Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Showing June 7th in Bushwick

I've been invited to show a new sculpture at this event in Bushwick a week from this Saturday.Starts at 7pm
D & S Knitwear rooftop loft
97 Wyckoff Ave
Brooklyn NY 11237
$10 drink all night
Free to get in!!!

I'll be showing the sculpture called "Collective Consciousness/Nervous System" at this one-night event. This will be the first showing of this piece, which is made from Barbies and GI Joes and stands 6 feet. I'm excited because this is the first neighborhood I lived in when I moved to Brooklyn in 2004 and I'm curious to see how things have changed. If you're in NYC come check it out.

Read about and see images from the process of making this piece here:
4-4-08: Brainstorm...

Monday, May 26, 2008

hand it to TERROR

"fist" ceramic 1992
scale 1:1

As an artist, few models are as perfect to study as your own hand. It is nearby, patient, and attentive to your instructions. The beauty in the form of the human hand is undeniable. We use these to bring change to the world, as well as for survival. We are our hands, and they are us.
In 1994, a few months after beginning college, I made a sculpture using several plastic models. I chopped them up with an X-acto knife and fashioned them into a contorted hand with curled fingers. I studied my own extensively, and aside from the patchwork nature of the car and helicopter parts, the final result was fairly realistic.
I felt that working with model parts would represent a bold, new direction for me as an artist. Of great concern to me in earlier sculptures was the tendency for hot-glue to come undone, rendering great amounts of work obsolete. With plastic models, the glue had been specifically designed for the material. I had high hopes that the bonds would remain permanent. My theory, however, was never tested, as the sculpture met an untimely end when a cat offered it to gravity from the shelf on which it sat. The floor, nearly 5 feet below, was the clear champion in the contest that followed. Almost every connection failed, and I was left with an ugly pile of plastic scrap. It would be 6 years before my next study.

"Grasp" plastic model parts, 1994
no longer extant
scale 2:1
In the spring of 2001, from the quiet confines of my studio in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, I began again to fashion a hand. I started with 2 large restaurant toaster ovens and a gas grill.
After completing the initial structure, I used chrome metal from office chairs and bicycles to add the proper volume to the shape. The easiest way to ensure it would balance was to outstretch the fingers. The scale is huge, and the finished piece stands over eight feet tall and weighs 300 pounds.

"Reach" found-objects 2001 scale 100:1
After years of making junk sculptures, I'd learned that it was often difficult for people to see the image when they first looked at a piece. Often it seemed that the parts themselves became more important than what they created together. No synergy. This got in the way of what I was trying to accomplish. I was trying to work realistically with a medium that's traditionally not deemed realistic. In order to convince people I was a skilled artist who just happened to use junk, I had to create an image that could overwhelm its contents. When I made this hand I wanted to generate one simple reaction from my viewers. I wanted them to see the sculpture and say or think: "It's a hand." I wanted this thought to be involuntary and instantaneous. No matter what, they'd get it, because it's something to which they are personally connected. We all have hands. By reducing my effort to this one shared note of understanding, I would cause everyone to stop in their tracks. Even people with no shared language or beliefs would react the exact same way. I imagined placing the piece far back in time, before civilization had begun, and still being able to get the same reaction, perhaps even opening new doors in early humans' perception and modifying their behavior, like the obelisk did in "2001: a Space Odyssey," sans violence. Simply, I wanted to make humans think.

