After Vasari

writings on artists and artworks and where they exist

Tag: sculpture

Embodiments

by Paul D'Agostino

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Embodiments: Exquisite Corpse
Exhibition essay by Paul D’Agostino for M. David Studio Residency

The culmination of weeks of planning and a ten-day, intensive on-site period of residency in Brooklyn, Exquisite Corpse will amount to a collective installation of works by Deborah Kapoor, Winston Mascarenhas, Bonny Leibowitz and Francesca Schwartz, all of whom find inspiration in various understandings and expressions of the body, and of bodies. This is a subject they examine and represent with marked abstraction, in visual terms, and conceptually as something internal, external, protean and interactive — and as the means for and locus of invasion and trauma, healing and recovery, stillness and grace.

The layout that curator and residency director Michael David currently envisions for this exhibit of ambitious new works by all four artists is based to some extent on counterbalances and junctures, perhaps not unlike certain aspects of bodily structures themselves. This should be considered in material as well as conceptual terms, not least with regard to how the four artists’ works will be spatially though somewhat casually paired: two artists will be installing their pieces primarily in the gallery’s front area, the other two toward the back. On the one hand, the idea is to create two separate spheres of bodily or meta-bodily expressions; on the other hand, it is to see what kinds of unexpected equilibrium might be attained as a result.

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Filling in and encircling the gallery’s front space with airs of dynamism and spareness will be projects by Deborah Kapoor and Bonny Leibowitz, who have been working with one another’s pieces in mind without necessarily reacting to them. Working now in a minimalist, whispery palette, and with a set of materials somewhat new to her, Leibowitz will complete a sequence of sculptural works hanging from the ceiling. Delicate, airy and slightly astir, Leibowitz’s works will suggest internal tissues and physiological networkings, or perhaps extra-bodily transplants or spiritual emissions. Kapoor, meanwhile, taking cues from birds’ flight patterns and readings thereof, is planning to complete an array of small, variably abstracted, heavily mixed-media wall sculptures intended to surround, perhaps somewhat scavenger-like, Leibowitz’s pendant pieces. Small individually yet imbued with material gravity, Kapoor’s works will cohere with one another visually as a circling flock of abstract objects, or as a composite body composed of an array of bird-like bodies.

Francesca Schwartz and Winston Mascarenhas will present 2D and 3D works that explore notions of the body in ways both far more literal and markedly more abstract. In an extensive suite of variably sized mixed media paintings on handmade composite panels, Mascarenhas will encourage viewers to look at and consider not a body, but our bodies, hoping to communicate how so many of our corporeal and identity-related trappings make us all quite the same, while also individuating us within the very same sameness. In other words, he’ll be creating a series of textures and hues suggestive of our organs — large and small, internal and external — such as our hearts and, primarily, skin. As a retired physician, Mascarenhas certainly knows a thing or two about how we’re all made of the same stuff, and about how our hearts, the things that truly make us tick, were never designed to house the harmful biases that we might harbor in our minds. A practicing psychoanalyst, Schwartz certainly knows a thing or two about how and why we come to greater or lesser understandings of ourselves as individuals, and about how experiences of pain, trauma, anxiety and grief can inflect, inform, confuse, inhibit or enhance these same understandings. Although Schwartz brings a wealth of clinical expertise to the planning of her works, she tends to eschew any imaginable clinicality of style or approach in her assemblage-heavy pieces that incorporate photographs, texts, textiles, and a range of drawing and painting media as well as — since she’s also trained as a butcher — bones. Schwartz will present several manifestations of all such types of work.

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A great deal of new art is being made for Exquisite Corpse. A great deal more has yet to be made. Soon it will all come together in the same space to be completed, tweaked and reworked. We’re all eager to see how the envisioned counterbalances and junctures take shape as an exhibition. And of course, we’re very eager to share all of these results with you.

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This essay was composed for Exquisite Corpse, an exhibition produced by M. David Studio Residency. It was on view from 9/28/2018 – 9/30/2018 at 56 Bogart Street in Brooklyn, New York City.

Paul D’Agostino, Ph.D. is an artist, writer, translator, curator and professor living in Bushwick, Brooklyn. More information about him is available here, and you can find him as @postuccio on Instagram and Twitter.

