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December 2015
Vol. 34 No. 10

A publication of the
International Sculpture Center

This selection of shows has been curated by Sculpture magazine editorial staff and includes just a few of the great shows around the world.

Charles B. Wang Center, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York: Sook Jin Jo
Through December 31, 2015
Sook Jin Jo, Below. Jo’s sculptures and installations draw strength from the past lives and uses of their components—abandoned industrial materials, wooden furniture, and building fragments. Restoring value to the overlooked and seemingly worthless, her constructions pair found simplicity with weathered elegance while exploring relations between space and form, destruction and rebirth, the material and the immaterial. “Earth and Sky: Captured Movement” marks the debut of Below, a new work initially inspired by a visit to India in 2005 and only finished during a recent residency in Shanghai. Covering an expanse of floor, more than 200 cedar totems, each one different, resemble nothing so much as a sprawling city seen from above. Resurrection II shifts perspective from the remote to the intimately personal with a collection of wall-mounted drawers found on the streets of New York.

Web site www.thewangcenter.org

Sook Jin Jo, Below.
De Hallen Haarlem, Haarlem, the Netherlands: Markus Selg
Through January 3, 2016
Markus Selg, Inversion. Selg’s sculptures, collages, installations, and films pose fundamental questions. What is the relationship between technology and spirituality? Between soul, mind, and matter? What is “real” or authentic, and what is reproduction or imitation? Combining objects and images from different eras and cultures, his work is sometimes solidly physical and craft-based, sometimes ungraspably virtual—a dichotomy that captures the contradictions of a world increasingly mediated by digital data, bits, and bytes. In his incredibly diverse universe of images, computer games, sci-fi films, and voodoo meet biblical stories, panoramic vistas, and traditional sculptures from Benin. “Primitive Data” brings together individual works from the past 10 years in a comprehensive Gesamtkunstwerk. In this mythological allegory, the idea of flow (from the river Styx, which divided the living world from the underworld, to the digital stream that now threatens to separate us from reality altogether) governs a life cycle ritually punctuated by the sacrifices that must be made to higher powers, whether past or future.

Web site www.dehallen.nl

Markus Selg, Inversion.

Kunstverein Hannover, Hannover, Germany: Michael E. Smith
Through January 17, 2016
Michael E. Smith, detail of installation at the SculptureCenter. Smith’s sculptures are made from everyday things that can be found on any street or at any dump—household items, dead animals, and organic materials—and yet he manages to invest this worthless and mundane detritus with atmosphere and power. Hoses, basketballs, bathtubs, toilets, and articles of clothing come together to almost alchemical effect, forcing us to question what precisely we are looking at and why. Coalescing in pared-down collections of materials that suggest the fundamental need for nourishment, warmth, and protection, his assemblages suggest demolished buildings or abandoned urban lots, redolent of transience and mortality (though not without morbid humor and sympathy). Filled with PVC foam, hardened with resin, or covered in canvas, Smith’s transformed debris inhabits another dimension, an alternative zone in which respect is restored and natural processes can redeem even the worst of manmade horrors.

Web site www.kunstverein-hannover.de

Michael E. Smith, detail of installation at the SculptureCenter.
Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Barcelona: Sergi Aguilar
Through January 31, 2016
Sergi Aguilar, Ruta vermella. For more than 40 years, Aguilar has questioned the principal paradigms of Modernist sculpture. Minimizing the role of formalist interpretation, his work strikes an uncomfor­table stance in relation to the historiographic canon and its codes, genealogies, and modes of analysis. “Reverse/ Obverse” follows his trajectory from object and process to iron pieces and tools, through dense geometrical explorations and experiments with scale and accumulation, to openwork spatial investigations of signs and landscapes, combining sculpture with drawings, photographs, and video works. Adopting Aguilar’s logic of continuity, the show replaces linear chronology with an endless loop that replicates the creative drive of the artist’s studio, intermingling time, space, and displacement.

Web site www.macba.cat

Sergi Aguilar, Ruta vermella.
Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence: Martin Boyce
Through January 31, 2016
Martin Boyce, When Now is Night. Art, architecture, design, culture, and nature come together in Boyce’s allusively poetic sculptures, photographs, and installations. The 2011 Turner Prize winner describes his work as reflecting an interest in the psychological experience of space, abandoned or abject terrains, and material manifestations of time. Borrowing ordinary functional forms—fences, benches, phone booths, ventilation grills, trash bins, and neon lights, he reduces, skews, and abstracts the familiar into something far less recognizable. Within his strange hybrids, which warp the ideals of Modernism, prosaic elements such as flowing curves and angular design suddenly take on personality—confounding at best, threatening at worst. Boyce’s first U.S. museum show traces the development of his approach from a rarely seen group of early photographs (1992), through a re-creation of his Scottish pavilion installation for the 2009 Venice Biennale, to recent work. Named for his dramatic two-part installation When Now is Night (2002), this survey captures the dualistic divide that defines Boyce’s noir-influenced aesthetic—for him, the built and natural worlds (and our experience of them) consist of equal parts wonder and anxiety.

Web site www.risdmuseum.org


Martin Boyce, When Now is Night.
Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas: Giuseppe Penone
Through January 10, 2016
Giuseppe Penone, Pelle di grafite—Palpebra. Penone’s work blurs the boundaries between nature and culture in poetic and unexpected ways. His insights evolve from close observation of the rules governing growth and form, but take unexpected twists as he explores “vegetal man and anthropomorphized nature.” Natural materials, including clay, stone, leaves, roots, acacia thorns, tree trunks, earth, and even metal, express an animistic symbolism of correspondences as tree trunks transform into bodies, leaves into skin, skin into maps, and eyes into water and air. “Being the River, Repeating the Forest,” which encapsulates Penone’s sensuous, phenomenological approach, features close to 20 works from his long and productive career, including Patate (potatoes grown inside molds of the artist’s face), Repeating the Forest (squared wooden beams carved according to their growth rings to reveal the saplings within), and Being the River (an attempt to replicate by hand the water-carved form of a rock found in the mouth of river).  

