Ellen Jones Pryor: (615) 243-1311, ”, ”
Emily Harper: (615) 744-3331, ”

NOTE: High resolution images available

Oliver Herring: Common Threads Opens Oct. 2, 2009
in Gordon Contemporary Artists Project Gallery

TASK Event Planned Oct. 4 at Vanderbilt University

NASHVILLE, TENN – (August 13, 2009) – The Frist Center for the Visual Arts’ Gordon Contemporary Artists Project (CAP) Gallery will feature the intriguing work of German-born, New York-based Oliver Herring from Oct. 2, 2009 through Jan. 31, 2010. The exhibition will include sculpture, photography, and video works that explore the connections between the artist’s inner world and our own and his interest in using art as a tool for social engagement.

Inspired by the idea of art as an agent of social change in which anyone can play a part, Herring explores the nature of creativity, perception, and communication, both as an artist and as an instigator of group activities centered on breaking down ideas of social barriers and the redefinition of aesthetics.

The exhibition was organized by Frist Center Chief Curator Mark W. Scala with a gallery guide written by Frist Center Executive Director Susan H. Edwards, Ph.D.

Herring collaborates with friends and strangers in the creation of his sculptures, performances, and video art. This exhibition includes figurative works in which the artist first makes photographic close-ups of his subjects’ entire bodies. He then sculpts the form of their bodies out of polystyrene. The photographs are cut into jigsaw puzzle–like shapes and adhered to the sculpted figures, lending the uncanny quality of a photograph seen in the round. Herring manipulates the color and value contrasts in his photographic fragments, giving the sculptures a camouflage-like surface, emphasizing the inherent artificiality and social masking that are a subliminal consequence of photography.

“For as long as he has been creating art,” Edwards writes in her essay on the exhibition, “Oliver Herring (b. Germany 1964) has been making connections between sight and touch as well as with the audience, art history, and visual culture in conventional and unconventional ways.”

The earliest work in the exhibition, Queen-Size Bed with Coat (1993–94), is knitted from strands of Mylar and was created as an homage to Ethyl Eichelberger, the performance artist and drag queen who committed suicide in 1991. As a graduate student at Hunter College in the 1990s, Herring used knitting to express themes of immortality and memory. “The vibrating surface of Queen-Size Bed with Coat,” Edwards writes, “absorbs and reflects light suggesting an anxious beauty poised between this world and the next.”

Included in the exhibition is Gloria (2004), a life-size photo sculpture that is, at once, realistic and alien. Herring took photographs of his subject, a woman from his Brooklyn neighborhood, from all angles. He then methodically cut and pasted thousands of the photographic “shards” in place on a foam core human form. Photos of her face were cut up and affixed to the appropriate places on her face, for example. Thus, he deconstructed and then reconstructed the full figure of Gloria both photographically and sculpturally.

The exhibition also features videos in which the artist turns the camera on himself and untrained performers who have found their ways into his studio or his company. Herring extracts engaging performances that refer obliquely to the “actions” of the German performance artist and sculptor Joseph Beuys, who created concerts blending literature, music, visual art, performance and everyday life.

Herring is well known for creating events he calls TASK, participatory art events akin to the “happenings” of the 1960s. For each TASK event, Herring invites individuals to participate at a date, time and place certain to do two things: write a task on a piece of paper to add to a designated “TASK pool,” and choose a task from the pool and interpret it in a way of the participant’s choosing. The events may include props and a variety of materials to use in the completion of the chosen task. When a task is completed, each participant writes and chooses a new task.

A TASK event, free and open to the public, will take place in Nashville Sunday, Oct. 4, 2009 on the campus of Vanderbilt University. The TASK is part of the Studio VU Lecture series sponsored by the Vanderbilt University Department of Art.

Stanzi (Silver and Iridescent) (2008) is a work that resulted from a 2007 TASK performance with a group of teens. During the TASK, Herring made portraits of the participants, obscured them, and then built the flat photographic surface into relief using museum board and metallic photo paper.

Susan Edwards concludes her essay,, “Oliver Herring: Common Threads demonstrates that in an oeuvre that stretches the definitions of sculpture, photography, video art, and performance, there is a link between the artist’s inner world and ours.”

Exhibition Sponsor

The 2009 Gordon Contemporary Artists Project Gallery exhibition sponsor is Welling LaGrone and Morgan Keegan.

Frist Center Exhibition-Related Programs

Saturday, Oct. 3 Artist’s Perspective: Oliver Herring
11:00 a.m.
Meet at the information desk
Free with gallery admission
Join New York–based artist Oliver Herring as he leads an informal conversation about some of his work presented in Common Threads, in the Gordon Contemporary Artists Project Gallery.

Sunday, Oct. 4 Oliver Herring TASK Event at Vanderbilt
1:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Space 204
E. Bronson Ingram Studio Art Center
25th & Garland
Vanderbilt University
For more information: (615) 343-7241

Oliver Herring, working with Vanderbilt University students and faculty, will create a TASK event. Following the event, there will be a reception and brief discussion with Oliver Herring and Ian Berry. The results of the TASK will be on display in Space 204 until the end of October. This event is part of the Studio VU Lecture series sponsored by the Vanderbilt University Department of Art.

About the Frist Center

Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, located at 919 Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tenn., is an art exhibition center dedicated to presenting the finest visual art from local, regional, U.S. and international sources in a program of changing exhibitions. The Frist Center’s Martin ArtQuest Gallery features 21 interactive stations relating to Frist Center exhibitions. Gallery admission to the Frist Center is free for visitors 18 and under and to Frist Center members. Frist Center admission is $8.50 for adults, $7.50 for seniors and military, and $6.50 for college students with ID. Thursday and Friday evenings, 5:00 – 9:00 p.m., admission is free for college students with a valid college ID. Discounts are offered for groups of 10 or more with advance reservation by calling (615) 744-3246. The Frist Center is open seven days a week: Mondays through Wednesdays and Saturdays, 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays, 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.; and Sundays, 1:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., with the Café opening at noon. Additional information is available by calling (615) 244-3340 or by visiting our Web site at

# # #

Please consider supporting the Frist Art Museum with a donation. Your gift is essential to our mission of serving the community through the arts and art access in particular. We truly appreciate your generosity.