Scrims & Blurs

by Paul D'Agostino

RU-Collage

Scrims & Blurs: Theresa Volpp, Mads Lindberg, Kinu Kamura, Julie Leidner
Curated by Paul D’Agostino for Residency Unlimited

Hosted by El Museo de Los Sures, and featuring current Residency Unlimited artists Kinu Kamura (France), Julie Leidner (USA), Mads Lindberg (Denmark) and Theresa Volpp (Germany), Scrims & Blurs presents a navigable pathway of paintings, drawings, sculptures, collages, photographs and partially site-specific installations. It’s an exhibition that invites visitors to look at, into and through a variably interactive array of objects while pondering notions of blurry translucence, reflective transparency, dematerialization and rematerialization, and self-refraction and self-discovery. In ways active and viewer-activated alike, the carefully considered surfaces of all of the works — layered materially as well as conceptually — serve as sieves and concealers, revealers and obscurants. Behind their textures, filters, scrims and screens lie clues, secrets and discoveries.

Broad and expansive like a sprawling tapestry, Theresa Volpp ‘s multi-panel mixed-media painting on transparent vinyl is an amalgam of gestural, energetic, and at times frenetic marks and layered applications involving household paint, ink, glitter and spray paint. Her treatment is thin yet chunkily abstract in formal ways. Her palette is deep yet punctuated by vibrant yellows. Transparency lies beneath her materially complex surface, but it’s all but hidden. Your act of seeking it out then becomes exploratory; locating its ulterior surfaces is thus excavational.

Hidden in Mads Lindberg’s sequence of mixed-media paintings, meanwhile, is neither transparency nor translucence, but rather various forms of representation. What Lindberg hides, in other words, is paintings or other kinds of imagery that he finds and repurposes, intervening with his own additional marks and forms. These already somewhat hidden works are then hidden even further behind scrims, as it were, of not only resin, but also an additional ‘outsourced’ layer of a different sort: plastic shopping bags. Lindberg’s implicit commentary on the cyclical nature of the trappings of commerce thus runs from the surface to the core of his works.

Julie Leidner, working in parallel on two interrelated bodies of work featuring a common protagonist — a possibly timid, possibly audacious, possibly fearful, possibly fearsome, perhaps even feral young girl the artist identifies as ‘Pebbles’ — has created a series of small paintings on canvas and a suite of larger paintings on paper. Both bodies of work involve not only overtly differentiable layers of paintings, but also of cultural and historical interpretability. In the smaller works, Pebbles is identifiable behind visual sieves of text that that read, to various extents and in various forms, “Dirty ain’t I?”, a cryptic question that seems as if someone wrote it with a finger into caked-up dirt on a car window. Here, Pebbles peers out of the paintings to see not only the ‘filthy’ messaging, and not only her real and implied ‘viewers,’ but also herself. In Leidner’s other body of work, “I Come Creeping,” one large representation of Pebbles crawls across and atop several large sheets of glossy paper, each proportioned like Playboy centerfolds, and each featuring — behind ‘pieces’ of a ‘creeping’ Pebbles — a very differently formal oil rendering of a rural landscape. Here, history meets mystery, and Leidner’s bodies of work look back and forth at one another while we, the viewers, become an additional ‘scrim’ of complicit voyeurs.

Kinu Kamura’s work is all about additional scrims and layers of looking. Inspired by levels of clarity and blur in our own acts of seeing, and by ideas of experiential and spatial reproduction, reflectivity and transference, Kamura has created an ultimately site-specific, multi-piece sculptural installation that invites visitors to look at, into and through it. Her broadly scaled and spatially expansive objects, to some extent a ‘bridge’ between the front gallery and the back, are composed of various types and formations of plexiglass and other reflective, refractive, sight-altering surfaces. Viewers thus see themselves as they look through such pieces, while seeing also manifold layers of reflections of the works in the room. The room, of course, becomes an active part of the work and ‘act of seeing’ as well: it is the site, and it is also ‘in sight.’ The frame-within-a-frame modality of Kamura’s work doesn’t quite end there, however. She incorporates choice photographs and photocopies as well, some nodding directly at the space itself, and others to other works in the show. Residing in our eyes for a time, Kamura’s labyrinth becomes infinite in our minds.

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The above text was composed for Scrims & Blurs, an exhibition produced for Residency Unlimited. It was on view at El Museo de Los Sures in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, from 19 to 28 July, 2018. More information about the show can be found here. Photographs by Paul D’Agostino.

