Suzanne Bocanegra Exhibition WARDROBE TEST Inaugurates New Brooklyn Space ART CAKE

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Suzanne Bocanegra Exhibition WARDROBE TEST Inaugurates New Brooklyn Space ART CAKE

Art Cake is pleased to present its inaugural exhibition Suzanne Bocanegra: Wardrobe Test, opening September 7, 2019. Located at 214 40th Street in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, Art Cake is a new organization dedicated to providing space for production and opportunities to explore creative practices.

Bocanegra's solo exhibition will include three recent large-scale works: Valley (2018); Lemonade, Roses, Satchel (2017); and Dialogue of the Carmelites (2018).

Since the late 1980's, Bocanegra's work has ranged from painting, video, and installation works to performance, costume, and set design. Throughout her practice, she returns repeatedly to subjects that interest her - romantic ideas about nature, idealistic views of the pastoral, how costumes communicate and reveal character1, how art and theater interact, and how art intersects with real life. By accumulating and collaging personal and historical narratives, Bocanegra creates works that can be interpreted literally, metaphorically, and satirically all at once. Much of her work is collaborative; Bocanegra frequently works with actors and musicians, using their physicality, movements, and sounds as vehicles to project the various modes of interpretation. By working with actors, she makes a comment on avoiding the audience's gaze, reclaiming a power that women often lose. Art critic and art historian Hal Foster notes on the artist's recent work, "all these pieces are not only personal stories; they're also cultural essays."2

Valley is an eight channel video reenactment of the wardrobe tests originally performed by Judy Garland for the 1967 film Valley of the Dolls. Garland, fragile and worn out from exhaustion and years of studio mistreatment, was let go from the film before shooting began, and these wardrobe tests are all that remain of her participation. Bocanegra has retrieved the original footage, spanning approximately five minutes, in which Garland is clearly, uniquely vulnerable. For her installation, Bocanegra cast eight women whose own work touches on performance to play and honor Garland: poet Anne Carson, dancer and choreographer Deborah Hay, artist Joan Jonas, actor and singer Alicia Hall Moran, actor and activist Tanya Selvaratnam, actor Kate Valk, artist Carrie Mae Weems, and ballerina Wendy Whelan. Bocanegra used the film clip as the script, and the actors were guided by Garland's text and gestures. Although all of the women are dressed in the same costume and moving in unison with each other, each one interprets the material in a different way. Art critic Helen Shaw notes, "There's a sense in Valley too of beautiful things being rescued from the flames, of defeat being repurposed into strength."3

On view in the third gallery is Bocanegra's Dialogue of the Carmelites, a meditative and powerful installation inspired by Francis Poulenc's 1956 opera. Set during the final days of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution, Poulenc's opera is based on a true story of a convent of nuns who were executed for their relentless faith. In her work, the artist incorporates pages from the 1953 Guide to the Catholic Sisterhoods in the United States. Each page catalogs a directory's worth of information about various convents within the United States. Working in the tradition of nuns who would hand stitch and decorate their prayer books, Bocanegra embroidered the individual pages and assembled them side-by-side on shelves lining the perimeter of the room. While Dialogue of the Carmelites honors the women presented, it also offers an exploration and critique of the culture. The installation also includes a sound score by composer David Lang, sung by Caroline Shaw, with sound design by Jody Elff.

Upon entering the gallery, visitors are met with Bocanegra's video installation, Lemonade, Roses, Satchel, an ode to the artist's grandmother who lived on a small farm in rural Texas. Bocanegra recalls that her grandmother, who suffered from dementia, would often repeat variations on the following: "Would you like some lemonade? My roses are so beautiful. Why won't he give me money for my satchel?" Bocanegra fashioned these fragments into song lyrics and gave them to singer and composer Shara Nova (also known as My Brightest Diamond), to set to music. Here, Shara Nova, staged and dressed in a pastoral costume by the artist, sings these words throughout the looped three-and-half-minute video projection, which spans the entire wall of the gallery.

The works presented at Art Cake have been configured and adapted to three newly renovated spaces; they were all formerly included in Suzanne Bocanegra: Poorly Watched Girls at the Fabric Workshop & Museum in Philadelphia in 2018.

Located in a converted industrial building from the 1920s, its flexible model has been designed to accommodate a wide range of creative industries. The 13,000 square foot newly renovated building provides a multi-room exhibition and event space on the ground floor and a complex of affordable artist studios on the second floor.

Art Cake is founded by brothers and artists, Cordy Ryman and Ethan Ryman. Cordy Ryman notes, "Loosely based on the cooperative, artist-run spaces that were popular in Lower Manhattan in the 1970s and 1980s, the flexible, self-sustaining model, featuring galleries and studios, provides space for art to be both viewed and produced. We hope to create a community of artists who will experiment, take advantage of the studio space for production, and engage in the programming on the ground floor." "Our vision is to provide studio space and resources for artists to make art in a city where it has become more and more difficult to maintain a creative practice. We intend to provide a platform that would hopefully give birth to some sort of minute portion of a generation of artists. It's kind of an incubator," Ethan Ryman explains.

Born in Houston, Texas, Suzanne Bocanegra received her B.F.A. from University of Texas, Austin, and her M.F.A. from San Francisco Art Institute.

In 2010, Bocanegra began a series of theater works, called "artist lectures." Her stories become performances, brought to life in collaboration with professional actors. The works in this series are When a Priest Marries a Witch, starring Paul Lazar (2010) premiered at MoMA, New York; Bodycast, starring Frances McDormand (2013) premiered at Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh; and Farmhouse/Whorehouse, starring Lili Taylor (2017) premiered at Countercurrent Festival, Match-Box Theater, Houston, Texas. These performances have been presented in museum and theater spaces across the country, including the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio, Marfa Contemporary, Texas, and the Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy Of Music, New York.

Bocanegra's work has been the subject of solo exhibitions, including Poorly Watched Girls, Fabric Workshop & Museum, Philadelphia (2018); I Write the Songs, The Tang Museum, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York (2010; traveled to Site Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2011); Millet's Aprons, The Drawing Room, East Hampton, New York (2005), among others.

Her work has been featured in international group exhibitions, such as Bel Canto: Contemporary Artists Explore Opera, Site Santa Fe, New Mexico (2019); Studio Systems, American Academy in Rome, Italy (2017); New Directions in American Drawing, Knoxville Museum, Tennessee (traveled to Telfair Museum, Savannah, Georgia; and Columbus Museum, Georgia; all 2007); Fine Lines, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California (2003); Secret Victorians: Contemporary Artists and a 19th-Century Vision (organized by the Hayward Gallery for the Arts Council of England, traveled to Brighton Museum; and Armand Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, 1998-1999).

Bocanegra has been a recipient of notable awards and fellowships, including a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship (2013), a Danish Arts Council Fellowship (2007), New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship (2005; 2001; 1993; and 1989); Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant (2003; 1990; 1988); Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant; Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant (both 2001); Prix de Rome (1990); among others. She was a resident at The Fabric Workshop & Museum, Philadelphia in 2018, at the Macdowell Colony, Peterborough, New Hampshire, in 2015 and 2009, and at Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, New York, in 2007; 2003; and 1989.

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