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Paul Sietsema's most comprehensive exhibition to date opens at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
Paul Sietsema, At the hour of tea (still), 2013. 16mm, silent. Courtesy of the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery, New York.

CHICAGO, IL.- Paul Sietsema explores what it means to make art today – amid a barrage of images, instant access to information, and the alternate realities presented by digital technology – in his exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago on view September 7, 2013 to January 5, 2014. Paul Sietsema is the most comprehensive exhibition to date for the artist, who lives and works in Los Angeles. It brings together three films -- Figure 3 (2008), Anticultural Positions (2009), and the recently completed At the hour of tea (2013) -- along with drawings, paintings, and other works on paper.

Sietsema’s projects take shape slowly, often over a span of several years, during which he researches ideas, information, images, and objects that he then uses as the basis of drawings or a film. While the artworks allude to a wide range of cultural, historical and aesthetic matters, as demonstrated by his film Anticultural Positions, the works at base represent activities that take place in the artist’s studio. Thus the exhibition as a whole maps the artist’s interests in the ambiguity of authorship, the meaning of objects, the idea of labor, and culturally and temporally specific aesthetics. He strives to create what he refers to as an “exploded” model of history, and even a “democratizing” of culture, by interweaving a diverse range of artifacts from distant time periods with objects or materials from the present. The films are all silent, shot in 16mm film, and non-narrative.

Since the late 1990s, Sietsema has created several in-depth, multimedia investigations, each combining a 16mm film presentation with other artworks. For example, in the film Figure 3 (25 minutes), Sietsema chose pre-colonial ethnographic objects and tools, primarily from the South Pacific, as his subject. These objects served as inspiration for a series of sculptures—incorporating materials such as plaster and printing ink— which Sietsema then captured on 16mm film. In its presentation of the sculptures, the film resembles an ethnographic documentary, highlighting Sietsema’s fascination with methods of cataloguing and classification while blurring the line between different eras of cultural and historical authorship.

Another film, Anticultural Positions, originally presented as a “lecture” at the New School in New York, intersperses close-ups of the working surfaces in Sietsema’s studio with texts.

The exhibition is organized by the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio, and curated by Christopher Bedford, director of the Rose Art Museum, Waltham, Massachusetts. The Chicago presentation is coordinated by Lynne Warren, Curator at the MCA Chicago.

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