International Sculpture Center
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Sept 2011
Vol.30 No. 7

A publication of the
International Sculpture Center
DALLAS - Gabriel Dawe: Guerilla Arts and Dallas Contemporary
by Charissa Terranova
The large, taut string installations in Gabriel Dawe’s “Plexus” series create new spaces while transforming their surroundings. Such a powerful architectural effect makes them indeed site-specific. In Plexus No. 3, 12 layers of Gütermann sewing thread stretched from the hard concrete floor to the flower-embossed, aluminum-plated ceiling of Guerilla Arts’ ramshackle storefront space. Attached to thin wooden slats above and below, the threads created an Op Art-inflected vertigo. By crisscrossing the threads, Dawe created a diamond-shaped opening down the center, allowing viewers to look across the room through the work while, at the same time, experiencing a fusion of light, space, and color. The collision of delicate art and derelict building heightened an unconscious richness in the old tumbledown space. A similar effect occurred in the larger Plexus No. 4 at Dallas Contemporary. There, two almost wall-like rows of Dawe’s colorful strings ran diagonally from floor to ceiling on wooden slats placed at the center of the warehouse space. The angling of the forms created a unique anamorphism that reduced viewers to dizziness as they walked between the tightly strung strings. As at Guerilla Arts, brawny concrete floors marked a counterpoint to the airy installation. And this—rough, hard, and heavy against light, thin, and evanescent—is the crux of Dawe’s spatiality. He creates spaces of gender interrogation—where the mores of sexual proclivity are put into question through the slightest of means, thread...see the entire review in the print version of September's magazine.

Gabriel Dawe, Plexus No. 4, 2010. Gutermann thread, wood and nails, 11 x 25 x 25 ft.
WASHINGTON, DC - Mary Coble: Conner Contemporary
by Sarah Tanguy
Water and endurance: in Mary Coble’s recent exhibition “Source,” what might have conjured images of torture instead generated an engrossing meditation on purification and renewal. The show embraced three short videos, a wall drawing, a mixed-media installation, and a live performance. Shot from a distance, the videos Stand, Fall, and Swim featured only a platform on an isolated lake, the weather, and the artist. The spare storyline was deceptive. Through extended repetitions of standing, falling, and swimming, simple acts of personal discovery became moving feats of mind over body. Slight variations in action induced a kind of trance and evoked the human potential to overcome seemingly futile and uncertain circumstances.

By contrast, Coble’s opening-day public performance explored our communal relationship with water and posed troubling questions about water purity and availability. Staged in the gallery courtyard, the installation had three main components: a water “library” consisting of plastic water containers hooked to a gridded steel wall, a mixed-media water purifier, and two steel ladders. Not an object-maker, Coble worked with an engineer to create a tri-level device that resembled a fountain with alchemical overtones. As background, she went door-to-door to selected locations in Washington, DC, and collected 200 samples in 2.5-gallon containers. Taken from 127 neighborhoods of varying wealth across the city’s eight wards, the containers listed addresses only. Inside the gallery, a large drawing documented the entire process. Pencil marks mapped the city’s boundary lines, key roads, and water sources, while pins indicated the collection points...see the entire review in the print version of September's magazine.

Mary Coble, Source, 2010. Biew of Washington, DC, water map.
CHICAGO - Jitish Kallat: Art Institute of Chicago
by Elaine A. King
During the World’s Columbian Expo?sition in 1893, the Art Institute of Chicago hosted the first World Parliament of Religions—one of the most significant assemblies in the history of modern religion. Exactly 108 years before the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, DC, in an auditorium adjacent to the museum’s Grand Staircase (now Fullerton Hall), Swami Vivekananda delivered a milestone speech calling for universal acceptance of all religions and an end to all “bigotry and fanaticism.”

Public Notice 3, a new work by Jitish Kallat, exposes the hauntingly strange connection between these two September 11 events. Mumbai-based Kallat, a rising international star, was invited by Madhuvanti Ghose, the Alsdorf Associate Curator of Indian, Southeast Asian, Hima?layan, and Islamic Art at the Art Institute, to create this impressive piece—his first major work in an American museum. A monumental text-based installation, Public Notice 3 (which remains on view through September 12) occupies the Grand Staircase and reinterprets Viveka?nanda’s speech. The text is made visible in LED displays installed against each of the historic stair’s 118 risers; illuminated in green, blue, yellow, orange, and red, the words take on the symbolism of the U.S. Depart?ment of Homeland Security threat-level advisory system...see the entire review in the print version of September's magazine.

