23 No. 8
publication of the International Sculpture Center
Saucedo: A Play on the Real
by Dorothy Joiner
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Ludic in temper, New
Orleans sculptor Christopher Saucedo makes art that might be described
as Postmodernist fun. While nodding respectfully at Rodin, Brancusi, and
a host of others, he draws from wide-ranging sources both popular and
learned, posing mischievous queries about the nature of the gravity-bound
sculptural object. Saucedos ongoing dialogue with his own work and
with the Modernist sculptural legacy was the focus of a recent exhibition
at the Marguerite Oestreicher Fine Arts
Saucedo, Temple-Arcade, 1/4 scale replica (assembled), 2004.
Cast bronze, 24 x 26 x 22 in.
in New Orleans. In this quirky retrospective of sorts, the artist teased
the viewer, showing no "real" sculptures, only thre replicas
of previous works, together with a number of wall pieces and unassembled
replica kits of these same pieces beside recently fabricated
to the exhibition were two assembled replicas of Pencil King (Three Kings)
(1999), the first in monochromatic aluminum and the second meticulously
painted to look like the original. Saucedos anomalous sovereign
stands on three legs: two of steel, the third an oversized pencil with
an emphatic and overtly bawdy lead point. A Brancusian metal pelvis
joins the figures wooden log-body to its tripod appendages, and
scores of pencilsreflections of Saint Sebastians painful arrowscreate
a multi-colored vertical band on one side. Crowning the ridiculous ruler
is a jesters headdress in golden rubber, a prize from Burger King.
Counterposed to Pencil Kings look-alikes were a fanciful poster
and a scale replica (unassembled) (2002), arranged with Mondrian-like
precision within a metal frame.
Saucedo, Temple-Arcade, 1/4 scale replica
(unassembled), 2004. Cast aluminum, 22 x 57.5 x 6.5 in..
only does Saucedos buffoonish, faceless potentate, together with
kit and poster, undercut masculine sovereigntyhis only prowess is
sexualit also satirizes the works objecthood.
Embodying tension-filled potential, the kit anticipates an eventual actualization.
But the real thing, alas, is usually less satisfying than its expectation.
(One is reminded of Huysmanss hero in A Rebours, who elected to
abort a carefully planned excursion to England because the trip could
never live up to his mental image of it.) In contrast to the imaginative
heightening inherent in the kit is the actual hype the poster lends the
the magic of Photoshop, it pictures Pencil King, scale replica in front
of a castle crumbling into romantic ruin. The title, written in wavering
letters, seems worthy of a B horror movie. Further mock grandeur derives
from the homegrown logo in the upper right, which conflates the letters
NO, for the artists adopted town, and NY, for his native city. This
detail hints at commercialization, paralleling the contemporary notion
of branding, the effort to enhance product identity. Whats real
here? The comic ruler? (He is, after all, three dimensional.) Or the unrealized
idea of him in the kit? Or is it the glossy image born of advertising?
Saucedo, Self-Portrait (in exact weigh and volume only) (detail),
2004. Steel, bronze, and lead, 19.5 x 19.5 x 28 in.
aesthetic caper inspires Temple-Arcade, scale replica (assembled) (2004),
as well as its unassembled kit and poster. Now gracing the courtyard of
a French Quarter hotel, the original work (1989) was inspired by Michelangelos
niches, enhancing anything they held, according to Saucedo,
and the skyscrapers whose rectilinear construction he witnessed growing
up in New York. In the spirit of these august precedents, the artist incorporated
into the work both the golden section (in its proportions) and the Fibonacci
sequence (in its columniation): 3, 5, and 8. The interactive work invites
the observer to roll a rounded stone along a curved track at the top.
Just as Camuss Caligula wanted the moon, the viewer can reach toward
this symbolic lunar planet; and with each move, he can grind it a little
bit closer to a perfect Platonic solid.
these highbrow allusions, as is his wont, Saucedo casts the works
replica in bronze, patinating it to resemble a Remington statuette,
in his words, a popular, decidedly lowbrow Cowboy bronze.
Here Saucedo parodies the miniaturizing of masterpieces for the
mantel, his burlesque sparked by a neighbors request: Youre
a sculptor. Do you have a small Kiss? (Rodins, of course). With
further good-humored irony, in the "poster" he uses a digital
reproduction of the Temple replica, somewhat like a blueprint. As background
for this deliberately abstracted image, he chooses a New York bocce court,
unmistakably a blue-collar site. (For the bocce court and for most of
the other poster backgrounds, the artist is indebted to his immigrant
grandfather who, during the 50s and 60s, spent his free time
photographing not only family and friends but also numerous sites in the
Saucedo, Pencil King, 1/4 scale replica (assembled and painted),
2000. Cast aluminum, 18 x 18 x 25 in.
groupings in the exhibition reflected works no longer extant, such as
Eye to Eye, scale replica (unassembled) with poster (2004), the result
of a one-day workshop on diversity conducted with kindergartners over
a decade ago. Dealing with one of his favorite themes, the perplexing
and illusive ideal of equality, the poster shows the classCaucasians,
Asians, blonds, brunettes, girls, boysstanding solemnly on uneven
steps built to regularize their height. Cast in aluminum, the replica
of the graduated stand hangs nearby, the projections and hollows of its
cubic grid reminiscent
of Donald Judd.
sculptural legerdemain, playfully opposing seeming and being in the retrospective,
gears up to an over-the-top tension between abstraction and realism in
his latest work, a witty self-portrait shown this past June at the Steve
Martin Gallery, also in New Orleans. Titled portrait in exact weight and
volume only (2004), the steel and bronze cylinder, 19.5 inches in diameter
and 28 inches tall (29.65 gallons), is filled with lead to weigh 228 pounds,
duplicating the artists weight and volume on April 25, 2004. Imitating
a pennyweight like those on a chemistry labs balance scale, the
cylinder is stamped with his name, documenting that it weighs exactly
one Saucedo. A cartoon drawing lists the steps in executing
the project: a child fills a container with a garden hose, submerges himself,
measures the missing water, weighs himself, records the data. Analogous
to a cartoons thought bubble, the drawingcopies are available
to visitorsserves to underscore the works amusing disjunctures:
its successive movements, the cylinders monumentality; ephemerality,
permanence; levity, ponderousness. The artist plans comparable portraits
of his wife and two children.
the first Cubists, Braque and Picasso, who played with paintings
accepted techniques, inverting them into the radically new style of Cubism,
so, too, does Saucedo sport with sculpture, re-examining its tenets, elements,
even its significance. His good-natured aesthetic antics offer enjoyment
both intellectual and perceptual.
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