Paul D’Agostino, Ph.D. is an artist, writer, translator, curator and professor living in Bushwick, Brooklyn. More information about him is available here, and you can find him as @postuccio on Instagram and Twitter.

David Byrd: Flicks, Bouts, Blocks

by Paul D'Agostino

Balcony With Screen, oil on canvas, 16″ x 21″, 1955.

 

Flicks, Bouts, Blocks

Flicks, Bouts, Blocks, curated on behalf of The David Byrd Estate in Sidney Center, NY, and hosted by Studio 10 Gallery in Brooklyn, features a chronologically and geographically particular selection of works in painting, drawing and sculpture by David Byrd, an as-yet lesser-known artist who passed away in 2013. Byrd’s personal story and, for so many decades, nearly ceaseless artistic activity form an inspiring testament to the unforeseeable turns one’s life might take, and to the many virtues of maintaining one’s creative drive.

Born in Springfield, Illinois, in 1926, and worker of all manner of odd jobs both before and after serving in the Merchant Marines and Army during World War II, then eventually finding fixed work as an orderly in the psychiatric ward at the Veterans Administration Medical Hospital in Montrose, New York, David Byrd lived a long, experientially rich, consistently difficult yet ultimately quietly, solitarily fulfilling life that made it neither easy nor obvious for him to even desire to express himself through art, much less become an almost astonishingly prolific artist. Yet artist he was, from his youth until his final days, and although he spent the vast majority of his creative years working in obscurity, he did have occasion to savor a few moments of fame and success thanks to a suite of exhibitions that were mounted in the months prior to his passing. Intending to build on Byrd’s budding legacy by exposing his work to a much broader public is David Byrd: Ten Stops, a multi-venue, bicoastal sequence of ten variably themed exhibitions to be mounted between July 1st and September 30th, 2017.

The Brooklyn installment of this ambitious series of shows is Flicks, Bouts, Blocks, a set of works culled together not merely to familiarize a New York City audience with Byrd’s artistic practice, but also to suggest that his many years spent living in Brooklyn, for a time as an adolescent and later on as a young adult, might well have imbued his creative sensibilities in notable, enduring ways. Notes of captured happenstance, for instance, and almost theatrically staged settings—of neighborhood encounters, of acquaintances and strangers in the streets, and of movie-goers, cyclists and Coney Island locales—are everywhere to be found in his paintings produced during and long after his Brooklyn days. One sees such tendencies as well in his many drawings of boxers throwing blows and lovers embracing, and in his now quickly, now meticulously executed sketches of individuals or situations he seems to have simply found strangely intriguing or peculiar. Many of these aspects of Byrd’s early work remain readily identifiable throughout the rest of his œuvre.

Unlike the paintings and drawings in Flicks, Bouts, Blocks, the one sculpture in the show does not date back to Byrd’s time in Brooklyn. However, the piece does seem to imply a later contemplation of the borough’s characteristic front stoops that must have been of certain importance to the ever-curious young artist—given all the people-watching they facilitate, all the variably lit staging they furnish, and all the visual cues they provide for structural delineations and physical forms. Also included in the show is one of Byrd’s earliest paintings, a piece that dates back to the artist’s period of study under Amédée Ozenfant, a noted French painter whose insights and mentorship would prove to be lasting fonts of guidance and inspiration for Byrd. This held true even several decades later, well after he had retired from his job at the hospital and retreated to his hand-crafted home and studio in upstate New York. There, mostly alone and at quite a remove from quotidian interactions and conveniences, Byrd was finally able to devote all of his time and energy exclusively to art, his most reliable conduit for self-expression and creative zeal, and his long-trusted mode of palliative distraction from painful memories of the many challenges life had dealt him.

Nevertheless, Byrd did manage to reserve some time and energy for one of his other great enthusiasms: bottle-collecting. Indeed, the long bottled-up artist who kept so much of his existence and so many of his struggles under wraps was also an avid collector of bottles. A fine one of those is included in this show as well—it too, like Byrd himself now, uncorked.

Toy Store, oil on canvas, 20″ x 24″, 1959.