Jitish Kallat, Public Notice 3, 2010. View of installation on the Grand Staircase of the art Institute of Chicago.
BOSTON - Julia Shepley: Boston Sculptors Gallery
by Jane Ingram Allen
Julia Shepley’s recent exhibition presented a suspended, kinetic installation in eight parts, as well as smaller wall reliefs and mixed-media drawings. Something that moves instantly grabs attention, particularly when you add the element of flickering shadows on surrounding white walls. The mesmerizing movements of Sky Habitation created an environment of ethereal beauty and visual excitement. The suspended units consist of hand-carved wooden chair parts and disks of clear plastic (Lexan) and wood joined with waxed linen thread. Each unit is carefully engineered to move with air currents and the actions of people “inhabiting” the installation (the gallery posted signs notifying viewers that they could engage with the installation and start the parts moving). Ambient air currents and a strategically placed fan helped to keep things in motion.

The slowly revolving forms were arranged in a confined space, suspended from the ceiling at different heights and positions. At times, they seemed completely abstract; other times, they suggested machines and reminded one of tinker toy flying machines. Playful and teasing, the installation gave the feeling of glimpses caught out of the corner of the eye since you could never take it all in at once and things were constantly changing. The constructions also suggested shadow puppets and marionettes. Shepley has an ongoing interest in puppetry, and influences from this art form can be seen in her kinetic sculptures. Lighting, an important element in the installation, was controlled for maximum effect in emphasizing the moving shadows. Color was neutral and unassuming, leaving the attention on the movement and the shadows, like drawings in space and light...see the entire review in the print version of September's magazine.

Julia Shepley, Sky Habitation, 2010. Carved wood, Lexan, waxed linen, and shadow, 12 x 12 x 12 ft.
ANN ARBOR - The Kartoon Kings (Simon Grennan and Christopher Sperandio): Slusser Gallery, University of Michigan
by Kristina Olson
In this era of video games like Call of Duty, it seems that nothing is more fun than ersatz warfare. Though the high-tech incarnation is new, games that link battle with play are probably as old as human conflict. Back in 1913, pacifist H.G. Wells published Little Wars, a rule book for table-top warfare with tin solders and doll houses, in the hope that such substitute play would satisfy the growing desire for real combat in the run-up to World War I. Borrowing Wells’s idea, Simon Grennan and Christopher Sperandio have produced their own war game with the interactive installation Conflict Theory (2010).

The artists worked with University of Michigan students and Ann Arbor community members to design and build a room-sized, operable game board outfitted with replicas of campus and city buildings. Game pieces consisted of five-inch-high cast plastic figurines modeled after local residents (like “Parking-meter Guy” and “Protesting Woman”). Grennan and Sperandio also formed a “Game Committee” of volunteers to test the implications of Wells’s original regulations and modify them if necessary. Visitors to the show were invited to read these new rules, arrange their white or black figures across the gridded board, and take turns firing the missile launcher (a modified toy armament)...see the entire review in the print version of September's magazine.

The Kartoon Kings (Simon Grennan and Christopher Sperandio), Conflict Theory, 2010. Mixed media, detail of installation.
NEW YORK - Judith Page: Lesley Heller Workspace
by Susan Canning
At once familiar and strange, disturbing yet comforting, Judith Page’s sculptures recycle personal items into enticing assemblages that probe the slippage between dreams and experience, memory and time. Rather than reworking Surrealist obsession, however, these objects, covered with a viscous medium aptly titled Tar Gel and hanging from the ceiling, mounted on the wall, and scattered across the gallery floor as if by chance, disrupt sentimentality for a more abject counter-discourse—one that colludes with the political in a quest for meaning.

At the entrance to the gallery, a pair of dog-faced slippers covered with a molten layer of black Tar Gel set the stage. While the title, January 30 (Three O’Clock), suggests a diary entry, the slippers could have been one of many discarded pairs of shoes from the street outside this Lower East Side gallery. The opposite wall held the remnant of another dated memory, a dangling foot (actually a wooden shoe form) covered in pink Tar Gel, with nails attached to the sole. June 28 (Aerator), an emblem of lack, severed from the body and without function like the emptied-out, barely sustainable, and no longer useful slippers at the door, became the means for taking the night walk of the exhibition’s title...see the entire review in the print version of September's magazine.

