Planning Retreat 2014: Saint Louis

PLUG Projects took on their annual planning retreat this August in Saint Louis, Missouri. The planning retreat allows time and focus for PLUG members to brainstorm and discuss exhibitions, workshops, critical writing components, and fundraising for the coming year. While in Saint Louis we explored only the surface of St. Louis by touring  The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts with Jennifer Baker from their curatorial department, visiting The Contemporary Art Museum, checking out The Luminary‘s new space,  eating at Osage Cafe at Bowood Farms, and we finished off by meeting with artist Ann Maree Walker in her home studio. Thank you to those who graciously accommodated our stay and helped guide our visit through marvelous location and food suggestions.

Mathew Kaney Conduit: This is the United States Calling

For Plug Project’s Conduit programming, we invited four local musicians to compose a piece that was inspired by Kaney’s video games.  This was a collaboration with Patrick Chan, Cody Kauhl, Scott Steele, and Russel Thorpe.

Audience member playing the game while the performance is going on

Examples of sounds played during the one hour event included drone strike noises, coin dropping sounds, and button noises.  The musicians employed both acoustic and electronic sounds as well as composed and improvised music.

Conduit programming manifests itself differently on a per-show basis, but the goal in each case is to bring community members with interests related to the exhibition in conversation with the artists exhibiting and/or expanding discussion of the exhibition themes beyond the work on display. Examples might include studio visits, alternative approaches to lectures, site-specific talks, and other casual gatherings of smaller, more intimate groups.

Matthew Kaney: All Fun and Games

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Matthew Kaney, an Oklahoma based new media artist presented his work at Plug Projects for a solo show titled ‘All Fun and Games’.

The show was reviewed at the Pitch by Tracy Abeln, who noted the sociopolitical issues surrounding Kaney’s work:

The five sleek, stand-alone game consoles he has built for this show present players with a set of scenarios intended to induce thoughts about sociopolitical issues such as wealth distribution, global mass production, drone warfare, digital surveillance and polarized cable-TV shouting matches. Each is white plastic, with satisfyingly large, clicky buttons and palm-filling joysticks that recall the 8-bit video games of my youth — when I had to practically stand on a chair to reach the Centipede track ball and technology’s encroachment felt much different.

The artist understands that video games can be addictive, and that compulsory behavior produces participation in our social system. In a video on the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition blog, Kaney (who graduated this year from the University of Oklahoma) talks about how gamers playing his works might not notice how they are being complicit in a race to acquire wealth or in doing their best as a security agent to capture cell phones and intercept e-mails. A bystander, he notes, might see through these actions more easily. (Most of us in KC aren’t about to road trip to Oklahoma City to learn about good upcoming artists, so once again Plug Projects has done us a favor.)

See the article in its entirety here.

Made in China game

Brandon Juhasz “I Can’t Promise to Try”

If you haven’t had a chance to see the current show, check out Brandon Juhasz’ “I Can’t Promise to Try” this Saturday from 10-5.

Today, The Pitch released an article Tracy Abeln wrote on the current show.  

An excerpt from the article includes quotes from the artist himself:

Juhasz used to do a lot of portrait painting and landscape photography but hit his creative stride when he started exploring the pursuit of the ideal: the mundane nature of existence and our desire for the elusive something more. His technique — building objects and scenes by folding photographs appropriated from open-source images (thanks, bountiful Internet) — emerged as a response to America’s homemaking standard-bearer.

“I love Martha Stewart [Living] magazine, the art in it,” he tells me. “The photography is great, especially the older ones. Everything is done with such care. And they make it look like real life, make it look like it’s achievable. But it’s not achievable!”

Replicating those photos led to making things out of the pictures, which in turn led to the more developed narratives on view at Plug: eight inkjet prints, arranged salon-style along one wall, and seven three-dimensional constructs neatly spaced on the other walls or arranged on pedestals. In print and laid out flat or viewed on a screen, the items he chooses — a pepperoni pizza, hunks of meat, the human form — are familiar and simple. But in Juhasz’s dioramas, in person, they take on an eerie personality.

Photography, Juhasz says, amounts to our ultimate death mask: images we hold on to long after their moments have passed, sometimes long after any relevance remains. He enjoys making something that can fool us into accepting it as “real” — real enough to take for granted.


Rare Earth Conduit- Urban Grown Farms Tour!

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Our Rare Earth show that focused on artists that interpret the environment in their work through various ways coincided with Kansas City’s city wide annual Urban Grown Farms Tour!

This conduit focused on touring two farms with Janet Moss as a tour guide.  Participants visited the Sante Fe Neighborhood Garden and the Kansas City Academy Garden and also  the Rare Earth show at Plug Projects and Local Earth, an exhibition curated by the Plug members of local artists dealing with environmental issues at City Ice Arts.

Part of the crew!

Above are photos from the Kansas City Academy, a school that uses its garden as a learning tool for their students and also in their cafeteria.

Janet Moss with the head of the Benton Community Garden

This site used recycled materials for their structures for the bed and the entryway.  The beds are specially designed to be raised higher off the ground for easy access for seniors and the garden also offers a water pump on the land for the community and its garden.


About Conduit:

Conduit programming manifests itself differently on a per-show basis, but the goal in each case is to bring community members with interests related to the exhibition in conversation with the artists exhibiting and/or expanding discussion of the exhibition themes beyond the work on display. Examples might include studio visits, alternative approaches to lectures, site-specific talks, and other casual gatherings of smaller, more intimate groups.

