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MOCA is back

EVAN CARAVELLI/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Anne-Marie Russell, executive director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, helps artist Tom Miller set up his multimedia display yesterday morning. The museum will reopen this weekend after being closed for renovation during the summer.
By Elizabeth Thompson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, September 10, 2004
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'Greed' and 'Memory' re-open museum

An exhibit of lifetime blueprints and a multimedia show will highlight the reopening of Tucson's foremost modern art museum this weekend with shows by artists Tom Miller and Jason Manley.

After being closed for renovations this summer, the Tucson Museum of Contemporary Art reopens Saturday with the shows "Tropic of Memory" and "Corporate Greed."

When you first enter the gallery, you might think the renovation process still has a way to go.

Visitors are greeted by a gaping hole in the wall, but this isn't a shoddy construction job - it's "Portal," part of Manley's show, "Tropic of Memory," which explores mapping memory and domestic space like an archaeologist maps a dig.

With "Portal," Manley constructed 30 walls, wallpapered them, and then drilled through, forming a hole descending into darkness.

Manley, who lives in Tucson and received his MFA from the UA, believes there is an inherent connection between exterior, or topographical, space and interior space.

"Domestic space is space that we create, that we're always adding to," Manley said. " It becomes geographical and layered like the earth is."

"Our homes become dig sites, where a home's wood flooring, covered for decades by carpeting, serves as an artifact of those who were there before you, in a space that you have always regarded as your own.

"The portal stems from those little clues, or remnants that you find, like furniture indentations left on carpeting," Manley said. "It's a little David Lynch, but it's something that looks normal but is a sinkhole into other dimensions."

Excavation and topography are also present in Manley's "Room Part One" and "Room Part Two."

"Room Part One" features a door that has a hole drilled in it, revealing layer after layer of paint, like a cross section of the earth's core and heat layers surrounding it.

"Room Part Two" rests on a board next to the door and looks like an autobiographical connect-the-dots. There are splotches of reds, greens, and blues, and short, numbered phrases written next to them. "I'm really hungry," is cataloged by number and connected by string to "Bush Mentality," which goes on to "Oak Creek Canyon" weaving a connect the dots of passing thoughts and concerns.

Tom Miller's "Being Workmen" also incorporates painting and architecture, but involves a medium of sounds, video and sculpture to explore what masculinity means under the role of the white, working-class male.

"Being Workmen" is centered around a character Miller created, William Workmen, a pot-bellied, balding, business man. A four-foot-tall sculpture of the character, entitled "Four Feet and Fatter" greets you as you enter Miller's space.

Miller, who also received his MFA from the UA, believes Workmen to be the prevalent image of what society considers a responsible male to look like. He considers the character to be the alter ego of himself and most men today.

"He's a self portrait, a portrait of what I fight against becoming and what other men have to fight against becoming," Miller said.

In this multimedia show, Workmen moves through video, painting, and sculpture, interacting with different images of himself.

"There's an emptiness to handshakes, it's such an odd gesture," Miller said. "For a man, it's how he handles himself. A firm handshake means he can handle himself and you can trust him."

Miller also uses Workmen to explore the father-son relationship in American modern living.

"Father and Manchild" is viewed through a mock-window, with blinds yanked up half way, so that the viewer may peer in. Inside, a projector displays a video of Miller dressed as Workmen, thrashing, gnashing and dry heaving. A sculpture of a baby lies on a pedestal just below the video. He has the adult face of Workmen.

Miller says the piece is a commentary on the nurturing process between today's fathers and sons and what that relationship is engraining into American boys.

"Fathers teach their sons violence," said Miller. "Our president, he stands there and says he's for good and against evil, but he's just teaching boys to be violent."

Anne Marie Russell, executive director of the museum, said she believes both works allow for and require interaction with the viewer.

"Both artists deal with the fundamental psychodrama of the domestic space," said Russell. "Both Tom and Jason's work has an immediate pleasure and seduction to it. As the viewer, you have to ask yourself, 'Where am I in all of this?' and you're implicated. In a good way."

"Being Workmen" and "Tropic of Memory" will open to the public Saturday, Sept. 11 and will run until Oct. 10.

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