Saturday, May 22, 2010

coming soon... Situation Destination

On June 1st I will begin installation of my latest large-scale piece. I will be transforming the Saul Alexander Gallery at the Charleston County Public Library downtown, and I couldn't be more excited. This will be the first time that I will have the opportunity to fill an entire space, without regard to other people's work. Granted, it's not a very big space... but it's just right for what I'm going to do. Below is my "statement" that went out in the library's press release for the show...

(scale model for Situation Destination)

Situation Destination, designed for the Charleston County Public Library, both conceptually and structurally, is the fourth piece in my ever-evolving body of large-scale site-specific installations, or “situations.” In my work I am very much concerned with surrounding spaces, and in cultivating, within these spaces, temporary experiences that engage the viewer on multiple levels.

Visually, I like to work with forms that are both interesting and appealing. The soft, undulating shapes tend to be biomorphic in design. Though they may resemble living organisms or forms found in nature, they are, at the same time, intentionally non-representational, leaving the viewer the freedom to make of it what he or she wishes. In contrast with the natural evocations of the form, the structure itself is constructed in a manner reminiscent of 3D computer graphics. Grid-like and rigid, it exposes the contrivance of the manmade, the fabricated environment.

I should note that I greatly dislike the term “viewer,” for my work is not designed simply for viewing. It is to be experienced, through active participation, which is why I much prefer to refer to such individuals as “participants,” “actors,” or just “the public.” So, in this sense, my pieces are physically stimulating, as well as visually, facilitating motion and movement throughout the carefully crafted space.

Several of the pieces that I have previously constructed have dealt with a physical notion of passage and happenstance. This “situation” that I have created for the library is more about destination. The library itself is a destination. You rarely just happen upon a library. Going to the library is a deliberate action, so for this piece I have endeavored to create a space that requires a similar activity. I anticipate that, perhaps initially out of curiosity, the public will make a decided choice to enter the installation, the “Situation Destination.” I like the idea that, if people respond positively upon their first encounter, this piece could also function as a destination to which to return. I see it acting as a haven of sorts. A place for folks to come and read, for children of all ages to come and hide out, a quiet escape, if only for a moment, from the commonplace.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

bubble project

So Jarod and I have been busting our butts trying to get things figured out for this collaboration of ours. We're learning a LOT about what it's like to work with fabricators... so far lots of frustration! We're in this weird limbo between "make or buy," which I learned in my Production and Operations Management class (I'm also a business major) is the most critical decision a manager can make. Well... it's not an easy one by any means!

We've got a budget for materials built into the grant, but since we've yet to get any kind of quote from fabricators, we have absolutely no clue if we can even afford the prototype! For weeks we've been perfecting a version of this digital 3D sketch-up model (pictured above), from which a mold will be cut, using a CNC router. Then, from the mold, we will have a number of plastic tiles vacuum-formed into the shape. The tiles will be aligned and set into a grid system (built by us) to form an undulating blanket of sorts.

Ultimately, we would like to have over 300 tiles made... but that will require further funding, so for our purposes this summer we would like to have at least 4 made by the time of our presentation in August. That's not too much to ask, is it?! Let's hope not! But just in case... we have decided to take matters into out own hands for the time being. Until we get some kind of estimate, we will continue to work on building the mold ourselves. This process involves bouncy balls of varying sizes, plaster galore, and lots and lots of patience. But at least it means we get to make a mess... there's something very satisfying about that...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

mm mm MARFA

I spent this past weekend in one of the most interesting of places... Marfa, TX.
Back in January, my professor, Jarod Charzewski and I applied for a CofC SURF (Summer Undergraduate Research with Faculty) grant. Despite the mounds of paperwork we knew it would entail we simply thought... why not? Our proposal was for what we called a "Collaborative Sculpture Project with Investigation into Minimalism." Both of us work within a fairly minimalist aesthetic, so we thought this a good ground upon which to collaborate. Oh yea... and we got the grant.

Though we spent several weeks pouring over books and vintage art magazine articles on the subject, we knew we couldn't properly "investigate" minimalism without visiting the "hub" of American minimalism itself... Marfa, TX. Back in the 1970's, artist and art critic Donald Judd moved out to west Texas. As Thoreau went to the woods, Judd went to the desert... to live deliberately. He wished to create spaces where his work (along with the work of several buddies among the likes of Dan Flavin and John Chamberlain) could be viewed as it was designed to be viewed... a place where the gap between art, architecture and landscape would be bridged... the result was the Chinati Foundation.

Judd said of Chinati...
"It takes a great deal of time and thought to install work carefully. This should not always be thrown away. Most art is fragile and some should be placed and never moved again. Somewhere a portion of contemporary art has to exist as an example of what the art and its context were meant to be. Somewhere, just as the platinum iridium meter guarantees the tape measure, a strict measure must exist for the art of this time and place."

Judd's aluminum boxes are a perfect example of this notion....

(fantastic photos by Jennifer Charzewski)

I should note that, though I had seen countless pictures in books and online of these "boxes," not until I experienced them in person did I realize what they really were. I was blown away by the fact that I previously had absolutely no idea that they weren't solid cubes. On the exterior, each of the 100 boxes is identical, but the interior of each is entirely unique. And the effect is utterly magnificent... as seen above. The object is only one element in the work as a whole. The architecture and landscape are absolutely critical. The piece simply couldn't exist without them.

And so, to Marfa we went... it was quite the pilgrimage and I believe I'm all the wiser for it (or something like that?) Well... I learned a lot. I saw a lot of great work. Ate a lot of yummy tacos. Met up with a pretty cool dude from Philly. Got a taste of west Texas. And though I could ramble on Marfa for pages and pages, about the breathtaking landscape, the expanse of the starry night sky, the awesome/weirdo Judd estate/kingdom, the absurd amount of hipsters, the blah blah blah.... it's time (literally) for me to get to working on this "collaborative sculpture project" of ours. We've got some neat things in the works... stay tuned...

(Steve experiencing some Dan Flavin)