Posts Tagged ‘Sculpture’

Cathy Wilkes

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

I was introduced to Cathy Wilkes’s work by Yasmil Raymond when I was working at the Walker Art Center. Wilkes was a linchpin of Raymond’s exhibition Abstract Resistance. She and I talked about the show at length, and while I was always compelled by the images of Cathy’s work, something seemed to be missing for me. …Turned out that the missing element was actually seeing the work in person. (Imagine!) Her installation in Abstract Resistance was raw, visceral, delicate, psychologically complex, and beautiful in a way that was quiet, peaceful, and dark. The Sunday following the opening, Cathy gave a talk at Midway Contemporary Art. It remains the most moving, most interesting artist talk I’ve ever heard. Hearing Cathy talk about her work is as affecting as seeing it.

When Lynn Zelevansky and I took a trip to London in the spring of 2010, I went up to Glasgow by train (a BEAUTIFUL train ride) to meet with Cathy. It was a great studio visit, which gave me a lot of insight… most memorable was the altered bathtub that Cathy had up on cinderblocks that she uses to scrub the surfaces of her paintings… the paint and cleaning liquids empty through the drain into a bucket, full of dark and mysterious residue. When Cathy came to Pittsburgh after a trip to Aspen a few months later, in the middle of the winter, we looked at the Forum gallery together, deciding on a mix of recent paintings and a new installation. Most of the work she made for the show which opened here in November was actually made right in the gallery. I watched as steel frames turned into ghostly men, and saw Cathy and her assistant Darren apply what looked like hundreds of layers of papier-mâché to get the figures’ skin densities and colors just right. We had to have an attendant in the gallery after hours and on weekends as they worked. I volunteered, and am so happy I did, because I saw the work come into being, and take on meaning and force in real time, in front of my eyes.

Check out the booklet we published for the show, and read my essay, along with Cathy Wilkes’s artist statement.

Robert Breer’s Lesser-known “Floats”

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

It occurs to me that most of my posts thus far have related to something or other that has been unearthed in the process of digging around in old files. Either I love archives or just intersect with them a lot in the course of my working life… In any case, it figures that when I read Art Forum‘s recent “Passages” piece on artist-filmmaker (and 2004 Carnegie International artist), Robert Breer, who died last summer, I immediately thought of something I found in the Film Section file cabinets a while back. So here’s a tribute to Breer, nerdy archival style…

Most people talk about the domed kinetic sculptures (slow moving, self-propelled objects that the artist called “floats”) that Breer built for the Pepsi Cola Pavilion at Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan.  And rightly so: the Pavilion was a crowning achievement for Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.). People who lived in Pittsburgh during the mid-1970s, however, might best remember Breer for the three floats he made for the 1974 Three Rivers Arts Festival– a mechanized crumpled plastic mass, pyramid, and stacked box “ziggurat” that crept slowly around a plaza near Gateway Center. So slowly in fact, that their movement was nearly imperceptible, until the viewer turned around to find the arrangement had changed.

I grew up in Pittsburgh but hadn’t been born yet, so it was (exciting!) news to me when I discovered the documentation in the artist’s Film Section file. There was apparently a concurrent gallery exhibition of some of Breer’s smaller kinetic works, but I haven’t been able to find out where that took place. Some photos to share anyway, pending more research.

Please comment if you know something more about this project, or if you know who the photographer was…

Dakar, Sénégal

Monday, January 16th, 2012

I arrived at Dakar airport around 2 a.m. on Monday, January 9, and was welcomed by hundreds of taxi drivers ready to drive me to town. Although I knew how much I should pay (or shouldn’t pay), I was very glad to see Antoine holding up my name and bringing me to Magic Land, the amusement park where my hotel was, situated just next door to the Supreme Court of Senegal. All this was a perfect start to immersing myself into Dakar. Next to Magic Land was a small bay where, at night, informal BBQs offered fish and salad. The following day, on that same beach, I discovered and visited local artist Cissé’s house and sculpture park made out of garbage. His built environment may be the world of an outcast, but it includes poetry and a good dose of contempt towards the empty discourses of officials and politicians. Cissé had realized his public art without being asked, and to me it looked more appealing than the other sculptures lined up at the seaside… (well, there was some surreal quality there too—see below).