August 19 - September 27 1998
"An inglenook is the nook and sitting area by a large open fireplace. Significant changes in domestic history in the nineteenth century involving the development of central heating have drastically interrupted the traditional evening orientation toward a single hearth (a shared communal space), thereby prompting major changes in how we live. Housing is the most reliable indication of one's essential identity-a microcosm of our most intimate world. The interior reveals status, priiYacy, social segregation, customs, popular beliefs, and modes of behavior. The hearth used to be the central focus of the home-a place where significant matters took place, from nourishment and comfort to social interaction. This space has been replaced by the virtual hearth of the computer, a solitary experience in which interaction takes place as disembodied experience. With the disappearance of the domestic hearth, its artistic contemplation has become a critical concern for many artists. Their interest in the relationship between art and social space is one of the central focuses of this exhibition.
INGLENOOK includes artists whose works address vernacular design and cultural artifacts, especially those revolving around the context of the domestic. Presenting objects that are readily recognizable, these artists contemplate issues of design to explore the social uses of space. By focusing on familiar aspects of material culture, such as the elements of architecture (bricks, fixtures, stairs, faadesl and interior design (decoration, table settings, furniture), they investigate the historical, formal, perceptual and psychological properties of design and how they are disseminated to create meaning.
Lament for the loss of communal space and desire for its recreation date back to the advent of the industrial revolution and the Arts and Crafts tradition in the mid-nineteenth century. Concerned that their work have a social impact, many practicing painters and sculptors in Europe and in America became designers and architects. Gerrit Rietveld and Henry van de Velde, influenced by theorists like Ruskin, Morris, Semper and Berlage, voluntarily gave up painting because they had come to believe that design and architecture were more socially useful. But it was not until the early twentieth century, with the Bauhaus, de Stijl, and Constructivist movements, that the integration of architecture, design and studio practice became a central concern for many artists. The desire to synthesize human experience through a reunion of art and the industrial world has, however, seen many disruptions. Categorization has created artificial divisions within the arts that are ultimately useful for market purposes only. Undermining the dualistic model in which various practices must exist within their discrete categories, the artists in this exhibition seek to unify experience and remove aesthetic hierarchies created between artistic practices. INGLENOOK uses the hearth as a metaphor for social space-a place in which differences are negotiated and defined.
There is a social imperative inherent in art production, and in examining the interactive nature of design, artists may use the familiar and the functional to create situations that alter viewers' understanding of their surroundings. Looking at the interior as a space in which many emotional, biological and social processes take place, INGLENOOK is a setting that questions the relationship of the viewer/ participant to design. How does it nurture, control and represent our individuality? From family diaries to coffee tables-encompassing creative mediums from video and music to computer-generated painting and glassblowing-the works explore how experience is contextualized within the constructed environment."
An earlier version of this exhibition took place at Feigen Contemporary in New York, and was curated collaboratively by Rena Conti, Ivan Moskowitz and Yvette Brockman. Many thanks to: Lance Kinz and Susan Reynolds, the directors of Feigen, for their support in initiating the project and seeing it through; to Jeremy Blake for his graphic design work on bath Inglenook and Inglenook II; and to the artists and galleries that facilitated loans of artwork.