cogito ergo sum...
Around this time, I was co-director at a large space called "Odin Gallery" in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. In a city of less than 60,000, in an area not interested in collecting art, the entire scene was more or less of our making. We basically did everything ourselves with low budgets and long hours, living off donations from weekly events. My studio was in the back and we had a theater space as well. During the summer of 2001, we were presenting a production of Romeo and Juliet outdoors in the parking lot next to the building.
We sold advertisements to local businesses and handpainted their logos on giant tarps, which were then used to encircle the lot where the play was taking place. We were always coming up with new ways to keep an art gallery running besides selling art.
That same summer, we hosted an artshow which was part of a larger festival called "Pride Along the Mississippi." It was quite controversial, because the organization was founded by gays to celebrate homosexuality. We didn't care. It was going to pay the bills that month.
It was the first time something like this had been organized in the region, and was supposed to build tolerance and foster awareness. The mayor of the City was going to speak so security was high.
Suddenly, rightwing protesters showed up and began shouting bible verses at the top of their lungs. They had signs saying things like, "AIDS IS THE CURE" and "HOMOSEXUALS: FUEL FOR THE FIRE!" They even listed bible verses to back it up. It was one of the strangest things I'd ever seen. I don't know how these people fail to realize that they're crazy.
Children dressed in military fatigues ran around sneering while pleasing their parents by learning to spread hatred. Below, Marcus Robiason, a local artist, confronts a zealot positioned directly in front of the entrance. Ironically, the flower shop advertising roses behind them was run by two hardworking flamers.
As the Summer of 2001 drew to a close and Labor Day came and went, we began to work on putting out an open call for our annual juried group show. The show would be called "YOUR ART EXPLOSION!" On September 10th, I made a hundred posters to post around town. The following morning I was awoken by a call from the office manager at the gallery, telling me to turn on my television. I clicked it on just in time to see the second World Trade Center tower come crashing to the ground.I had never really thought about these buildings before that moment, but suddenly they became very significant. Immediately the world changed. Movies, television programs, and books were pulled from production if they had any intimation of bombs or airplanes, no matter how oblique. The posters I had wanted to hang, with bold letters and fire, were now definitely not going to go over properly and had to be scrapped. Life itself became a different sort of thing. People hadn't expected the world to change so completely one random morning. Nobody knew if they should stop and wait for more attacks or simply go on with their routines. I remember with perplexed bewilderment the ducktape and plastic sheeting advisory that that government issued within hours of the attacks so people could protect themselves from chemical weapons. I believe stocks shot up briefly for both products, as did American flags. At that point, everyone was eager to hear what the Bush Administration was going to do to protect us. The plan was simple and came in the next State of the Union Address. Revenge. As an artist, I felt the descent a grand significance. After a decade of making artwork that was more or less benign, I had a responsibility to react to the new world that had arrived. I felt honored, scared, and excited all at once.

Within a month of the attacks, I curated a groupshow. I assembled the owners of every gallery in the city and asked for one piece of work from each. The exhibition was called "Artistic Direction."
One of the dozen or so participants was an artist named Pete Missing who ran a gallery called "Now Here," also downtown. He'd grown up in NYC and spent a number of years in Berlin after the wall fell. A few weeks before the attacks, he had been invited to build an installation at a gallery in Osaka, Japan. A few days before he was to leave, his father fell gravely ill. He arranged to fly to NYC first, and to Japan from there. His plane landed on September 9th and his father died the next day. The following morning, as he took a taxicab to JFK from the Bronx, melee engulfed the city and he watched with his own eyes what I saw on TV. Needless to say, he was unable to go to Osaka. Talk about crazy timing.
For our show, he was given an entire room to build a new installation. His trademarks involve glass bottles filled with water with television monitors placed behind. Piles of found objects would then be added, motors spinning, plants growing, and each item with a significance he could explain. Beyond the installation, he was and still is a prolific painter, and the walls were filled with new work. In the 80's, this symbol of his invention was spraypainted across lower Manhattan as the waves of gentrification forced squatters from the Lower East Side and caused riots and chaos for days. The image, an upside down martini glass often accompanied by the text "the party's over," served as the logo for his band, Missing Foundation, which was active at the same time.
My contribution to the show would be the recently completed hand.
It would stand as a rising monument, stretching towards the sky like the towers no longer did.

As I took this photo, a random fan flashes a peace sign.
The title, also, reflected the new rules of the new times.
I would go forward from this moment with purpose, determined to use artwork as a tool to document the shifting era as well as to help inspire and hopefully empower those willing to believe that things can be better on our planet.
One thing I believe is that we're more intelligent than we think, and it seems logical that creating phenomenal artwork is one particular way to prove this. We each do what we can, or else, I guess, we give up.

monument for humanity:

Later, when I moved to NYC, it would be one of the few things I brought with. In effect, I was giving the city that had endured so much a hand, which it deeply deserves. Here a friend helps me load it into my pickup truck in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn circa 2005.

