Marfa Dialogues

OPTIMO: Manifestations of Optimism in Contemporary Art

Polly Apfelbaum, Martin Creed, Karen Finley, Forcefield collective, Emily Jacir, Beatriz Milhazes, Takashi Murakami, Adam Pendleton, Leo Villareal

23 April - 27 June 2004


Opening reception: 6 – 8 PM, 23 April 2004 at the Ballroom
Artists Discussions: 3:30 – 5PM, 23 April 2004 at the Marfa Theatre Building
Music Performance: Stereo Total and the Virgin Tears, 10PM 24 April

To celebrate the official opening of Ballroom Marfa, a new cultural center in Marfa, Texas, independent curator and consultant Alexander Gray and the Ballroom staff have organized the group exhibition, OPTIMO: Manifestations of Optimism in Contemporary Art.

Mirroring the vision of the Ballroom itself, a non-profit cultural space founded on the belief that art can impact the human spirit positively, OPTIMO brings together nine artists whose work celebrates life, incorporating visual pleasure, humor, interactivity, color, technology, industrial design, politics, landscape, spirituality, and popular culture. The exhibition includes site-specific installations, performance-based work, painting, video, photography, and sculpture.

The exhibition is composed of works by leading artists from around the globe. New York-based Polly Apfelbaum presents her signature fabric floor sculptures, which morph nature and culture into bold abstract forms. Martin Creed, the London-based conceptualist who was awarded the prestigious Turner Prize in 2001, exhibits his piece: Work No.200 (half the air in a given space), an interactive, room-sized installation of balloons. Karen Finley contributes Psychic Portraits, a collection of drawings produced by this performance artist during psychic readings (sessions) with Ballroom audience members (readings will be available by appointment during the opening weekend).

Providence, Rhode Island is home to the collective Forcefield, whose experimental music, performance, and fashion design come together in a series of irreverent and playful music videos. Palestinian Emily Jacir’s hypnotic video installation takes a meditative gaze at the daily ritual of border crossing in Surdna. Brazilian painter Beatriz Milhazes’ brightly colored, baroque abstractions balance the micro and macro with dizzying surfaces and patterns. Japanese pop artist Takashi Murakami reinstalls his gigantic eyeball balloons, last seen in Rockefeller Center, having the balloons suspended above the Ballroom will be a humorous and quirky addition to the West Texas landscape. Adam Pendleton, a New York-based installation artist, takes a cue from the writer Reinaldo Arenas in an audio installation that invites written participation from the viewer. Native Texan Leo Villareal exhibits a site-specific, digital light installation that shimmers and glows, referencing the endless sunrises and sunsets of the West Texas sky.

The festivities of this opening weekend will include a performance by Stereo Total, a Berlin-based duo, followed by a DJ performance by the Virgin Tears, whose energetic opulent style will echo the essence of this exhibition.

OPTIMO brings together artists whose work celebrates the complexities and wonders of contemporary life. These works, these artists bravely envision a future with ever-expanding possibilities.

The exhibition will be expanded by an artist panel discussion on April 24 at the Marfa Theatre Building, examining the role of optimism in contemporary culture: how it impacts politics, economics, democracy, and cultural development.