Moving in Concert with Art at MAH

ae_mahThe tears in this piece are rough, fast, vertical, stacked close together; surfaces are shiny skins on flat fields of naked paper. The blue comes in from the top left, seeming to drip down in sinewy strands of indigo, cerulean and ultramarine—different blue colors: the tears sometimes bulge into tear-shaped strips, a little fuzzy in the edges as if abraded by a too-wide passing frenzy. There are radical divergences, but for the most part the direction is all down, down until stopped by that whisper of scarlet.

Trying to let the body tell that story of movement—those tears, and the strips, and the edges and the dripping down and the act of tearing and the act of holding onto the paper … that what I was invited to do as I joined artist Andrew Purchin in preparation for his upcoming residency in one of the Museum of Art & History’s new programs, “Makers at the MAH.”  Purchin is a painter of movement and an avid dancer.  When MAH Executive Director Nina Simon invited him to spend a day painting in the lobby as a way to connect art making with art viewing, Purchin devised a way to make it all flow.

One of his favorite artists, Lisa Hochstein, occupies the top floor of the museum in her solo exhibition, Recent Works in Collage: Undoings. These elegant works of vivid but restrained color are made by tearing irregular strips from old sheet music covers: toothsome pulpy pages with thick layers of shiny ink lying on the top. Naked pages and pulpy strips become the neutral field for the action of the color laid on top. There is always a radical level of movement behind the formal quality of her collages. In several works in this most recent series, Hochstein has for the first time changed the relationship of her color to its background by creating small explosions of shards of that shiny color that now seem to float in front of her page, so animated that they seem to dance.

That likely is why Andrew Purchin felt such an affinity for the work. Needing “movement” to inspire his painting, he invited Hochstein to join him as he paints in MAH’s lobby. She will tear paper—it’s a wonderful sound. He sent out a call for help as he prepared an “instructional video” for his residency.  He asked each of us to choose one of Lisa Hochstein’s works and move to it.  Then connect to each other moving to her work, then dance down the MAH stairs to the lobby.

On Sept. 3, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Andrew and Hochstein will occupy their painting and tearing positions in the lobby of MAH, while “movement docents” assist museum-goers in finding their own way to be moved by art.


Maureen Davidson writes and comments on-air as The Exhibitionist on KUSP radio and in her blog at KUSP.org.  The Exhibitionist is funded in part by the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County.

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