Culturehall received applications to our quarterly open call from artists in major U.S. cities stretching from Los Angeles to New York. Outside of the country, our call also drew submissions from artists in Australia, Brazil, Italy, and the U.K. From this wide and diverse pool of applicants working in various media, we selected four new members: Margot Herster, Stephanie Prussin, I-Hsuen Chen, and Ruben Nusz.
The Guantánamo Bay detention camp, established by the Bush Administration as a U.S. government detainment and interrogation facility for suspected terrorists, is located within the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. Approximately 750 people have been detained since 2002 in the controversial War on Terror, and around 171 detainees remain at Guantánamo to this date. The disrupted lives and familial bonds of eleven of these men are the focus of New Orleans-based artist Margot Herster's project, GUANTÁNAMO: pictures from home, consisting of photographs, video vignettes, and text pieces illuminating their stories. Her husband's experience as an attorney for detainees inspired Herster to interview lawyers representing prisoners at Guantánamo. In order to build trust with clients, attorneys travelled to the Middle East and Afghanistan to meet their clients' families, returning with photographic documentation of family members, homes, neighborhoods, and snapshots. Herster collected more than 2,000 of these photographs and recorded stories of the lawyers' experiences with the prisoners and their families. Her archive of images and narrative accounts examines dynamics of trust between the lawyers and detainees and reveals aspects of the prisoners' experiences in Guantánamo, as well as their personal histories, raising complicated questions about our perceptions of "enemies."
By experimenting with light and duration, the elemental qualities of photography, Stephanie Prussin expands the ability of the medium to see what the eye is incapable of realizing. In her two recent series Transmission Reception and Transmission Reflection, the Brooklyn-based artist utilizes analog techniques as a foundation. Prussin moves the traditional photographic moment from freezing a fractional point in time to an expansive document. Each image is shrouded in accumulation through prolonged exposures lasting minutes, often hours. Each work is derived from natural light. Unmediated and truthful, the source of each piece — the duration of light — becomes the subject with her large format camera directly trained on the sky, or observing sunlight as seen reflecting from a wall in a room.
Born in Taipei and currently living in Brooklyn, photographer I-Hsuen Chen returned to his home country, Taiwan, in 2011. He acknowledges the influence of American road trip photographers like Joel Sternfeld and Alec Soth as he searched for the "in between" moments of a journey that comprise his series Nowhere in Taiwan, though his imagery is equally reminiscent of films by director Tsai Ming-liang, also shot in Taiwan. Chen's quietly poetic landscapes focus on things in a state of decay, transition, or isolation: construction sites, a lonesome tree, a rusting van, a statuesque calf, wilting potted plants. His overcast skies feel heavy with humidity and emanate a slightly toxic glow. Where figures do appear in his photographs with their backs mostly turned to the camera or their faces turned away, they appear lost in their own thoughts rather than engaged with the camera. A woman unpacks her grocery cart, a man peers into tall grass at the edge of a highway, a cluster of families gaze at the sea. Chen locates the unique color palette of Taiwan in his photographs, such as one in which a young woman wearing a tight red shirt and short red shorts sits on a bright green chair in a bus station.
The recent series of untitled geometric paintings by the Saint Paul-based artist Ruben Nusz, presents viewers with a visual quandary. Use of bold colors and an unusual palette overlay the results of a personal algorithm employed for the creation of each piece. Together, these elements comprise a system for exploring what is native and exclusive to the physicality of painting. The start and end points of each work bring focus to the illusory perception of two and three-dimensional spaces. As a part of this rigor, Nusz begins his paintings by establishing a tromp l'oeil frame. Further actions are taken using the language of the frame, which move the visual emphasis away from the initial subject. Each painting is considered complete when the illusion of the primary visual content has been usurped by a secondary composition.
David Andrew Frey is a New York-based artist, curator, and technologist. He founded Culturehall in 2008 as a new way for artists to connect with curators, gallerists, collectors, and other artists. David received an MFA in Studio Art from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2000. He has also studied at the Camberwell College of Art in London, the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin, The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, and the Savannah College of Art and Design. He recently curated exhibitions in New York of work by Culturehall artists for Ligne Roset and the Big Screen Plaza.
Tema Stauffer is a photographer, writer, and curator. She graduated from Oberlin College in 1995 and received an MFA in photography from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1998. Her work has been exhibited at Jen Bekman Gallery and Daniel Cooney Gallery in New York, as well as galleries and institutions nationally and internationally. She teaches at the ICP and the College of Staten Island, and taught a photography workshop at Toxico Cultura in Mexico City. She also writes a blog about photography, PalmAire, and contributes to Mana Contemporary's Log. In 2010, she was awarded an AOL 25 for 25 Grant for innovation in the arts.