the brilliant hospitality and planning of The Contemporary Austin we managed an action-packed itinerary as part of YSP's continued aims to share and learn best practice. With Elisabeth Millqvist, the Co-Director of our ELAN partner Wanås in Sweden, we spent time at The Contemporary Austin's inspiring two sites Laguna Gloria and the Jones Center, their downtown gallery. Laguna Gloria is a sculpture park on the edge of a beautiful lake with excellent sculptures by artists including Tom Friedman, Paul McCarthy, Nancy Holt, Liam Gillick and a new commission by Terry Allen of a bronze cast of the, car he owned as young man with stories and music about road trips. They also have an innovative public programme including row-in movies from the lakeside. Following really useful conversations with the Museum team ranging from programme planning to how to keep sculptures clean and best approaches to signage, I took part in a talk and discussion with Elisabeth, chaired by Andrea Mellard, The Director of Public Programs and Community for the Contemporary Austin.
Our second day started with a walking meeting along part of the Waller Creek, which runs through the city and over the next few years will be developed in a walking, cycling and art route – which will no doubt become a much loved and used green heart to the city. We then visited an exquisite private collection of contemporary art and had a special preview of the rehang in the great Blanton Museum of Art (affiliated with the University of Texas at Austin), including Cildo Meireles' important work How to Build Cathedrals (1987). We had a tour of The University’s Warfield Center Christian-Green Gallery and a fascinating exhibition into the life and work of human rights campaigner John Lewis (nothing to do with the shop...). We joined a reception for artist Ann Hamilton and the launch of her Landmarks commission ONEEVERYONE with the University’s Dell Medical School – a poignant body of ethereal portraits of people living in Austin. The artist gave great insight into her work during a conversation with the art critic Nancy Princenthal, including her beautiful installation at Wanås. We attended a dinner with Austin patrons in the evening, all genuine enthusiasts for art, artists and the affect it can have on lives, such as the brilliant installation on the roof of Contemporary Austin's downtown gallery by Jim Hodges. Writ large and shiny, words from the pledge of allegiance With Liberty and Justice for All (A Work in Progress) shines like a beacon of hope and underscores the open and creative spirit of this great city. I'm really grateful to Louis Grachos, the Director of Contemporary Austin, and all of the team there especially Andrea and Stephanie and to their patrons for sharing their superb space, art and city with such generosity and thoughtfulness.  
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'One and Other' and MA Curating and Collections

Perhaps one of the most surprising things that I have learnt on my MA so far is the wide reaching influence and associations that YSP has. My connection with the park has been something of continued relevance throughout my first semester. From seeing KAWS' Small Lie in the park on the cover of magazines in the University libraries, to curating works of the photographer Syd Shelton who not only grew up in the area but was a pupil of the Park’s Founder, and Executive Director Peter Murray - something that he fondly brought up on learning where I come from. Even in my most recent project with the Zabludowicz Collection, points of connection with YSP have been numerous. Just from flicking through thumbnails of their huge collection names like Roger Hiorns, Ryan Gander and Yelena Popova, they immediately stood out to me as artists, who, as a result of my time at the park, I felt a warm association with.

One and Other, an exhibition that I co-curated with three other students from Chelsea College of Arts, and two from Sir John Cass College of Art at London Metropolitan University is the product of my work with the Zabludowicz Collection. I have been participating in their Testing Ground project which, now in its 9th year, aims to support curating students develop their own practice as well as valuable skills and connections that will last throughout their careers.

Following a talk by Programme Director Maitreyi Maheshwari at Chelsea, I was quick to submit my application to the project. Fortunately I was selected along with three of my classmates and we were joined at the collection’s gallery in Chalk Farm by our fellow project participants from Sir John Cass. We were then given the budget and a 450 page booklet of some 1500 plus thumbnails of the works in the collection, and asked to curate a show on anything we liked. As daunting a task as this was, the challenge and opportunity that it represented was invigorating and before long we had whittled that initial gargantuan list down to 20 artists each. From there we looked at points of intersection between the practices of each artist and began the process of deciding on and refining the ideas, topics and themes that the exhibition would revolve around.

‘Identity’ as a topic seemed to be the most relevant to the works that we had chosen. It is a topic that perhaps some would say is over done and this is something that we certainly considered. However, we took the view that if contemporary art practitioners are to continue to deal with contemporary cultural issues, then we should not fear returning to those issues. Through further research into our artists and works we found a common line of address that connected them - an interest in a projected self, or ‘other’ self; the difference between the persona and the “true” self. As such we began to think about duality as a characteristic of identity in contemporary culture. Thinking about questions like, is there a difference between yourself and the virtual character that you create of yourself on social media? Is the public you different from the private you? How has the persona that you project, or aim to project been influenced by social, environmental, political or religious factors? We saw the relationship that an actor might have to a character they are playing on a stage emblematic of this. And so we designed the space, through lighting and the positioning of each work, to mirror and represent metaphor, the idea being to bring the viewer onto the stage, under the spotlight. Thus, One and Other came into being.

My MA is only one year long so any opportunity that presents itself is not to be missed. I told myself this before I moved down to London and I continue to tell myself this now. Through producing One and Other I have learnt so much, and developed my own practice. The hard work has certainly paid off and the positive reviews that we have received from magazines as wide reaching as Time Out and as critically acclaimed as Studio International, have given me the confidence and energy to continue joyfully and tenaciously on my curatorial path.

By Ryan Blakeley, a former YSP Visitor Experience Team Member

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