Meg Cranston

The Pleasure of Obvious Problems

1 December 2007 - 30 March 2008

The Pleasure of Obvious Problems is the first survey exhibition of the work of Californian artist Meg Cranston, and the first time Cranston’s work has been shown in New Zealand. Bringing together key works in sculpture, performance, painting and mixed media installation spanning her twenty-year career (1987- 2007), the exhibition also includes new work created especially for this exhibition and a selection of ephemera and background material.

The title of the exhibition reflects Cranston’s theory on art. ‘Art makes abstract concepts tangible. It makes problems, love or death or power or whatever it is, it makes those issues visible. The best art makes complex ideas obvious. That’s the pleasure of art.’ Cranston’s work often deliberately presents an absurd approach to such ideas; what her past teacher and friend, John Baldessari calls ‘a lively sense of the absurd’.

In one of Cranston’s best-known works, The Complete Works of Jane Austen (1991) a large inflatable weather balloon is filled with the amount of air it would allegedly take to read the complete works of Jane Austen aloud (100,000 liters). She describes it as ‘a monument to the impact Austen’s writing had on me.’

Cranston herself often forms the jumping off point for the exploration of big ideas. In the work The Last Magical Death, a sculpture/performance piece made especially for the exhibition, Cranston presents a life-sized self-portrait in the form of a piñata (a papier mâché effigy) that will be beaten and destroyed. With its obvious promise of destruction the work seems to be a humorous comment on the masochistic artist as well as an exploration of the social role of ritual violence.

In Volcano Trash and Ice Cream, a giant pistachio ice cream cone is shown projected on the wall. It drips slowly until all the ice cream has melted away. Cranston says the work is about ‘how we reflect on our mortality,’ which she considers too big and abstract for visual art. She says, ‘a melting ice cream cone is easier to see and to relate to.’ For Cranston, it is more obvious, in the best sense.

Meg Cranston was recently the Artist-in-Residence at Elam School of Fine Arts (Elam), National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries at The University of Auckland. She has also been seen at major art museums worldwide including: Museum for Contemporary Art, Seigen; Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam; Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf; Haus der Kunst, Munich; P.S.1, New York; Henry Art Gallery, Seattle; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Landesmuseum Joanneum, Graz; The New Museum, New York; The Whitney Museum, New York, and Open ‘93: Emergency, Aperto at the 1993 Venice Biennale.


Exhibition organized and toured by ARTSPACE

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