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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Fine Arts Center Galleries, University of Rhode Island

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CLOSE ENCOUNTERS
Central European Video Art
(from the Czech and Slovak Republics, Poland and Hungary)

Main Gallery
January 24 - February 10, 2008

& Historic Kingston Train Station, Amtrak Waiting Room
January 16 – February 10

Guest-Curated by Viera Levitt

Public Closing Reception with Remarks by the Curator
Sunday, February 10th 2 – 4 pm

KINGSTON, RI—Beginning the new year in a renewed spirit of global inclusiveness, the Fine Arts Center Galleries present an exciting video art program dedicated to contemporary works created by prominent Central European artists, nearly all still resident in their native countries.

A portion of the exhibition also will be mounted in the Historic Kingston Train Station, Amtrak Waiting Room, beginning January 16. Partners for the complementary “town and gown” program are the Friends of the Kingston Station and Amtrak. Available at both sites, a Program Guide accompanies the exhibitions.

Complementing the video exhibition, the Corridor Gallery showcases staged photographs by a leading photographer from the Slovak Republic, Pavel Pecha.

The special exhibition is guest curated by Independent Curator Viera Levitt (formerly Jancekova). She is a native Slovakian who shifted her base to Rhode Island two years ago. From 1997-2005 Levitt was director/curator of the contemporary art showcase, Jan Koniarek Gallery, located in the historic town of Trnava. She was the youngest director ever in a public art museum in the Slovak Republic.

Levitt has curated or co-curated more than 30 exhibitions in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Luxembourg and the USA. Levitt also has an art column in Slovak newspaper SME and serves on the editorial board of the art magazine, Dart. She is a member of IKT, the International Association of Contemporary Art Curators, and AICA, the International Association of Art Critics.

Main Gallery
At multiple monitor stations installed for this purpose, Main Gallery visitors will be able to view video-loops at their own pace. Guest-curator Viera Levitt did not choose popular and stereotypical post-communist images like blocks of flats or factory-polluted lands framed by grey and desolate landscapes. Instead, in this exhibition she emphasizes the region’s human stories of vulnerability and fragility that she believes we all share and will resonate deeply with an American public.

The 6 artists whose video art is featured are:
Pavlina Fichta Cierna (b. 1967, Slovakia)
Milena Dopitova (b. 1963, Czech Republic)
Pavel Mrkus (b. 1970, Czech Republic)
Hajnal Nemeth (b. 1972, Hungary, lives and works in Berlin)
Katerina Seda (b. 1977, Czech Republic)
Artur Zmijewski (b. 1966, Poland)

The central work of the exhibition is a poignant, understated film by Milena Dopitova. With the help of a makeup artist and costumes, Dopitova ages herself and her twin sister in the video called Green Plateaus 1, 2003. The young women experience a single day as old ladies. Viewers are given access to a tender exploration of the artist’s own projected feelings about her aging self.

Aging and life’s fragility are also at the thematic core of Katerina Seda’s story, It Doesn’t Matter, 2005-2007 (Courtesy of Franco Soffiantino Arte Contemporanea, Torino, Italy.) Through her artistic and social action Seda helps her grandmother overcome personal crisis and lethargy. As in her other social interventions, where she has involved an entire village in the Czech Republic, Seda’s fundamental theme is life experience. Art is not for art’s sake, but part of a complex web that incorporates the greater concerns of society. A video monitor documenting the project will be installed on a table in the gallery space, with related book of drawings made by the artist’s grandmother for viewer participation.

Pavlina Fichta Cierna is a video artist from Slovakia whose work respectfully highlights issues beyond the mass-media. In Women Talk or Kitchen View, 2003, we witness the personal story of Cierna visiting a friend to talk about a work in which she photographed herself wearing a surgical mask. The women/mothers chat about various issues, including evolution, DNA, the isolation of the women during their maternity leave, fears, their desire to protect their children, and the dangers of the bird flu. Cierna sees the world from the perspective of the “weaker” members of society, whom she, as an artist and woman, wants to understand, protect, and heal.

Polish video artist Artur Zmijewski, like Pavlina Fichta Cierna, often studies those members of society who are fragile and are routinely overlooked, like the physically handicapped. In his documentary video work with deaf children (Singing Lesson 1, 2001 and Singing Lesson 2, 2003), we can see these children singing in a church accompanied by a monumental organ sound, creating an honest yet cacophonic message to their God. Another video shows soldiers singing in unison and marching in lockstep, then literally naked and stripped of their protective uniforms. They appear suddenly intimate and rather ridiculous as they continue to march, now wearing only their boots (KR WP, 2000/2001).

In her work NataSsa (2000) Hajnal Nemeth presents a female figure dressed in black strolling through a meadow, then passing a large Orthodox cross. In the video loop the woman is pulled in reverse, arms outstretched into a cruciform position, lifted from the ground by unknown forces, or is it video-technology? In this absurdist way the artist points out the conditioning role of religion as well as the imposed limitations of gender.

Kingston Train Station
Shown in a continuous loop within a bay window in the Kingston Train Station, the meditative character of Pavel Mrkus’ Seagull, 2005 (with music composed and played by Aziza Sadikova) will intrigue and calm travelers. Mrkus is an international digital media and glass artist represented by a gallery in Dresden. He has also taught at RISD as a Visiting Professor. This video combines a romanticized historical interior with a 3D animation of a flying golden seagull. The ambience of the video setting, its mirrors and shining chandelier, strangely echoes the décor of the Kingston Waiting Room.

Public Closing Reception & Remarks by Curator
On Sunday afternoon, February 10, 2-4 pm, a Reception will be held in the Main Gallery, Fine Arts Center Galleries. The Guest Curator will speak about the exhibition at that time.

Corridor Gallery
Fine Arts Center Galleries, University of Rhode Island
Staged Photographs by Pavel Pecha
January 28-February 28, 2008

Complementing CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, the Corridor Gallery will showcase engrossing performances for the camera by a prominent photographer from the Slovak Republic. Pavel Pecha (b. 1962) is engaged in the creation of an alternative world staged outdoors, in a landscape "filled with fantasy, absurd situations and play." Like his surrealist exemplars responding to Communism, in a cycle called My Intuitive Theatre Pecha has chosen to devise and to live in “an alternative world” of subversive creative practice.

Pecha does not mass-produce his photographs. Each photograph is meticulously staged and often depends upon conditions that are beyond his control. First, he waits until his favorite field is mowed and then he carefully builds a “stage” in the open field. After it is built he arranges “actors,” usually his friends, according to preparatory sketches. Finally, after awaiting the natural light he desires, he takes the picture. The men and women from his stories seem to live in their own universes based in heroic or epical endeavors imagined by the artist in his alternative world.
Special thanks
In New York: Apexart, Czech Center, Hungarian Cultural Institute, Anne Arden McDonald, Polish Institute, and Steven Rand; in Rhode Island: Jo-Ann Conklin, David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University, Courthouse Center for the Arts, West Kingston, Friends of Kingston Station, Kingston, and Mini Grant, The Rhode Island Foundation, Providence.

Main Gallery hours are T – F, 12 noon – 4:00 pm & Sat. – Sun., 1:00 – 4:00 pm
Corridor Gallery hours are daily, 9 am – 9 pm.
Historic Kingston Train Station’s Amtrak Waiting Room is open daily during train service.
To arrange group tours please contact us at 401.874.9628 or facgalls@etal.uri.edu
All Galleries are open to the public without charge. All are handicapped accessible.
Visit http://www.uri.edu/artgalleries
Reviewers: To download images for press purposes please visit http://www.vieralevitt.org/uri.htm