Reference to a Paper Clip

Here is a full album of photos for "Reference to a Paper Clip".  Below are a few shots and a few thoughts about recent critiques:

Spring break has been a good time for thinking and pondering.  There have been a lot of things running through my mind about my current work.  Since my last post I have had a critique from my graduate cohort, another critique with crit group, and a studio visit from Jordan Kantor of California College of Arts painting department.  Each of these critiques have had positive impacts on my thought process throughout this semester and have offered multiple perspectives.  These perspectives have come from pepole who are fresh or familiar to my work.

I think that I managed to “fail” forward in a great way.

Critique with the MFA department went well.  Criticism of my recent experiments was very constructive and drifted towards thoughts of how future installations might be acomplished.  This time I decided to go about presenting a series of experiments that explored the relationship between my glass paper clips and their shadows.  These were presented in a sort of one to one relationship, object to shadow.  Almost right off the bat many of my cohort noticed the lack of displacement in this round of experiments and were critical of the amount of work is such a small space.  This installation needed room to breath to promote content.  I completely agree that there was way too much going on and it didn’t allow for a “poetic” quality to exist.  My intention was to create a relationship between the kinetic nature of my objects and the stillness of the shadows.  My exploration of scintillating colors was exciting to explore in this regard but in the end just made noise and directed the narrative away from where I was in week 5.  There were a few exciting themes that circulated during critique including line, structure, paradox, memory.  I’m starting to come full circle with last semester.

Paradox is an interesting one.  What we have is an object that has an objective existence as a linear abstract sculpture that is sitting across from a seemingly abstract subjective painting that is actually a representation of the object.  I am really happy about this observation.  I think it fits in well with illusion.  This thought has prompted a few similar connections in different critiques to Plato and The Allegory of the Cave.  In short Plato has Socrates describe a gathering of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall from things passing in front of a fire behind them, and they begin to give names to these shadows. The shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality. He then explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall do not make up reality at all, for he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners.

The studio visit I had with Jordan Kantor was a good one.  He applauded  my ability to manipulate material and present work that existed esthetically but challenged my approach.  In short he challenged me to not create work that is expected in modern art but to create work that does what modern art does.  He set forth a challenge to further understand the nature of modern art and to use it to create new dialog and vocabulary.  He pointed out artists like Jean Tinguely and Victor Vasarely of the 1920’s kinetic art movement who used their mediums to push the bounds of the trending vernacular.  He saw potential among my technological work with LEDs to work this way.


Reference to a Paper Clip Critique Week

Part of me wanted to create a sculpture out of glass in the same way that the shopping carts are constructed which would hang in a space for a time and then crash to the ground.  In the end we would be left with shadows on the walls and a pile of remains which would refer to an object that used to exist in a place.  This was my plan until I discovered that glass is really springy.

This week's critique is a display of experiments around the idea of studying references of place.  Instead of steel I am working with glass and I am also working with single lines of material rather than lines of material that make up a greater from.  I am manipulating paper clips rather than constructing shopping carts.  For this week’s critique I am displaying kinetic glass structures paired with static shadows painted on the walls.  In the future I intend to build surfaces that gyrate or vibrate at seemingly random times when all of the space seems still.  The glass sculptures will then shake in the space until they find stillness.  Instead of developing the surfaces for this critique I will be flicking the objects during the show.

With the kinetic aspect in mind I had to come up with a way of displaying this new work.  In stillness, what is constant is the shadow of the object object on the wall among other things.  I have created a two space installation.  The open area is an experiment with color.  I chose to complimentary colors , an orange and an aqua, with the thought that the pairing would create a shadow on the wall that vibrated visually.  I thought that this would be an interesting pairing with the kinetic aspect of the paper clips.  Having completed the background colors and pulling the tape off the wall I am attracted to the white shadows in the colorful spaces and am having a hard time deciding if I want to paint the shadows in with the opposite color.  I may or may not do this step, we’ll see.

The second space is the small room on the second floor.  I have painted that room a black of both a glossy and flat matte finish.  There are two shadows in the room.  One of them is going to be a gloss shadow on a flat matte background while the other wraps around the corner on a gloss wall and will be left white.  I will also be activating the sculpture in that space during critique.  There are still a lot of little details that need to be cleaned up and filled in but for the most part this is what it will look like.  Also for those interested in the election a group of us have made a movie for the second Crit Theory course based on the political stage.  Here it is below.


Paper Clips

My studio space looks like a butcher shop.

