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"Both Sides Now: Lexa and Dan Walsh" opens at the Williams College Museum of Art
Installation view. Both Sides Now: Lexa and Dan Walsh. Photo: Courtesy of the Williams College Museum of Art.

WILLIAMSTOWN, MASS.- Both Sides Now, a first-time creative collaboration by sibling artists Lexa and Dan Walsh, opened at the Williams College Museum of Art February 12 and will be on view through September 25, 2016. Dan, a minimalist abstract painter, and Lexa, a socially engaged artist, come together to merge their practices around a shared interest in spectacle, perception, and encounters among objects and people. The result is a series of interactive sculptural stations—nodding to Rome’s Circus Maximus—that encourages new investigations and responses to WCMA’s collection. In the adjacent gallery they address their differing theories of contemporary art head-on through a series of oversized stitch samplers featuring the artists’ ongoing, and at times contentious, call-and-response dialogue.

“Lexa and Dan are two great artists who work in completely different realms of the art world, rarely, if ever, crossing paths professionally. Yet, as siblings they have an ongoing and spirited dialogue about art. What if that conversation could manifest into a physical work of art that would allow them to bring their seemingly divergent practices together?” said Lisa Dorin, WCMA Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs and Curator of Contemporary Art. “We offered up our galleries and collections and asked the artists to do just that. It’s an experiment for all of us. WCMA provides the platform and a diverse archive of art objects for Lexa and Dan to look reflectively and critically at their respective ways of working. Together we open up the museum and its practices to the public in new ways.”

The centerpiece of the exhibition is a group of five, approximately six-foot square, sculptural kiosks designed and fabricated by the artists. The sculptures take the archetypal forms of a sphere, stepped cone, cube, ziggurat, and cylinder. Inviting visitors to walk around, in between and in some cases through them, these stations will also double as platforms for a highly unconventional presentation of works of art from WCMA’s collection. For example, the cylindrical form resembles either a temple or a prison for the bronze figure that resides inside it depending on the direction from which one approaches it. Traditional methods and materials of museum display come together in an expansive installation with elements of domestic decor, areas for study and contemplation, as well as creative expression and interaction.

Hanging in the adjacent gallery are a series of large-scale canvases onto which the artists have cross-stitched selected quotations that exemplify their respective and distinct views on art, for example: “Art is everything that is called art.” by theorist Thierry de Duve as selected by Lexa and “Art is Art. Everything else is everything else.” by painter Ad Reinhardt as chosen by Dan. The stitch-sampler, a medium historically relegated to a position of craft associated with women and girls, also has communal and pedagogical roots. Here the samplers take on the scale of monumental paintings and instead of depicting traditional A, B, C’s, numerals, pictures, maps and stories, they draw from texts, both obscure and iconic, by artists, historians, theorists and thinkers, providing the opportunity for the Walshes to challenge and respond to each other’s approaches to art and interpretation.

Lexa Walsh is based in Oakland, CA. She examines and creates social ties to craft “hospitable democracies”—frameworks for spontaneous interaction, subverting hierarchies to spark, forge and nurture relationships. She has worked, exhibited and toured internationally. She was a recipient of Southern Exposure’s Alternative Exposure Award, the CEC Artslink Award, and the Gunk Grant. She has participated in projects, exhibitions and performances nationally at Apexart, de Young Museum, The Lab, Mills College Art Museum, Oakland Museum of California, Portland Art Museum, SFMOMA, Smack Mellon, Walker Art Center, YBCA, and has done several international artist residencies and projects in Europe and Asia. Lexa co-founded and conceived of the all women, all toy instrument ensemble Toychestra. She organizes Oakland Stock, a micro-granting dinner series that supports artists’ projects. She is a graduate of Portland State University’s Art & Social Practice MFA program.

Dan Walsh lives and works in New York City. His large-scale paintings draw from the tradition of Minimalism. Rendered by hand, Dan’s geometric compositions waiver with faint imperfection. They are process-based and tend toward transcendence. His work is included in public collections around the world, including the Fonds National dʼArt Contemporain, Paris, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. It has been exhibited at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City, the New Museum, New York, the Centre National dʼArt Contemporain in Nice, the Speerstra Foundation in Lausanne, the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art in Providence, and the Kunstverein Medienturm, Graz. His work was also included in the Ljubljiana Biennial, Slovenia, and the Lyon Biennial of Contemporary Art, France (both 2003), and the recent Whitney Biennial, Spring 2014. He studied at the Philadelphia College of Art in Pennsylvania and Hunter College in New York City. Dan Walsh is represented by Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

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