The installations of Finnish artist Kaarina Kaikkonen are surreally familiar. Her work seems to take the familiar domestic scene of clothes drying on the line to its wonderfully illogical end. It’s easy to get lost day dreaming about the many people that once filled the second-hand clothing. For Kaikkonen, this exercise and her work are intensely personal – her father died in front of her when she was young and the installation became a way of processing her emotions. Indeed, the clothing acts as a kind of physical manifestation of memories for Kaikkonen – sort of the only vestige of a body that otherwise only exists in the mind.
In her upcoming exhibit at Ambach & Rice, artist Ellen Lesperance intently and painstakingly reconstructs the sweaters of feminism’s heroines. Hand drawn and hand knit, the installation serves to attach these women’s politcal ideals and activism to their personal identity. Lesperance lovingly presents the objects nearly as if they were relics. Indeed, throughout the exhibit Lesperance alludes to ancient heroines in connection with these modern ones. In that light, the sweaters become a sort of “soft armor” in a struggle that extends from ancient female warriors to today’s feminist activists. Appropriately, the title of Lesperance’s exhibit is It’s Never Over.
The work of Stéphane Vigny is often humorous in its subversiveness. Vigny often undermines the purpose of objects to create amusing but thought provoking new ‘purposes’ (like a BMW turned into playground equipment). Other times Vigny alters objects in a way that make them profoundly useless (such as a chair on wheels the size of the room it sits in). Commodities and inanimate objects are typically entirely defined by their purpose, what they do. Vigny’s installations, though, force viewers to set aside their expectations and approach the familiar in a new way.
Korean artist JeongMoon Choi uses surprisingly simple materials to create installations that appear to be pulled off the computer screen. Simply using thread and UV lights JeongMoon illuminates complex geometric patterns. The arranged thread patterns glow against the dark space at times resembling three dimensional plans. Her installations explore the gallery space, both literally and conceptually. Glowing angles bounce off walls and ceilings emphasizing an architectural space that typically tries to not attract notice.
The series of work from Polish artist Jan Manski is aptly titled Onania – an archaic term for masturbation. The life-sized installations focus on ideas of vanity and hedonism. Dominated by a fleshy shade of pink, Manski seems to ambiguously address a cultural obsession with pleasure while neither condemning nor condoning it. Manski contrasts materials such as fat, leather, bones and fur with surgical steel, enamel, clothing, and cosmetics. Onania manages to repulse and be aesthetically pleasing - mesmerizing like a botched medical procedure.
Artist Angie Hiesl‘s site specific pieces blend installation and performance. Her X-Times People Chair series elevates senior citizens to traffic-stopping heights. Hiesl installs a steel chair on the fascades of buildings about ten to twenty feet off the ground. Performers typically between sixty and seventy years old perch themselves on the chair. The perching senior citizens perform mundane daily routines such as reading the paper or folding clothes for the duration of the perfomance.
It is difficult to define the Lightwork series of Conrad Shawcross – sculpture, installation, perhaps even performance. His pieces are typically large machines that move and spin bright lights in a manner that is somehow at once mechanistic and human. The sculptures are built of elaborate machinery similar in appearance to factory robots. However, in a way Shawcross juxtaposes the utilitarian appearance of his machines with their art-making purpose.
He says, “I really like them as unfinished objects. The minute they turn, you are left in a much easier position of ‘ok, that’s about a spinning light bulb’. But before they operate, you have to be more aggressively thoughtful to try and work out what they are for.” (via)
Calling the work of Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde ‘enigmatic’ is nearly an understatement. He creates real clouds indoors which only last for a moment – just long enough to be photographed. Carefully controlling a space’s humidity and temperature coupled with a quick burst from a fog machine, Smilde is able to make a cloud materialize which soon disappears. The work, not quite a sculpture or installation, is only made more impressive by its temporality. Smilde, in this way, is able to emphasize the potential of otherwise forgettable spaces.