Visual artist, author of installations, drawings, video films, musical compositions and sculptures. In her art she analyzes the relations between history and memory. She often merges performances with video art and sound. She was born in 1964 in Warsaw. She lives and works in New York.
Visual artist, author of installations, drawings, video films, musical compositions and sculptures.
As a young girl she learned how to compose music and play the piano. In the years 1984-1989 she studied painting at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts. She obtained her diploma from the workshop of Professor Ryszard Winiarski, Professor Stefan Gierowski and professor Marian Czapla. She was an Artist in Residence at (była Artist in Residence w) Władysław Strzemiński Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź (1994-1995), Spelman College in Atlanta (1996), the Georgia State University School of Art and Design (1997-1998), the University of Maryland (1999) and at the School of The Art Institute of Chicago (2002). She is a Professor of the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University and a member of the New York organisation of curators and artists Nomads + Residents.
In 2009 she received the New York Foundation for the Arts award in the interdisciplinary art category. She is represented by Galerie Samuel Lallouz in Montreal and Remy Toledo Projects in New York. The artist’s works may be found in the collections of the Albertina Museum in Vienna and the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art amongst others.
Monika Weiss’ early works – drawings and paintings from the turn of the eighties and nineties – showed human figures, which varied in size and strength of expression. The drawings were made with ink mixed with paint. She often built collages on large sheets of paper from them. That was how the artist strengthened the power of expression of the particular elements of the compositions. The action of assembling the drawings in to larger wholes, in her case, was similar to the work of a director instructing his actors. However these "spectacles" weren’t narrative or anecdotic, they were more of an intuitive, almost abstract account of entanglements and mutual confrontations of many individualities, or maybe even just one, which underwent never-ending multiplication. The figures, usually devoid of portrait features, swirled on neutral backgrounds as if they were letters of some mysterious language.
Later the artist realized chiefly installations, video works and sound projects. A British art critic Guy Brett, who analyzed them, stated that for Weiss time and space don’t have a specified purpose or ending. They endure, strengthen themselves and deepen the human presence.
In the series of installations entitled Ennoia (2002) the artist immersed herself for many hours in a concrete tub filled with water. The receptacle resembled an octagonal font. A camera hung below the ceiling registered the performance and the image was screened on a wall. The projection was accompanied by sounds from below the surface of the water.
In the past years Weiss realized many large scale projects, which started out with collective drawing sessions of the artist and visitors of galleries or passersby. The artist calls her method of drawing an attempt at "sketching the world".
In 2004 the work entitled Limen/Meadow (Achea Rheon) was created. The word limen (threshold) is of Greek origin – leimon means meadow in that language. The term is connected to the artist’s interest in the meanings of such things as areas, the surfaces of water and earth, paper and boundaries in the context of skin. Achea Rheon (River of Sadness) is one of the five mythological rivers separating Hades form the world of the living. On a large part of the floor of a gallery the artist laid hundreds of layers of white gazette paper. In various places in the gallery small containers with water were placed. During the performance, which lasted for a few hours, the artist lay on the paper meadow outlining the contours of her body and slowly moving herself. The surface of the paper was gradually being destroyed as it was covered with black lines and stains. The viewers were invited to join the performer and leave traces of their own bodies on the surface. The meadow of white paper slowly turned into a three-dimensional form, which underwent constant changes.
In 2006 the artist realized the large scale public project Drawing Lethe at the World Financial Centre Garden in New York. The participants were invited to lie down on the ground, which was covered with a white cotton fabric. They were to create drawings, which would surround their bodies. The action was accompanied by music composed by Monika Weiss and by a video projection, which transmitted the image from a camera placed above the area of the performance. The collectively created drawing consisted of small fragments added by subsequent participants of the event, which lasted for a few days. The title of the work referred to Lethe – the river of forgetfulness from Greek mythology – and was used as a metaphor of being outside of time.