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The above text is my essay for Flicks, Bouts, Blocks, an exhibition I curated at Studio 10 Gallery on behalf of The David Byrd Estate. It is on view from July 20th to August 6th, 2017. In addition to this exhibition, David Byrd: Ten Stops includes exhibits in Peekskill, Delhi, West Point, Franklin, Cooperstown and Seattle, as well as a large exhibit and a number of special gatherings at the seat of The David Byrd Estate in Sidney Center, New York. Detailed information and maps, along with a brief and charming video of the artist discussing his life and work around the time of its revelation to the public, can be found at www.davidbyrdestate.com

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Paul D’Agostino, Ph.D. is an artist, writer, translator, curator and professor living in Bushwick, Brooklyn. More information about him is available here, and you can find him as @postuccio on Instagram and Twitter.

Evolutionary States

by Paul D'Agostino

 

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Evolutionary States: Ruth Hardinger

Ever since following her learner’s instincts, anthropological curiosities, researcher’s mind, ecologist’s sensibilities, and artist’s hands and eyes along a creative path leading her to work in landscape art in the 1970s, Ruth Hardinger has passed the ensuing decades seeking out keener, more elementally informed, more environmentally conscious, and more responsibly, relevantly collaborative modes of crafting her consistently arresting sculptures, paintings, drawings, tapestries, site-specific installations and exterior interventions. She ranks among the pioneers of a certain earthy, earthily timeless aesthetic—a middleground of sorts between the quietude of paintings by Agnes Martin, for instance, and the hulking monumentality of sculptures by Richard Serra—that renders some of her works in abstraction no more abstract than a mountain, say, and that has inspired so many artists following in her wake. Working in an astounding breadth of media, yet never adding to her material docket without conceptual reason for doing so, Hardinger is also a boundlessly prolific artist, and an apparently tireless one at that.

Close inspection of Hardinger’s techniques and materials evidence that she employs the former to somehow compel the latter into states that might be described as evolutionary. She uses graphite in all manner of drawings and sometimes sculptures not merely for its technical utility, but also for its materially intriguing virtues as a kind of essence of carbon. She uses concrete in her generally minimalist sculptures—which are at times large scale and subtly anthropomorphic, and often wont to bow in deference to the ancients while referencing a kind of future antiquity—not merely because of its spartan look, grave heft and functional practicalities that nod to infrastructure as well, but also because its constituent elements make it materially kindred to the bones and shells of animals of the land, the sea and the air. She employs select fabrics for their undying anthropological pertinence and rugged tactilities; she uses certain finishes for the ways in which they impress deeper temporal stamps into the grains and veins of surfaces; she incorporates cardboards and other pulp-based materials for their fibrous strengths, familiarity and recyclability; and she maintains subdued palettes so as to prevent chromatic ornament from mounting experiential barriers between viewers and the hearty thingness of her creations. For certain bodies of work, Hardinger has even collaborated with traditional artisans in distant villages to imbue her artworks with the broadened knowledge of so many past generations, and to readily place her activities as a maker of fine art within a vaster chronology of object making in general.

Hardinger’s works are anachronistic, in a sense, and sympathetically rustic, yet always presented with considered pristineness and rigor. To regard them is to ponder the vastness of time, the relative eternity of certain materials, and the mysterious confluence of elements and circumstances that place us here, where we are, wherever we are. In light of the urgency of environmental issues in today’s sociopolitical discourses, now is an auspicious and important time for this inspiring, ecologically enlightened artist to receive the brighter spotlight she richly deserves.
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This essay was composed for David & Schweitzer Contemporary as an accompaniment to the gallery’s solo presentation of works by Ruth Hardinger at Volta Art Fair during New York Armory Week, from 1 to 5 March 2017. The fair is held at Pier 90, and David & Schweitzer’s showcase is located at booth C23. More information about Volta Art Fair is here.

Paul D’Agostino, Ph.D. is an artist, writer, translator, curator and professor living in Bushwick, Brooklyn. More information about him is available here, and you can find him as @postuccio on Instagram and Twitter.

Radiantly Provocative

by Paul D'Agostino

Untitled (Target, Ripple and Zig Zags) 2016

Rico Gatson, Untitled (Targets, Ripples and Zigzags), 2016. Image courtesy the artist and Ronald Feldman Fine Art.

 
Radiantly Provocative: Rico Gatson’s Power Lines

Robustly chromatic, visually potent, at times compositionally labyrinthine and physically imposing, Rico Gatson’s mixed-media paintings, sculptures and collage-centric drawings are always, thanks in part to their carefully honed economy of forms and means, declarative, assertive and indelible—and unmistakably, unwaveringly his. On levels aesthetic and conceptual alike, Gatson does not imbue, but rather inundates his works with definitive, invariable force, executing them with just enough colorful vibrancy, linear keenness and mystical curiosity as to allow his viewers to almost—yet only almost, and this is crucial—miss or overlook their certainly important, equally cogent, subtly layered, variably strident socio-political content.

