Rosten Woo

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What Is My Work About? 

My goal as an artist is to change the way people see the places they inhabit. My work is unified by a set of concerns more than a set of forms. I make video, exhibitions, publications, websites – each designed to work in a particular context and with a particular audience. I’m committed to social justice and the idea of artwork as a non-coercive form of education. My work is collaborative and process-oriented. It is abstract, personal, warm, and inviting. It is often explicit and didactic. I use visual means to clarify complex situations and problems. I work frequently in extended dialog with specific communities (for instance, public housing residents, members of a worker’s center, or a car club). I use quantitative and computational methods to arrive at forms but I also try to call those methods into question and highlight their inadequacy.

 

Artist Statement

I am interested in the ways that places and communities are represented and I craft my work to disarm default perceptions (whether those perceptions come from pop culture, or statistical modeling software). My career is dedicated to developing new visual languages for representing the social and physical world.

I’m interested in the ways that marginalized communities are represented and I develop counter-visualizations that partake of the visual regimes of didactic display (the natural history museum, the organizational chart, the documentary photograph) but turn those conventions around. I want to make work that lays bare the assumptions of representation while granting the viewer new views. My hope is that the things I make will help people to see a familiar place or circumstance in an unfamiliar way.

My art practice has developed in a somewhat atypical way. My work is spread out across (and has received recognition from) a few disparate fields: data visualization, urban planning, graphic design, and so-called “social-practice” artwork. It is visual, yet always invested in other ways of engaging the world. I’ve produced a lot of work that is eventually exhibited in a gallery context but very rarely have I produced work *for* a gallery as the primary site of interaction. I make work in the model of Stephen Willats audience/artist relationship. That is to say that I make objects and representations but I don’t believe that the value of the work lies in the discrete art object consumed by an art-audience. I make work that accrues its value in the process of construction and in its distribution. The audience is a participant in the construction of the work and ideas about audience or “target” are always present at the outset of a project. My projects are highly dependent on their time and place context —so whatever is shown in a gallery is just documentations of the work, not the work itself. I’ve produced a large body of work–but often as part of a larger team (and sometimes as the director of an arts organization — the Center for Urban Pedagogy) but I have only recently produced work as an individual artist. Nonetheless, even this work is deeply collaborative. I’m not invested in the model of the “individual” artist or creator – I believe that the best works come from collaboration and community. I have lived in Los Angeles for five years, produced several public art commissions here, but have never shown in a gallery.

In this way my work can also be seen as design — it is produced for a specific audience and is circulated in mass-media editions. Moreover, it is “interested” and politically engaged, meant to be “used.” Moreover – it is meant to be understood and to have a clear didactic intent. Because the political world is already so complex and mystified, I see little value in creating overly obscure or overly simplistic political artwork. Trying to illuminate with honesty and clarity feels more important. That said, because my work experiments with novel forms of representation and creates complex situations for a viewer, it is often seen as artwork, too. The work becomes complex because the world is.

CV

2011-present
Educator Art Center College of the Arts, Pasadena, CA; Media Design Practices MFA
California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA; Graphic Design MFA program
Pomona College, Claremont, CA;

2009-present
Public Artist, Designer Projects for governments, non-profit organizations ,and grassroots advocacy groups, including Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Harvard Library, the Advancement Project, Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, the East LA Community Corporation, the Black Workers Center, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, the Right to the City Coalition, and the American Human Development Project.

2001-2009
Executive Director, Co-founder Center For Urban Pedagogy, New York, NY Developed and execute projects and programs using art, design, and technology to promote civic engagement with the built environment.
EDUCATION
1999
Cornell University, B.A. in Government, with Honors
1995-1997
Deep Springs College

AWARDS, COMMISSIONS, RESIDENCIES2014
Zentrum for Kunst & Urbanistiks ,Residency
2014
California Community Foundation, Visual Arts Fellowship
2014
Americans For the Arts Public Art Network, Year in Review Award
2014
American Planning Association, Best Practices Award
2014
California Endowment for the Humanities, California Stories Grant
2012
Seed Fund, Grant for Creative Change
2011
Headlands Center for the Arts, Residency
2011
Cooper-Hewitt Design Triennial
2010
Venice Architectural Biennale

 

SELECTED EXHIBITIONS AND INSTALLATIONS

2014
Los Angeles River Interpretive Signage Program, CA State Parks, CA
2014
City of Hope, City of Resistance, Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, CA
2014
haystacks, Digital Art Commission, Harvard Library
2013
Willowbrook is/es, Multimedia sculpture, Willowbrook, CA
2012
Picture Takers, Los Angeles Police Department Scientific Investigation Division, Los Angeles, CA
2011
The Last Newspaper, The New Museum, New York, NY
2010
Design Triennial: Why Design Now?: Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, New York NY
2009
The Global Polis: Interactive Infrastructures: Center for Architecture, New York, NY
2009
4th International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam: Open City: Designing Coexistence Rotterdam, NL
2009
Experimental Geography: The Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, ME; Miller Gallery, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA; The Albuquerque Museum, Albuquerque, NM; Rochester Art Center, Rochester, NY; Richard E. Peeler Art Center, DePauw University, Greencastle, IN 2009
Into the Open: positioning Practice: National Constitution Center, Philadelphia, PA; Vera List Center for Art and Politics, New York, NY
2009
An Atlas Of Radical Cartography: San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA; Casco, Utrecht, NL; Basekamp, Philadelphia, PA; The College of New Jersey, NJ; University of Toronto, ON; LACE contemporary Art Center, Los Angeles, CA
2008
U.S. Pavillion, Venice Architectural Biennale, Venice, IT
2007
New York States of Mind, House of World Cultures, Berlin, DE
2006
A Better World: Netherlands Architectural Institute, Rotterdam, NL
2006
Welcome into my backyard!: Bojimans Museum, Rotterdam, NL
2005
Mind the Gap, Smack Mellon, Brooklyn, NY
2005
Post-Everything, The Rotunda Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
2005
Shrinking Cities – Interventions, Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst, Leipzig, DE
2004
Values and Variety: Shopping on Fulton Street, Fulton Mall, Brooklyn, NY
2003
Urban Renewal: The City without a Ghetto, Storefront for Art and Architecture, NY;
Princeton University School of Architecture, NJ; Mess Hall, Chicago IL
2003
NYCHA: The city without a ghetto, mobile exhibit in New York City public housing developments, NY
2003
The Bowery Hall of Fame,
2002
295 Bowery, New York, NY
2002
Garbage Problems, Apex Art, New York, NY
2001
Introducing the Center for Critical Skills,
2002
White Box Gallery, New York, NY
2001
Building Codes: The Programmable City, Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York, NY (solo show)

PUBLICATIONS

2014
“Willowbrook is. . . /Willowbrook es. . . “ book Los Angeles County Arts Commission
2013
“Under the Sun” cover X-TRA
2012
“The Right Fit” article The Los Angeles Review of Books
2011
“Street Value” book Princeton Architectural Press