MEL CHIN: RECAP
JUNE 28 to AUGUST 17, 2013
Known for collaborative, cross disciplinary artistic explorations into socially, politically, psychologically and ecologically charged topics, Mel Chin has created a body of groundbreaking work that has influenced a generation of artists and curators since the 1970s. Both analytic and poetic, Chin’s work evades easy classification with each media and method he employs serving simply as a vehicle for investigating how art can provoke greater social awareness and responsibility.
“As a Knight Artist-in-Residence, Mel Chin has had a profound effect on Charlotte, extending his practice into the community through multiple collaborations and interactions,” says Suzanne Fetscher President / CEO, McColl Center for Visual Art. “His work exemplifies the Center’s belief in the important role of artists in shaping solutions to social challenges and serving as catalysts for change.”
Chin was invited to the Center as a Knight-Artist-in Residence, a multi-year residency program bringing leading contemporary artists to the Charlotte area furthering the Center’s mission of advancing artists, community, and the creation of contemporary art.
According to Fetscher, “Chin’s work exemplifies the Center’s goal to respond to what it calls Spheres of Impact, themes identified by the community that shape the Center’s programming. In Chin’s case,” she says, “he addresses the Spheres concerning issues around health, environment, social justice and education.”
Chin’s residency from last September through March, positioned the Center as the headquarters for the creation of a number of new works in sculpture, video, drawing, collage, painting, as well as serving as a site for ongoing work on Operation Paydirt and the Fundred Dollar Bill Project a long-term, artist-led collaborative effort to raise awareness and support solutions to childhood lead poisoning. Launched in 2008, in New Orleans where lead poisoning poses a serious health threat to inner city children, the Fundred Dollar Bill Project was developed by Chin to raise awareness of the issues of lead contamination and to create a model for making cities lead-safe across the United States. In 2014 the Fundred Dollar Bill artworks, including those collected in Charlotte, will be delivered by armored truck to Washington DC, where the value of the art currency will advocate for support to implement solutions for lead issues across the country.
Mel Chin’s residency was made possible thanks to a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
CHARLOTTE FUNDRED INITIATIVE
The RECAP exhibition kicks off the Charlotte Fundred Initiative, one of the main projects developed during Chin’s residency. Developed as a model for the national Fundred project, the Charlotte Fundred Initiative is a multi-tiered plan for creating awareness about lead poisoning and promoting participation in the Fundred Dollar Bill Project as a way to be part of the solution. Activities during Chin’s residency included Center staff and Chin’s studio working with locally-based SmartLab to create a Public Service Announcement. Featuring students from J.M. Robinson Middle Schools, the three minute, thirty-second video will be on view during the RECAP exhibition in addition to being distributed through area schools and local media venues. Accompanying the PSA is a curriculum-supporting lesson plan also developed by Center staff and Chin’s studio. The lesson plans are available to educators to get their students involved in the Fundred project through the upcoming fall semester, even at after the exhibition, as Fundreds continue to be collected by the Center, headquarters of the Charlotte Fundred Initiative. Visitors to RECAP will be among the first to have the opportunity to add their voice to the project by making their own Fundred Dollar Bill “art work” and adding it to the walls of the exhibition.
Also helping to spread the word on Fundreds as part of the Charlotte Fundred Initiative are community partners such as LeadSafe Charlotte, who will also have an informational booth at the opening on June 28, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools who are partners in disseminating the PSA and lesson plans. Also in the works is a Fundred app produced in collaboration with an area app developer at Typefoo who started working with Chin during his residency this spring.
“The Center has been fortunate to have so many active community partners on the Charlotte Fundred Initiative,” says Lisa Hoffman, Director of Environmental Program and Community Engagement. “From Mel’s lecture at UNCC to his appearance on Start Something, WGIV 103.3FM’s community-based radio program promoting service to mankind and arts & creativity, Mel’s work has clearly hit a meaningfully resonant tone in our community.”
RECAP – ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
The Fundred Dollar Bill Project is a major highlight of the RECAP exhibition. Set up as a “bank,” visitors can read about the Fundred Project’s progress around the country, watch the PSA and then draw a Fundred and “deposit” it where it will become part of a large participatory artwork on the wall of the exhibition. Chin’s hope is that by the end of the exhibition there will be enough Fundreds to fill an entire wall and that bundles of Fundreds will begin to stack on a plinth, the Fundred Presenation Pallet. The Fundreds collected will become a part of the citizenry’s collective creative voice when they are delivered with all the other Fundreds from around the country to Congress in 2014 by armored truck to advocate for support to implement solutions for lead issues across the country.
