The latest exhibit at MOCA challenges our perceptions of reality


In Daniel Rozin’s installation, Penguins Mirror, 450 motorized stuffed black- and-white birds turn side-to-side in the presence of an audience. In Kathleen Vance’s Rogue Stream, a miniature replica of the St. Johns River courses through the gallery. These are just a few of the works of art you will see in MOCA Jacksonville’s new exhibition, Smoke and Mirrors: Sculpture and the Imaginary, which examines perception versus reality. Located on the third floor galleries, Smoke and Mirrors features six national and international artists, including Chul Hyun Ahn, James Clar, Patrick Jacobs and Ken Matsubara.

Folio Weekly caught up with Jaime DeSimone, MOCA’s assistant curator of exhibitions, to learn a bit more about the museum’s latest exhibition, which runs through Jan. 24, 2016.

Folio Weekly: How were the six artists chosen for Smoke and Mirrors?
Jaime DeSimone: Jenny Hager [co-curator and University of North Florida associate professor of sculpture] was influential in advising on the project and in particular who to consider for artists and artworks. As a sculptor herself, Hager provided an “in-the-field” perspective that allowed us to craft a comprehensive list of artists to consider for exhibition. To that end, the exhibition explores the role of illusion in art, particularly sculpture and illusion via various techniques that really push the definition of what sculpture can be. Using our strong concept as a guide, we then researched artists to glean what works would be available for loan. The curatorial department, in conversation with Hager, then embarked on a long process of accessing each potential artist and their work.

Daniel Rozin’s Penguins Mirror has received a lot of attention via social media and from the press. What makes the piece interesting?
If you haven’t already done so, I suggest you watch the video of this piece and its popularity will become evident. All of the works in the exhibit are participatory in some way, and by that I don’t always mean the sculptures to react to bodies in motion, but the objects really require an active looker. I’ve found great pleasure watching visitors engage and try to determine the illusionistic methods employed in each sculpture. Rozin has been interested in the concept of mirrors and reflected surface for more than 15 years. As a result, his work has evolved to explore different materials that re-envision and restructure what the mirror can be.

Talk about one of the pieces and its relationship with sculpture, viewer and environment.
Japanese sculptor Ken Matsubara’s Round Chair series is a perfect example of this relationship. When you enter the gallery, you see five stools with glasses of water placed on top of them. Their seemingly simple presence is met with both intrigue and puzzlement. Why are stools installed throughout the gallery? What am I to make of them? May I walk around them? Yes, you can. In fact, Matsubara and I discussed how these works require visitors to explore them in three-dimensional form. We compared the layout to navigating around trees in a forest as if you were hiking. Sometimes you stop and stare, other times you may pass by. All that said, you should walk throughout the gallery and stop to look inside each glass, where Matsubara’s illusionistic technique comes to life. Peering inside a glass of water, you are transported to another time as images of antique photographs, broken mirrors, and shattered plates rise and fall in the water. For the artist, the series explores “what is recollected has already been and is thus repeated backwards, whereas genuine repetition is recollected forwards.” Through the act of images appearing and disappearing in the glasses of water, Matsubara conjures up memories that elicit personal reflection.

How did you feel the first time you saw the entire exhibit installed completely in its space?
Installations can be stressful. There are a lot of moving parts, particularly with large sculptures. Daniel Rozin and Chul Hyun Ahn came to the museum to install their pieces with the assistance of our preparatory staff. As you can imagine, this is an extra-special time, where we get to converse with the artists about their work in general. It’s also a very nervous time for me because I want the artists to be pleased with the presentation and exhibition in general. My emotions range from excitement to anxiousness to a little tense. It’s the rush to then hurry up and wait — secure the artists’ approval and then wait for the general public to see the work. It can all be very nerve-racking.

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