All of this has been true of Gatson’s work for quite a while, but it is now much more so in the new series of mixed-media pieces he has produced for Power Lines, a solo exhibition at Samsøn Projects. The artist’s characteristic palette of patently Africana-associative chromatics—bright reds, greens and goldish yellows often framed, interrupted by or sectioned off with swaths of deeply flat or slightly lustrous blacks, all arranged in variable abstractions that might even, at times, feature embedded texts—has become bolder, brighter, richer and punchier than ever, and thicker sections of color and black alike make his compositions register as weightier, more declarative, somehow exigent. Some pieces, however, especially a fresh new series of small panels, as well as certain tall, lean-to like sculptural works, Panel Paintings, evidence Gatson taking a bit further his recent explorations of chromatic switchings—transposing the complementary balancing he usually achieves via reds and greens with value-like harmonies via purples and greys, maintaining his lush warm yellow to keep the violets at bay.

Gatson’s recent boundary-breaching explorations hardly stop at color swaps, however, and it is in some of his newest compositional tweakings that viewers are reminded to look very deeply into the information he’s providing to extract therefrom certain latent, open-endedly abstract statements regarding contemporary race relations. What does a small panel covered in colorful dots mean, for instance, when it’s formally disrupted by a veil of orderly black lines from one end to the other? In the artist’s series of ‘fun-looking’ Panel Paintings, what might it mean for so many Africana-colored pieces to be ‘infringed upon’ by one that is simply, and thus in some sense openly, black and white? Such compositional and installation-related choices bring viewers into more intimate closeness with the objects in question, for certain, encouraging them to decode those featuring formally obscured texts, for instance, or inlaid images. But are viewers looking at them enough to look into them? Are they really, on a certain level, reading them? This is indeed the self-reflexive crux of the matter in Power Lines: Are we truly and honestly—as viewers of art, or as a populace with presumed awarenesses—reading the racially relevant signs that are all around us? Within the context of Gatson’s work, are we actually reading, for instance, the collaged bits of generally civil-rights-era imagery he has been inserting with increasing pervasiveness across his œuvre? Are we pausing to consider that the ever-bright colors in his paintings are achieved with simple domestic paints, thus making their presence an oft-overlooked omnipresence, and granting their flatness not just visual frankness but also critical candor?

Gatson’s chromatico-formalisms are more blatant than ever in Power Lines, and the blatancy, boldness and volume of his sociocultural critique is markedly amped up. The artist has long posited his work as a platform for discussions of racial inequalities, and his voicings of the same, in his new body of work, now have notes of stridency. He now seems to be demanding for his work to be regarded as such. And now is a crucial time for us to regard it thusly, for these discussions have been heating up dramatically in so many places, on so many fronts. To be sure, the best way to cool the temperature of the debate would be to actually engage in it, actively and honestly. With Power Lines, Gatson seems to be putting himself forth as a moderator.

In the context of all this, then, it becomes very intriguing to take a closer look at the series of Radiant Icon collage-drawings that Gatson has been making for years and years, and of which he presents a new suite here. That is, in the context of Gatson’s recently amped-up volumes and greater formal overtness, it becomes clear that the artist has been waiting for these discussions to burst open for quite some time. In our faces all the while—now latent, now strident—have been his powerful, colorful, radiantly provocative lines.

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Rico Gatson, Untitled (Three Diamonds), 2016. Image courtesy the artist and Ronald Feldman Fine Art.

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This essay was composed as an accompaniment to Power Lines, Gatson’s solo exhibition at Samsøn Projects in Boston, MA. The show opens on June 3rd and runs through July 17th, 2016. More information and images here.

Paul D’Agostino, Ph.D. is an artist, writer, translator, curator and professor living in Bushwick, Brooklyn. More information about him is available here, and you can find him as @postuccio on Instagram and Twitter.

Kin and Not

by Paul D'Agostino

Image courtesy Mille Kalsmose.

Image courtesy Mille Kalsmose.

