Art Attack

Purchase College professor’s work at the prestigious Whitney Biennial.

A woman, dressed in a red polka-dot dress, is stranded inside a three-foot-by-three-foot sheetrock enclosure. A video camera looks down at her from above. Trapped, she summons her inner strength and kicks and punches holes into the sheetrock. Using the holes as hand- and foot-holds to form a makeshift ladder, she climbs up the sheetrock column, and turns off the camera.

No, it’s not a scene from the latest Saw movie. It’s a video included in Standing Here, a site-specific video and installation piece by Purchase College professor Kate Gilmore. And, to see it, you have to go to the 2010 Whitney Biennial, the Whitney Museum of American Art’s self-described “panoramic signature survey of the latest in American art.” (In other words: in the art world, this is a big, big deal.)

Gilmore performs in Standing Here herself, and she presents the sheetrock column she busted her way out of next to her video. “I come from a sculpture background,” she says. “I went to graduate school to do traditional sculptures, but that started to feel stagnant. So I started using photos with the installations, and eventually videos. That’s the best way I’ve found to capture the energy of creating the piece.” And there are no camera tricks at work—Gilmore assures that she only had to perform the sheetrock trick once (though it took a few weeks of planning at the museum to make sure she could do it right on the first try). Her piece will be at the Whitney until the exhibition closes on May 30.

For her next piece, Gilmore will mount a work in New York City’s Bryant Park. She won’t give out the full details, but involves six women—herself not included this time—who will be “performing” with the piece for ten hours a day. Phew! It’ll be on view in Bryant Park for one week starting May 10.

In the meantime, she’ll continue to teach at Purchase College where she’s currently a visiting assistant professor of “time-based media” and co-director of the MFA program. “I love to teach,” she says. “And Purchase is such a mixed community. You have people from all different backgrounds and with all different interests and skills. I find it really refreshing.”



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