MP3 II: Curtis Mann, John Opera, Stacia YeapanisJul 17 — Sep 13, 2009


  • Curtis Mann

  • John Opera

  • Stacia Yeapanis

The MoCP is proud to present MP3II, an exhibition and subsequent publication of work by three contemporary photographers (Curtis Mann, Stacia Yeapanis, and John Opera) from the museum’s rotating collection, the Midwest Photographers Project.

MP3II is the second in a series of exhibitions and publications from the Midwest Photographers Project. The first volume of MP3(and exhibition), originally published in 2006 by Aperture, featured the work of artists Kelli Connell, Justin Newhall, and Brian Ulrich.

The original imagery in Curtis Mann’s Modifications series is copied from a variety of sources: online auctions, photo-sharing websites and estate sales, in a sense creating a fictional archive through the artist’s selection and collection of other people’s photographs. Mann’s appropriated archive is acquired in digital form. He first makes very minor adjustments with Photoshop and then orders several conventional chemical color prints from an online printing service used by hobbyists. He then paints varnish as a resist over areas of the print he decides to preserve, using standard household bleach to remove the rest. The varnish remains on the final print. He then hand works the isolated objects and people, taking the camera based image into the manual realm of painting and drawing. He adds details such as lines that suggest a stage or platform or forms that seem to replicate comic strip thought balloons.

Mann is interested in how the slightest adjustment in either the production or final use of the photograph can produce an entirely new set implications.

In the Modifications series, Mann is interested in how the slightest adjustment in either the production or final use of the photograph can produce an entirely new set implications, only some, or even none, of which may have the slightest connection to the facts of the world in front of the camera. In a sense he is replicating the judgmental action of our eyes as we initially scan a photograph, or an archive, for familiar evidence, grasping what we prefer to see and allowing the unfamiliar and unknown to disappear.

When asked how he would like people to perceive this work, Mann states, “I want them to move through the pieces slowly, maybe on different levels. Minimalism from a distance, some odd color on closer inspection, different textures…’what’s going on here, painting or photography? Then they see the more subtle handmade marks, wrinkles, relief of the varnish resist, then details of the original appropriated photograph, then start over with, ‘What is going on here?’ in a larger sense.”

Curtis Mann holds an MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago and a BS from the University of Dayton. A 2008 solo show of Mann’s work was exhibited at Kusseneers Gallery in Antwerp, Belgium, along with exhibitions at the Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago; the Silverstein Gallery, New York; and Jen Bekman Gallery, New York. Also in 2008, his work was exhibited at the New York Photo Festival in an exhibition curated by Lesley Martin of Aperture. Mann is currently represented by Kusseneers Gallery in Antwerp, Belgium.

Stacia Yeapanis uses pop culture as a platform for navigating a world of ubiquitous media.

Stacia Yeapanis uses pop culture as a platform for navigating a world of ubiquitous media. In an effort to destabilize cultural assumptions about using media as a vehicle to find meaning, she makes art that uses a language familiar to a generation captivated by pop culture and cunningly exploits her own search mechanisms—television and computer games—to create works involving photography, video, performance, computer simulation, and the Internet.

This publication addresses two projects in her large body of work: My Life as a Sim, 2005-2007 and Everybody Hurts, 2004-2008. In the first series, Yeapanis explores identity through simulated life in the computer game The Sims 2. Within the game, the artist explores the daily life of her avatar much as she would document her own life with a camera. Using an in-game camera function, she moves throughout the three-dimensional space to take snapshots that emphasize the character’s mundane life. The second series of her work presents a collection of embroidered television screen captures of well-known characters in emotionally charged fictional moments. In an effort to relish this pained moment, Yeapanis digitally captures TV characters experiencing sadness, guilt, fear, or instances in which their worldviews are shattered. She then elaborately embroiders a reproduction, freezing the fleeting moment of television anguish. In both Everybody Hurts and My Life as a Sim, Yeapanis pushes the boundaries that divide art from craft and public from private.

Stacia Yeapanis was born in Newport News, Virginia. She holds an MFA in studio art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2006) and a BA in German from Oberlin College, Ohio (1999). In addition to her solo show Addict at Gallery X, Chicago, Yeapanis’ work has also been exhibited in Spun From the Web, Gallery 2, Chicago; More Real Than Real, LG Space, Chicago; and the 4th Annual Pingyao International Photo Exhibition, Pingyao, China.

Opera’s lush landscapes and entrancing abstractions are made to co-exist but also to affect one another in a push and pull of form and content.

John Opera makes photographs in the spirit of transcendentalism, the idea of emphasizing the importance of the individual soul, and promoting a form of self-knowledge that can be acquired by experiencing divinity directly through nature. His lush landscapes and entrancing abstractions are made to co-exist but also to affect one another in a push and pull of form and content, surface and depth, specificity and elusiveness. His landscapes can deliver powerful depictions of nature. Yet for all their picturesque quality, they are not always spectacular. Opera’s landscapes are not intended to communicate the grandeur of nature in the tradition of the European Romantic painters. Rather, like the American Transcendentalists, Opera goes to nature for inspiration, exploring the power of the mundane to elicit a feeling of interiority and an awareness of the subjectivity of experience. He then sets up a dialectic between representational and abstract work as a vehicle for expressing these broader concerns, as a way to probe the powerful links between emotion, intellect, and perception.

John Opera received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a BA in Photography from the State University of New York at New Paltz. His work has been shown at Shane Campbell Gallery in Chicago; the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo, New York; and Kavi Gupta Gallery in Chicago. Opera received the Weinstein Fellowship from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2005 and a Special Opportunity Stipend from the New York State Foundation for the Arts.

MP3II is an Artforum.com Critic’s Pick! Michelle Grabner praises Mann, Opera and Yeapanis’ “innovative handling of photo-based media.” Download the article (PDF, 648K)


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