Text: Alec Coiro
Images Courtesy of Modern Art
Susan Cianciolo is back at Bridget Donahue with RUN PRAYER, RUN CAFÉ, RUN LIBRARY. There is also a concurrent exhibit at the London gallery Modern Art entitled, RUN church, RUN Restaurant, Run Store. As the variety in the two titles implies, Cianciolo’s heterodox work considers life as it is lived in its many spheres from the church to the store to the restaurant. The connection to the lived experience highlights the importance of craft to Cianciolo’s work. On top of this layer of craft, Cianciolo adds her signature as an artist. Every sphere she works in is marked with the title Run and every artwork she produces is unmistakably her own.
For Cianciolo, the most important aspect of her artistic gesture is often the experience of the art installation. Run Restaurant at the Whitney (not to mention the original Run Restaurant) was the quintessential example of the primacy of community in Cianciolo’s work, as she created a space in the museum for a shared meal. In the gallery shows in London and New York the importance of experiencing the work is evident foremost in the uniquely Cianciolo way that the artworks are laid out on the floor, as though they are artifacts or heirlooms that a young family member has discovered (or rediscovered) and spread out to investigate: something familiar but also rich with meanings still to be delved into. These boxes that Cianciolo created are called “kits” and they contain the artist’s various creations. In The Cooking Kit, the box contains notebooks and recipes; in the Being a Nurse Kit popsicle sticks and a nurse costume are included. In each case, the artist offers us something we can use or perhaps play with, but at the same time makes full use of the inherent mystery and excitement of an old box newly discovered.
The church and store installations are also identified as kits in the parenthetical portion of their titles even though they are fully realized structures. The term nicely encapsulates the implied intention that they are used for something — that they require assembly and personalization, which is once again a crafty type notion. If you are offered a church kit, there’s an implication that you can assemble your own personalized church.
On the walls hang tapestries and a series of botanical drawings. The frames for the botanical drawings recall the boxes that you’ll find on the gallery’s floor and suggest a personal collection of gathered flowers. The tapestries, of course, are
an essential signature of Cianciolo’s style because of their crafted nature and the fact that as quilts, their pieces are gathered together and created from people and objects that left a trace on the artist’s life.
The images that accompany this article are from Cianciolo’s exhibit at Modern Art, and if you’re in London it’s worth a look; if you’re in New York you should consider her show at Bridget Donahue.