May 14, 2019 - Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston - Amie Siegel: Medium Cool
May 14, 2019

Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston

Amie Siegel, Quarry, 2015 (still). HD video, color/sound. 34 min. Courtesy the artist and Simon Preston Gallery, New York.

Amie Siegel
Medium Cool
May 18–October 12, 2019

Opening reception: May 17, 6–9pm

Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston
120 Fine Arts Building
Houston, Texas 77204
United States
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday 10am–5pm

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The Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston is pleased to present Medium Cool, an exhibition of works by the American artist Amie Siegel. 

Over the last decade, Amie Siegel has engaged film, video, photography, performance, and installation to explore a breadth of themes, including history, psychoanalysis, economics, and the global trade in art and artefacts. Her works use the associative structure of poetry, the dispassionate perspective of sociology, and her own idiosyncratically paced, multi-layered approach to examine complex systems of power and value. With unhurried precision, often mirroring aspects of the systems she portrays, Siegel reveals society’s obsessions and their seductions and subversions.

In the exhibition Medium Cool, Blaffer Art Museum features three recent works by Siegel: Dynasty, 2017, an installation centered on a fragment of pink marble from Trump Tower; Fetish, 2016, a video exposing the annual nocturnal cleaning of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s practice room and archaeological collection; and Quarry, a video following the production-to-consumption cycle of the marble facades bedecking multimillion dollar high-rise apartments. Additionally, for the Blaffer presentation, Siegel has made a new series of marble-dust paintings at the Vermont facility where much of Quarry was shot.

Conceived separately, these works together suggest a larger narrative of contemporary life and late-stage capitalism—a time of social stratification, unsustainable consumption, and the displacement of labor through mechanization. Freud used archaeology as a primary metaphor for his theories and collected over 2,500 ancient figurines, which we see being dusted in Fetish, along with lifting and vacuuming of the oriental rugs draping his analysis couch. Using an associatory, mining method similar to Freud’s, Quarry and Dynasty, too, peer behind surfaces to speculate on the drives propelling society. Without providing easy answers, they ask what glossy marble surfaces—the patterns of which often resemble the Rorschach inkblots used in psychoanalysis—say about contemporary society and how it constructs value.

The exhibition title, Medium Cool, while referencing the coldness of the stone materials appearing in each of its component parts, also suggests the detached, almost forensic perspective Siegel employs in her various media. Additionally, it reinforces an overarching reading of her component-based works. In the 1960s, philosopher Marshall McLuhan famously described “cool media” as forms of communication requiring the audience to piece together its larger significance.

Siegel earned a BA from Bard College in 1996 and a MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1999. Except for 2003-08, when she was based in Berlin—initially on a DAAD Berliner-Künstlerprogramm residency, later as a Guggenheim Fellow—she has lived and worked in New York. She has had solo exhibitions at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; South London Gallery; Guggenheim Museum Bilbao; Museum Villa Stuck, Munich and Kunstmuseum Stuttgart. Her work has been in group shows including at the Witte de With, Rotterdam; CAPC Bordeaux; Vancouver Art Gallery; MAXXI Museum, Rome; Hayward Gallery, London; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco; the 2018 Gwangju Bienniale; and Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin.

Amie Siegel: Medium Cool is curated by Toby Kamps and organized by Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston.

Generous support for the exhibition is provided by Ingrid Arneberg, Leslie and Brad Bucher, Kristen and David Buck, Jereann Chaney, Cullen K. Geiselman, Cecily Horton, and Sallie Morian. Additional exhibition and program funding is provided by the Cecil Amelia Blaffer von Furstenberg Endowment for Exhibitions and Programs, the George and Mary Josephine Hamman Foundation, the Sarah C. Morian Endowment, the John P. McGovern Foundation, Jo and Jim Furr Exhibition Endowment at Blaffer Art Museum, the Farrell Family Foundation, and Blaffer Art Museum’s Advisory Board members.

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