FOUND Outside Joy Curtis, Ethan Greenbaum, Jason Clay Lewis, Saul Melman, Jessica Segall, Jean-Marc Superville Sovak May 20 to October 21, 2012 The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
Installed in a grove of mature pines in The Aldrich’s Sculpture Garden, the singular vertical form of Joy Curtis’s sculpture Hades is almost camouflaged among the trunks. This site was chosen by the artist because of the relationship between the bark and the dark bronze surface of the artwork. Just as the trees are host to pale green lichen, the bronze has begun to take on a patina of a similar color. Originally sited on the remnants of a decaying wooden barge at the edge of the East River in New York City, the piece had an analogous relationship to its environment in that very different setting. There, it acted as an extension of the vessel’s broken and rotting wooden beams; the sculpture was so like its surroundings in color, form and scale, that—from the shore—only its perfectly upright position distinguished it from the more horizontal elements. Curtis is keenly aware of the way in which context and the space around sculpture can enhance, redefine and extend the physical scope of the artwork. The sculpture is composed from an accumulation of castings taken from architectural moldings: the ornamental delineations of the perimeter of an interior space. They traditionally outline the edges of rooms, such as the meeting points of floors, walls and ceilings, and the border created by a doorway, window or passage between one space and another. As a composition of various parts that have been divorced from their original function, the work references a process of salvaging, collection, and assembly that is akin to memory. The language of architecture has been conflated into a form that is elegant and abstract, yet recognizable as part of our everyday experience of the quotidian spaces we regularly occupy. Alyson Baker, executive director
Ethan Greenbaum, Paneling, 2011 Courtesy of the artist
Joy Curtis, Hades (detail), 2011 Special thanks: Modern Art Foundry, Ben Godward, Lars Fisk, Darren Goins, and Hussar Metals Courtesy of the artist and Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery, New York
The source imagery for Ethan Greenbaum’s Paneling is the mass-produced Formica that replicates naturally patterned materials such as marble, granite and stone. His attraction to these surfaces is informed by his background in painting and his appreciation for the contemplative space that abstraction can provide. Citing the influence of Richard Artschwager, Gordon Matta Clark and Robert Overby, Greenbaum seeks corollaries between the language of painting and the built environment. He is particularly drawn to the constructed, decayed and repaired walls and sidewalks of his urban surroundings. Greenbaum’s work is created by translating his source material through a series of filters. First, the Formica pattern—say green marble—is scanned at an extremely high resolution, enlarging and revealing the detailed ink-jet print used by the manufacturer to approximate the stone. This photographic copy is then digitally printed onto large sheets of plastic. Finally, the print is formed around a mold to create a three-dimensional relief. This sequence of reproductive techniques is a way of creating abstraction through multiple transcriptions: approximating the look of green marble while making it hyper-real, uncanny and elusive, yet still familiar because it maintains its relationship to the prosaic surfaces that surround us. Originally installed on a billboard edifice at the entrance to a city park in Queens, New York, this new configuration is a response to the architecture of The Aldrich Museum. The artwork and the building have a symbiotic relationship: while the Museum acts as a support structure and framing device, the work provides adornment and ornament, a sort of architectural frieze, for the façade. There is, however, something uneasy about this interaction—a destabilizing play of materials between the synthetic surfaces of the artwork and the stone, wood, and glass that are actual, structural substances. Alyson Baker, executive director
From a distance, Jason Clay Lewis’s sculpture Black Tide Tower brings to mind an isolated fragment of rusting industrial architecture: a refinery stack or a factory chimney. On closer inspection, the tower’s rusted patterns congeal into groups of galloping knights on horseback and vignette-like scenes of interrogation and torture. Rising up the tower the figurative imagery brings to mind medieval or Renaissance engravings or woodcuts, boldly transformed by the artist into the medium of rust bleeding into the blackened surfaces of oil barrels. Perhaps not surprisingly, Lewis has oil in his blood, having grown up in Oklahoma. Long fascinated by historical fiction, particularly of the medieval period, the artist has frequently referenced both the art and history of the Middle Ages, drawing parallels between the past and present. The late medieval period was truly a distant mirror, filled with the calamity of famine, plague, war, and religious strife, evidenced by the age’s apocalyptic leanings that strangely echo our present cultural landscape. For an artist with an awareness of oil, the medieval period is inexorably connected to the present through one major historical event, the Crusades, which started Europe (and later America) on the road to Middle Eastern colonialism. Black Tide Tower pointedly resembles Trajan’s Column, a military monument in Rome erected by Emperor Trajan in 113 AD to commemorate his victories in the Dacian Wars. Trajan’s Column has served as a model for numerous war memorials, both ancient and modern. But it is another column that is equally relevant to Lewis’s subject matter: Brancusi’s Endless Column (1938). Like Endless Column, Lewis’s sculpture is made of repeating modular forms that imply visual infinity. However, Black Tide Tower also suggests, through its materiality and imagery, an endless—and tragic—cycle of violence and retribution tied to the control of resources.
