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Exhibition features 10 contemporary artists exploring material aspects of self
Andy, Coolquitt,LLC. [Regional Midwest Branch Office of Andy's Place Acting as Temporary Storehouse for Future Distribution Center and Site Location of Upcoming Production of ’Andy's Place’ plus Sheboygan Affiliate to Collect Evidence for the {Center for Identification of Architectural Micro-Aggressions, Molestations, and Assailments}, CIAMAMA], 2019, mixed media. The Autotopographers installation view at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, artwork by Andy Coolquitt, 2019. Photo courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center.

SHEBOYGAN, WI.- Through September 15, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center presents The Autotopographers—a group exhibition featuring works by Joianne Bittle, Sarah Braman, Andy Coolquitt, Beatriz Cortez, iris yirei hu, Benjamin Larose, Azikiwe Mohammed, Yoshie Sakai, Becky Suss, and Ray Yoshida.

In a 1995 essay, art historian Jennifer A. González coined the term “autotopography” to articulate the ways in which biography is revealed in the creation of one’s environment. The personal objects comprising an autotopography are extensions of the maker’s self, of life events, and cultural identity. González writes “...just as a written autobiography is a series of narrated of events, fantasies and identification, so too an autotopography forms a spatial representation of important relations and past events.”

Since 1994, Austin-based Andy Coolquitt has been engaged in the construction of a multi-building, multifaceted commune, salon, party house, sculpture, happening, and environment in the center of the city. This evolving property has also supported an ongoing artistic process in which Coolquitt uses found cast-offs and thrift-store finds to interrogate the ways in which objects enhance and challenge our everyday interactions.

For The Autotopographers Coolquitt broadened this interrogation. He built a series of rooms that contain aspects of his Austin house including a vape room, kitchen, pantry, and bathroom through which he creates settings for conversations, cooking, nostalgia, and performances. With a combination of artwork, “somebody-mades” (found assemblages or tools), and in-between objects (found objects not yet incorporated into art), Coolquitt’s landscape is populated by humorous and uncanny vignettes that ask viewers to consider their relationship to domestic objects and spaces.

The additional artists in the exhibition—selected for their compelling ability to blend autobiography, history, and contemporary art practices—use a variety of methodologies and materials to explore aspects of the self.

Sarah Braman presents her truck bed and glass construction Let’s Read Together (Badger Den) to delve into our relationship to quality time. Two large-scale paintings by Becky Suss are included that in her own words act as “stages for daily life, the backdrop to what we do in our lives that are of our own stories.”

Beatriz Cortez shows her The Lakota Porch: A Time Traveler, a steel façade modeled after the vernacular craftsmanship of Dan Montelongo, an Apache Mescalero master stone builder who constructed homes known as “river-rock houses” across northeastern Los Angeles between 1923–1925.

Joianne Bittle presents the next iteration of her Portable Landscape series—a diorama of a prehistoric Great Lakes Basin landscape housed in the back of a horse trailer. Iris yirei hu shows her latest edition of her Survival Guide series, titled Spring. The work is an exploration of hu’s grandmother’s Hmong heritage through textiles, craft practices, and materials indigenous to China and Los Angeles.

Yoshie Sakai exhibits an extension and expansion of her video series KOKO’s Love. Her installation investigates the dichotomy of dreams versus reality through a simulated pet store and a living room that recall a childhood disappointment surrounding getting a dog.

New Davonhaime—a city conceived of by Azikiwe Mohammed—is an amalgamation of the five cities in America with the densest populations of African Americans: New Orleans, Detroit, Jackson, Birmingham, and Savannah. For The Autotopographers, Mohammed offers T.T. Davis Park, which emphasizes public spaces where people of color can feel secure and acknowledged.

Benjamin Larose’s sculpture and performance Squall uses found snow globes, assembled into an organ to comment on his birth during a snowstorm and our lifelong relationship to the things we carry with us. And from the John Michael Kohler Art Center’s collection, a tableaux of Ray Yoshida’s home collection has been installed alongside one of his paintings, revealing the influence he drew from the objects and artworks he displayed and lived with in his apartment.

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