Museums can be places of silence, of quiet contemplation. Often art hangs on a wall, visitors stare at it, and then they leave. But the Mattress Factory's selections for its Artists in Residence series all possess an interactive quality that not only encourages visitors to move with and around the art, but requires it. These are not passive pieces for walkers-by to glance at. These are things to touch, move, listen to, and to scratch your head over.
The museum dedicated an entire floor to Lyrical by OSGEMEOS, the collective name of twin artists Gustavo and Otavio Pandolfo. Their folk-art style evokes the liveliness of their home country of Brazil with bright colors, surreal sculptures, light displays, and pop culture references.
Spanning four rooms, this exhibit explores all parts of the creators’ identity: what it means to be a twin; to be Brazilian; to be an artist; to be a man. The biggest room features a floor painted the colors of Earth’s core, with warped sculptures protruding from the ground. One wall is covered in wooden picture frames and trinkets, while the other contrasts with a colorful street art-inspired mural. For other parts of the exhibit, visitors peer into a light-filled cavern, one of which only lights up for two minutes every hour.
The lower floor of the Mattress Factory tends to feature physically darker exhibits, and Laleh Mehran’s The Interstitium — named after a fluid space between a body’s structure and its internal organs — adds bursts of light to the darkness. Light sculptures made from coal byproduct appear to be growing out of the walls, and they light up and dim with viewers movements — like a glittery cave.
Entering ADA, the exhibit from German artist Karina Smigla-Bobinski, there is a distinctly strong smell of charcoal. This piece, named after early computer scientist Ada Lovelace, invites visitors to help in its creation and longevity. It features a massive, helium-filled ball covered in charcoal spikes that mark the walls as it is moved around. The experience is reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s Silver Clouds that floats shiny balloon pillows around the room. Even if attending alone, visitors interact with each other — all part of a collective piece.
In one of the more cerebral pieces at the museum, live artists are a part of the exhibit, blurring the line between art and voyeurism. At the centerpiece of Lessons, the work of local sculptural artist William Earl Kofmehl, III, is a shower with a glass door. Under the running water, an elderly man in a suit talks to himself about the equations written on the shower walls. Off to the side, a small room with another glass door features a dance instructor and student practicing in front of a silver dinosaur skeleton. It’s the kind of piece that, while interesting, also makes one question “what is art?” and also “do these people get meal breaks?”
In an effort to distort bodily perceptions of scale and time, multimedia artist Christina A. West created Screen, a series of rooms filled with green and pink sculptures, windows, mirrors, and screens that have a funhouse effect. West works to “engage the viewer as voyeur and subject,” as visitors’ movements are captured and displayed on screen with a delay that allows for self-observation.
At a glance, the collection of pieces, which use totally different mediums, structures, and materials, don’t appear to have a connection. But they all share a desire to draw viewers into the piece, encouraging them to become part of the art.
Follow staff writer Hannah Lynn on Twitter @hanfranny
ARTISTS IN RESIDENCE ongoing through Aug. 4, 2019. Mattress Factory, 500 Sampsonia Way, North Side. Admission varies. mattress.org