testsite 09.3 ~ Common Sense

Sheila Pepe & Elizabeth Dunbar

May 30 - July 26, 2009

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      Sheila Pepe, Josephine, 2000
      crocheted yarn, lights, cast shadow and wall drawing
      installed at Thread Waxing Space, New York

      For testsite 09.3, Sheila Pepe and Elizabeth Dunbar seek to engage a diverse audience in conversation and action regarding the relationship between DIY culture, craft and contemporary art. At a political, economic and cultural moment in which practicality and action are critical, “the heart of Pepe’s project concerns sustainability—sustainable art making, to be exact.”

      In the rooms of testsite, Pepe will install massive networks of crocheted yarn– skeins of yarn available for constructive re-use by testsite’s visitors. Throughout the exhibition’s duration, visitors are “encouraged to become interpreters, collaborators, to sit down and literally unravel Pepe’s crochet stitches, and then use the same yarn to knit items for personal or domestic use, i.e. scarves, hats, socks, mittens, slippers, purses, cosies, potholders, etc. This collaborative effort removes art from a solitary, hermetic experience to one that is social, communal, and interactive—a renewal of old-fashioned notions of togetherness that are being embraced by current generations.” Over time, during open hours as well as a variety of workshops, participants will dismantle Pepe’s installation and creatively repurpose its materials towards practical ends.

      As the installation physically deteriorates over the course of time, traces of its presence will remain: wall drawings from Pepe’s ongoing Doppleganger series, created by the artist in collaboration with Dunbar. These sketches, “made according to a sequential method of intuitive object making, shadow casting, and interpretive drawing,” create a playful, impractical counterpoint to the more utilitarian function of the dismantled and repurposed yarn.

      All quotations taken from Sheila Pepe and Elizabeth Dunbar, “COMMON SENSE,” 2009, published in conjunction with testsite 09.3. The publication may be downloaded in PDF form below, or obtained in hard copy at testsite.

      Collaborator Biographies

      Sheila Pepe


      Sheila Pepe lives and works in Brooklyn, NY, where she is currently the Assistant Chairperson of Fine Art at Pratt Institute. Since 1994, Pepe has had numerous solo exhibitions throughout the United States at venues including Bernard Toale Gallery, Boston; Naomi Arin Contemporary Art, Las Vegas; The Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, CA; Susan Inglett Gallery, New York; Thread Waxing Space, New York; University Gallery at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Visual Arts Center, Richmond, VA; Weatherspoon Art Museum, NC; and Zilkha Gallery, Wesleyan University, CT. Pepe has also participated in many group exhibitions, including: Shared Women (2007), Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions; Radical Lace and Subversive Knitting (2007), Museum of Arts and Design, New York, Decelerate (2006), at the Kemper Museum, Kansas City; The Photogenic (2003), ICA, Philadelphia; Greater New York (2000), P.S.1, New York; and Gothic (1997), ICA, Boston. Pepe received her B.F.A. from the Massachusetts College of Art in 1983 and her M.F.A. from School of the Museum of Fine Arts/ Tufts University, Boston in 1995.

      Elizabeth Dunbar

      Elizabeth Dunbar has served as Curator at Arthouse at the Jones Center in Austin, Texas since 2007. Previously she served as Curator at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City and Assistant Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. With a focus on emerging artists working in all media, she has organized more than thirty exhibitions in her career and has written frequently about contemporary art. Recent exhibitions include Rapture in Rupture and Phantasmania, group exhibitions which explored the visual manifestation of prevalent topics within the broader culture, and the solo exhibitions Dario Robleto: Alloy of Love and Matt Stokes: these are the days. Also notable among her many projects are those with Fritz Haeg, Florian Slotawa, Gajin Fujita, Phoebe Washburn, Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler, Lisa Sanditz, Nikki S. Lee, and Amy Cutler. Dunbar holds an MA in Art History and an MA in museum studies from the City University of New York.

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