Monday, January 10, 2011

Material and Conceptual Investigations_Theory_1

Time and Space... Do Ho Suh and Magdalena Abakanowicz

I looked into Cornelia Parker, and Anniken Amundsen - mainly because of their uses of time and space. I said Parker's work had a sort of outerwordliness, whilst Anniken Amundsen presented a very innerwordliness in her work. I have now meandered throught the whole list, and found just so many different approaches by artists to this theme.

If you look at Do Ho Suh's use of space and representations of everyday life and times in his works, you get a great sense of upliftment, flight... pleasant memories of time past perhaps, especially if you look at the works he did of his home from his childhood (father's house).

This short essay discusses the work of Do Ho Suh and Magdalena Abakanowicz. Because of the diversity of talent in the recommended list of artists, I found referencing the the artists by Subject, Elements, Method and Intent a way of explaining why they were interesting to me.

Do Ho Suh creates life size replicas of functional domestic spaces. Specifically, he recreates his childhood home and his New York apartment – as isolated, diaphanous, suspended, multi-coloured living spaces, which overshadow the viewer. There is a great sense of reflection in the use of fabrics, especially noticeable in Gate (1995) and Staircase (2003/2004/2008). Accurate measurements were taken by Suh to create the patterns for each piece, which were then cut out from Nylon or Polyester and sewn together in Korea. Each form is constructed over a stainless steel structure. Suh puts is choice of material down to the fact that he is able to fold the structures in his suitcase and travel without carrying too much. Even that experience feels transient to me.

If you look at Suh's use of space and representations of everyday life, relationships and time in his works, you feel a great sense of tradition and nostalgia, memories of times past, of identity and an emotion of not quite belonging... even in his New York apartment series.

He talks about his leaving 'home', moving to New York and how these places play different (and sometimes conflicting) roles in his life as an adult and artist. Initially he noticed he felt "a longing for this particular space [Seoul]" but that “once you leave your home. it's quite an unsettling experience, because you feel like you don't belong anywhere". - this is most apparent in his use of elevated structures made of the fragile transparent materials on a very thin, yet strong, steel frame.

In Staircase (2003/2004/2008) I felt a great sense of process and relationship over time, which interested my in my ideas of Time and Space.

This piece has a history of its own – one which tells you about Suh's interactions with the people around him, as well as the spaces he inhabits.
It is based on a staircase and floor in Suh's landlord's apartment. After six years of living in the same space and revealing their common interest in art, Suh was only then comfortable in asking permission to measure the space. Extending his process into another person's living area was a new experience for Suh, who refers to the work as "a spacial manifestation of the human relationship and of the ambiguous boundaries between personal and public space."

Image 2 - Staircase – V, 2003/04/08. Polyester and stainless steel tubes
Courtesy of David Winton Bell Gallery

In contrast, Magdalena Abakanowicz's subject is 'the countless' – the quantity where counting no longer makes sense. By unrepeatability within such quantity of crowds: human and natural - a riddle of nature abhorrent to exact repetition or inability to produce it, just as a human hand can not repeat its own gesture." - To me, there is a representation of the idea of strength in numbers, group mentality vs. individualism or the notion of the shared experience..

Like Suh's work, Abakanowicz creates life size structures, but chooses to represent human body and organic forms, which are natural and express individuality.
Grounded flocks and crowds, singular free standing seated headless or shrouded figures, leave you with a sense of oppression and liberation - a contradictory participation - as if Abakanowicz is expressing personal experiences vs. historical dictation.

Adult figures and childlike figures – headless or shrouded – stand outwards, or away from the viewer encouraging you to ask the piece's story, but from a distance. As in Coexistence, Abakanowicz's figures have a natural texture, similar to that of bark or weathered skin, with enough human detail to distinguish the form's approximate age and gender.

Materials Abakanowicz use s in her works, such as Coexistence (2002) add to this sense of oppression – burlap, resins sculpted onto a larger than life human form. Organic, with the imprint of the artist's fingers. The lighting of her works, as with Suh's work is important; it gives you a sense of grounded experience and solidarity of form of the crowd moving as one.

These works interest me because they represent Abakanowiczs' memories of existing in a Communist regime which repressed individually, creativity and intellect in favor of the collective interest. As with the Abakan series, which were individually powerful pieces, the figurative sculptures lost their individuality in favour of multiplicity – however each sculpture, material treatment and story reminds me that this is an intensely individual experience. Perception and memory vs reality.

Images from the Abakanowicz official website:

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