Lands ARE Islands
Curated by Marco Antonini With an essay by Colby Chamberlain January 9 - February 6, 2015 NURTUREart Gallery 56 Bogart St., Brooklyn, NY 11206
Family Trees, Coffee Grounds
Recently I bumped into Gabriela Salazar at a panel on “Sculpture in the Expanded Field,” the famous essay written by art historian Rosalind Krauss in 1979. I hadn’t expected to see her there, but it hardly came as a surprise, considering how well Krauss’s definition of sculpture as “not-architecture” speaks to Salazar’s own practice. Since 2011, Salazar has developed a vocabulary of wedges, props, and shims—objects emblematic of moments when architecture fails or falls short, when the floor isn’t level, or the stairs are askew. They are the contractor’s quick fix, or the homeowner’s haphazard patch. That is, Salazar’s forms are architectural but not architecture, embedded in the wall but left off the blueprints. They achieve a relation to their surrounds even when placed on a plinth. Yet if Salazar occupies a position in sculpture’s expanded field, she also pressures its limits. Krauss compressed her argument into a Klein group diagram as a means of stressing that the sculpture of the previous two decades had constituted a paradigm shift. The target here was historicism, the attempt to assure art’s continuity by situating each new work within a genealogy. “No sooner had minimal sculpture appeared on the horizon of the aesthetic
experience of the 1960s, than criticism began to construct a paternity for this work,” wrote Krauss, “a set of constructivist fathers who could legitimize and thereby authenticate the strangeness of these objects.” The italics are mine, the sarcasm Krauss’s. The essay utterly disdains historicism’s familial dimensions. The synchrony of the Klein group suppresses the diachrony of the family tree. By contrast, Salazar’s work is deeply involved in the project of claiming parents. Her sculptures demonstrate that genealogy is no straight line. Rather, family trees are flexible; they can be bent back, looped, split sideways. Nor is inheritance a given; it must be worked for, and worked through. Salazar’s most recent sculpture began with an act of recovery: collecting the used coffee grounds from her parents’ kitchen. She mixed the grounds with flour and salt and shaped the resulting dough into a wedge, hoping it would solidify into an earthy brick. Indeed it hardened, but then it cracked, and eventually it crumbled. Salazar should have realized the wedge was doomed from the start, since coffee lacks a binding agent. Yet coffee is also the tie that binds. The discarded grounds were a direct inheritance from Salazar’s parents,
and her mother’s family had operated a coffee plantation in Puerto Rico from the late 1930s to the early 1970s—back when Puerto Rican coffee was known as the finest in the world, before US control and migration-induced labor shortages pushed production to Colombia and elsewhere. As Salazar’s wedges collapsed, they didn’t deteriorate into mere dirt; they became soil, rich with the sort of personal associations that the white cube usually clears away. For My Lands Are Islands, Salazar has amassed sixteen wedges, each of which will gradually lose its form as entropy, gravity, moisture, and air all do their thing. This slow-motion performance will take place across several white-brick plinths stacked and arranged into shapes that recall the austere geometries of early Minimalism. The bricks are glazed, a type familiar to Manhattan residents from the cladding of numerous apartment buildings, most of them hastily constructed during the postwar housing boom. Here, Salazar connects a set of sculptural “forefathers” to the architectural vernacular of their era. It was Dan Graham who first drew this line, in his prescient magazine piece “Homes for America” (1966), yet Salazar, again, further complicates the genealogy. Her parents, both architects, were schooled in the same late modernist ideals and principles that these “white elephant” ceramic surfaces had first reflected. As Salazar’s wedges disintegrate, one set of inheritances falls into another. Lines of descent begin to twist and get tangled. Over sculpture’s expanded field, a layer of topsoil thickens. Colby Chamberlain
NURTUREart Non-Profit, Inc is a 501(c)3 New York State licensed federally tax-exempt charitable organization founded in 1997 by George J. Robinson. NURTUREart receives support from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, including member item funding from City Council Members Stephen Levin and Antonio Reynoso, the New York City Department of Education, and the New York State Council on the Arts. NURTUREart is also supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, British Council of Northern Ireland, Harold and Colene Brown Foundation, Con Edison, Czech Center New York, Edelman, the Francis Greenburger Charitable Fund of the Jewish Communal Fund, the Golden Rule Foundation, Greenwich Collection Ltd., the Joan Mitchell Foundation, the Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, the Walentas Family Foundation, and the Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason Foundation.
We receive in-kind support from Lagunitas, Societe Perrier, Tekserve, and Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. NURTUREart is grateful for significant past support from the Liebovitz Foundation and the Greenwall Foundation, and to the many generous individuals and businesses whose contributions have supported us throughout our history. Finally, we would like to acknowledge the artists who have contributed works of art to past benefitsâ€”our continued success would be impossible without your generosity.
Brooklyn, NY. January 2015 / Book Design: Marco Antonini and Ido Michaeli / Editing/Copyediting: NURTUREart Non Profit Inc. / All Images, courtesy Gabriela Salazar.
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