Entries from April 2008

Sculpture: A Pile Of Valuable Things

April 26th, 2008 · 2 Comments

The Most Valuable Things I Own
A Pile Of Valuable Things
mixed media (books, cabinet light)

In this work, the cord to an electric light is threaded through a stack that constitutes the artist’s collection of (relatively) expensive art textbooks, which are the artists most valuable possessions, both fiscally and sentimentally. The drilled hole inherently devalues the resale value of the books, and, to a degree, diminishes their usability, incorporating destruction of worthwhile materials into the junk-art idiom.

Tags: Art · ARTS 331 · original work · sculpture

Sculpture: This Could Be The Whole Ball Game

April 25th, 2008 · 1 Comment

This Could Be The Hole Ball Game
This Could Be The Hole Ball Game
baseball with pencil, suspended by fishing line


A Little League baseball pierced with a red pencil and hung from Jeffersonian-revival architecture offers a menacing look at the heavy-handed nostalgia of Americanism: as the title implies, this sculpture could be a jury-rigged version of the colonial hole-ball game where children idly attempted to catch a small wooden ball on a stick (a game mainly preserved in nostalgic toys sold in places such as downtown Fredericksburg and Colonial Williamsburg), but even so, this game has been repurposed: it is in midair, suggesting flight, while the pencil becomes an arrow which dually suggests direction and harm. The additional duality of the title refers to the weighty phrase uttered by play-by-play announcers at particularly important moments in a baseball game, one where the outcome can be essentially decided in what would otherwise be an ordinary event. Taken together, these elements inform a larger theme: a deadpan satire on the direness of American nostalgia,  collecting (European-influenced) American iconography that is heavily dependant on reverie for the past and placing it squarely on the shoulder of generations that have not experienced that past.


For the record, I almost critically injured one of my esteemed professors while setting this up.

Tags: Art · ARTS 331 · original work · sculpture

Sculpture: Support Group I (My Arcadian Woods)

April 25th, 2008 · Comments Off on Sculpture: Support Group I (My Arcadian Woods)

Support Group I (My Arcadian Woods)
site specific installation, Melchers Hall (9 wooden studs leaned against arcade columns)


Like “Storm Tossed Ship,” the title of this work alludes to an art historical standard: in this case, the Arcadian landscape. The tradition of Arcadian landscape incorporates the idea of nature as a pastoral extension of man’s dominance of the earth; this work casts such support relationships into doubt: is the wood holding up the architecture or is the architecture holding up the wood? By extension, the classical-revival architecture plays the role of the Arcadian society, while the wooden planks take on the role of the natural world, greatly undermined by their subjugation to human purposes. Finally, the exposed wood suggests the whole structure is decaying or sinking into this dangerous earth, a feeling of uneasiness reinforced by the precipitous location of the viewer inside of the architecture.

Tags: Art · ARTS 331 · Melchers · original work · sculpture

Unmonumental: Junk Sculpture in The 21st Century

April 24th, 2008 · 1 Comment

The following material made up the basis for a presentation given to the Spore Collective in April 2008:

Unmonumental: Junk Sculpture In The 21st Century




In December of 2007, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City opened the doors of its new location, in the Bowery district of lower Manhattan. The museum relocated to this gritty Chinese restaurant supply district from its previous home in SoHo in a deliberate attempt to distance itself from an art scene that has become increasingly reliant on gentrification and established artistic celebrity. Therefore, for the inaugural exhibition at its new home, the museum staged “Unmonumental: The Object In the Twenty-First Century,” a three part exhibition incorporating more than eighty works by thirty international artists, mostly “mid-career” and under forty years of age.1


The common thread of the exhibition is junk art, a sharp contrast to the polished, monumental crowd-pleaser exhibitions that have become the standard museum fare of major national galleries. Essentially, the goal of the exhibition is to define low tech assemblage sculpture, with its raggedy looks and unconservability, as the most dynamic form of contemporary art today, fighting the otherwise dominant forces of market absorption and pop cultural monumentality by its very nature.2

Of course, Unmonumental is not the first ever exhibition of junk-sculpture. The medium has been around as an accepted artistic practice for close to a century. The following is a brief, and no where near comprehensive, look at the history of junk assemblage:

A Brief History Of Junk Sculpture:



Junk art arguably began with Marcel Duchamp and the Dada movement, who deliberately brought “readymades” (itself an importance practice in Unmonumental) and the objects of real life into the art realm in an attempt to blur the lines between art and life. Often described as an attempt to destroy art, Dada assemblage is better thought of as an attempt to change the role of the artists. In the words of Duchamp “I never tried to destroy art for anyone but myself”3


Junk art thrived through the surrealist movement, thanks to such artists as Man Ray and Meret Oppenheim. Its best known practitioner was the American artist Joseph Cornell, whose homemade boxes full of junk-store bric-a-brac have come to define the medium. His constructions were complex odes to beautiful ideals, especially birds and Hollywood starlets, and took on the distinctive feel of manic folk construction.4


In the nineteen sixties, Junk art took center stage in the attempt to overthrow the formalist dominance of Abstract Expressionism and Color Field painting on the New York Avant Garde. Junk art, then, is no stranger to this role of other that it finds itself in during Unmonumental–it was forged in such an environment with Dada, and has been put to the role multiple times in the past. In this period, Robert Rauschenberg, a major influence in the Unmonumental exhibition, pushed junk assemblage to the limits of its structural, aesthetic and conservable integrity.5 Rauschenberg, along with his close contemporary Jasper Johns, is often classified as Neo-Dada, a nod to the Duchampian roots of the medium. 6


Since Raushenberg, assemblage art has gone in a vast array of directions, and it would be ingeniune to pretend to cover them all here. But to sample one of the best known works of the politically charged counter-art scene of the 1970s, here is Betty Saar’s 1972 work the Liberation of Aunt Jemima, which appropriates folk imagery into a junk assemblage in an attempt to change the meaning of dominant cultural iconography through this physical manipulation.