Web site www.nashersculpturecenter.org


Giuseppe Penone, Pelle di grafite—Palpebra.
The Noguchi Museum, Long Island City, New York: Museum of Stones
Through January 10, 2016
Stephen Lichty, Untitled, from "Museum of Stones." When does rock become stone? There is a difference, though the words are often used interchangeably. Noguchi might have said that nature makes rocks and we make stones. That essential distinction lies at the heart of this show, which for the first time introduces works by contemporary artists into the museum’s original Noguchi-designed installation. The concept for “Museum of Stones” originated in Jimmie Durham’s critique of Western sculpture and architecture as denaturing regimes that use stone to advance a hubristic pursuit of would-be permanence. Such an approach fails to recognize that rock, contrary to our desires, is subject to (geological) time; it, too, has a life cycle, full of capriciousness, impressionability, and transience, and it bears the marks of its birth and development just like any human being. Noguchi, over the course of his career, worked both sides of the equation: he learned to square a block of marble from Brancusi, the high priest of command and control carving, but he ended his life as a process artist who had learned how to work in dialogue with his material (due in no small part to his experiments with clay while visiting Japan). In addition to Noguchi and Durham, featured artists include Mel Bochner, Dove Bradshaw, Stephen Lichty, Gabriel Orozco, and Toshiko Takaezu, whose works intermingle with scholar’s rocks in a prolonged meditation on natural and cultural creation.

Web site www.noguchi.org

Stephen Lichty, Untitled, from “Museum of Stones.”
San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, California: Covert Operations
Through January 10, 2016
David Gurman, Memorial for the New American Century, from "Covert Operations." Two years after Edward Snowden’s shocking revelations about widespread, international data collection conducted in the name of security, surveillance has become an everyday concern—and yet little has changed. “Covert Operations” features works by artists who challenge the status quo and the willingness to cede civil rights to fear-mongering paranoia. Using the tools of democratic free speech to bear witness to abuses of power and attacks on liberty, they reveal previously unreported information and questionable government activity, from classified military sites and reconnaissance satellites to border surveillance, from terrorist profiling to narcotics and human trafficking, from illegal extradition flights to nuclear weapons. In these nuanced, and often exhaustive, investigative works, selected artists—including Jenny Holzer, Harun Farocki and Taryn Simon, David Taylor, Trevor Pag­-­l­en, Hasan Elahi, Kerry Tribe, and Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0—examine our complicity in human rights violations, pry into the hidden institutional structure and economy of the “black world,” document events along the U.S./Mexico border, expose the secretive markers of the covert world, and even voluntarily spy on themselves.

Web site http://sjmusart.org

David Gurman, Memorial for the New American Century, from “Covert Operations.”
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York: Alberto Burri
Through January 6, 2016
Alberto Burri, Legno e bianco I. Burri (1915–95) is best known for his Sacchi, angst-ridden objects made of ripped and patched burlap bags and fragments of discarded clothing, stitched and sutured into a semblance of wholeness. His other works, however, are far less familiar to American viewers: legni (scorched wood reliefs), ferri (welded irons), Combustioni plastiche (melted plastics), cretti (induced craquelure), cellotex (flayed fiberboards), catrami (tars), muffe (molds), and gobbi (hunchbacks). Such tortured creations not only demolished and reconfigured the Western pictorial tradition, they also reconceptualized Modernist collage. Their unprecedented manipulation of humble substances literalized the psychological allusions of Abstract Expressionism and Art Informel, elevating painted gesture and mark-making into consequential, formative action capable of material transformation. “The Trauma of Painting,” the most comprehensive exhibition of Burri’s work ever mounted, uncovers the beauty and complexity behind these brutalized relics of inspired, passionate violence—works that paved the way for Arte Povera, Neo-Dada, and Process art.

Web site www.guggenheim.org

Alberto Burri, Legno e bianco I.
Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, Salt Lake City: Kate Ericson & Mel Ziegler
Through December 19, 2015
Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler, Grandma’s. During their prolific collaboration (1985–95), Ericson and Ziegler produced some of the most profound conceptual art projects of the late 20th century. Ranging from socially engaged commissions and site- specific installations to drawings and mixed-media sculptures, their work redefined the scope of public art, transforming ordinary materials—books, lumber, house paint, jars, and tap water—into tools of social commentary. Rather than impose a conspicuous artwork on a site or situation, they devised subtle alterations, using poetic language and idiosyncratic wit to illuminate overlooked aspects of public life and highlight local concerns. While their public art projects often focused on cultural institutions as sites for active engagement, other endeavors incorporated the voices and desires of ordinary people. Since Ericson’s untimely death, Ziegler’s work has continued to evolve as he finds new ways of elaborating on their strategies through craft, Americana, and sardonic humor. This exhibition—which takes its title from Grandma’s Cupboard (1994–96), an antique wooden cabinet filled with jars of air collected in and around the monuments of Washington, DC—highlights a collective and individual ability to reimagine national mythologies and localized experience through a clever balance of playfulness and activism that, more often than not, results in unexpected insights and understanding.

Web site www.utahmoca.org

Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler, Grandma’s.

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