Surface Relations

A formative experience for me came in 1978 when, at the outset of a two-year period working for the British sculptor Anthony Caro, I assisted in a unique creative endeavor: the on-site creation of a major museum commission at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The process took place over several months and involved setting up a working studio space in architect I.M. Pei’s nearly finished East Wing of the museum. The sculpture was built in place in a large niche well above a wide doorway, intended to be viewed from numerous vantage points above and below within the towering atrium space that was the centerpiece of Pei’s building. The site-specific piece evolved and changed amid an intimate, ongoing studio discussion that yielded a series of dramatic changes.

My sensitivity to the specificity of site was formed in the experience of assisting on this commission. As I began to exhibit my sculpture three years later, each exhibition installation became an intense learning process of adapting and adjusting to a site, refining the placement of each sculptural object within the total space, treating the process as a complex, interdependent puzzle with its own demands of flow and sequence. This learning process, in turn, led me directly to a large series of sculptures in the 1980s and ‘90s, first in aluminum and later in wood, that used both the wall and the floor as support. The pieces creating a focused 180° experience that emphasized side and three-quarter views, explicitly focusing attention on gravity and support as they incorporated the surrounding architectural space of the wall and the floor. Engagement with a viewer’s likely movement---and therefore the viewer’s experience over the passage of time---increasingly came to inform my sense of a three-dimensional experience. Subsequent free-standing pieces in the series, such as Black Pool, exclusively address the plane of the floor by implying an ambiguous “below”, deploying a dark, reflective layer of Plexiglas to destabilize a viewer’s sense of solid ground.

left:   Bull Durham  , 1986. h. 74" x w. 23" x d. 52 1/2". Stained wood.  right:  Filles de Kilimanjaro  , 1985  h. 116" x w.22" x d. 44 1/2"  Wood  
  
   
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left: Bull Durham, 1986. h. 74" x w. 23" x d. 52 1/2". Stained wood.

right:Filles de Kilimanjaro, 1985  h. 116" x w.22" x d. 44 1/2"  Wood

 
Black Pool , 1996-99  h. 31" x w. 96" x d. 228"  Wood, steel, iron, stainless steel, cement, plexiglas

Black Pool, 1996-99  h. 31" x w. 96" x d. 228"  Wood, steel, iron, stainless steel, cement, plexiglas

Avenue to Orange , 1988   h. 51 3/4" x w. 54" x d. 55 1/2"  Wood, steel, stainless steel

Avenue to Orange, 1988   h. 51 3/4" x w. 54" x d. 55 1/2"  Wood, steel, stainless steel

Black Pool , 1996-99  h. 31" x w. 96" x d. 228"  Wood, steel, iron, stainless steel, cement, plexiglas

Black Pool, 1996-99  h. 31" x w. 96" x d. 228"  Wood, steel, iron, stainless steel, cement, plexiglas