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Meg Cranston - The Pleasure of Obvious Problems

July 2007

Meg Cranston - The Pleasure of Obvious Problems

Exhibition dates: 4 August – 15 September 2007

Opening reception: Friday 3 August 6pm

ARTSPACE is proud to present The Pleasure of Obvious Problems, the first survey exhibition of the work of Californian artist Meg Cranston.

The exhibition will include a selection of Cranston’s work in sculpture, performance and mixed media installation, spanning her twenty-year career (1987- 2007). It will also include new works created especially for the ARTSPACE exhibition. The title reflects Cranston’s theory about art. “Art makes abstract concepts tangible.

It makes problems, love or death or power or whatever it is, it makes those issues visible. The best art makes complex ideas obvious. That’s the pleasure of art’. Of the abstract ideas, Cranston has gone for some of the biggest, albeit usually in an absurd way. In the work Volcano Trash and Ice Cream, a giant pistachio ice cream cone is shown projected on the wall. It drips slowly until all the ice cream has sluiced away.

Cranston sees the work to be about the nature of life. She says “How the forces of nature are effecting us, how we reflect on our mortality, that’s just too big, too abstract, for visual art. A melting ice cream cone is easier to see and to relate to.” For Cranston, it is more obvious in the best sense.

One of Cranston’s best-known works, The Complete Works of Jane Austen (1991) gives form to the invisible experience of reading. The large inflatable sculpture was designed to contain the amount of air the artist’s lungs would exchange while reading the complete works of the English author (100,000 liters). She describes the work as “a monument to the impact Austen’s writing had on me”.

In the work The Last Magical Death, a sculpture/performance piece made especially for the exhibition, Cranston considers the cultural function of ritual violence and masochism. The piece is a life size self-portrait in the form of a piñata (a papier mâché effigy). The term Magical Death comes from a film by Timothy Asch and Napoleon Chagnon about the Yanomamo tribesmen of Brazil who use of ritual violence to circumvent actual blood shed.

The difference in The Last Magical Death is that the violence will not remain abstract. It is a real piñata, which during the exhibition will be used as such – it will be beaten and destroyed. Or least that is Cranston’s plan. “I have made other piñatas but no one has taken my challenge and actually used the work. I hope that will happen in New Zealand. The violence has to occur so the figure (my doppelgänger) can symbolically triumph.”

ARTSPACE will publish a substantial full colour catalogue which will be designed and distributed by the New Zealand publishing group Clouds.

The catalogue, to be titled Hot Pants in a Cold, Cold World, includes installation images and essays by Nico Israel, Carole Ann Klonarides, Tirdad Zolghadr and writing by the artist. In conjunction with the exhibition at ARTSPACE, Meg Cranston is the Artist in Residence at Elam School of Fine Arts (Elam), National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries at The University of Auckland from 16 July until 17 August 2007. The Elam Residency Project is generously supported by arts patron Jenny Gibbs.

Meg Cranston’s work has been shown internationally since 1990. Museum exhibitions and performances include: Museum for Contemporary Art, Seigen; Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam; Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf; Haus der Kunst, Munich; P.S.1, New York; Henry Art Gallery, Seattle; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Landesmuseum Joanneum, Graz; The New Museum, New York; The Whitney Museum, New York, and Open ‘93: Emergency, Aperto in the 1993 Venice Biennale.


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