Saul Melman, Best of All Possible Worlds, 2012 Special thanks: Ani Weinstein, Adam Thabo and Sam Morse of South Side Design & Building, and Stiegelbauer Inc. Courtesy of the artist
Jason Clay Lewis
Jason Clay Lewis, Black Tide Tower (detail), 2011 Special thanks: Geoffrey Owen Miller, Shane LaVancher, Duck Drake, and Genevieve Allison Courtesy of the artist
Richard Klein, exhibitions director
Saul Melman’s practice as an artist has been tempered by his “other” life: as an emergency room doctor in New York City. Interestingly enough, Best of All Possible Worlds was inspired by a photographic work with the same title that pictured an empty emergency room. For Melman, the ER is a transitional space, through which passes the flow of life and death. His efforts to replicate its reality have not been based on its superficial character, but rather on the profoundly ethereal aura felt by those who occupy its terrain. The sculptural version of Best of All Possible Worlds is made of vacuum-formed casts of old wooden doors, laid out in the floor plan of a floor-through apartment in Brooklyn. It was important for Melman that the sculpture have some basis in physical reality and the combination of an actual floor plan with the historyladen door casts (their surfaces are animated by actual paint and wood pulled off during the vacuum-forming process) grounds the work in the lived world of everyday experience. But Melman’s choice of presentation—translucent plastic in an arrangement that hints of architecture—simultaneously speaks of both presence and absence. Space has been delineated, but it is porous, with concepts of inside and outside open for debate. Doors, normally opaque and made for privacy, have been transformed into objects that catch and amplify daylight, suggesting portals to mysterious and unknowable space. Melman has installed the work at The Aldrich so the floor plan of the ghostly apartment corresponds not to the existing topography, but rather to a plane that emerges from the hillside and hovers in space. This placement suggests that the “apartment” existed in another time and that it has been revealed through the process of erosion. Both the physical experience of the work and its title, Best of All Possible Worlds, imply that there are other worlds, with access potentially a heartbeat away. Richard Klein, exhibitions director
The title of Jessica Segall’s sculpture, The Soft Obtains a Central Position, is a reference to the ancient Chinese text known as the I Ching. Interpreted and translated over many centuries, this document has been cited as an influence in numerous fields of study, including philosophy, business, and a wide range of art forms. The notion of a dynamic balance between opposites, a central theme within the text, is of particular interest to the artist. The title’s specific reference is to passages in the I Ching that address the relationship between hard and soft, and methodologies that are rigid and those that are flexible. This theme of tension and resolution attained through an evolving and changing equilibrium of opposing forces is at the core of Segall’s sculpture. Taking the form of a child’s couch cushion fort, the work appears playful, precariously balanced, light, and soft. However, it is modeled after a bunker or blast shelter, is structurally solid, and made from heavy, rigid material. At the time that Segall was developing this work, her brother was serving as a civilian contractor in Iraq and living on an army base outside Basra. Concerned for his safety in a military zone, she was thinking about the methods that soldiers use to protect themselves and the shelters that they build to defend against ammunition and bombs. The sibling relationship, formed during childhood, is now manifested in a structure that has elements of her youth and her adult life. Segall’s concern that her brother was not being adequately protected became a sculptural gesture that speaks broadly to the dichotomy between appearance and actuality through the play of children and the realities of war. Alyson Baker, executive director
