May 22, 2017
By Sofia Sokolove | November 23, 2016 | Culture
The Contemporary's Jones Center goes to the next level with landmark exhibits and a stunning canopied rooftop.
The Jones Center reopens after a monthslong renovation with Habitat, the largest US solo exhibit by Polish artist Monika Sosnowska.
After months of renovations, The Contemporary Austin’s Jones Center is ready to reach its full potential. The downtown museum will reopen on November 22 with Habitat, the largest US solo exhibition by Polish artist Monika Sosnowska and a symbol of what’s to come at the renovated space.
Designed by Paul Lewis, the same architect who oversaw the original renovation in 2010, the expansion has increased gallery space to 7,000 square feet, along with other significant improvements to the museum’s infrastructure, including invisible but important details like the addition of a formalized HVAC system and a scissor lift that allows large-scale art to be transported to the second floor in one piece. Being able to control the humidity and handle large-scale pieces gives the Jones Center access to top-notch art. “The improvements empower us to say yes to great things being offered,” explains museum Executive Director and CEO Louis Grachos.
Some of the major changes will be front and center. The museum’s roof will feature a stunning 21-foot open-air canopy, allowing for the popular space, overlooking iconic Congress Avenue, to host many more events. Also, beginning in December, artist Jim Hodges’s large-scale, outdoor structure “With Liberty and Justice For All (A Work in Progress)” will extend across the roofline. Seven-foot-high letters coated in iridescent dichroic film will be lit at night from within, spelling out the powerful message “With Liberty and Justice For All.” The letters, installed 51 feet above ground over Congress and Seventh Street, will appear to shift colors when the light changes or depending on where a viewer is standing, creating an interactive experience for those down below.
Jim Hodges’ “With Liberty and Justice for All (A Work in Progress),” shown wrapped around the bottom of the Aspen Art Museum in 2014, will soon be installed at Austin’s Jones Center, only this time it will hang more than 50 feet above ground.
Says senior curator Heather Pesanti: “The space will be conducive to more complex and expansive ideas within the entirety of the Jones Center.” Sosnowska’s work, for example, is large and structural, inspired by Soviet-era architecture of 1960s and 1970s Warsaw. It plays with the viewer’s perception of structure and material, twisting and distorting impressions of simple elements such as rails and beams. The two-floor exhibit would have been nearly impossible to pull off at the Jones Center pre-renovation.
As for the powerful Hodges piece, the Jones Center plans to engage Austin on all levels with this exhibit, including through community discussions with adults and school-age children. Says Grachos: “[Hodges] has always told me [that] execution of work itself is half the job. The other half is really providing the platform and the arena for the conversation to happen afterwards. Part of that deal is that we engage our community.” 700 Congress Ave., 512-453-5312
MONIKA SOSNOWSKA, UNTITLED, 2015. CONCRETE AND PAINTED STEEL. 119 1/4 X 127 1/2 X 157 1/2 INCHES. INSTALLATION VIEW, MONIKA SOSNOWSKA: STILL LIFE, FOKSAL GALLERY
FOUNDATION, WARSAW. ARTWORK © MONIKA SOSNOWSKA. COURTESY THE ARTIST; FOKSAL GALLERY FOUNDATION, WARSAW; THE MODERN INSTITUTE, GLASGOW; GALERIE GISELA
CAPITAIN, COLOGNE; KURIMANZUTTO, MEXICO CITY; AND HAUSER & WIRTH. PHOTOGRAPH BY BARTOSZ GÓRKA