Art Omi opens season with exhibitions by Portia Munson, Alexandre Arrechea and Ivan Navarro

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“Reflecting Pool, 2013” by Portia Munson.

GHENT, N.Y. — At the expansive Art Omi Sculpture & Architecture Park, not all of the artworks sit out within the rolling fields and lakeside woodland.

Inside the Benenson Center’s Newmark Gallery, a 15-foot-wide blue yard swimming pool is crammed, not with water, however with hundreds of discovered plastic artifacts, organized by graduated shades of blue. The centerpiece of “Flood,” a brand new exhibit by artist Portia Munson, “Reflecting Pool” (2013) shows the detritus of the plastic period.

“They’re all things I find at the side of the road, free piles after yard sales, thrift shops, places like that,” Munson stated by cellphone from her residence Catskill, N.Y.. “I’m always gathering the cast-offs of the culture, I’m fascinated by what it says about who we all are.”

“So many blue objects reference boys and males, but its strongest connection is water,” she stated. “Just the sinisterness of making so many plastic things that are water-related, [yet have] a devastating effect on our water in all different ways.”

She has created quite a few installations utilizing the colours pink, blue and inexperienced. “Part of what I’m doing is researching what the color means in terms of marketing, what they are trying to sell.”

With three sculptural installations and a few dozen small work regarding water, “Flood” spans 30 years of 61-year-old Munson’s notable worldwide profession.

“I love painting, because of how mediative it is. But I’m not able to say everything I want to say with a painting. Larger installations are a real social commentary on our waste and consumerism. Sometimes I need to make these big, immersive installations to express what I’m observing and feeling. It’s harder to get that across in a painting, they’re quieter and more mysterious. With “Reflecting Pool,” it might be laborious to not come away with some sort of environmental understanding.”

“I like to imagine there will one day be an end to plastic and we will no longer be making it,” she added hopefully.

Munson will unveil a brand new set up at Art Omi. Provisionally titled “Blue Altar,” a former bed room vainness turns into a triptych-like icon, a shrine standing in a puddle of blue plastic objects.

“It’s a brand new piece,” she stated. “I was collecting female forms and there’s quite a few Mary and mermaid and Southern Belle types. Those three stereotypes in blue figure strongly. You’ll see the Virgin Mary in this arched form, and there are hanging shelves with little figurines on them.

“I’m really enjoying delving into this color in a female realm, because my exploration of blue has been first thinking about boys, and then in relation to water, and now in terms of how women are represented as blue.”

Another set up on exhibit, “Nude” (2021), is uncharacteristically nearly devoid of shade. Ceramic feminine figures cowl a life-size model on a pedestal, most carrying old school clothes, and every tied up in pantyhose.

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“Out of the Blue, 2000,” Portia Munson, oil on linen.

“They’re all found objects,” Munson stated. “In a sense, they’re instructional. In your grandmother’s house, in a store, you’re seeing these somewhat narrow representations of what it means to be a woman. I put them in pantyhose which, to our generation, represented a certain kind of standard or expectation.”

“It’s very toned down,” she added. “The mannequin has white, Caucasian flesh tone. Many figurines wear a dress which has a little bit of color, but when you put them in pantyhose, they become more monochromatic.”

A dozen works in oils symbolize her old flame, portray. “I’ve always been a painter, even before high school,” she stated. “I set up a still life and then paint the object the size they actually are. I’m thinking, how can I best look at and talk about this incredible object?”

Her work inform complicated tales. A baseball hat on a floral background sports activities a mermaid picture. Another mermaid sits on a ceramic dish encircled by potatoes. String tethers a pink lady to a container of water, as a pink rabbit seems to be on.


“Swell,” (1998), is a part of Portia Munson’s new present, “Flood,” at Art Omi, opening June 25. 

“So much of my work right now is bound, tying and binding figurines. That’s a much earlier painting where I was doing that too. I think about how we’re bound by cultural expectations and ideas about who we are and who we should be.”

At Cooper Union artwork college she was inspired to take lessons in quite a lot of media.

“That expanded my idea of what I could make. I started working in whatever medium fit the idea I wanted to convey.”

“My installations definitely get a lot of attention compared to my paintings, [which] are small and more quiet. I’m about to open a show in Hudson [N.Y.], and then Art Omi, and then a solo show at my New York City gallery PPOW. I’m excited [to have] my paintings be more visible.”


Alexandre Arrechae’s “Orange Functional,” 2022. 

The opening reception for “Flood” on June 25 additionally celebrates two current outside installations at Art Omi. “Orange Functional” by Cuban sculptor Alexandre Arrechea is a tree-like type with two dozen naked branches, every culminating in a functioning basketball hoop. Visitors can carry basketballs or borrow them onsite and invent methods of partaking with the sculpture.

“Much of [Arrechea’s] work has been about public spaces where [people] meet and gather, such as a basketball court,” stated Sara O’Keeffe, senior curator  of the Sculpture & Architecture Park, throughout a cellphone interview. “He has been thinking about trees that sprout into basketball hoops, often at very unconventional heights. This has hoops up to 20 feet high, it looms above you.”

“By taking forms that are very familiar and altering them in unexpected ways, he forces us to rethink the rules of engagement.”

As basketballs fall to the grass, they begin to appear to be oranges, she famous.

“We’ve been trying it out,” she added, “and I’m happy to report it is quite a fun game.”

“This Land Is Your Land” (2014) by Chilean artist Ivan Navarro consists of three unassuming water towers, so ubiquitous in New York City. Close to the Benenson Center, at first sight they seem purposeful.

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Iván Navarro’s “This is Your Land,” 2014-2020, “Ladder,” 2014 (element), is on view at Art Omni starting June 25.

“We’re all thinking ecology, the importance of water, who has access to it, and who is protecting it,” O’Keeffe defined.

Walk beneath them, nonetheless, and look as much as see repeating mirrored neon lights inside every construction that invoke immigrant battle and hope.

“It’s like looking at infinity,” O’Keeffe stated. “In one there’s a neon ladder, perhaps the notion of upward mobility or access. In another, the word “WE” inverts and oscillates with “ME,” the person and the collective. In the third, there’s a mattress [and] relaxation or respite.”

Taken from Woody Guthrie’s iconic 1940 anthem, the title references troubled historic connections between Chile and the U.S. Under the CIA-supported dictatorship of Pinochet, O’Keeffe stated, many Chilean folks singers have been impressed by Guthrie, whose music wasn’t allowed there. The ensuing violence spurred a surge in migration.

O’Keeffe joined Art Omi in February 2022. “Part of what drew me to this position is so many of the artists I’ve worked with [previously] are alumni of the Art Omi Artist Residency program,” she stated. “There are talks and performance and music and ways into the work across many different disciplines. And a constant turning of what’s on view.”

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