Monday, May 19, 2008

USD: WorthLE$$

Some videos of the first sculpture I made after moving to NYC in the fall of 2004.
It's a US one dollar bill made from plastic army toys. I showed it once in Brooklyn and once in Berlin.

the first shows the finished sculpture

the second is a montage of studio footage

Where is it now? >>>FIND OUT<<<

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Developing States/THE JUNKYARD

In the Spring of 2003, just days following the US invasion of Iraq, I began the most ambitious project of my career as an artist. I had been exploring self-portraiture as the focus of my gradschool thesis. I was attending the University of Delaware, in a small, conservative city called Newark. My intent was to create self-portraits that metaphorically described not only me, but everyone else as well. My focus was shared attributes that flow across other barriers in human relations. By creating a portrait of the country itself, I would be encompassing all within it. By default, it was a picture of everyone. The scale would have to be colossal. I needed parts.
I asked around a bit, and was given directions to get to a secret junkyard in the Amish countryside of Pennsylvania. I caught a ride with a second-year Gradstudent who had a truck. We drove for miles through nondescript suburbia, then suddenly, a rurality descended.
A few more hills, and some sharp turns down dirt roads, and a forest filled with automobiles appeared.
The brothers who owned the land had grown up there, and their father had lived their with their grandparents. The first cars had been brought in the 1920's, but those were deeply overgrown with forest brush. In not quite a century, the junkyard had expanded to nearly 20 acres, and included all sorts of amazing things. I would comb it for parts.
The junkyard was like Disneyland with no lines. Every car was filled with more, random objects. There was no telling what you might find. The further you went in, the more expansive it became. Cars were stacked on cars, row after row.
On a beautiful fall or spring day, a whole afternoon could pass in a blink.
I collected the parts I needed based on color. My map was simple. I needed Green, Red, Orange, and Yellow. I would also need a fair amount of blue for lakes.
I took a wheelbarrow, and loaded the truck with useful material.
I piled it in one corner of my studio, making a junkyard of my own.
The logical starting point was Texas.
I made the familiar shape about 5 feet square. It would serve as the key for the rest of the project, so it was important to proportion it correctly. Eventually, it would look like this:
The next state would be New Mexico, and the color would be orange.
I used a dented hood from a rusted Ford Pinto.
Together, the two shapes formed a landmass, tiny, but growing.
Some bits of a bicycle and farm machinery began the first yellow state...
...and Oklahoma was born.
More trips to the junkyard followed....

...and the map continued to grow.
As fast as I could gather parts....
...I would use them.
Gradually, the map began form....
...and the junkyard began to shrink.
In time the distinction between it and my studio became smaller and smaller.
To the casual observer, the two were one in the same.
I myself had trouble at times telling the difference.
By this time I needed some context. I laid out a grid on my studio wall to approximate latitude and longitude.I plodded onwards, working 12 hours a day,
7 days a week.
I chopped things up using a bandsaw or floor shear.I would draw the shapes on the wall in pencil for reference.During this time period I had no other obligations besides making art, and I took full advantage of the luxury.
The junk in my studio ebbed and flowed, moving steadily from the floor to the wall.
The junkyard became nearly devoid of color,
and my studio grew bright.More and more salvage time was spent hunting for new pockets of unexplored terrain.

From time to time I'd discover an amazing sight,
and sometimes I would not.
In my studio, the map began to take on new dimensions.
It became too tall to continue upwards, so I began to work on filling in details.
According to my plan, many levels of information were necessary.
The interstate highways would all be traced with drinking straws, the bendy kind.
Major rivers would be outlined with blue copper wire.
Major cities would be blossoms, resembling lotus flowers,
made from coins, flattened with a metal roller,
and riveted together patiently.
I knew my mission. The rest was simply a matter of keeping a steady pace.
Day after day, more details began to flow.
In time, each state neared completion.
With 52 weeks to work,
and 48 states to make,
I couldn't afford to spend more than 1 week on any one state.
My life in spring 2004 was going to be a blur.
My project blossomed and spread.
I was giving new life to somebody's abandoned friends.
I was turning worthless items into beauty.
Relentlessly I pushed forward.
The clock continued to tick.
I took more trips to the junkyard.
I surged ahead in my studio.
I would spend one day in the East,
and the next in the West.
In time, the entire mass began to fill out.
I studied topography as well as geography, and the hills and valleys are all more or less correct.
The Appalachians are smoothly round, and rise about 24 inches from the wall.
The Rockies are sharp and jagged, sticking out nearly 5 feet.
Sea level is approximately 6 inches.
The cities gleam and beckon.The interstates radiate between them.
Oklahoma City and Tulsa, followed by Albuquerque.During the fall semester of 2003, I completed the entire South.
Next I would slide the top row to the bottom and build the North.The entire sculpture spans a 30 foot wall.