Art Review: Neuroscience takes shape in the latest New Arts Program Exhibition, March 2019

Author: Ron Schira
Publication:
 Reading Eagle
Published: March 24, 2019
Article Link Here

“In the Garden of the Mind,” an exhibition of freestanding sculpture by Manhattan artist Judith Modrak, views through March 3 at New Arts Program, Kutztown. Modeling the cellular structure of the human brain, the artist represents the neurons, dendrites and other such cranial content into curvelinear statuary that oddly become creatures in themselves.

Familial Memory and Family of Memories

Measuring anywhere from a few inches to several feet tall, the cellforms occupy the floor of the gallery in a mock-surreal setting of work that looks to be made by aliens from another planet. They are made in casts of resin colored with acrylics or plaster painted with oils to offer a smooth, almost skinlike surface texture.

The shapes and forms are taken from the biological statistics provided by studies from doctors and scientists, placed in curious figurations that resemble human or animal interactions, as if having a conversation or posing in self-awareness. Arranging the work in series according to their biological categories, they seem to tell a story.

“Passion,” for instance, from the dendrites series, features a pair of plaster cells about 5 feet tall engaged in a discourse, just as “Fading Memory,” from the vital memories series, depicts a 4-foot supine organism, tendrils reaching up and inward as if struggling with something (in this case, the struggle is the dilatory effects of Alzheimer’s disease).

Passion

From Modrak’s statement: “The forms and concepts in my work bridge art and science by exploring scientific advances that increase our understanding of psychological and neurological landscapes, including the nature of memory, brain physiology, the biochemistry of neurons and neurotransmitters and the mechanics of sensory experiences. I translate these esoteric and often intangible concepts into three-dimensional anthropomorphic forms. These humanlike structures embody psychological and emotional states, often mirroring their beholders with a pronounced expression of bodily gesture.”

Another piece from the dendrites series titled “Family of Memories” portrays a sloth or anteaterlike form that is seemingly self-absorbed or contemplating something. Other pieces sit atop poles and express themselves through various gestures. Included also in the show is a life-size standing human figure titled “Ancestors and Axons.”

“In the Garden of the Mind,” Modrak continues, “unveiling as part of the New Arts Program, uses the garden as a metaphor to examine the lifecycle of experiences and memories. This site-reflective installation includes new work and sculptures from Dendrites, Vital Memories and Thought Storm — all of which use neurons and dendrites as a springboard to investigate how our brains react and respond to processing information and emotions. The current belief is that certain memories and life events create distinct patterns in our brains.”

Fading Memory

As artworks on their own, these peculiar objects are well-made and do not need scientific justification to be art. And regardless that these works lean toward abstraction and surrealism, they are to a degree representational and portray real things in the real world. They adapt natural medical conditions and appearances into a language that is, albeit analogous and metaphorical, something relatable.

In the Garden of the Mind, NAP Preview

Publication: New Arts Program
Opening Reception: January 18th, 2019, 6-9 p.m. with artist talk at 7:30 p.m.
Exhibition Dates: Jan 18th – March 3rd, with gallery hours Weds-Sun, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
See full article here

The work of New York-based sculptor Judith Modrak has been exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the United States including Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, the Trenton Art Museum, Point Park University, the Palm Beach Art Armory, the Woodstock Museum, Monmouth Museum, and the Hartnett Gallery. In New York City, Our Memories, a public artwork of seven sculptures, has been installed on Governors Island, in Central Park, and is now on view in Thomas Paine Park through May 2019. The documentary Memories Recorded, Memories Stored, about Modrak’s project Our Memories won Best Science and Education Documentary at the Madrid International Film Festival in 2017.

Modrak’s sculpted biomorphic and anthropomorphic figures, address universal issues of empathy, cognition, aging and mental illness. Her work has been featured in various art, science and news publications, including the Science Channel, the Tribeca Trib, Scientific American, the Seaside Times, the Rochester Review, SciArt, Sculpture Magazine, Sino Vision, and the Pittsburgh Tribune. Modrak earned a BA in Studio Art, Cum Laude, from the University of Rochester. By 2013 she had achieved artistic recognition in New York City and has received a Chashama/ National Endowment for the Arts grant and two gold medals in sculpture from the National Association of Women Artists, among other awards. As part of her New Arts Program residency, Modrak is unveiling, In the Garden of the Mind—a site reflective installation of totem-like, human-sized sculptures delving into the lifecycle of ideas and sensations. To see more of Modrak’s work, visit: www.judithmodrak.com and connect @judithmodrak on Instagram and FB.

To schedule a one-to-one talk with the artist on Friday, Jan 18 or Saturday, January 19 please call 610-683-6440.

Speaker @ SciViz NYC on November 16th, 2018

Date: Friday November, 16, 2018
Event Time: 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
Presentation Time: 9:45 – 10:15 a.m.
Presentation: Emotive Pathways: internal and external connections in sculptural form
Location: Davis Auditorium, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Sponsored by: Mount Sinai, Scientific American, S.P.A.R.K., Association of Medical Illustrators
Visit the SciViz NYC’s website for more information.

Talk Summary:
The forms and concepts in my work bridge art and science by exploring scientific advances that increase our understanding of psychological and neurological landscapes, including the nature of memory, brain physiology, neurobiology, and the mechanics of sensory experiences.

This talk will focus on the inspiration and realization of the Our Memories project, currently on view in Thomas Paine Park in downtown Manhattan as part of the NYC Parks’ Art in the Parks program. The presentation will also include the public’s response as captured in film documentaries and social media.

Our Memories is informed by the nature of neurons and dendrites and investigates how our brains react to experiences and how memory functions. The work manifests as an audience participatory outdoor installation of translucent sculptures that contain cavities for participants to place color-coded memory stones. The sculptures take on the colors of the collective memories and come to life as they store more memories.

The memory stones are classified into six emotions based on Plutchik’s color wheel: love, anger, fear, surprise, joy and sadness. Participants transform the sculptures by recalling a powerful memory and then depositing the memory stone in a sculpture. This action is intended to visually incite viewers to consider the concept of the interior self, particularly how our experiences and memories are encoded and stored. This active act of recollection not only stirs up personal memories, it also physiologically generates a new, shared memory. Our Memories is both a collective memorial installation, made complete by thousands of individual memories, and an experience that connects us to our core and to one another.