In addition to the Fundred project, the RECAP exhibition also poignantly captures how Chin, as a visual artist inspired by political, cultural, and social circumstances, sees no limits to his media so long as they are the appropriate vehicle for the conveyance of his ideas. This is evidenced by the range of works in the RECAP exhibition. From his Unauthorized Collaborations, collages made during his residency from discarded heirloom family portraits reclaimed by Chin and reconfigured, to his portraits of notoriously “mad” individuals drawn in toxic lead point and framed with straight-jacket frames, referring to the ill effects of lead poisoning throughout time.
Also on view is a continuous loop of Chin’s award-winning hand-drawn animated film 9-11/9-11 presented as part of a global dialogue about the human impact of the collective traumas in New York in 2001 and 28 years before in Chile marking the day of the US-supported military overthrow of Chilean President Salvador Allende ushering in 17 years of autocratic rule under dictator Augusto Pinochet, leaving more than 3,000 dead and countless victims of torture.
The variety of works on view in RECAP demonstrate how whether Chin is working in sculpture, film, or collage or insinuating art into unlikely places, like past projects in destroyed homes, toxic landfills or even popular television – individually or collectively all of Chin’s work investigates how art can provoke greater social awareness and responsibility.
The fact that much of Chin’s work also includes highly collaborative activities also challenges the idea of the artist as the exclusive creative force behind an artwork. “Sometimes, the survival of my own idea may not be as important as a condition I
might create for others’ ideas to be realized,” says Chin, who often
enlists entire neighborhoods or groups of students in creative
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Mel Chin was born in Houston, TX, in 1951. Chin received a B.A. from Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1975. With numerous awards and grants from organizations such as the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council for the Arts, Art Matters, Creative Capital and the Penny McCall, Pollock/Krasner, Joan Mitchell, Rockefeller and Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundations, Chin has created many commissions, public art installations and one-person exhibitions around the world. Venues for solo exhibits have included: Storefront for Art and Architecture, NYC; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Menil Collection, Houston; and the Fabric Workshop, Philadelphia. In 2014, the New Orleans Museum of Art will present Mel Chin: Rematch, the first major retrospective on the artist to date.
From 1995-1998 he formed the collective the GALA Committee that produced In the Name of the Place, a conceptual public art project conducted on American prime-time television. In KNOWMAD, Chin worked with software engineers to create a video game based on rug patterns of nomadic people facing cultural disappearance. Chin also promotes works of art that have the ultimate effect of benefiting science and the environment, as in Revival Field, and also in the Fundred Dollar Bill/Operation Paydirt Project, an attempt to help end childhood lead (Pb)-poisoning and offer a path toward lead-safe cities throughout America.
Chin’s work was documented in the popular PBS program, Art of the 21st Century. His proposal for a New World Trade Center was part of the American representation at the 2002 Venice Biennale of Architecture. A major one-person exhibition, Do Not Ask Me, was seen at the Station Museum, Houston, TX, in 2006 (catalog published by Station Museum) His film, 9-11/9-11, a hand-drawn 24-minute joint Chilean/ USA production, won the prestigious Pedro Sienna Award, Best Animation, National Council for the Arts and Cultures, Chile, in 2007. He was awarded the Fritschy Culture Award 2010 and was a finalist for the International Award for Participatory Art in Bologna, Italy. He received the 2012 Public Art Network Award from Americans for the Arts.
Other projects and public commissions have been installed at diverse sites such as New York City’s Central Park; Pig’s Eye Landfill in St. Paul; Floriadepark in rural Netherlands; Eco Tec International in Corsica; the San Jose Public/State University Library, San Jose, CA; Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Arts Festival; The New York Times Magazine; West Queens High School, Queens, NY; the City of Corpus Christi, TX; and the St. Roch neighborhood, New Orleans, LA. Group show venues have included: Fifth Biennial of Havana, Cuba; Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Spain; Kuntsmuseum, Bonn, Germany; Kwangju Biennale, Korea; Smithsonian Museum, Washington, D.C.; Museum Of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, P.S. 1 and Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY.
Chin has been awarded four Honorary Doctorates from RISD, Providence, RI; MICA, Baltimore, MD; Green Mountain College, Poultney, VT, and CCAD, Columbus, OH.