Kelly Richardson

Exhibition: Mar 24 – May 22, 2011

For her Artpace exhibition, Leviathan, Kelly Richardson created a high-definition, triple-channel video installation based on the cypress forest of Caddo Lake along the Texas-Louisiana border. She was drawn to the melancholic landscape of Uncertain, Texas, because of its iconic swamp, arguably one of the most foreboding natural settings in the state. Her works often feature unpopulated environments filmed on location, which she color grades or digitally “paints” using the most up-to-date computer software.

Richardson’s process is time intensive and requires a large amount of work to render-or generate-an image from a model using computer programs. Each two-minute clip of high-definition video requires nearly 12 hours of processing and output. With the popularity of computer-generated imagery (CGI) in Hollywood blockbuster movies and video games, viewers have grown accustomed to seeing special effects. Yet while production studios retain teams of individuals to accomplish the effects seen onscreen, Richardson works alone. Production demands her expert time management and diligence in keeping up with the newest programs and processes. For Leviathan she dedicated nearly six months to research and development before her actual residency, during which she spent two months filming and rendering.

Similar in format and concept to her 2010 installation, The Erudition, Leviathan blurs the line between fantasy and reality through the placement of eerie glowing elements in a realistic landscape. In this nearly monochromatic work, yellow veins of artificial light swirl independently from the ripples visible on the water’s surface, alluding to some creature or energy below. The name “Leviathan” has been given to infamous sea monsters throughout history: an underwater creature referred to in the Bible; great whales in Herman Melville’s novel Moby-Dick; and a 1989 science fiction horror film.

Richardson is a lover of movies-especially science fiction and horror-and her work relates to prevalent themes found throughout the past decade of cinema. Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic movies such as 28 Days Later, The Road, and Wall-E feature settings devastated by some form of natural or unnatural disaster. She links this destruction to the idea of the apocalyptic sublime, a subset of the 18th-century Romantic movement in British landscape painting that expressed the anxiety of society toward the onset of the Industrial Revolution. The Erudition and Leviathanexpress anxiousness that is grounded in dealing with the consequences of the continuing advancement of industry and technology on the natural world. The sinister and radioactive appearance of the light on the waters of Caddo Lake evokes recent environmental disasters where healthy aquatic environments are endangered through the mishaps of humans.

The murky water in Richardson’s installation pulsates with unnatural, undulating light that is mesmerizing. Much like the British sublime painters who marveled at the uncontrollable greatness of the open landscape, viewers can meditate in the ominous, manufactured setting of Leviathan.

Alexander Freeman, Education Curator


Kelly Richardson

Toronto, Canada / Newcastle, England

Kelly Richardson’s computer-generated videos and photographic works serve to obscure the boundaries between fantasy and reality. Often taking the form of landscapes, the Canadian-born, Newcastle, England-based artist’s presentations-containing combinations of real and constructed imagery-are symbolic of the multiple realities we perceive when we engage contemporary media culture. Although sourced from actual locations, her composite video environments are virtual worlds that evoke wonder and anxiety.
Richardson was born in Burlington, Canada. She studied fine art at the Ontario College of Art & Design, media studies at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and received her MFA from Newcastle University. She has had solo exhibitions at Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge, Alberta (2011); Birch Libralato, Toronto (2010); and Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (2009). Her work has been included in many group exhibitions, including Sculpture on Time: Major works. New Acquisitions, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2010); New Frontier, Sundance Film Festival, Park City, Utah (2009); Expenditure, Busan Biennale, Busan City, South Korea (2008); and The Cinema Effect: Illusion, Reality and the Moving Image – Part 1: Dreams, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC (2008).

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Heather Pesanti

Buffalo, New York, USA

Since 2008, Pesanti has served as Curator at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, where she has organized curatorial projects including Bad Habits (2009); Artists in Depth: Picasso, Braque, Léger, and Delaunay (2011), and, most recently, Surveyor (2011). She is currently organizing a large-scale historical exhibition on the dynamic cultural scene in Buffalo in the 1970s, scheduled for March 2012 at the Albright-Knox, called Wish You Were Here: The Buffalo Avant-Garde in the 1970s. She is also adjunct professor at the University at Buffalo, where she teaches in the Visual Studies Department. Prior to her position in Buffalo, she was the Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she worked onLife on Mars, the 2008 Carnegie International. Pesanti holds masters degrees in cultural anthropology from the University of Oxford, England, and in modern/contemporary art history from New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts.
Photo by Tom Loonan

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