mercredi 26 novembre 2008
Base: Object (Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York)
Sara Barker, Patrick Hill, Matthew Monahan, William J. O'Brien, Sterling Ruby
Curated by Cory Nomura
Base:Object brings together five new sculptures which explore the status of the pedestal in contemporary art. Strictly as a tool to present a sculpture, to clarify what is and what is not an art object, and to signify the importance of what is being displayed, the pedestal has been undermined in modern art history since Constantin Brancusi's sculptures in the earliest decades of the 20th century. All of the works in the exhibition subversively complicate the duality of the pedestal/art object relationship and unlike Minimalist sculpture from the 1960s, choose to work with and through the form of the pedestal without completely obliterating it. The pedestal can act as a kind of barrier between art and non-art, simultaneously anointing the displayed and effacing itself. When the pedestal becomes the art object, these hierarchies are crushed into a shimmering sea of infinite difference.
Do you know how diamonds get to us? Three hundred miles underground are heats and pressures that crush carbon into sparkling shapes, driven for months or days or hours along hotel corridors called diamond pipes until they erupt in a pile of taffeta and chocolate some moonlit afternoon, an event no human has ever witnessed.-Anne Carson
The sculptures in Base:Object figure fragility and precariousness, constriction, binding, and fracturing. Surfaces are rough and raw and scarred. These works are experiments to set meaning in motion. These sculptures deny the autonomy of the art object and yet celebrate the motivations and compulsions to make art. The works in this exhibition and by this generation of artists short circuit the embedded ideologies of presentation and recast traditional signs of importance and value. This subversion is made manifest by working a kind of alchemy on the detritus and cheap materials overlooked in a society of consumption.
All of the works in Base:Object display a marked interest in materiality and the painstaking effort of creating an object both seemingly casual and formally rigorous. Eschewing bronze, porcelain, and carved wood, the works in Base:Object are constructed from the everyday materials of the urban world: concrete, Formica, urethane, nylon yarn, canvas, carpet, sheets of glass, bits of wood, foam, drywall. They are the children of Minimalist boxes, no longer simply reflecting the viewers gaze back into the world at large, but displaying their origins in that world. It's the Minimalist cube or the Rauschenberg combine infected by the desires and conditions of the society that bore them. Barker, Hill, Monahan, O'Brien, and Ruby are all working contemporaneously in a time of uncertainty, war, gross economic inequity, financial collapse, and unprecedented environmental destruction. Heats and pressures erupting form-possibilities of renewal built from the ruins of the present.
Spotting trends in contemporary art is a relatively easy task, yet there is greater difficulty in labeling a “movement” while it is still in the making. One attempt might look something like “Base:Object,” a small, articulate show of recent sculpture curated by Andrea Rosen Gallery’s Cory Nomura. Through the work of Sara Barker, Patrick Hill, Matthew Monahan, William J. O’Brien, and Sterling Ruby, Nomura complicates the conventional purpose and appearance of the pedestal (an idea that isn’t fresh but nevertheless comes across as original here). In these works, the pedestal—that once-reliable mediator between viewer and object—is consumed by the artwork in an act of erasure and supplementation. Ruby’s Absolute Contempt for Total Serenity/DB Deth, 2008, a rectangular urethane form that rests off-center on a scratched and dirtied Formica and wood cube, and Hill’s Unstable Composition #4, 2007, a dyed-canvas and glass assemblage supported by a rectangular concrete plinth, incorporate pedestal-like forms, yet the expressionistically worked surfaces of the bases muddy the distinction between practical support structure and aesthetic object. The slender, four-legged “base” of Barker’s abject posture, 2008, buttresses a clay, cement, and cardboard construction in what seems like a clever exploitation of post-Minimal tropes. Monahan and O’Brien, on the other hand, incorporate busy figurative elements into their raised sculptures in an activation of physical and pictorial space. Each of these objects is human-scale and approachable as furniture, but there is something unsettling about the installation as a whole. Invoking the abject, unstable, or contemptuous, these works embody a kind of material anxiety: a tension between modernist principles, display sensibilities, studio production, and determinants of value.