Using repetitious and precise cuts, artist Robbie Rowlands manipulates objects and environments. They are monumental manipulations and demand your attention the moment you see them. He installs his work in abandoned homes, school yards, and gymnasiums,using elements from the space to create his sculptures. Doing so gives the place or object a mind of its own. The walls breathe and the floor is alive.
Writer Simon Cooper wrote about the work in an essay that accompanied Rowlands’ Disintegration exhibition in 2008. Despite the time passed, I find that his analysis is still apt for the artist’s current body of work. Cooper writes:
Rowlands bases his sculptural work on things that exist at the fringes of our awareness, utilitarian objects such as lampposts or desks. He refashions them into something altogether different yet in a way that never allows their original identity to be shed. The mass produced and functional designs are softened and framed in terms of a new aesthetic, giving the object a renewed energy or sensibility. The effect is to reveal hidden potential in what had come to be regarded as outmoded. If the former object is largely unrecognizable in the new sculpture, the process is not one of violence, rather there is a sense of redemption, as if the object has been liberated from obsolescence, from forgetfulness.
Rowlands repurposing gives us the opportunity to remember the thing or place, but place it in an entirely new context. Sometimes, the way something is cut and later posed feels like a cartoon. Take, for instance, the basketball hoop that has been cut. Seeing this hoop laying on the ground, like a turtle on it’s back, is simultaneously comical and sad. We’re reminded that while it has no practical use anymore, it didn’t before it was manipulated. Rowlands has saved it from total obscurity.
John Grade’s Capacitor is a site-specific installation which reacts to the climate of the site it inhabits. Located within the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, this enormous coil is roughly 40′ x 20′ x 20′ and slowly reacts to the changing wind directions and temperatures of the outside environment. Physically behaving according to statistics collected outside the institution, a mechanized controller within the installation powers the enormous coil’s shape. According to Grade, “the whole of the sculpture will appear to be very slowly breathing”. Capacitor also changes the brightness of the lights within the construct, giving an entire reaction to outside elements. (contemporist and artist’s site)
The work of architect and designer Sophia Chang, Suspense is a site-specific installation that blends the inner and outer environments of a gallery space. A recent graduate with distinction at Harvard Graduate School of Design, Chang created Suspense at Invivia Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
By pulling large sheets of Lycra between rectangular frames, her work creates an interactive, suspended environment which both blurs yet highlights the building’s pre-existing architectural features. Some rooms are completely explorable, while others remain visible yet restricted by the installation. Says Chang, “The whole piece holds itself in shape under the tensile forces of being stretched without any extra pneumatic input – except perhaps the breeze flowing in and out of the two doors!” (via designboom)
Alex Chinneck is a London-based artist and designer, recently responsible for an installation that cleverly combines both disciplines. In Margate, a tiny town in Kent, England, a dilapidated home in the Cliftoncille district which had laid in ruins for months has been transformed. By remodeling the brick exterior and exposing the building’s top floor, Chinneck has altered the facade of the building to look as though it has become a single sheet and slid from the rest of the house.
Playfully titled From the knees of my nose to the belly of my toe, Chinneck extends his experimentation for surreal constructions and alterations of ordinary buildings (past projects include 312 identically smashed windows near the Olympic Stadium, and a melting brick wall). In an interview with Dezeen, Chinneck stated “I just feel this incredible desire to create spectacles, I wanted to create something that used the simple pleasures of humour, illusion and theatre to create an artwork that can be understood and enjoyed by any onlooker.“
Chinneck goes on to state some intentions of the piece, though admits they mostly have come after the piece’s construction. “It has social issues, it struggles with high levels of crime and the grand architecture has fallen into a fairly fatigued state,” says Chinneck, “I increasingly like that idea of exposing the truth and the notion of superficiality,” he explained. “I didn’t go into the project with that idea, but as it evolved I started to like that.”
From the knees of my nose to the belly of my toe can be seen at 1 Godwin Road, Cliftonville, Margate UK, until October 2014, when it will again be turned into residential housing.
Chinese architect Ye Chang‘s Kong Shanshui/Empty Shanshui is a naturally transforming installation consisting of over 10,000 petri dishes. Part of the “Pavilion of China – Architecture China 2013” exhibition, which recently opened at the Palacio Quintanar in the Segovia, Spain, the piece has a unique, changing quality. The base of the installation consists of layers of white stones which fill the ancient palace’s courtyard, echoing peaceful, meditative gardens. On top of the stones are piles or gatherings of petri dishes, some ten thousand in total, stacked in various forms, resembling miniature hills, mountains and rock formations.
