Art History Reports: The Re-Opening of the Raleigh Contemporary Art Museum

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When I showed up at the museum with my mother and let them know that I wrote for a blog, the workers took me to one of the two artists featured.  I will not lie, I felt very important.

The ability to interview Naoko Ito and Dan Steinhilber (the two artists exhibited) in the flesh felt wonderful.  That did not stop there.  Between the hiring of kids as docents to teach people the context behind the art and the museum providing visitors with a brief history of the building and its beginnings as a factory in the 1920s, we felt very accommodated.  However, on the kid docents, they all had t-shirts that said “Talk to Me” on the back.  I wonder if they know not to wear the shirts when not working in the gallery.  My mother noticed that the work themselves had no labels except for a binder so one had to listen to the kids.

I have visited a lot of galleries that had a cold, industrial ambience with white walls and cement floors.  It probably comes from Andy Warhol and his Factory influence.  Furthermore, judging by a behind the scenes video installed, the art of Naoko Ito and Dan Steinhilber created these works specifically for this place.  The art in general combines the imposing size of a Minimalist sculpture mixed with Pop Art ideas and the Found Object theory.

   The bottom floor had the work Naoko Ito.  Her show Urban Nature, showed metal and glass imitating aspects of nature.  Or imprisoning it.  One can see that with her sculpture of a branch encased in jars.  It also has this natural science museum feel, the way it preserves the tree branch.  For her sculpture of metal hoops, she said she took inspiration from “photos of moss”.  I thought it resembled Kudzu myself.  For me, her work resembled this artificial science fiction style environment.  A warning of what our environment could end up in the future.

On the other hand, this cell phone photo makes it resemble charcoal markings.

On the top floor has the works of  Dan Steinhilber.  His plastic work shows this explosion of color and huge size.

Amazing what one can do with crates and plastic.

Not to mention hangers.  A tool used for organizing now used to make a creative mess.  Not to mention Dan Steinhilber’s plastic wonderland.

His white behemoth will lead you into…

…this explosion of color.  I talked to Steinhilber briefly, and he says he created his work as a “reaction to corporations commissioning huge, imposing sculpture.”

My mother noticed that this museum has no gift shop and it feels less of a museum and more of a gallery.  All in all, a very simple, stripped down museum.

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