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Finesse

Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University
Above: Illustration: Sara Duell, Pallas Athena.
Above: Illustration: Sara Duell, Pallas Athena.

Through March 11, 2017

The Wallach Art Gallery 
Columbia University
Schermerhorn Hall, 8th Floor
Enter campus at 116th Street and Broadway
New York
Hours: Wednesday–Saturday 1–5pm  

columbia.edu
finesse.persona.co

Finesse, curated by Leah Pires, featuring recent and newly commissioned work by Fia Backström, Cooperative Performance, Phoebe d’Heurle, Jill Magid, Lucy McKenzie / Atelier E.B., Carissa Rodriguez, and Karin Schneider and books by Louise Lawler, is on view through March 11.

Related programming

What do you think you might need?
Public performance by Cooperative Performance
Saturday, February 25, 3pm

Curator-led walkthrough
Saturday, March 11, 3pm

“It is no longer a matter of trying to subvert or intrude. Those strategies are now recognized and invited. Now it is a matter of finessing, which is certainly not enough.” –Louise Lawler

This statement, and the slippery relationship between artists and institutions that it conjures, are the starting point for the exhibition Finesse.

What is finesse? In its most general sense, the word denotes skill and discretion in the handling of a situation—perhaps even the subtle manipulation of circumstances to one’s advantage. This may involve clever maneuvering, cunning, or artifice. Finesse can also designate delicate workmanship or refined comportment. Its synonyms include dexterity, trickery, and sleight. In the context of the card game bridge, “to finesse” has another nuance: to win a round not by playing one’s strongest card, but by using a lesser card that one knows will nonetheless trump one’s opponents.

This exhibition brings together recent and newly commissioned work by seven artists whose work, like Lawler’s, deliberately finesses the relationship between the artist and the structures she occupies—whether material, social, or political. This tactic rests on the premise that those attuned to the conditions that reproduce a system, in all their limits and contingencies, are best positioned to transform them from within.

Cooperative Performance, What do you think you might need?
Some of the resources used to rehearse and make this performance include: the work to manage this exhibition space, the materials of this exhibition and the space itself, plus the time that the space of the gallery is open and time between exhibitions.

Artist Emma Hedditch initiated Cooperative Performance as an outgrowth of her research into the history of cooperative organizations: groups of people who join together to meet their shared economic, social, and cultural needs by establishing jointly-owned, democratically-controlled enterprises. Unlike corporate business models, which distribute profits between a limited number of shareholders, cooperatives emphasize fairness, equity, and responsibility by extending these privileges to all participants.

Through a series of ongoing discussions, rehearsals in the Wallach Art Gallery, and a public performance, Hedditch and her collaborators explore how the principles of cooperative organization might emerge from the group exhibition Finesse. Many different resources enter into the situation: artists’ time, material, and activities; the institution’s economic and spatial resources; the labor of the curator and the gallery staff. How would the production, work, and consumption of an exhibition be reorganized if they were cooperatized? Resources might be reconceptualized as “investments.” Each investor would be a member of the cooperative and have a ‘share’ in the surplus outcome.

Finesse has been made possible by an endowment established by Miriam and Ira D. Wallach. A companion publication is available.

About the gallery
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery advances Columbia University’s historical, critical, and creative engagement with the visual arts. Serving as both a laboratory and a forum, The Wallach Art Gallery offers opportunities for curatorial practice and discourse, while bridging the diverse approaches to the arts at the University with a welcome broader public.

In April 2017, The Wallach Art Gallery expands its space, ambition and reach when it re-opens at The Lenfest Center for the Arts, a new state-of-the-art complex on Columbia’s Manhattanville campus on 125th Street just west of Broadway. Designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, The Lenfest Center for the Arts includes a screening room, a flexible theatre and a sky-lit hall for educational and public activities.

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February 16, 2017