I liked the feelings of fluidity and ephemerality which accompanied this project, although at the same time the drawing remained something concrete – a holy place with figures of people, who came and went – said the artist.
Before creating each work Monika Weiss conducts meticulous research, often collaborating with historians or archivists. Her Phletegon-Silence (2005) and Keimai 3 (2008) are linked to specific historical events. In order to prepare them Weiss gradually collected original documents, mainly German, from the thirties of the 20th century. The records were later used to build sculptural collages, which the artist confronted with her own body in performative actions. Keimai 3 was inspired by the biography of Helene Mayer, a German fencer of Jewish origin, who was invited by Hitler to participate in the Olympic Games in 1936. In this work Weiss created a parallel between drawing and fencing. She has said that she is "interested in limits, limitations, and in constructing compositional rules (…). I open the boundaries of drawing or sculpture towards the unknown, towards the newly recognized form".
The idea of penetrating reality by means of art is an important characteristic of Monika Weiss’ work. By using various media the artist tries to find continuity between the present and cultural tradition, between the here-and-now presence and history and memory. Her works merge symbolism, which brings to mind medieval art, with the formal simplicity of minimalism. She often employs her own body in performative realizations (which the artist also calls performative installations) in order to create drawings or carry out actions resembling rituals from the past.
Author: Ewa Gorządek, April 2011
Selected individual exhibitions:
- 2010 - Sustenazo II, Chelsea Art Museum, New York - Sustenazo, Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw
- 2009 - Expulsion, ConcentArt, Berlin
- 2008 - Marginalia, Galerie Samuel Lallouz, Montreal
- 2007 - Between Body and History, Galerie Samuel Lallouz, Montreal
- 2006 - Limen II, Kentler International Drawing Space, Brooklyn, New York - Drawing Lethe, World Financial Center Winter Garden/The Drawing Center, New York
- 2005 - Five Rivers, Lehman College Art Gallery, Bronx, New York - Performing the Drawing, Galerie Samuel Lallouz, Montreal - Phlegethon-Silence, Inter-Galerie, Potsdam/Berlin
- 2004 - Intervals, (with Carolee Schneemann), Remy Toledo Gallery, New York - Vessels, Chelsea Art Museum, New York
- 2002 - Ennoia, (with Stephen Vitiello), Diapason Gallery, New York
- 1998 - Koiman, Space 1181 Art Center, Atlanta
- 1996 - Saint Sebastian from Atlanta, Nexus Contemporary Art Center, Atlanta
- 1995 - After, Galerie L'espace Degree, Luxembourg
Selected group exhibitions:
- 2010 - The Sixth Borough, No Longer Empty, Governors Island, New York - "Opening", Montanelli Museum, Prague
- 2009 - Perform Williamsburg, Urban Art Projects, New York - The Prisoner's Dilemma, Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO), Miami
- 2008 - Independent Drawing New York, Artbreak Gallery, Brooklyn, New York - "Frauen bei Olympia", FrauenMuseum, Bonn
- 2007 - You Won't Feel a Thing, Island Art Institute, Gdańsk - "Loneliness and Melancholy", Manchester College, Connecticut
- 2006 - Moment by Moment, The North Dakota Museum of Art, Grand Forks
- "Forms of Classification: Alternative Knowledge and Contemporary Art", Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO), Miami
- "You Won't Feel a Thing", Kunsthaus Dresden
- "Spirit of Discovery", The Facto Foundation, Trancoso, Portugal
- "Von der Abwesenheit des Lagers", Kunsthaus Dresden
- 2005 - Bayenale, The LAB Gallery, San Francisco
- "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner", Remy Toledo Gallery, New York
- DIVA Video and Digital Art Fair, New York
- 2003 - Harlem Art Project, Saatchi & Saatchi, New York
- "The Sonic Self", Chelsea Art Museum, New York
- "OHM 2", El Museo del Barrio, New York
- 2001 - "I/O Skin", Quotidian Gallery, San Francisco