 

Kin and Not: Mille Kalsmose’s Substitute Families

Mille Kalsmose probes and mines the definitively trying, variably traumatic aspects of her own familial history to question interpersonal relationships, social mores, maternities and paternities, kinships and kindredness, filial similarities and otherness, and the differently meaningful strangeness of strangers as they embed themselves into our lives as friends and acquaintances. Whether her works assume form as installations, photographic series, sculptures or broadly variant visual essays, they amount collectively to so many investigations of the ethical, physical, existential and socio-spatial malleabilities of our regards for one another, related or otherwise—as well as our regards, both obliquely and directly, for ourselves.

In her newest body of work, Substitute Families, Kalsmose expresses the presumed rigidities and sometimes veiled fragilities of familial rapports through materials and selective placements. Crafted out of iron, wood, silk and pigskin, this sculptural series consists of a number of very similar individuals qua family members of variable heights and spatial relations to one another. Hard and heavy, the iron elements are at once the individuals’ bodily sticks, cranial frames and standing perches, as each figure appears in several forms, suggesting perhaps maturation and the passing of time. Delicate and liminal, and stretched taut into their iron frames—then fastened firmly in place with most visible, ‘rigidity’-implying rivets—the silk and pigskin elements make up certain body parts and facial forms. As these features grow and ‘age’, they eventually become the iron-bound wooden templates that gave them form, to some extent, in the first place.

Bereft of truly individualizing features—although certain shapes do suggest that one might be a little girl, another a boy, others parents— these standing figures scan as curiously looming stand-ins for some sort of ambiguously ‘related’ collective. At once human-like and not at all, they are markers of the subtle individualities and samenesses that define us not only as beings, but also as groups, and their differential proximities to one another leave viewers pondering their interpersonal intimacies, closenesses, distances. They might be a family properly-so-called; they might be a family only circumstantially; they might not necessarily be a true family at all.

Are they facing toward or away from one another? Are they coming together or cleaving apart? These figures’ formal simplicities and spatial suggestivities leave them posing splendidly unanswerable questions of ethical, philosophical, socio-cultural and psycho-familial sorts. At the same time, viewers might simply find them pleasant objects to look at, walk among, be around. In a way, we all hope to be a bit like that, too, sometimes.

Image courtesy Mille Kalsmose.

Image courtesy Mille Kalsmose.

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This essay was composed on the occasion of Kalsmose’s Substitute Families series being included in Afterimage, a group exhibition at InCube Arts, located at 314 West 52nd Street in New York City. More information here.

Paul D’Agostino, Ph.D. is an artist, writer, translator, curator and professor living in Bushwick, Brooklyn. More information about him is available here, and you can find him as @postuccio on Instagram and Twitter.

In : Out :: / Out : In ::

by Paul D'Agostino

_Caput_ _Procedure_ invite

 

In : Out ::

In, inward, into, within, endogenic, ingressive, inside: Many are the modes and forms of inner-tending, variably interiorizing terms and motilities that one might associate with Tom Butter’s artworks. His paintings and sculptures alike are wont to turn, gyrate and churn, at times toward real or implied centers—the paintings, via gestural strokes, directional linearities and compositional flow; the sculptures, via a range of generally less-than-presumable yet ever-plausible, sometimes aberrant or amusingly jarred kinetics that seem now barely centrifugal, now subtly centripetal. With all their flux and functional switchings, with all their ins and outs, Butter’s works could perhaps quite nearly, not unlike certain prepositional analogies, engorge one another, then devour themselves.

A most peculiar, mechanically genial, bizarrely balanced, disturbingly jocular and behaviorally confounding sculpture is Caput, a piece whose apparently simple, somewhat centripetally erratic motion would be consistent if it weren’t for the friction of certain surfaces, the presence of certain finishes, the interference of a wall, the tensile resistance of a twisting, force-conveying metal belt, and the irregular form and considerable mass of a captivatingly piece-capping albeit floor-bound wooden ball. Caput’s spasmodic motion is its function, its spasmodic function is its motion, and since both are intermittently stunted, thwarted and blunted like the day is long, the piece’s repetitive yet not fully predictable comportment makes it not merely uniquely Sisyphean, but also an exquisite commentary on being and becoming, on doing and making, on trying and conceiving, on coming and going, on failing and flailing, on flunking and clunking—not to mention on the useful futility, or futile usefulness, of tedium. Caput is the anachronistic Caput Mundi of a busted world, perhaps, or perhaps it’s so captive to its inherent natures that it eludes or precludes its own usefulness, purpose or success. It is also, in a way—as a spiritedly animated object, or as an ersatz pet—quite adorably pathetic, simpatico, endearing.

