Building Structures is a group exhibition of local and international artists who re-stage the context and usage of architectural techniques and appropriate its principles. While some artists fabricate new manifestations of space and urban planning, others re-adapt and merge the concepts, ideas, and language of architecture with more formal concerns and innovative reconfigurations of sculptural forms. The artists employ a wide range of resources, including fabric, wood, cardboard, plastic, plywood, plaster, and pre-fabricated materials. Artists include Francis Cape, Nathan Carter, Wade Guyton, Rachel Harrison, Ian Kiaer, Ross Knight, Rita Mcbride, Patrick Meagher, Manfred Pernice John Powers, Karlis Rekevics, Lara Schnitger, Chris Hanson and Hendrika Sonnenberg, Shirley Tse, and Lawrence Weiner.
Francis Cape, trained as a wood carver in England, quotes memory, history, and surface through a vernacular of domestic furniture and traditional architectural styles. His sculptures—near-replicas of cabinets and closets—are finely finished with several coats of monochromatic paint. Almost invisible in their unassuming practicality, these sublime examples of "non-furniture" create an illusion of function: hinges are fastened to his cabinets, and then sealed shut.
In Nathan Carter's Crash Bang Boom. We Land Direct at Barbican (2002), three-dimensional abstractions of graphic diagrams and signage in vibrant colors form an architectural context for an urban infrastructure. The interplay of large- and small-scale abstracted vehicles, communication towers, and billboards, combined with large red arrows pointing in various directions, suggests a feeling of imminent dynamic movement temporarily frozen in time. Crash Bang Boom. We Land Direct at Barbican juxtaposes materials, shapes, colors, and sensibilities commonly found in children's toys to suggest advanced plans of an elevated highway.
Wade Guyton's imposing sculptures reinterpret Minimalist forms in architecture and design. These architectonic structures adjust the use of industrial materials. For Fragment of Sculpture the Size of a House (Black Plywood) (2002), Guyton forms a three dimensional tent-like silhouette from black plywood. Referencing "negative space," this artwork asserts that traditional architectural materials can reanimate and define an environment.
Rachel Harrison's mixed media constructions place photographic and digital imagery in sculptural frameworks. Harrison's sculptures, which create a playful relationship between object and image, utilize impoverished building materials, such as Styrofoam and plywood. In Sphinx (2002), propped drywall obscures a "pedestal" topped by Harrison's version of the ancient Sphinx. The grotesque, humorous, and confrontational sculpture juxtaposes the art historian/television personality Sister Wendy, whose image hangs on this dislocated gallery wall, and Harrison's interpretation of the Sphinx.
New York-based artists Chris Hanson and Hendrika Sonnenberg have collaborated since 1987. Employing humor and satire, their constructions challenge the traditional functionality of materials. In Soap Box (4) (1999), Hanson and Sonnenberg fabricate typical sturdy packing containers from Styrofoam rather than a strong and supportive material, subverting their function as weight-bearing objects.
Ian Kiaer, interested in idyllic architecture, uses various elements of sculpture and painting in his delicate constructions. Kiaer's works often reference the interaction between the external world and obscure idealistic historical figures or movements. Kaymakli (2000-2002) is based on an early Christian monastery carved directly from the rock in Cappadoccia, Turkey. The artist challenges the permanence and architectural weight of the holy site by using a plastic bag and hand-cut cardboard to represent the mountain and the housing structures that lie within it. Ross Knight's lyrical constructions combine aluminum tubing, Velcro, and vinyl sheeting to recall Minimalist sensibilities. His hand-cut sculptures result in an aesthetic that appears industrially produced. In his portable and lightweight altered ready-mades, Knight assigns the practical uses of iron, steel, and concrete to plastic and aluminum.
The American artist Rita McBride employs non-traditional industrial materials from mass production and urban landscapes in her monumental sculptures and installations. Informed by Minimalist tradition, the artist creates simple forms that often appear displaced in institutional environments. McBride reflects on the impermanent and unstable aspects of our daily situations, fabricating objects that re-contextualize the familiar. In Awning (2002), McBride recreates an inconspicuous and ordinary shelter by altering its scale and erasing its functionality. For Machine #5 (Roni) (2001), McBride casts a video game arcade with industrial enamel paint, reducing it to its most simplified form.
New York-based artist Patrick Meagher's installation that other modern world (2000—2002), which references architecture and modern social structures, is a collection of individual sculptures made from expanded bead-Styrofoam. Consisting of small lithe objects and models within an architectural wall piece framed by a "soffit-balustrade" lintel and internal lighting, the sculpture's inclusion of iconographic components of varying scale provides a sense of shifting space. The EPS aggregate foam material, also utilized as a wall treatment to insulate and muffle sound, is stacked as a "battery" of static electricity. Recalling the felt and fronds of Joseph Beuys, the artist presents EPS aggregate foam as the quintessential modern material. Set in a landscape of spatial lines, Meagher's triptych of drawings, personal decade (2002), reference his past bodies of work through imaginary annual icons. The sculptures, models and installations of Berlin-based artist Manfred Pernice are informed by banal architectural structures that populate our contemporary landscape. Pernice transforms basic architectural forms into sculpture using inexpensive building materials such as untreated wood and often attaches newspaper clippings and photographic reproductions to the work's surface. The artist intentionally avoids a decorative or refined surface by revealing process in his objects.
New York-based artist John Powers constructs sculptures with a single repeated module: wooden blocks cut to various sizes in the strict proportion of one by two by three. Key (2000) is constructed in accordance with basic principles: three blocks are balanced on point and all blocks meet at right angles. In Powers' work, the volume of blocks articulate, but never subvert, a compositional whole. In Untitled (2002), the artist works with Styrofoam blocks to address color and its absence.
Karlis Rekevics explores the psychological impact of the urban landscape through the language of "marginal" structures such as roadwork barriers, signs and billboards, light posts, and traffic lights. These discreet yet ubiquitous urban signs are designed to maintain order and provide direction. The artist, who prefers rough structural presence , creates sculptures that appear raw and unfinished, as if they had been ripped from their original context. Referencing Richard Serra's seminal stacked slabs of steel, Rekevics reassigns strength and functionality to plaster. Stripped of any practical use and transformed through foreign material, the beauty and hidden intent of insignificant and overlooked environments become fully realized.
The large-scale sculptures by Dutch artist Lara Schnitger playfully reference issues of gender, ethnicity, and labor. Inspired by toys and stage design, these three-dimensional collages are constructed from fabric swatches in bold patterns wrapped around a simple wooden frame or skeletal structure. Schnitger selects her materials for their pliability and creates a hybrid of "craft" and "high art."
Shirley Tse was born in Hong Kong and lives and works in Los Angeles. Tse works predominantly with plastic—an artificial, machine-made material—and is interested in its fluid ability to morph, merge, and multiply into many forms. Concerned with notions of mass-production and standardization, Tse's plastic pieces converge art and technology. Allowing the material to speak for itself, the artist cuts, folds, and peels the plastic, never adding to or subtracting from its original form. Her work challenges language's limited ability to define the countless forms of plastic.
Building Structures is organized by P.S.1 Chief Curator Klaus Biesenbach, P.S.1 Associate Curator Daniel Marzona, P.S.1 Exhibition Coordinator Amy Smith, and P.S.1 Registrar/Project Manager Jeffrey Uslip. Building Structures is installed in P.S.1's second floor galleries.