Jean-Marc Superville Sovak, Rendering forMalthusian Landscape, 2012 Courtesy of the artist
Jessica Segall, The Soft Obtains a Central Position, 2011 Courtesy of the artist
Jean-Marc Superville Sovak
Bricks were the first mass-produced modular objects, originating in the Middle East approximately 9,000 years ago. Their development was closely tied to the rise of civilization, becoming literally the architectural fabric of the nation-state, from ancient Mesopotamia to nineteenth-century New York City. Jean-Marc Superville Sovak first used brick as a sculptural material in 2009. Walking the banks of the Hudson River near his home in Beacon, New York, the artist encountered the remnants of the region’s brick-making industry, which extended from Haverstraw north to Albany. The artist’s earlier sculptural work was typographically-based, reveling in word play, and he was naturally drawn to the bricks he found due to the fascinating way they combined object with text. The Empire Brick works were in Stockport, immediately north of Hudson, New York, on the river’s eastern bank. For an artist concerned with both history and politics, Sovak’s discovery of bricks emblazoned with the word “EMPIRE” was a provocative coincidence, embodying broad political connotations in an object that intrinsically held the weight of history. New York City and the adjacent Hudson Valley was “America’s Rome,” playing a key role in the United States’s ascendancy to world power, and the deceptively simple Empire brick was a perfect vehicle for the artist to express the complexity of the tides of political history. Sovak’s constructions with brick generally resemble architectural ruins, referencing not only the passage of time, but also the effects of war. The bricks used for his installation at The Aldrich were repurposed from a sculpture at Socrates Sculpture Park that resembled a wall with—depending on the viewer’s point of view—either a hole blasted through it or the remnants of a doorway. The modular nature of the brick allows the artist to uniquely adapt his concerns to every site presented to him, and the location of the amphitheater-like slope adjacent to The Aldrich’s entry terrace suggested an approach more akin to paving than architecture. Richard Klein, exhibitions director
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum 258 Main Street, Ridgefield, CT 06877 Tel 203.438.4519, Fax 203.438.0198, aldrichart.org
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum advances creative thinking by connecting today’s artists with individuals and communities in unexpected and stimulating ways.
Board of Trustees Mark L. Goldstein, Chairman; Eric G. Diefenbach, Vice-Chairman; John Tremaine, Treasurer/Secretary; Annadurai Amirthalingam; Richard Anderson; William Burback; Chris Doyle; Linda M. Dugan; Georganne Aldrich Heller, Honorary Trustee; Neil Marcus; Kathleen O’Grady; Donald Opatrny; Gregory Peterson; Peter Robbins; Martin Sosnoff, Trustee Emeritus
Larry Aldrich (1906–2001), Founder
Special thanks to Socrates Sculpture Park The works in this exhibition were commissioned by Socrates Sculpture Park through the Emerging Artist Fellowship Program and were shown at the Park as part of the 2011 EAF Exhibition. The EAF Program affords young artists the opportunity to pursue open artistic exploration, expand both the scale and the scope of their practice, experiment with new materials and working methods, and learn about the challenges of creating and installing work in a public space. Fellowship recipients are awarded grant money, a residency in the Park’s outdoor studio, and access to space, facilities, materials, and technical assistance in order to create new works for presentation in Socrates’ annual EAF exhibition.
Jean-Marc Superville Sovak, Detail of bricks used in Malthusian Landscape, 2012 Courtesy of the artist
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