an international exhibition of artists' responses to Iceland

The Art Department at Eastern Michigan University, in partnership with the CAVE Gallery of Detroit, is pleased to present Island: 22 Artists on Iceland. An international group show, Island features 31 works of art from 22 artists from a range of European and American backgrounds: Norway, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, Iceland, and the United States are among the countries represented. The diverse array of mediums includes painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, mixed media and installation art, and sound and video artworks. Curated by Amy Sacksteder, Associate Professor of Art, and Gregory Tom, Gallery Programs Director, Island: 22 Artists on Iceland is conceived as a “response show” that highlights the linkages between Iceland and Detroit, revealing juxtapositions as well as commonalities between the land, the economy and the people.

As a location, Iceland evokes a sensibility that is simultaneously unique and universal. The nuances of its location, culture, history and people are increasingly captivating the world, as more and more people flock to it as a travel destination. Recent events in Iceland, including a series of natural environmental disasters and a massive banking and resulting economic collapse in 2008-2010, have created an interesting series parallels and contrasts with events locally in south east Michigan as both areas struggle and adapt to their changing environments. From Roni Horn to Matthew Barney, both locations have served as muses for the artists who visit, live and make work there.

Curator Amy Sacksteder notes “the captivating landscape, cultural and historical specificity of Iceland finds parallels with Detroit in many ways. There are striking similarities to the economic collapse, resulting revolution, and ensuing regeneration. The artists in the exhibition are very much keyed into this duality. For instance, Norwegian photographer, video and installation artist Hege Dons Samset is represented by her large video projection, Worker Island, where a woman continually performs the impossible act of cleaning within the breathtaking yet barren lava fields in Iceland. Samset’s symbolic act, as show in the video, finds similarity with the work of another artist, Fiona Short. Short is presenting a series of photographs and silkscreened prints entitled Material Language and Water Structures made on a 2010 and 2011 residency in Iceland, which are linked by the poetic impossibility of attempting to structure water. Much of the work finds symbolic and poetic linkages between artists and pieces, where acts are laced with deep meaning, yet occasionally futile gestures.”

Gallery Director Gregory Tom describes the strategic significance of the show for Eastern Michigan University, saying “Island: 22 Artists on Iceland is an important continuation of EMU Art Department’s goal of reaching internationally to bring relevant contemporary artwork to the southeast Michigan region. We are especially excited about Island because it has given us an opportunity to partner with CAVE Gallery in Detroit, providing a second venue for the show which adds an important urban context to the exhibition.”

A founding member of CAVE, Vanessa Merrill, contextualizes the Island collaboration as an expansion of CAVE’s already ambitious exhibition programming, saying “CAVE is so pleased to be hosting this exhibition and to be working with Eastern Michigan University on the show. Island allows CAVE to continue to expand our roster of exhibiting artists to outside the region, and also allows us to diversity our audience. With it’s focus on northern European and American artists, the Island exhibition continue our robust network of collaborative partners which has included Cranbrook Art Academy and now EMU as educational institutions that have supported our mission and space.”

Artists included in Island: 22 Artists on Iceland are: Artists include: Una Baldvinsdóttir (Iceland), Eszter Burghardt (Canada), Ann Chuchvara (Michigan- USA), Jan Christensen (Norway/Berlin), Helen Dennis (UK/USA), Naomi Falk (USA), Jessica Frelinghuysen (Detroit- USA), Adrian Hatfield (Detroit- USA), Scott Hocking (Detroit- USA), Sabine Höpfner (Germany), the artist duo Hugsteypan- Ingunn Fjóla Ingþórsdóttir and Þórdís Jóhannesdóttir (Iceland), Torgeir Husevaag (Norway), Juliana España Keller (Canada), Rebecca Key (UK), Kate-Elin Madsen (Norway), Nicole Pietrantoni (USA/Iceland), Nina Rizzo (Chicago- USA), Hege Dons Samset (Norway), Fiona Short (New Zealand/UK), Klaus Taschler (Austria), Catrine Thorstensen (Norway) and Christopher T Wood (Chicago- USA).