Artist: Josef Strau
Venue: The Renaissance Society, Chicago
Exhibition Title: The New World, Application for Turtle Island
Curated by: Solveig Øvstebø
Date: September 21 – November 9, 2014
Note: The publication accompanying this exhibition is available for download here.
Full gallery of images, press release and link available after the jump.
Images courtesy of The Renaissance Society, Chicago
The New World, Application for Turtle Island contains all new work by Josef Strau, and is the artist’s first solo exhibition in a US museum.
The lamps, found objects, and stream-of-consciousness texts are all characteristic of Strau’s work, but here he has incorporated a number of new elements into his highly symbolic installations. Bright colors and figures, both animal and human, reflect the artist’s experience in coming to North America—or, as the Native Americans called the continent, Turtle Island. This is also the first time Strau has fabricated new pieces, such as the bear and wolf sculptures, to show alongside found objects and text.
The New World, Application for Turtle Island draws on a rich history of narrative encounters between Europeans and the “New World”; Strau cites Terrence Malick’s film The New World and Peter Handke’s novel Short Letter, Long Farewell as influences alongside the stories of figures such as Black Elk, the Virgin of Guadalupe, and Moctezuma. This project is Strau’s contribution to the collective canon, celebrating the possibilities of individual freedom and expressing gratitude for the hospitality and acceptance he has received on his journey.
Text has often played a role in Strau’s work; however, here his writings for the first time take the form of an independent book (described by him as “a kind of treasure island adventure novel”) that serves a structuring function, determining
the production and selection of objects on view in the exhibition. The resulting installation brings together two different modes of production: in positing the writings as a highly personal output, and the objects as a shared, cooperative effort, Strau points to the dual threads of independence and dependence that have long been at the heart of immigrant stories.
The New World, Application for Turtle Island is accompanied by two related publications. The first, available to purchase for $25, imagines itself as a visa application to Turtle Island, offering a more personal petition in lieu of the formal legal paperwork. The second will document the Renaissance Society installation alongside a critical text and introductions to different aspects of Strau’s practice by artists with whom he has recently collaborated.
This exhibition is curated by Solveig Øvstebø, the Renaissance Society’s Executive Director and Chief Curator.