Anyone passing by the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum on Ridgefield’s Main Street over the last week undoubtedly noticed the group of trees near Main Street enveloped in black. Involving four crab apple trees slated for removal, they are part of a larger installation by Kim Jones titled White Crow. On closer inspection, passersby would have seen that one of the trees is heavily laden with rats (stuffed, not live).
Site Lines: Four Solo Exhibitions Engaging Place will open at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield this Sunday, May 1, with a reception from 2 to 5 pm. The works of artists David Brooks, Jones, Peter Liversidge and Virginia Overton will occupy not only the Aldrich’s galleries, but also its sculpture garden, outdoor terraces, and various public locations in Ridgefield.
The free opening event will include the opportunity to meet and mingle with the artists and museum curators, guided gallery tours at 3 and 4, and family art-making activities. A gourmet farm-to-museum lunchbox will also be available for purchase from No. 109 Cheese & Wine.
Also observed from the street, as well as behind the museum, across the floor and hanging on the walls of the two-story entrance atrium, is every single part of a used 1976 John Deere 3300 combine harvester. Some, such as the engine, radiator and cab, are readily identifiable, unaltered and weathered, while others are sandblasted, removing rust, paint and all traces of wear and tear and can only be guessed at. Still others are brass-plated and housed in museum vitrines. Titled Continuous Service Altered Daily, the site-specific installation by David Brooks marks the Indiana artist’s first solo museum exhibition.
At a changeover tour conducted on April 24, Exhibitions Director Richard Klein noted that such tours were being reintroduced after an absence of several years, saying they are “a way to let people see how an exhibit is installed and to meet artists.” He also noted that all four Site Lines exhibits are making greater use of the space outside the museum, which has not been done in a while.
In talking about this overall exhibition, he said when the idea of it was emerging a couple of years ago, while it would have been easy to do “artist X does outside things; let’s get artist X,” he wanted to include artists with a connection to the natural world. While at the Armory Show in New York, he happened across a sculpture by Jones that incorporated sticks, branches and stuffed animals, and thought Jones would be a natural for the show.
He introduced Jones as “a spry 72-year-old” whose components interrelate to the artist’s art-making and personal history, which included a childhood illness that prevented him from walking for three years, a stint in the Marines — 13 months in Vietnam — and his performance art alter ego Mudman. Caked in mud and other organic substances and wearing a cumbersome lattice structure of sticks on his back, Mudman was known to take 12-hour strolls during the 70s and 80s, first in his native California, then in his adopted New York and cities in-between.
White Crow marks the introduction of the crow in Jones’s work. Klein noted that Jones has a long history of incorporating rats in his work (Jones later related that he once did an installation involving 2,000 stuffed rats and at the end of the exhibit the museum told him the rats were “all yours” and he has been using them since).
Inside the museum, White Crow occupies the main upstairs gallery with a set of sticks, chicken wire, foam rubber and acrylic paint sculptures on toys with wheels that are mounted on the walls and accented with drawing, giving the impression of racing on the walls; the small back gallery, which has been turned into a classroom with metal chairs from a school, occupied by various rats and crows, as well one more sculpture on wheels; and the walk-in camera obscura, where the one white crow can be found. There is also a hand-drawn map on one wall, extended with additional drawing.
A monumental interactive tree swing behind the museum is the centerpiece of Tennessee artist Virginia Overton’s exhibition, which also includes newly commissioned sculptures within the galleries, on the surrounding campus and atop the museum’s roof. Suspended on a freestanding steel armature, the swing is comprised of the approximately 12-foot-long debarked trunk of a felled Eastern white pine tree from the museum’s grounds. Other sculptural works fabricated onsite incorporate elements harvested from the tree as well as items found around the museum property and neighboring community, plus a new weathervane on the museum’s pitched roofline.
For his exhibition at The Aldrich, his first solo museum presentation in the United States, British artist Peter Liversidge wrote 60 proposals, including performances and physical artworks across a variety of mediums. Of these, 24 were selected for realization and — with some help from local residents — will be presented at the museum and in the surrounding neighborhood.
Liversidge’s practice begins with the creation of conceptually based proposals. Typed on an old manual typewriter — complete with typographical errors and hand annotations — these proposals describe ideas from the practical to the far-fetched.
The chosen proposals, guided by the concept of connecting the interior of the Aldrich Museum with both the surrounding landscape and community, will include working with the employees of Ridgefield Hardware to write a song about the store that they will publicly perform. Liversidge also plans to fire a cannonball into the museum’s wall, in reference to the action during the Revolutionary War that led to a British cannonball being embedded in the wall of the Keeler Tavern Museum, a short distance south of the Aldrich on Main Street.
All of Liversidge’s community proposals will be celebrated at the museum on Saturday, July 9, with a Community Day event to include a sausage and craft beer festival in the sculpture garden, for families to enjoy a day at the museum eating, drinking and meeting the artist.
Site Lines: Four Solo Exhibitions Engaging Place, will remain on view through Feb. 5.
The Aldrich is at 258 Main Street, Ridgefield. For information, aldrichart.org or 203-438-4519.