This brings us the Unmonumental itself. In general, the goal of the show has seen both critical acclaim and immediate influence: Peter Schjeldahl describes, bluntly: “At issue is a restoration of studio romance (the artist in what-the-hell action) after a spate of market sex (the artist as deluxe fabricator)”.7 This years Whitney Biennial soon echoed the same theme, but lacked the gauntlet-throwing impact, which the New Yorker described “If it were a sound, it would be the muttering of a cast awaiting the inexplicably delayed rise of a curtain.”8



These works come in sharp contrast to the current standard, which involves large scale, fantastically expensive commissioned works from celebrity-artists. For example, both Jeff Koons and Cai Guo Qiang have solo exhibitions on display this spring that reflect the exact method of exhibition Unmonumental is reacting to.


For all of the excitement it has generated, the exhibition is not without criticism. First of all, for all its groundbreaking attitude, the exhibition is inexplicably western-centric, fielding the majority of its artists from the United States and Europe. The feeble defense by the curators–that this results from more material waste in these locations–is undermined by the emphasis on African junk art at last years Venice Biennale.9 Meanwhile, head New Yorker critic Peter Schjeldalh decried what he felt was a conservative perspective on assemblage: “Most of the works are neat and clean. You could take them home, and, in the case of powerful congeries of this and that by Isa Genzken, you might want to.”10



The impact of Unmonumental and junk assemblage is evident in the exhibitions currently on view in New York. A smattering of junk shows include:

Nayland Blake at Matthew Marks gallery. Blake is another established artist working in the Unmonumental mode: his sculptures are mostly “made up of humble materials gathered on his daily walks, and taken together they constitute a diary of his obsessions and sensibility.” Blake incorporates his own biases and aesthetics as an automatic system with which to govern his work, which frequently inverts issues of race and sexuality.11


In a slightly more disturbing bent, Jeffrey Dietch selected artist couple Tim Noble and Sue Webster to set up a single work in his Projects Gallery: Polymorphous Perverse, a moving, breathing, pulsing Toy-Story-esque horror show of junk assemblage.



One of the Mid Career artists on display at Unmonumental was Tom Burr, whose exhibition Addict-Love (title taken from a Frank O’Hara poem) showed concurrently at the Sculpture Center in Queens. Burr limits assemblage sculpture to its barest elements: an arrangement of props, lights and specific functional forms to suggest the cleanliness of his modernist background coupled with the very anti-modernist nature of the media themselves.



In the basement of the same building, a second exhibition, In Practice Projects shows an alternative side to the junk sculpture medium. If Unmonumental was notable for sticking only to mid-career artists, In Practice Projects is laudable for its focus on emerging artists. Most of the work was extremely bizarre, fitting into the catacomb-like basement of the building in a much less polite way than the white-cube viewer oriented work of the New Museum’s exhibition. For instance, Agathe Snow’s installation “THE ASSHOLE OF NYC! THE BEST JOB IN THE UNIVERSE (AN ATTEMPT AT CONVERSATION)” includes a string marked PULL, setting all the hanging vacuums into abrupt, engine roaring motion when yanked.12 In Practice Projects seemed, to a great degree, infused with the sort of excitement we’ve achieved with the Spirit of the Spore! I could definitely see our collective creating this sort of installation exhibition.

Tags: Uncategorized


April 12th, 2008 · Comments Off on Photos From CANNONCANNONCANNON


Now that CANNONCANNONCANNON (take a breath…) has closed, I just wanted to thank everyone who made it to our senior exhibition, whether you came to our opening, First Friday reception, or daily visiting hours. All the artists were thrilled about the enthusiasm we received from all visitors, art-goers, non-art-goers, Fredericksburgers and out -of-towners alike.

If you missed it (and shoo-ee, boy did you miss it: them tunes were hoppin’ and the bar-b-que was fan-tas-tic!), take a look at these photos from the opening. Later this week I hope to put up some more shots of the artwork itself (in case you were in Australia or something).


Steve Griffin & The For Rent Band (Thats the Williamses on Fiddle and Banjo)


The artists collected in the opera-box


A behind-the-scenes installation shot. That’s Molly Sheldon’s unicorn transported by Eric Norman and Mike Mosley.



Tags: Art · Art Exhibitions · art galleries · Fredericksburg

Sculpture: Drawing Pictures of NASCAR With My Friend Kyle

April 2nd, 2008 · Comments Off on Sculpture: Drawing Pictures of NASCAR With My Friend Kyle

Drawing Pictures of NASCAR With My Friend Kyle
crayons, plastic, feather, caution tape, paper clip

from the SPORE COLLECTIVE! exhibition at Randolph-Macon (March 2008)

Tags: Art · ARTS 331 · original work · sculpture