There is something affirmatively friendly about Caput, in other words, an observation of indirect relevance that makes broader formal sense, nonetheless, when it’s considered in an expanded context that would include, also, a painting called Procedure, a companion work of sorts whose linear arcs and compositional dependencies between spatially disparate, energetically bundled forms display just enough visual analogousness to make the pieces appear readily kindred. Procedure, however, thanks in part to the placid qualities of its subtle pinks, greys and variably striated compositional horizontalities, reads like a realm of resolve, repose, relief or release, or perhaps even, at some remove, salvation—metaphysical, merely material or elsewise. Between one wall-knocking of its head, as it were, and another, Caput itself might dream, and dizzily so, of retiring to Procedure’s sphere of fluidity, quiescence, calm.

But then Caput’s mechanical condemnation kicks comically back into gear. And there it goes all over again—spinning itself, clubbing itself, lugging itself up some implied hill of numbingly eternal cumbersomeness. It gives in to itself, knocks into its surroundings, struggles inward for something, yet also for naught. If only there were, as it were, a clear way out.

— 502 :

 

_Working_ _Core_ invite

 

Out : In ::

Out, outward, out of, out from, exogenic, egressive, outside: Many are the forms and modes of exteriorizing, variably outer-tending motilities and terms that one might associate with Tom Butter’s artworks. His sculptures and paintings alike are wont to churn, gyrate and turn, at times away from real or implied centers—the sculptures, via a range of ever-plausible yet generally less-than-presumable, sometimes amusingly jarred or aberrant kinetics that seem now barely centripetal, now subtly centrifugal; the paintings, via compositional flow, directional linearities and gestural strokes. With all their functional switchings and flux, with all their outs and ins, Butter’s works could perhaps quite nearly, not unlike certain prepositional analogies, devour one another, then engorge themselves.

The resting state of the painting Core is, by and large, hardly restful at all. Rather, it is restive, tumultuous, turbid and roiling, a primarily bright-orange convulsion that might be a sort of geological extrusion, or a fulgor or flare dancing about eruptively on some distant astral surface, or a writ-large close-up of a wee little blossom, or perhaps just a heaving, surging, stirring chromatic effulgence. A certain darkness, however, in Core’s lower right register seems to hint at an interior otherness, or an unknowable beyond or subsurface pitch, or a titularly relevant central force that serves to dial the composition’s frenzy down a notch. What’s more, a rather curiously string-like line, also quite dark, darts up and curves down from one side to the other, a loose girding or spatially placeless garland of sorts that makes of so much stridency something ultimately melodious.

In formal harmony with that very line, then, is a meticulously braided circuit of pink twine that truly does gird loosely, in veritably garland-like fashion, the relatively circular upper portion of a sculpture called Working, a piece whose consistent, delicate, somewhat peaceful rotation is just deliberate enough to suggest potential centrifugality, and whose terrifically haunting, perhaps haunted gloves—because handless, because armless, because body-less, because worker-less—locked firm into a torqued, wrenching grip around the structure’s central axis, are at once a hint that something in the ‘works,’ or in the ‘workings’, has gone significantly awry, and a focalizing synecdoche for all the toil, ache and struggle that go into conceiving, creating, ‘working on’ and making things. The ‘work’ at ‘hand’ in Working is repetitive, in a way, yet not redundant; it is visually tangible and spatially present, even if also, in a structural sense, only barely there. The implied welder whose means of manual protection have been abandoned was flung away, perhaps, when Working’s slow spin went rogue-fast for an erred moment, or the ‘worker’ has gone missing for some other unknowable reason—and he remains the machine’s inherent secret, its enigma, its ghost.

Working worked its worker to the bone, worked him all the way away. As a viewer, a somewhat empathically disarmed one at that, you become one with this phantom’s wearied body in his phantom space. As he, too, might have—or still might—you might wish that the machine would invite you in.

— 502 :

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These essays were composed as accompaniments to Tom Butter’s solo exhibition, In : Out :: Out : In, at Studio 10 Gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The exhibition opens on the evening of 2 January 2016, from 7-9pm, and runs through 31 January. More information here.

Paul D’Agostino, Ph.D. is an artist, writer, translator, curator and professor living in Bushwick, Brooklyn. More information about him is available here, and you can find him as @postuccio on Instagram and Twitter.