Judith Page, January 30 (Three O'Clock), 2009. Tar Gel and mixed media, 3 x 14 x 14 in.
NEW YORK - Sarah Sze: Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
by Jonathan Goodman
The profligate daughter, stylistically speaking, of Jessica Stockholder, Sarah Sze brilliantly but sometimes overwhelmingly delivers on her enthusiasm for arranging things. The sheer amount of stuff in her sculptures invites all sorts of mental activities—categorizing, counting, and connecting chief among them. Constructed from the accumulated, often marginal objects of industry and everyday life, Sze’s work enables us to participate in a spectacle whose interest lies equally in the macrocosm, or overall plan, and the microcosm, seen in the thousands of individual parts that make up her extravagant compositions. The title of a major recent work, The Uncountables (Encyclopedia) (2010), exactly communicates the reality of uncountable numbers. The colored plastic bottles, milk cartons, lights attached to wooden shelving, and stacks of small objects were beyond numbering. Such complexity is of a high order, but it also touches the possibility of compositional anarchy.

The viewer could only marvel at the range of materials used, as well as their aura of rationality—an inspired organization to The Uncount?ables (Encyclopedia) yielded all sorts of close-up delight in the placement of disparate elements, often but not always, arranged according to color. As an environment, the work had the fantastic, gimmicky air of a Rube Goldberg machine, albeit one of high culture whose purpose is forever obscured. While the components of these installations always seem stable in their positioning, Sze plays with the possibility that the entire composition may simply decide to fall apart. On some level, The Uncountables (Encyclopedia) could serve as a replica of the imagination, demonstrating the amount of trivial material contained in our thoughts. But it went further, boggling the mind, sometimes swamping our ability to pay close attention. Meant to be studied as one would approach any complex system, Sze’s work presents a spectacle that parodies our commodity culture and yet belongs to it, a duality that celebrates our dubious need to reify our world...see the entire review in the print version of September's magazine.

Sarah Sze, Stripped, 2010. Bikes, metal, paint, cloth, tape, and decals, 33 x 45 x 77 in.
POTSDAM, New York - Dave Beck: Roland Gibson Gallery, State University of New York
by Marc Leuthold
Dave Beck uses unconventional tools and systems to make art. He once recorded the movements of people during 24-hour segments—their changing geographical coordinates—to create a series of linear sculptures mounted in shadowbox frames. His most recent exhibition, “Continua?tion,” included four works. In one, Beck plotted the sound waves of (Wall Street’s) Gordon Gekko saying the famous line “Greed is good”; translated by rapid prototype machine, sound becomes a three-dimensional “artifact of 1980s corporate culture.”

“Continuation” was dominated by Logjam, a large-scale, three-dimensional animation. Visitors entering the gallery confronted a rumbling din reminiscent of road noise, which drew them into a dark space dominated by a 20-by-20-foot wall screen. Because the projection occupied the entire wall, the images took on a cinematic power. Logjam depicts 30 large logs sinking one by one down to the surface of a riverbed. As the logs make contact, they create “explosions” of sand and jostle each other. Because these actions take place underwater, movement and noise are muted—like slow motion. After 30 logs descend, they float away one by one until they are gone, coming and going in a 24-minute loop...see the entire review in the print version of September's magazine.

Dave Beck, Logjam, 2010. Projected three-dimensional video installation, 24 minutes.
PITTSBURGH - Gregory Witt: Pittsburgh Center for the Arts
by Robert Raczka
“Things That Float” featured five works of considerable panache, all incorporating a variety of industrial materials and technological devices. Selected for the regional award of “Emerging Artist of the Year,” Gregory Witt, a recent MFA graduate from Carnegie Mellon University, presented a cohesive body of work, with each piece attaining a distinctive character.

Room (2010) filled a gallery with a jury-rigged yet elegant system of ladders, drive belts, gears, and motors. Though securely configured, the ungainly contraption was surprisingly fragile in places, with large gears and some structural members cut from sheets of drywall so vulnerable that they could be nicked by a fingernail. As the motors slowly turned the gears, the considerable mass of the piece shifted— heavy ropes raising and lowering suspended clusters of concrete blocks. The assembly included industrial objects (aluminum ladders, concrete blocks), manufactured materials used as intended (rope, plywood and two-by-fours, PVC, and steel pipe), and manufactured materials employed to unexpected ends (sculpted drywall). Aluminum ladders encircled the impressive central mass of wood and drywall, radiating outward with suspended cinderblocks. A carefully designed system of gears and motors generated a soundscape of whirring and creaking, creating a kinetic experience as soothing or unsettling as a rocking boat, depending on one’s reaction. Essentially an aesthetic and perceptual experience, Room also offered the satisfaction of contemplating the interplay of material, form, and function...see the entire review in the print version of September's magazine.

