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Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts: Mel Ziegler - An American Conversation - 19 Sept 2013 to 1 Mar 2014

Current Exhibition

19 Sept 2013 to 1 Mar 2014

Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts
724 south 12th street
NE 68102
North America
T: +1 402 341-7130

Mel Ziegler, “Untitled,” 2012

Artists in this exhibition: Mel Ziegler

Artist Mel Ziegler Explores American Identity in the Heartland

Mel Ziegler
An American Conversation

Opens at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts
September 19, 2013 - March 1, 2014

Omaha, Nebraska--The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts announced today an exhibition of new works by Mel Ziegler. The exhibition brings together multiple recent projects that occupy a continuum of cultural hierarchies and connect subjects including the American flag, guns, agricultural landscapes and rural life. In the broadest sense, Ziegler's work asserts the value of rural identity and seeks to locate authentic spaces within the increasingly fragmented American experience.

During his extensive travels throughout the United States, Ziegler has replaced decayed American flags at civic locations such as city halls, museums and schools with new flags. The distressed flags form a work in progress that spans the geography of our union and represent the spectrum of durability of our allegiance. Another work features scores of guns produced by Ziegler's thirteen-year-old twins. The guns are facsimiles obsessively produced from duct tape, foil and paper and referenced from images culled from the Internet. In total, the work speaks to the unique and remarkably fraught relationship that our country has to firearms.

The cornerstone of the exhibition is an ongoing work in which Ziegler explores the expansive agrarian landscapes of the Midwest and is documenting a series of ephemeral events in the landscape. Initially moved by the historic drought throughout the Midwest in 2012, Ziegler traveled the region, met with farmers and ranchers and staged lighting events on their lands. During these events, Ziegler brought a mobile lighting rig into the farmland and turned their crops into striking, symbolic monuments. In the last year, Ziegler's focus has evolved, engaging with ranchers located in the Sand Hills of northwestern Nebraska as a way to illustrate the tremendous social bond that exists across incredibly dispersed communities.

In Ziegler's work, the Sand Hills tell a remarkable story - a surreal and otherworldly landscape of sand dunes, ideal grazing territory and a charged locus of ownership politics and the depleting Ogallala aquifer. For Ziegler, the American landscape is a place of deep distress and profound optimism.

Adam Price, Executive Director of the Bemis Center, notes, "Mel Ziegler is arguably one of the most important artists of the last thirty years, having drawn connections between conceptual practice, social engagement, and site-specific work that have been a model for the generation of artists that followed. His critical eye, remarkable optimism, and gentle humor will captivate visitors to this exhibition."

This exhibition is organized by the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and curated by Hesse McGraw.

About the Artist
Widely known for his collaborative work with his late partner Kate Ericson, Mel Ziegler has been integral to the emergence of integrated practice and community engagement as vital forms of contemporary art. He is the current chair of the Department of Art at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. The Ericson-Ziegler retrospective America Starts Here the was co-organized by the The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College and List Visual Arts Center at MIT and toured the country in 2007 and 2008. Ziegler has presented solo exhibitions at venues such as Secession, Vienna; Artpace, San Antonio; and the Canadian Center for Architecture, Montreal.

Exhibitions Presenting Sponsor: Omaha Steaks

About the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts
Through its internationally-recognized residency program, the Bemis Center provides critical time and space to outstanding artists who are working at the cutting edge of contemporary practice. Jane Alexander, the former head of the National Endowment for the Arts, has called the Bemis Center "one of the great treasures of its kind in the country," and ArtInfo has recognized the Bemis Center as one of the "Top 10 residency program around the globe."

The Bemis Center serves the international artistic community by inviting artists from around the world to spend up to three months in Omaha in spacious live/work studios experimenting with the conceptual and material bases of their artistic practices. The work-in-process that is part of the residency experience is made visible to Omaha residents and visitors through the Bemis Center's "cutting-edge exhibitions" (The New York Times). The Bemis Center also serves the local community by providing direct support to Nebraska and Iowa artists and by developing artistic opportunities that benefit the Omaha-metro area.

Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts
Residency Program

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