Never Underestimate a Monochrome

September 30, 2012–January 31, 2013

Meant to activate the poetic, political, and performative registers of the monochrome, Never Underestimate a Monochrome (2012) is a conceptual project conceived and organized by Mariángeles Soto-Díaz in a collaborative partnership with the University of Iowa Museum of Art. Around thirty artists from different parts of the world interpreted instructions written by Soto-Díaz, and provided documentation of their monochrome performance for a digital archival space, bringing the textual, embodied, and mediated aspects of the monochrome into dialogue.

Never Underestimate a Monochrome began during Mariángeles Soto-Díaz's 201112 residency at the University of Iowa, where she was a Grant Wood Fellow in Painting. An abstract artist from Latin America drawn to the paradoxical space between painting and conceptual art, Soto-Díaz created an installation at the Art Building West gallery which responded to the unique architecture of the space. The exhibit was a constellation of monochrome paintings making allusion to the University's extensive and unique collection of Fluxus materials, as well as to the well-known work by Ad Reinhardt the Museum owns. For each painting, Soto-Díaz created titles that were playful, poetic, and political hue-based instructions for creating monochromes, texts which in turn became the basis for Never Underestimate a Monochrome.

Among the materials in the University's Fluxus collection, one area that was especially generative for Soto-Diaz, were the works and documentation of a 1972 group exhibition involving conceptual artists from both the US and Latin America. According to curator Jorge Glusberg, the exhibition was designed to address the contributors' shared conviction that "the conflicts caused by unfair social relations that prevail in most latin american [sic] countries show up in the artistic arena as well as in other aspects of the culture." Forty years later, with Never Underestimate a Monochrome, Soto-Díaz combines internet and digital platforms with instructions and the monochrome to expand upon these ideas of global collectivity and uneven social relations. Of special note is the fact that among the international artists featured in Never Underestimate a Monochrome, three participated in the groundbreaking 1972 exhibition: Ken Friedman, Jaime Davidovich, and Horacio Zabala.

Never Underestimate a Monochrome will mark the University of Iowa Museum of Art's first fully online, contemporary global project.

Participating artists:
David Batchelor (Scotland/UK), Emilio Chapela (Mexico), Jason Corder (Kenya), Jaime Davidovich (Argentina), Bruno Dubner (Argentina), Maria Jose Duran (Chile/USA), Anoka Faruqee (USA), Stacy Fisher (USA), Ken Friedman (Australia), Babak Golkar (Canada), Michelle Grabner (USA), Billy Gruner / Sarah Keighery (Australia), Brent Hallard (Japan/USA), Beth Harland (UK), Lynne Harlow (USA), Sue Hettmansperger (USA), Odili Odita (Nigeria), Naoshi Okura (Japan/Sweden), Karina Peisajovich (Argentina), Pineapple Park (Australia), Dai Roberts (UK), Huseyin Sami (Australia), Lizi Sanchez (Peru/UK), Claudia Sbrissa (Canada/Italy/USA), Suzanne Stroebe (USA), Hadi Tabatabai (Iran/USA), Sherwin Tibayan (Philippines/USA), Douglas Witmer (USA), Horacio Zabala (Argentina), Patricia Zarate (Colombia/USA).

Graphic Design:
WR Design Lab (David Rogers and Matt Willemsen)