Gregory Witt, Room, 2010. Drywall and mixed media, 10 x 10 x 8 ft.
HAMILTON, Ontario - Fiona Kinsella: Art Gallery of Hamilton
by J. Lynn Fraser
Like an unfolding origami crane, Fiona Kinsella’s work reveals itself in layers. Her exhibition “Cake” challenged viewers to “think beyond surfaces” and to cross the “gray line of how people perceive beauty.” Kinsella’s “cakes” seem like sweet confections. Closer inspection, however, reveals precisely positioned and unsettling decorations such as a fox’s jaw; human and animal teeth, skin, and hair/fur; bison bones; and antique cutlery, as well as curiosities from Kinsella’s travels. The energy of the cake sculptures is found in their push-pull of attraction/repulsion, created by juxtapositions of clean/unclean, raw/refined, and bodily detritus/ethereal spirituality. Here, the Edward Gorey-ish ambiance was aided by black walls, ornate black pedestals, and focused lighting that brought the physical and emotional textures of each cake into stark relief.

The evolution of the body through its life cycle—its remnants and what remains after death—plays a major thematic role in Kinsella’s work. In (cake) breath (2007), parts of a rib cage jut sharply above a tiny field of icing flowers to remind the viewer of mortality and physical vulnerability. Found materials such as hair, tendons, a glass eye, lamb skin, and pearls encourage interpretation on multiple levels. “Objects tell me what to do with the piece,” Kinsella says, “I do not set out to create something upsetting. [An interpretation] is more about the person looking at it.”...see the entire review in the print version of September's magazine.

Fiona Kinsella, (cake) breath, 2007. Royal icing, rib cage, haire of a boy, flowers, tendons, claws, glass eye, wisdom, bleach, water, lamb skin, pearls, meadow, redpath, and fondant icing, 14 x 13 x 13 in.
HERZELE, Belgium - “Art and Landscape”: HOVE Brick Factory
by John K. Grande
Belgium’s Arpia landscape and art group recently acquired a disused brick factory in the Herzele region. The godfather of Arpia, Marc Antrop, a Ghent-based author and advocate of a holistic approach to the world’s rapidly changing landscape, encourages guest artists to produce works reflective of a site-sensitive way of working. At Arpia’s first outdoor sculpture event, four artists were invited to respond to the landscape around Sint-Lievens-Esse.

Swiss artist Kari Joller dug next to the main building, creating three steps leading down into the earth and three steps leading back to the surface. A second element consisted of a tree with “steps” spiraling up its trunk from the ground. (A collaged tree element at the top came from a Swiss tree, suggesting the idea of nature exchange between different regions of Europe.) As suggested by the title, Ritual Path, this stairway linking earth and sky enabled Joller to move into the earth and then upward to the tree top, adding a performative element to the concept...see the entire review in the print version of September's magazine.

Bob Verschueren, Installation X_10, 2010. Agricultural trailer and branches, installation at Arpia's brick factory.
AARHUS, Denmark - Ib Geertsen: ARoS Aarhus Kuntsmuseum
by Ken Scarlett
In a lifetime of visiting galleries and artists’ studios, I can’t remember an exhibition provoking the immediate reaction of sheer joyousness prompted by “Ib Geertsen—Mobiler” with its multitude of extraordinarily colorful and imaginatively displayed mobiles. Under current curatorial practice, individual artworks usually receive their own spaces so they can be viewed without compromise; but stepping into a single long gallery containing nearly 50 works permitted one to confront a wonderful, riotous confusion of slowly moving objects. After the initial impression, one could focus on each one separately.

Moveable Cone Sculpture
(1989), a brilliant orange-red conical structure, immediately commanded attention. The cone wasn’t quite symmetrical since one side was opened by a penetrating slit. A slender yellow wire swinging freely from the pinnacle swept into space, supporting a descending array of five slowly moving half-circles at one end. The color was vibratingly joyous, the proportions of solid cone to linear wire unexpected...see the entire review in the print version of September's magazine.

Ib Geertsen, installation view of "Ib Beertsen - Mobiler"

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