Two buildings on the University of Alabama at Birmingham campus will be covered with giant swathes of colorful fabric for a large-scale art installation by New York City-based artist Amanda Browder titled “Magic Chromacity.”
In the first joint project for UAB’s Cultural Corridor, the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center, the Department of Art and Art History, and the College of Arts and Sciences’ new Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts commissioned Browder to create “Magic Chromacity.” The vast artworks Browder is creating use recycled and donated materials collected in Birmingham and Brooklyn, New York, and will adorn the AEIVA and ASC buildings for one week. These huge, vibrant, quiltlike works will allow the buildings, which face each other on 10th Avenue South, to reflect and complement each other while also serving as individual installations.
Browder will give a free, public lecture at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 28, and an opening reception will be held from 5-7:30 p.m. Aug. 29, in the AEIVA. The Department of Art and Art History, John S. Jemison Fund, and the Alys Stephens Center sponsor her lecture. Due to storms and the threat of severe weather, “Magic Chromacity” was taken down Sept. 3 to protect and preserve the artwork.
Browder describes her work as “being soft sculpture/found object installation with an affinity for abstraction and minimalism.”
“I use forms that are similar to the images in a comic book: reduced, simplified, and reconfigured to be idealized and sensational,” Browder said. “I appreciate the transformative nature of materials, and how the combination of familiar objects can create abstract relationships. These relationships generate open-ended narratives, and ambiguous situations that are defined by the choice of materials. Central to the psychedelic experience, I use bright colors and familiar materials to recreate this subtle change in perception.”
With “Magic Chromacity,” Browder has orchestrated “a physical installation that connects to both our sense of spectacle and our feeling of the familiar.”
“Although the forms are abstract, the use of bright colors and familiar materials creates a perceptual accessibility that welcomes a quick response,” Browder said. “The transitory aspect of the installation, a feature more commonly associated with the performing arts, reminds us that memory is a primary basis of community culture.”
For Browder, UAB’s Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts and the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center are dramatic symbols of Birmingham’s involvement in contemporary art and performance. “Magic Chromacity” metaphorically “sews” these two buildings together using fabric, a traditional material found in local homes, and which, in the form of clothes, has always been a personal bridge between public, private, functional and celebratory worlds, she says.
The works began during her first visit in November 2013, as part of her ongoing residency at the DAAH. More than 200 community volunteers from ArtPlay and Bib and Tucker Sew-Op, students from Birmingham City Schools including the Woodlawn Summer Bridge program, and UAB students, staff and faculty helped create the works during community sewing days. Browder will be in residence with the Department of Art and Art History leading up to the installation of the artworks Aug. 26-28.
Browder has invested more than 250 hours of sewing in the project, not including the countless hours volunteers spent collecting, arranging, cutting, pinning and sewing. More than 10,000 square feet of fabric has been used so far, along with 250 spools of thread. The longest section of the piece will measure more than 100 feet.
To keep up with the project and see photographs from the residency, visit the Department of Art and Art History on Facebook. Use and follow #Magic_Chromacity on social media for all project updates.
Born in Missoula, Montana, in 1976, Browder currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. She received her Master of Fine Arts and Master of Arts degrees from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 2001 and taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 2001-2007. She has received grants for public works by the Brooklyn Arts Council in New York, the North Brooklyn Public Arts Council and the Chicago Community Arts Assistant Program in Illinois. Browder has exhibited nationally and internationally at the SWAB Art Fair, Barcelona, Spain; Gallery Poulsen; Copenhagen, Denmark; Nakaochiai Gallery, Tokyo, Japan; Lothringer 14, Munich, Germany; White Columns, New York; Mixture Contemporary Gallery, Houston, Texas; The Missoula Museum of the Arts, Missoula; and Gallery 400-UIC and The Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, Illinois. She is a founder of the art podcast www.badatsports.com and a member of the Round Robin Collective.