Becoming Redundant?

Since my critique, I have been re-considering the placement and physicality of my work as I seem to have lost a sense of the works materiality. As I moved my work out of the critique space and back into my studio, I had Hanne Darboven’s drawings in mind. I placed the plaster stones methodically in a straight line on the floor, one after another. As I later moved around the space I knocked one of the stones into another and they fit perfectly together at an angle. I then continued to make contact between the stones until they formed half a circle. A wave of satisfaction came over me as I enjoyed the unexpected result^^^.

In a continued attempt to engage physically with the work, I broke one of the stones with  a hammer. The hammer caused a clean break and one again,  a satisfying release of energy.

My extensive research into Lucy Skaer and the feedback from my critique has encouraged me to also consider the value of labour and economics of materials and art objects…

In 1926, Brancusi’s Bird in Space (left^) was sent from Paris to New York City for an exhibition of his work at the Brummer Gallery. Although the law permitted artworks, including sculpture, to enter the U.S. free from import taxes, when Bird arrived, officials refused to let it enter as art. To qualify as “sculpture,” works had to be “reproductions by carving or casting, imitations of natural objects, chiefly the human form”. Because Bird in Space did not look much like a bird at all, officials classified it as a utilitarian object (under “Kitchen Utensils and Hospital Supplies”) and levied against it 40% of the work’s value.

There is an abstract Economic Thread running through Lucy Skaer’s work, In 2008 Skaer remade 26 of Brancusi’s Birds out of compressed coal dust (a lesser valued/more tradable material), forming The Siege/Black Alphabet (right^). Skaer miss-appropriates abstract shapes that carry agency (action or intervention producing a particular effect) rather than content.

Many of Brancusi’s greatest and most abstract works evolved from a long process of meditation, repetition, and refinement, demonstrating the artist’s view that “what is real is not the external form but the essence of things.” Bird in Space is a synthesis of this belief and represents the essence of flight.

American Images , 2014 Three cut and polished limestone boulders from Lithograph City, Iowa, mined by the artist.

Three cut and polished limestone boulders from Lithograph City, Iowa, mined by the artist.

For American Images (2014), Skaer disinters an entire lost process, as embodied in three limestone boulders she took from quarries outside a small Iowa ghost town once known as “Lithograph City.” The town was created in the early 1900s as a residence for quarry workers excavating the fine-grained limestone widely used in lithography at that time but soon replaced by metal plates. What narratives might have been conveyed through these stones, Skaer seems to ask, had they been excavated before the technology changed?

Did Skaer cut and polished the limestone boulders so they were ready for printing in order to render a surface upon which an image exists but isn’t visible? Skaer often dresses up (or miss-appropriates) objects in order to render them bare and expose their purest form. Could this idea exist as a metaphor for the process of art making? 

However, in this ‘dressing up’, Skaer’s objects become redundant and far removed from their original use and coherence. This is reflective of American Images and the lost ‘Lithograph City’. When the printing industry favoured metal over stone due to its efficiency and better value, limestone and everyone in Lithograph city became redundant…Since I have been using the limestone which exists at the core of my practice, I have said that eventually its relevance and usage will come to a natural end. I am not sure when the limestone will become unnecessary, but I could at this point restrict its usage as a litho tool. I am considering coating the stone in metal.


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