Within and Beyond
Within & Beyond
Jonathan Borofsky, Sophie Calle, Ann Hamilton, Vija Celmins, Richard Diebenkorn, Frank Gehry, Philip Guston, Bruce Nauman, Robert Rauschenberg, Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra, and Frank Stella
September 14 – October 26, 2013
In looking at the work of these various artists, Within & Beyond explores our fascination with delving into the underlying nature of things in an attempt to know something beyond ourselves and connect with the world around us.
In The Address Book, writer/artist Sophie Calle indirectly examines the life of an unknown Frenchman who lost his private journal on the streets of Paris. After copying the pages and returning the book anonymously to its owner, Calle then met with the individuals listed within the book to piece together the life of its owner, “Pierre D.” The twenty-eight prints in the project show the artist’s written accounts together with photographs that detail her search to discover the hidden life of Pierre. Suspended somewhere between fact and fiction, Calle’s accounts explore the unfixed nature of identity and our fascination with knowing the private details of others’ lives.
Like Calle, American artist Ann Hamilton also seeks to get at deeper layers of understanding, but Hamilton seeks to reveal our experience of the world based on sensory perception. Best known for her large-scale, site-specific installations, Hamilton also creates small-scale objects and prints that continue her exploration into perception of the spaces of the body. Her quiet sculpture, shell, offers an oversized white felt coat, draping simply from its hanger. A reference to Joseph Beuys’ Felt Suit from 1970, shell was originally inspired by a fashion photo, yet its humble form also suggests an exterior layer, worn as protection from both the elements and perhaps society’s criticisms as well. Hamilton’s cast-steel and rusted spoons reach #6 and #7 are also included in the exhibition, recalling spindly objects or outstretched arms. Displayed in cases like relics from another time, reach #6 and #7 grasp out in a gesture to capture or contain, yet this act can never be accomplished, as the rusted-out centers of the spoon spill and scatter their intended contents.
Best known for his large-scale Hammering Men sculptures in collections around the world, American artist Jonathan Borofsky has worked with stark profiles of the human figure for several decades. The artist’s lithograph Male/Female presents another series for exploration, with male and female forms presented in profile during mid-stride, one superimposed over the other. At the nexus of the two forms, the viewer sees an interconnected winding of ribbons and linear forms, more lyrical than biological. Borofsky’s image of the sexes in unified form would later serve as the underlying concept for a major public art project for the City of Baltimore’s train station.
Within & Beyond also includes etchings and lithographs of Pritzker-prize winning architect Frank Gehry. Celebrated for projects such as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles, and the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany, Gehry’s structures reveal his play with shapes, love of curving forms, and use of non-traditional material, such as chain-link fencing and corrugated metal. The architect transformed some of the concept sketches for the IAC Headquarters in New York and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao into the etchings and lithographs featured in the exhibition.
Latvian-American artist Vija Celmins creates incredibly realistic images of the intricate patterns that underlie the natural world, such as sea wave, stars in the sky, and spider webs. Working from photographs and photo-based imagery, Celmins masks an area and reproduces the picture with a delicate mark making ability that captures even the most minute of details. An accomplished print making for more than fifty years, Celmins’ Night Sky 3 and Untitled (Web 4) demonstrate the artist’s expertise with drypoint and photogravure.
Robert Rauschenberg's large-scale color lithographs also take imagery and photos from everyday experience, but Rauschenberg combines the disparate imagery to reflect the commonplace of the world around us. His early sculptural assemblages or “combines” from the 1960s included every type of material possible, including pillows, clippings, and parts from taxidermy animals in stream-of-consciousness-like tableaus. Rauschenberg’s prints also embody a free association of imagery from a variety of unconnected sources. In his lithograph Fence, Rauschenberg divides the compositions into zones: in the upper area, a simple male figure in profile floats over an interior shot of an everyday office, and a pedestrian “WALK” sign separates the upper and lower areas of the piece. A sale sign in all capital letters is superimposed to repeat the letters and the visual impact of the message. Combined with a floating image of the American flag draped around a clock, all the seemingly dissimilar images suggest zones of the private and the public, commercial and personal. While the sum of images is not an equation that can be solved, its parts bring together associations for possible interpretation.
Recognized since the 1970s as one of the most provocative artists of his generation, Bruce Nauman’s video and sculptural installations look at the underlying meaning found within everyday speech and interaction. Nauman’s love of wordplay and meaning seen in his well-known neon signs also carries into the realm of common gestures, as seen within the pieces from his “Fingers and Holes” series. Nauman’s Untitled monoprint shows a circle of paired hands, with the left and right hands joined at each wrist and their fingers pointing outwards to the adjacent hands. Based on an etching that Nauman made of his own hands in which he drew his left hand with his right hand and then drew his right hand with his left, the fingers connect together like child’s play and/or appear to form words of sign language. But as the viewer looks more closely at the gestures, they recall a crude visual joke that suggests sexual activity. Related to the artist’s neon work (Human Sexual Experience from 1985) Untitled considers how a seemingly simple gesture can also serve as an entry to reveal underlying meanings and systems of communication.
California-based artist Ed Ruscha’s Listen If You Ever Tell… provides some humor for the exhibition. Under the mysterious areas of cut paper sections, the full text is revealed below: “Listen if you ever tell I’ll hurt your mama real bad this no joke I’m after you punk.” Unlike the artist’s paintings in which words hold a central place of significance, Listen…features his “censor strips” in place of the words where he has redacted them from the message. Even in the suggested absence of the words, the message in text below reveals the artist’s love of wordplay and suggested meaning.
In his series of lithographs, New York School artist Philip Guston features much of the same imagery of piled up legs, extended arms, hooded figures, trashcan lids, and soles of shoes that animated his painting after he left Abstract Expressionism in the 1960s. Sea Group displays more of the artist’s brooding comic-book like images, as one-eye tentacle forms writhe from the sea onto a sloped shore.
Other artists exhibited in the exhibition delve into perception of fields of material form and space. As Richard Serra’s large-scale installations with sheets of Cor-ten steel surround the viewer with massive visual planes of form, space plays an important role within our experience. As he explains, “I consider space to be a material. The articulation of space has come to take precedence over other concerns. I attempt to use sculptural form to make space distinct.” Serra’s etchings show a lighter, more playful side to the sculptor’s work, as Junction #1 and #10 consider the seemingly curvilinear forms presented in his most challenging metal sculptures to date. The Bight series of gravures survey the possibility of form, as their lines curl and wind around in countless variations.
Frank Stella’s Black Series II of lithographs works with the compositional forms of the artist’s diamond-patterned Black Paintings from the late 1950s. Stella even gave them the same titles as the paintings on which they are based, such as Zambesi, Gezira, Dephine, and Hippolyte. Although similar to the paintings, the prints differ in their quality of detail, as the well-defined lines of the lithographs have an intensity when compared with the looser quality of the paintings. All of the forms are placed off-center in the bottom left of each print, creating an asymmetry of the overall composition.
Rounding out the exhibition are the lithographs of Richard Diebenkorn, whose prints freed the painter to experimentation with imagery and technique. Diebenkorn returned to printmaking at different points throughout his career. Untitled #3 contains the same banded fields and elongated geometric forms across the picture plane found with the artist’s Ocean Park paintings, yet his edition works feature much more subdued fields of grey that seem less distinct, blending into one another as they stretch across the surface.