Images featured in this post are courtesy Tom Butter. For more information about him and his work, visit  www.tombutter.com.

Essay: Movimenti fissi e gioie visibili negli oggetti scultorei di Tyrome Tripoli

by Paul D'Agostino

Tyrome Tripoli

Tyrome Tripoli nel suo studio a Bushwick, Brooklyn, aprile 2013.

Più interazioni che reazioni, più risultati che sculture, più integrazioni che interventi, più evoluzioni antropologico-naturali che creazioni di per sé fondamentali, più montaggi iper-spaziali che riciclaggi essenziali: gli oggetti scultorei di Tyrome Tripoli sono fatti e manufatti tramite manufatturazioni lasciate andate, diffuse o perdute, in un certo senso, per poi venire rimontate come incatenamenti a metà progettati, a metà casuali, eppure quasi sempre, e quasi interamente, visibilmente smontabili. Dalle piccole alle grandi alle grossissime, le opere di quest’artista sono più sculture di altre ‘sculture’ che materiali meramente scolpite—opere invariabilmente ed indubbiamente singolari benché insiemi di prodotti e rifiuti altrui spesso assai meno unici. L’armonia organica degli esiti è straordinaria per definizione: avesse la Natura stessa giocattoli, sarebbero forse molto simili.

Artista americano che si nutre creativamente ed esteticamente più delle strade del proprio quartiere a Brooklyn che della propria città di New York City in generale, Tripoli rimane sempre ispirato sia dal suo passato come studente di biologia, arte e storia dell’arte, sia dal suo presente come fabbricante di mobili squisitamente unici—letti, tavolini, scale a spirale e così via, fatti per la maggior parte di ferro, acciaio o bronzo. L’artista prende spunto da tali insegnamenti e da tali attività nella sua opera di scultore e, al contempo, se ne libera. I metalli pesanti e grigiastri usati nei suoi mobili vengono sostituiti da oggettoni e oggettini di plastica o di legno, per la maggior parte, e di colori e forme svariatissimi, beccati per strada qua o là o forse dimenticati nell’angolino del garage o dello studio di un amico.

Tyrome Tripoli

Sculture, sculturine e altri oggetti vari nello studio di Tyrome Tripoli.

Tripoli sceglie colori lucidi e brillanti, pezzi robusti e rotondi, per poi ‘dipingere’ e scolpire con essi senza modificarli, tagliarli o riformarli, e quest’ultimo fatto gli è chiave. I componenti si manifestano nelle sculture così come sono stati trovati, ma gli insiemi che producono, che diventano, sono di sicuro ben diversi: strutture, creature ed architetture improbabili o impossibili che spuntano su dal pavimento o giù dal soffitto—o su dal tetto verso il cielo, come l’opera immancabile che indica e personalizza lo studio-garage dell’artista. Forme riconoscibili come animali o strutture, quindi, ma solo come suggerimenti: ciò che si vede è stranamente familiare—soprattutto quando vi si notano giocattoli posseduti da piccoli—ma anche veramente strano, oggetti curiosi e divertenti che non hanno nome e non ne hanno bisogno. Distillazioni scultoree, ecco, di animazioni—stile anni ‘70 o ‘80, diciamo. Montaggi sintentizzati in una forma sola, in un momento solo, da cartoni animati interi con tutta l’energia, tutto il movimento, tutta la giocosità di tali immaginazioni rimasti in qualche modo viventi e visibili. Il programma così riprogrammato, però, è sempre lo stesso, ed è forse una cosa che tutti scrivono, almeno in testa: un programma immaginato o immaginabile da creazioni potenziali, riorientazioni di cose viste o pigliate—come personaggi, diciamo—strada facendo—come sceneggiature possibili—intorno allo studio o verso casa.

È ben più che possibile, quindi, che la Natura stessa abbia dei giocattoli, e che Tripoli sia fra i suoi fabbricanti. Ciò che tutti e due vorrebbero comunicare, però, è che siamo tutti capaci—in qualche modo, a livelli diversi, anche se solo tramite immaginazioni—di fabbricarli.   

Tyrome Tripoli

Dondolando pure dal soffitto: sculture finite e pezzi potenziali nello studio di Tripoli.

.                        .                       .

—  Paul D’Agostino, Ph.D., è artista, scrittore, traduttore e professore che vive e lavora a Brooklyn, New York City.

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