Andy Brayman Studio Visit

It seems like Floor Plan just opened, but here at Plug we are busy planning for the upcoming show Rare Earth, featuring artists that are interested in dealing with environmental issues in their studio practice.  Plug members stopped by local artist Andy Brayman’s studio to see his how he addressed this issue in a technological manner.

Brayman employs local data to determine the outcomes of his objects and decals which are made using both traditional ceramic processes and new technology.

One of Brayman’s devices included this 3D Scanning camera, and shown is Misha’s face being documented.

Brayman’s practice is heavily researched based and he is great at explaining this advanced technology in layman’s terms.  I highly encourage everyone to check out more of what he’s been up to here.

And of course stop by Plug for every Saturday from 10-5 to see our current show, and our next opening, Rare Earth Friday, May 17th!

Plug Alumn News

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Katie Bell made 8 Great Brooklyn Artists Under 30!

Tear Peak, Acrylic, vinyl, plaster, nails, wood, drywall, foam, laminate, and vertical blinds on wall, 6.5’ x 10’, 2011

Excerpt from her interview:

You have a very robust show history outside of New York. How did that happen?
It has all evolved very organically. I had work in Art Chicago a few years ago and that lead to a show in Kansas City, a curator saw my work at that show and told a gallery in Austin, TX, about my work which lead to a show there. I also grew up and lived in Illinois until I was 23 and many of the Midwest shows are from friends and people I know from my time there.

How do you describe your work to your parents?
I think my parents describe my work better than I do. My mom is an interior designer of sorts; she mainly picks paint colors for various types of spaces. She did a job recently where she was picking an exterior color for a car dealership in Rockford, IL, and the way she was talking about it made me think, yeah, that’s what my work should be about. My dad is a contractor and does restoration work on older homes. He is constantly building stuff, fitting things together, and uncovering surfaces. My parents are from different kinds of making worlds than where my work fits in, but the language is all the same, and I think they think that is funny.

See the rest of her interview and other artists here.

March Critique Night

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Corey Antis critiquing artist Rodolfo Marron

Yesterday Guest critics Luke Jordan and Jonah Criswell, and moderator Corey Antis helped lead a public discussion on the works of Amy DeSitter, Ahram Park, and Rodolfo Marron.

Plug Projects operates as a space where artists from a variety of backgrounds and education levels can come together to critique work.  This opportunity is a rare one, as most spaces do not offer a critique outside of people or students directly involved in their institution.  This time around, Amy is a graduate of UMKC’s fine art program, Ahram is a Kansas State Graduate in Economics, and Rodolfo’s graduated from Paseo Fine Arts Academy and all three have been represented by a variety of local galleries.  These unique Critique Nights allow for a cross-institutional and cross-disciplinary dialogue of encouraging discussion and they are definitely a popular event.

Full House!

For more information on our Crit Night Series, including submission policy, check out our webpage:

Our next Critique Night will be May 9th, and this Friday the 15th make sure to check out our next show, Floor Plan featuring works of art that offer a question of function, art and design.


Making with Architecture, a Panel Discussion

This month three Kansas City galleries, Plug Projects, La Esquina, and Grand Arts are hosting shows offering a dialogue on systems of structure within art practice. Thursday, February 28 at 7pm, La Esquina will be hosting a panel discussion Making with Architecture with artists represented in the three shows to cultivate this ongoing discourse.

Jill Downen "Three Dimensional Sketchbook" Photo via The Pitch

These three exhibitions offer differing views of systems of structure within art, further proving this to be a fruitful investigation. Jill Downen’s solo show at Plug Projects provides an intimate view of her Three Dimensional Sketchbook as she exhibits small monochromatic forms of plaster and balsa wood along a long table, as well as a small sketchbook-like cabinet of drawers. These forms allow the spectator to visualize themselves within this world she has established and the objects maintain a similar scale relationship throughout. However, this intimate scale allows for surprises along the way, either through opening a drawer or bending down to see a new perspective. The setting of the gallery mimics that Downen has created and it becomes an all encompassing experience of a micro scale shift.

Anthony Baab, etraphy fore, 2012, inkjet print, photo, E.G. Schempf

Similarly to Three Dimensional sketchbook, Anthony Baab’s solo show at Grand Arts, A Strenuous Non-Being commands a focus on scale to operate. This scale created in the work functions differently between each picture plane and is not constant. Baabs video, A Strenuous Nonbeing comes closest to giving us a key, as the cats act as “our only guide, so we should pay close attention and try to learn something useful.”1 We become subjects that submit to this fantastical realm that Baab creates, and spectators are forced to find themselves within this existential soup.

Composite Structures, photo by E.G. Shempf

Composite Structures at La Esquina facilitates a displaced dialogue of structure across America, with artists from the Midwest and Los Angeles. Scott Hocking’s photographs operate on a context that is depicted within the work to create a fantastical structure. Jaclyn Senne’s multi-function backstop guarding courted plates in a complex sporting structure with loose-ends and play cues to point you in the right direction, adversely relies on the gallery for her painted installation, but while doing so displaces the gallery context, giving it a performative, sport playing question of function. In this show, each artist proposes a different solution to systems of structure within art and design, furthering the dialogue both Plug Projects and Grand Arts have proposed. The panel discussion Making with Architecture held this Thursday at 7pm at La Esquina will bring together artists from the three shows and cross pollinate the solutions to structure each gallery has focused on.

1 Stephen Lichty, Anthony Baab: A Strenuous Nonbeing Exhibition Catalog, Grand Arts 2013.