Archive for the ‘architecture’ Category

Studio process

Studio process
Studio process

Parts for new sculpture and irl Mirror Chain coming off the cnc table. Metal chains are bent or welded to make closed-loop links; I’ve neither option with mirror sheet. Instead I went for a simple design with two alternating types of links: One link is a closed loop, and one link has a gap that slots to build up the chain. It’s funny how ideas emerge — the resulting chains have a binary pattern rhythm, a more interesting variety of views as one walks around them, and overall a different feel than conventional links would provide. Next solo show is sculpture, opens in October. Next architectural digital work is TBD, and whilst I grapple with its seeming impossibilities, who knew that the exploratory convos and doors they’re opening would be so much fun.

On making art and serendipity

In 2007 I lived in a creaky high-ceilinged apartment Aalst, Belgium, a storage closet in South London, and an artist-modified double-wide trailer on a former WWII Air Force base in Nevada (plenty of stories there)—all by June of that year. And I still had an awkward five-month gap to go before I’d be relocating to the Netherlands for a two-year research and production residency at the Jan Van Eyck in Maastricht. By happenstance, I ended up in the parlor of an apartment in Midtown Sacramento, the first and only time I’ve lived in that sleepy, leafy city.

One afternoon early that July, I surfed Craigslist and saw a peculiar listing: Someone announced that they’d just rented a 20,000 sq ft warehouse and wanted to give artists free studio space. To me, this was the stuff of dreams and it sounded way too good to be real, but I figured I’d better investigate. The next day I found myself in a cavernous former auto body shop—totally empty except for a skateboard—meeting this incredibly generous and thoroughly professional fellow with an unconventional vision named Jesse Powell, who would later go on to found Kraken. He gave me a set of keys and I worked there on and off for the next five months. These were the very early days of his new contemporary art endeavor, which would gradually cohere to become Verge, and long before its official artist residency program would kick off. I was pretty much the first serious inquiry to the listing, and almost always alone as I worked in that gigantic raw space next to the train tracks on V Street, like some oddball art ghost. Which suited me, it was too early in my evolution to be any more visible. I made four large prototype sculptures and photographed them there against a wall they kindly let me paint white, along with a handful of smaller works, which enabled me to land a museum commission for one of those big pieces in the NL the following fall, a show in Miami that December, and much more.

My subsequent move to Maastricht was a total life upheaval and I promptly lost track of Jesse, the team, and activities at Verge, but I’ll be forever grateful to Jesse for his astonishing generosity, thoughtful support, and all the good that his work via Verge has made possible for artists. And I’ll always marvel at such unbelievable luck—how is it that the only time I ever lived in Sacramento happened to exactly align with the utterly unusual inception of Sacramento’s first contemporary art residency space, among other questions—though I no longer subscribe to chance, as it has been but one of many marvelous serendipities on my path.

Below are a few never-before-seen-anywhere process snapshots from those days—showing work in progress on my first prototype for the sculpture that would the next year become Settlers House at the Bonnefantenmuseum. A few early Reclamation dimension images are up on the wall, and the ever-present stereo sits atop a concrete column mold. Laser-focused on the tasks at hand, I never thought to step back and photograph the sprawling, dimly lit warehouse itself. At that stage, the main Verge space had zero climate control, and Sacramento gets stupidly hot, so the 4’ diameter fan by the back door kept the heatstroke at bay.

Studio process
Studio process
Studio process

On making art and subtle hearts

A house made of air and distance and echoes

In 2015, I spent some weeks in Northern California to install A house made of air and distance and echoes. Of the people I saw Frank stood out—he couldn’t help but stand out as a giant slab of a man, a cross between a farmer and gargoyle but asymmetrical, perennially lilting starboard. He did handyman work around my dad’s rural home, and lived to rope you into one-sided conversations about his days as a sheriff in Mexico, each story more eye-popping than the prior. The last time I saw him was at a Thanksgiving dinner the following year, when he stood framed in a doorway, carefully combed, beaming, fully prepared to engage the chat functions, and I was overcome by a strange sadness that made no sense. Months later, out of nowhere he was diagnosed with an advanced, inoperable cancer. I’ve never before or since met a man whose heart so overflowed with love for his son as Frank’s did. Wherever his conversations rambled, they invariably set once again on Brandon—who was shy and loved computers—in the most pure and genuine way, so much so that it would be impossible to mention Frank without this gift that’s never faded. The old yogic systems link the heart with the element of air, and it feels as if I’ve been gently led by those whose paths have crossed with mine to consider that all the love we’ll ever breathe is here, every bit as light and easy to overlook as air.

Already fluent in stories, Frank was not a bookish or artish type. One afternoon I described the sculpture I was making—that it would be constructed from plywood and covered with printed vinyl giving it the appearance of shadowy stone, that it would be sited on a 35-acre abandoned airfield, and that I would photograph it like the ghost of a building under conditions of dense fog. Without missing a beat he replied, “Ah, like Christo,” and recalled his memories of Running Fence by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, an environmental sculpture that skirted the hills of Sonoma and Marin like a ghostly wave for 24 continuous miles before dipping into the Pacific Ocean. Though over four years in the making, the monumental work persisted for just short two weeks in 1976 and vanished from sight. In fact, almost always when I spoke about my sculpture with anyone in Northern California above the age of fifty, they mentioned the Running Fence, so vividly had that artwork woven itself into the landscape of time and memory.

The title of the sculpture A house made of air and distance and echoes comes from a line in Cesar Aira’s slim novel Ghosts, in which a crew of construction workers live inside the very apartment building they’ve been tasked with constructing, squatting with their families and a slew of ghosts who lounge in the nude. I love Aira’s digressions, which are really the entirety of his work, here probing a dream and there crafting a delicate, provisional architecture of dusk, like some conjurer of consciousness itself. With each brownian turn yet more of these delicious reverbs and echoes drift forward, such that his pages tickle open the book of my own life and more than a few of its meandering, harmonic threads, as a favorite does. And it gets me thinking about the many ways we’ve always grasped at metaphors for the virtual, insubstantial, and subtle with which we coexist.

‘Inverted Dome’ publication now available in the New Laconic shop

Inverted Dome spread
Text by Chris Fite-Wassilak in Inverted Dome

A lil peek inside Inverted Dome, which is now available for purchase in the New Laconic shop.

Bookish moments and a dream team

Bindery and book notes

It’s been so fun to work on the experimental exhibition catalog for Inverted Dome, and what a dream team. With all sorts of confusion on how to approach the cover, one afternoon I called Charlene Matthews — also known as The Binderess, bookbinder for the greats and exceptional book artist in her own right — and she invited me by her studio, pictured above. It’s a cabinet of curiosities every bit as fascinating as she. I went over the ideas and problems, two minutes later she had the perfect solution and we were testing away.

That’s one moment of many (others involved me being very puzzled with a laminator). I’m grateful to Salome Schmuki for her impeccable design, Michael Ned Holte and Chris Fite-Wassilak for their insightful texts and reflections, the inimitable curator Aurora Tang for her guidance and vision, and to all you, in deep-calls-to-deep fashion, for supporting the way as you do. The Inverted Dome catalog is available for purchase here, and I’ll be sharing a bit more about it soon.