Preparations are being made for my second crit for the semester.  I am having a hard time figuring out what to show.  I have a lot of new exciting experiments going on and have been having trouble integrating them with my theme from my first crit involving references to place of an object.  The challenge I have been attacking lately involves resolving the content issue surrounding my objects.  I’m going with glass this time.

Glass is a frustrating substance.  At first I was making glass shopping carts.  They are identical to the steel variety.  Then I noticed that glass is far more elastic than I ever expected.  I began seeing how long I could coil and knot up a single string of glass.  My last post includes a video of the first attempt.  The object lasted until some time in the middle of the night when it died under the stress and tension of its own weight.  At least there is a video of it in action.

These creations are called “Paper Clips”.  They are very kinetic, but only to a point that ends in their death. A few things come to mind when I make these.  There is no way that I can ship them to a gallery space without developing some sort of shipment based casting system.  They are very fragile.  What is the point in making them if I can’t do anything with them in the long run?  I started thinking about their existence as temporary objects.  They exist on the edge of collapse and are designed to the limits that I currently understand of glass.  They initially seemed like a spin off of my semester’s work but I think I have figured out a way to get them involved with my progression.  Again more on that next week when I talk about my crit.  These may require to be built on site.

The major challenge that I face for next crit is installing in the small space on the second floor.  Things become far more evident in small spaces and I fear that the reveal of the shadow during last critique will be far less subtle.  I have been pondering some ways in which I can still create something similar, refined, and new at the same time.  I may be exploring color and I am pretty sure that the paper clips are going to be involved.  Along with color, I may be playing with matte and gloss finishes.


Glass Experiment

Below is a video of its kenetics in action.  Very surprising that glass spings like it does.


Reference to a Shopping Cart Discussion

I am going to be a little risky and start using words that I find relevant for my work again and when I say words I really mean just one word in particular.

During critique of my recent installation (Reference to a Shopping Cart) Zach brought up a very interesting word, “Invariant”, which he attached to Bertrand Russell, a philosopher, logician, mathematician, and historian (1872 -1970).  The word means, “not changing” and holds a secondary definition of “a function, quantity, or property that remains unchanged when a specified transformation is applied”. Keeping this in mind there are some really interesting things that relate to this word and my work as well, as to the observations that my cohort spoke of during critique.

(Other Photos of "Reference to a Shopping Cart" can be found here)

In the case of my installation I relate to invariants when discussing shadows in controlled lighting environments.  Environments with static lighting create static shadows.  The shadows I paint are locked in position and exist as they are until they are destroyed (painted over) while the object that is the source of the shadows is moved to another location forcing a transformation to occur with the object’s place in the space.  The painted shadows in this case are an invariant.  

Sanwal responded to my installation with visions of “nuclear shadows”, discussing the effect as a result of the incineration of bodies and organic material result from dropping the atom bombs during World War II.  I did some research and found that

“as thermal radiation travels, more or less, in a straight line from the fireball (unless scattered) any opaque object will produce a protective shadow that provides protection from the flash burn. Furthermore, depending on the properties of the underlying surface material, the exposed area outside the protective shadow will be either burnt to a darker color, such as charring wood, or a brighter color, such as asphalt.” (wiki)

This example resonates with my piece because like sunlight creates a shadow of an object, the bombs created shadows of objects that experienced an entirely brutal transformation into vapor.

Ben discussed his relationship with cigarette ghosts when cleaning out his grandparent’s house after years of smoking.  Any surface that was in contact with another surface like a picture frame or piece of furniture was shielded from smoke and protected from the gradual transformation of the space.  Upon moving the objects the ghosts on the walls were revealed and while an object may have been moved halfway across the country a reference to that object remains where it once lived.  This example hold similar characteristics to the “nuclear shadow” reference through displacement of an object.  

I think the work succeeds in generating responses that resonate with my intended exploration of place and space with respect to displacement while leaving reference characteristics behind.  There are some things that need to be resolved in order to make this work stronger.  I need to find a way to push the illusion the shadow creates at distance in a way that succeeds in close proximity.  Some people were irritated that the the paintings revealed their technique up close while others were not.  Another concern with the success of the piece surrounds the content of the object itself when compared to the content of the installation.  Exploration of different objects will be required to resolve my thoughts on this issue.  

The first exploration down this road is with glass cane.  I have started to make my shopping carts out of class piping.  They are pretty exciting.  I kind of want to drop one on the ground.