The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum is pleased to present Anissa Mack: Junk Kaleidoscope, a reflection on Mack’s The Fair project, realized in both 1996 and 2006, to be reimagined at the Museum through April 22, 2018. Mack mines Americana, its artifacts, folklore, and rituals, and explores American vernacular traditions, examining their shifting role in a dialogue between the history of art making and the culture of collecting. Through all new objects, Junk Kaleidoscope will re-envision The Fair in a way that weaves together over two decades of work, sixty miles from the Durham Fair fairgrounds that inspired this project.
The Fair was first realized in 1996, when Mack entered all seventy-three craft categories at the Durham Fair, the largest agricultural fair in Connecticut; she had participated in the fair, located near her hometown of Guilford, CT, throughout her childhood. In 2006, she remade the project as The Fair (10th Anniversary Edition) by generating new entries for all of the craft categories available that year. On both occasions, the objects were displayed at the fairs and then (re)presented in a commercial gallery with their winning ribbons. At The Aldrich, Mack will create a layered exhibition that engages fairs in new ways. For Junk Kaleidoscope, she will utilize a self-generated list of seventy categories—comprising actual competition categories collected from various county and state fairs, as well as those of her own invention—to generate and support the works in the show. The list will serve as a catalyst for production and as a framework for understanding the shifting, participatory display that the objects will enjoy at The Aldrich.
For Mack, “fairs serve as fascinatingly complex archives that mirror both ‘America’ and the art world.” Repetition, displacement, and distortion are constant concerns and the act of revisiting is an ongoing theme. Mack attends county and state fairs nationwide, where her experiences fundamentally reshape her approach to the creation and staging of her work. The atmosphere of the local fair and the environment of the artist’s studio share similar outtakes, as both are equally concerned with narrative, arrangement, and (e)valuation. Her appropriation of the fair’s system of categorization attempts to undo or rewrite storylines embedded within local material culture. These objects are symbolic containers of a collective memory that can travel across time. Ultimately, Mack positions herself as both an artist and maker, placing herself inside a subculture and adopting its system of classification for her own (re)invention. This enables Mack to move seamlessly between two distinctive locales and contexts, each of which has its own structure, methodology, and currency. The objects embody these alternating experiences and distinguishing histories.