According to Sue Wang at Cafa Art Info, the installation transforms at different stages of the day, citing firsthand that, “…there is dew in the petri dishes in the morning; light is gentle in the morning and the glass is transparent; when there is direct sunlight at noon, the installation is entirely placed in the sun, strongly reflecting, which is in contrast to the dry surrounding environment, making people feel cool; the setting sun is blocked by the house in the evening, so the glass reflects the light from the sky, seen as backlit, it looks like the scales of a huge creature stranded on the beach, with rich tones; the whole glass hills is self-luminous at night, producing a transition effect changing from semi darkness to darkness.” This daily, natural transformation of the installation not only is a quickly-viewable message of transition, but it’s meditative qualities also call to attention how both art and architecture can effect a viewer’s ability to feel at peace in a home, garden or museum experience. (via myampgoesto11 and CAFA Art Info)
Kumi Yamashita’s work is nothing without light and shadow. By subtly manipulating materials such as paper, fabric and wood, she uses strategic lighting to create shadow art installations. Yamashita focuses on the human figure and proves that an attention to detail make all the difference. She makes tiny cuts to paper and carefully drapes fabric. Coupled with a careful consideration of folding and lighting, these pieces are a feat of engineering. A minimal amount of material creates a narrative with a range of emotions. Yamashita writes about her work, stating:
I sculpt using light and shadow. I construct single or multiple objects and place them in relation to a single light source. The complete artwork is therefore comprised of both the material (the solid objects) and the immaterial (the light or shadow).
Veil (directly above) is one of Yamashita’s newest works. This piece uses fabric, light and shadow to depict a female figure laying down. Looking at it, with the spotlight shines perfectly on a sheet of fabric. It feels like we’re looking at a ghost, but it isn’t unnerving or spooky. Instead, it feels sensual, like we are the voyeur to a private time; It’s a memory. Environment, in this case, is also important to the piece. Installed on a pedestal and devoid of adjacent works, it is isolated, making it feel even more like a moment in time.
Yamashita is an engineer, creating incredible forms that are realistically rendered. They aren’t blocky or awkwardly composed; her silhouettes are very fluid. At different vantage points, you wouldn’t think that a seated figure came from a sheet of paper. But once you do, it instantly elevates her shadows. The amount of craft put in each installation is inspired.
Tokujin Yoshioka is one of the more famous contemporary artists today, even if his website’s bio modestly (or jokingly) claims “His works, which transcend the boundaries of product design, architecture, and exhibition installation, are highly evaluated also as art.” His current career retrospective at Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo is titled Tokujin Yoshioka_Crystallize, a play on both the artist’s tendency to utilize both light and crystals in his work, as well as the idea of the alternate definition of crystallizing, meaning to give form to.
The exhibition, which is Yoshioka’s largest solo show to date, consists of well-known and previously un-shown pieces, though certainly centers around the immersive sculptural installation, Rainbow Church (pictured above). The installation is forty feet tall and consists of 500 light-refracting crystal prisms which project rainbow hues in the gallery space.
In a description of the piece for Fast Company, Margaret Rhodes describes the work, “The spare aesthetic doesn’t make it easily apparent, but Rainbow Church is influenced by an experience from his early 20s, when he visited Henri Matisse’s Rosaire Chapel in Vence, France. “I had a mysterious experience of being filled with overwhelming light and vibrant colors,” the artist says in a press release. “A dream to build architecture like this chapel came up to me strongly.” In a departure from the tangible materials he’s used in the past–foil for chairs, feathers for a snow-themed art installation–he’s building with light, the most ephemeral material of all.”
Other works also utilize the ethereal qualities of refraction, such as Ray of Light (below) also emits a rainbow glow, this time via a transparent crystal structure. The gallery walls are again activated by the light, as the gallery space is changed by the sculpture itself. (via designboom and fast company design)
Manal Al Dowayan is a Saudi Arabian contemporary art photographer based in London, Dubai and her native land of Saudi. The basis of her work is black-and-white photography, however she recently introduced more layers to her work by working on sculpture and installations .
Suspended Together, first displayed on the 54th Venice Biennale’s The Future of Promise exhibition is comprised of 200 fiberglass doves that hang from the ceiling by transparent nylon thread. Each of these doves are imprinted with images of written postcards and stamps.
The piece is visually striking and it evokes an interesting set of complex emotions and ideas that challenge the spectator’s view on Saudi women and their initiatives and downfalls to find freedom. At first glance, Suspended Together gives the impression of movement and freedom, however, a closer look, leaves the spectator looking at doves that are static in movement, suspended in flight. Manal tells Nafas Magazine that the written text and images imprinted in the doves are real “permission documents issued by an appointed guardian when they [women, in this case successful professionals] have to travel [get surgery, or any type of important procedure]” ; women in Saudi are not able to conduct themselves freely, and although reforms to improve the visibility and freedom of women look promising, they don’t seem to pass through King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia’s leader. This struggle is visually present in Manal’s work, as she successfully implements imagery that illustrates the contradiction of many important women that found success in their profession [the dove], yet find themselves suspended in flight, as they try to find their way to do the small tasks of everyday life with volition and freedom from their ‘guardians’.