Thirty-four of my LEGO sculptures, created 2010-2017, are on display at the George Caleb Bingham Gallery at the University of Missouri right now. These include five bronze pieces as well.
Since I was a child, LEGOs have been a staple in my creative habits. Often, when I am met with some creative block, when I am disillusioned, or when I simply need a change, LEGOs are my go-to outlet. They offer a kind of open-ended opportunity to make things without any conceits or justifications. Usually, at least for me, this kind of building amounts to a formal exercise within certain boundaries. After all, LEGOs are a finite tool. They have limited application and range. In spite of this, however, they allow for many hours of engagement and a diversity of resolution. LEGOs really are a creative partner in my life.
Over the last 10 years or so I’ve been interested in a number of practitioners of contemporary sculpture and their work has influenced how I have played with my LEGOs. First and foremost is Vincent Fecteau, who crafts strange, small sculptures that exhibit a wonderful sense of hidden interior space. Additionally, Barry Le Va’s dark and geometric wall and floor installations (and the awesome drawings for those installations) are also important to me. Didier Vermeiren’s solemn, dense sculptural works manifest a kind of austerity and clarity that challenges me. These artists (among many others) inspire me to play with associations of form and color, as well as with the implications of scale. Fecteau in particular has strongly influenced all of my work over the last 6 or 8 years.
The sculptures collected here, both those made of standard LEGOs and those crafted in bronze, are meant to function like poems of form: slight, strange, awkward, yet solid in a sense. In them I have gone through an iterative process of placement and association. In my mind, it’s all shape dynamics and formal play. These miniatures have stimulated my paintings, drawings, and prints for a long time. At this point I see them as part of my overall work, though definitely a part that’s still in development.
Following the lead of a number of the people around me (such as Matt Choberka, William Dolan, Chris Fletcher, and Alex Herzog), I’ve begun to do more sketching on tablets. I’ve been working on a Kindle Fire using SketchBook Mobile X.
Above: A sketch made from drawings and photos of a street scene in Guangzhou, China. This is an iconic tree to me, one that I walked past a dozen times, drew, took photos of, and have thought about many times since our trip in February of 2013. You can even see its foliage on Google images of the street corner where it’s located.
Above: A sketch from the sculpture Hermes and the Infant Dionysus at the Cast Collection of the University of Missouri. I love the Cast Collection and have taught my students there for all but one of my semesters of teaching here at Mizzou.
Above: A pile of the foam packaging inserts that accompany desktop Macs while in shipment. I use them as props in my Beginning Drawing and Painting setups.
Above: A post-it note sculpture that hangs in my studio at the university. One of our friends made it and I love it. I’m sure it will appear in many more drawings and paintings over the years.
Sorry I’ve not been writing much/at all recently. Sometimes it’s best to be quiet.
Just got back from a trip to Dallas/Fort Worth to visit the Diebenkorn Ocean Park retrospective at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. It was stunning, and I’ll be writing my reflections on the show soon. But before we even got inside, we experienced one of the best Richard Serra sculpture I’ve ever seen. Below are some shots from my visit – I’m with one of my best students and friends, Marcus Miers.
Marcus at the base.
A shot of the cor-ten behemoth against the sky.
A spire of light wedging into the interior of the piece.
Gazing upward from within.
And here I am against the space and light.
Serra’s piece at MMA in Fort Worth is spectacularly aural in its manifestation. There is the quintessential feeling of massive heaviness, the sense of the density of the steel, the way the work shapes the space and the sky and the light within its parameters – but the sense of sound is truly unique. In most of Serra’s semi-enclosed works there is a kind of stillness to the air and the sound, a weightiness similar to the feeling of walking through a forest heavy with new-fallen snow. In this piece, however, the sound is fast and expansive, and every slight movement or sound is magnified and compressed within the interior space. What happens inside is heightened for those within, but people outside have their sense of the interior sound scape dampened. This inside and outside duality of sound is integral to the piece and makes the normally ominous quality of Serra’s steel more whimsical and lightly-felt.
I took a group of my students (from the University of Missouri at Columbia) over to Kansas City to see a bit of art this past weekend. The main attraction was the Martha Macleish show at Longview Community College. One of the things I found so interesting about her work is the fact that the shadows they cast – being illuminated by the syncopated lamps of a gallery lighting system – are at least as physically striking and necessary to the experience of the art as the objects themselves are. These shadows seem to extend each work in that they transfer the structure and form of the piece into space and onto the surrounding walls and floor. While this seems obvious – it’s what all shadows do – in this case it’s much more significant. This is because the laminated, layered construction of the work is mirrored in the stratified step gradients of the multi-vectored shadows and the negotiated, sometimes grungy, sometimes glossy finish of the materials is echoed in the distended, bending atmospherics created as light falls over their spaces and shapes. The effect is mesmerizing and stimulating, leading viewers to shift their perspective again and again, bobbing and weaving around each piece to see the secrets they hold in their multi-faceted alignments and angles. The work is very much worth seeing if you get the chance. Martha granted me permission to post some images of the shadows her work created at the Longview show. Click on each to enjoy them larger.
Didier Vermeiren and here…
Barry Le Va
I think this (and some other stuff) has been influencing me in various ways…
In the forms I make for students to work from (drawing above, painting below)…
…and in the forms that make their way into my own work. Below, an experimental brick-based sculpture and a mezzotint featuring an invented pentagonally-based structure.
Details from Matthew Ballou’s context
Details from Nathan Sullivan’s context
Detail from Catherine Armbrust’s context
Detail from Sloane Snure Paullus’s context
Detail from Derek Frankhouser’s context
Detail from Marcus Miers’s context
Andy Goldsworthy functions as an artist in a continuum of what I would call shamanistic principles: permeability, density, liminality, derivation, change, and transformation. That is, he manipulates and transforms the materials of the environment in some dynamic sympathy with them. This sympathetic approach is one that makes him keenly aware of his communication with and orientation toward the world. Because of this the work is in a very real sense suggested by the environment, the work’s parameters of possibility defined by the environment, and the artist’s intuitive making directed by the environment. There is very little “manhandling” going on here, very little ham-fisted, blundering action. His art is not an image of mankind dominating or playing flippantly with the world, but rather one of the sensitive investigator being moved forward by suggestions from within the investigated schema. His message is his articulation to the environment, not in some sort of neo-pagan hippy vagary, but in action, physical touch, biological aesthetics (i.e. basic 2D design and shape dynamics, which extends beyond the 2D into the 3D via his spatial and sensation-based investigations). The message isn’t linear like literacy or mathematics. It’s kinesthetic and alchemical. Zero irony, total being-ness. Awesome.
Get more info on Goldsworthy here and here.
The sketches I post here are ones I made during a visit I and my cousin Chris (a photographer) made to the Storm King Art Center in New York State to see Goldsworthy’s Storm King Wall. The trip was inspirational; I highly recommend making a stop at SKAC if you’re in the area.
Update (December 17, 2009): There’s a great piece on the ART21 Blog about Storm King that discusses the history of the place, how they think about acquiring/installing new work, and other interesting tidbits. Check it out.
Today I began preparations for making my first bronze work. I brought my wax work to Chris Morrey (a just-graduated MFA in sculpture from the University of Missouri) for approval/adjustments. We worked together to clean up the piece a bit (later on I’ll describe why I wanted this piece to have the form it does) and develop a strategy for the sprue system that will deliver the molten bronze to my form. I’ll update here as we continue – I’m excited!