Yankee Remix, Remix
Artists Take on New England
July 23 - September 4, 2004
Reception: Friday, July 23, 7 - 9 pm
Curator's Talk: Saturday, July 24 @ Noon
(gallery closed August 21 - 28)
Born 1961 in Liberty, New York, lives in New York City.
For Which It Stands (2003)
Postcards, steel postcard stand, and Plexiglas and wood
Commissioned by MASS MoCA and SPNEA for Yankee Remix
Zoe Leonard has created one of the sparest-looking installations
in Yankee Remix , for which she selected and photographed a group of
objects in SPNEA’s collection and had 32 images printed on postcards.
She staged and shot the photographs in the most straightforward way,
centering one object at a time on a plain background and working with
natural light. The final products (the postcards) are displayed in an
equally straightforward way: on a rack in the gallery, where they are
for sale. Even the text on the back is plainspoken: “Wedding Gown, c.
1990,” for example.
Leonard was drawn to the wallflowers of SPNEA’s collection – to things
without association to famous people or events and objects that were
run-of-the-mill in their day. She gravitated to simple materials, such
as plastic and pottery, and avoided high-style craftsmanship. The humble
poetry of these everyday objects, normally shadowed by the more obvious
charms of the rest of SPNEA’s collection, comes through in Leonard’s
postcards, a format particularly well suited to them. As a group, they
begin to form a personal iconography of American things – a baseball,
some rifles, a microwave oven.
Leonard’s reason for seeking out these particular objects was not only
to give them a chance to shine their meager light away from the glare
of the rest of the collection. She also regretted the codification of
meaning that is the fate of any object that enters a museum collection.
An object, such as a painting, might be preserved in perpetuity by a
museum, but its meaning will be assigned to it by the institution. This
calcification of meaning seemed a particularly troubling fate for the
everyday objects that Leonard chose, which might otherwise signify many
practical and sentimental things to different people throughout the
course of a single day. By making and selling postcards of these objects,
Leonard smuggles them out of the confines of the collection and into
the world at large, reintroducing them into the chaos of real life,
and opening them up once again to meaning’s plenitude.