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Three times a year Artpace invites a guest curator to select three artists – one international, one national and one Texas-based – for its Artist-in-Residence Program, which provides the artists with coveted support: studio space, honoraria, production money and the assistance of full-time staff. This fall features guest curator, Cecilia Alemani, the Donald R. Mulen, Jr. curator and director of the High Line Art Program, an elevated rail line transformed into a public park in New York City. She chose Larry Bamburg of Marfa, Texas; Marie Lorenz of New York City; and Cally Spooner of London, who started their residencies at Artpace on Sept. 14.
Guest curator Alemani was not available, having recently given birth. Artpace Interim Executive Director Sue Graze explained the unifying theme for the three artists.
“All these artists are explorers, exploring materials, styles and thoughts,” Graze said. “Larry’s exploration begins with the object itself, which leads him to the artistic decisions he makes. Marie has explored the urban coastlines and waterways for the past 10 years, interested in the debris that the ocean collects. Cally does her explorations via language and theory, translating them into the physical experience that manipulates human reactions.”
Larry Bamburg, from Marfa, Texas, experiments with elements of the natural world, creating sculptural art pieces. His works “Talctotile” and “Talctotire” start with the same natural substance for both pieces, talc. “Talctotile” is just that—the top features a 300-pound of pink talc rock. The sculpture transitions from talc to pink bathroom tiles, with subtle morphing layers of color and texture.
“In this instance, the talc is kind of waxy and looks a lot like soap, which made me think, ‘Why don’t I just use soap?’” Bamburg stated in a news release.
“I used cold processed soap to bind the layers in the piece, melding the qualities of talc and tile in one piece,” he said during a preview tour of the exhibit at Artpace on Thursday.
In “Talctotire” tire treads and inner tubing, melted and fused together form its base. As the eye travels up, the materials shift to black fused trash bags, ending with black jagged slabs of talc on top of the piece. Graze introduced Bamburg as “my mad scientist,” before Bamburg explained how working with disparate objects makes him ponder the artistic process as he decides how to produce his sculptures.
Bamburg’s last piece, “Decomposition Island,” features a massive mulberry tree root ball he dug up from his yard. After reinforcing the outside of the root ball with a type of acrylic, the artist fertilized the top so that a tree seedling and grass would grow from the soil reservoir deep inside the gnarly root. Bamburg has scanned detailed photos of the piece into a 3D computer program to construct a replica from the original.
“The idea of pursuing how things are made and seeing how a piece evolves, complete with its complications is integral to how I experience art,” Bamburg said. “My work is less about representation and more an interest in having something demonstrate the process.”
Marie Lorenz, from New York City, explores urban waterways, collecting and documenting found objects and recording those using different artistic styles, such as printing, casting or making videos. Lorenz explored the Corpus Christi coastline and how its coastal debris was different from New York in her work, “Flotsam and Derelict.” Using cast ceramics and macramé, a form of textile-making using knotting rather than weaving or knitting, Lorenz incorporated marine debris with elaborate knotted ropes to create three pieces.
Lorenz stated how she uses “rope and string in the sculptures to reference macramé, or ‘fancy work,’ a traditional sailor’s handicraft used to pass time at sea.” While Lorenz had been using tied knots in her sculptures for years, for her residency she learned traditional knot tying techniques, “my sculpture is a way of telling a story about my exploration.”
Her knot tying extended to the large knotted reclined seating for six or seven viewers to watch her seven-minute video made during her coastal trips gathering debris in Corpus Christi. Lorenz accompanied the oceanographer Anthony Amos who regularly surveys the Gulf Coast for artificial materials on the beach.
While Lorenz had worked with ceramics in high school, she was able to focus on that artistic style while working in a ceramics studio during her residency at Artpace. Incorporating cast ceramics into her latest work, water bottles and other debris found washed on up the beach have been transform into ceramic pieces of art. “Think of the object not just as a water bottle, but what it manifests as part of the larger collection. I wanted that kind of discovery when looking at the exhibition in a different way,” Lorenz said.
Cally Spooner of London, uses theories, philosophy, pop music, and current affairs in her writing and performance to explore the human experience. During her residency, Spooner researched what happens to the body when it’s under stress. Her writing plays a prominent part in her art. Spooner’s latest writing projects include a novel, as well as “more formalized topics such as micro- and macro-management.”
The large and otherwise empty gallery has three different stacks from her writing project. Spooner made a negative cast of her own ear and placed bronze copies of her ears to act as paperweights on the three stacks of papers. Because the ear needs to work hard to listen and interpret, Spooner chose ears to represent how intimate, yet how valuable this particular human sense is to our overall experience.
“The mind is king and the body is dehydrated” features a bronze ear paperweight on top of her notes on management. Another stack anchored with two ear paperweights, “you need to get close, we need to get closer, mooooove closer,” contains scientific notations from a patented chemistry formula to stop sweating. The third stack is her novel in progress with two more bronze ear paperweights on top.
“On False Tears and Outsourcing” features the temperature of Spooner’s gallery, close to 98.6 degrees. Overhead are 46 work lights casting 30,000 lumens of simulated daylight, the type of lighting often used in office spaces to stimulate higher worker productivity.
“The conditions of the space make you aware of your own body, and to get to the writing, you have to lift up my ear to take a piece of paper that functions as an insight into my own research process,” Spooner stated. “All together, I want people to think about this relationship between management, light, and heat.”
Because there is a such a large empty space, people entering the gallery become part of the work as they experience the heat, light and stacks of paper and paperweights.
The Artpace International Artist-In-Residence Program, in existence since 1995, provides artists the opportunity to explore new ideas in an environment that supports taking risks. While in residence, the artists share their ideas and become involved with Texas art communities, as well as get to know each other. The public can view the art created during their residency with free exhibitions from Nov. 12 to Jan. 3, 2016.
*Top image: 2014-2015 Artpace Residents (from left) Marie Lorenz (New York City), Larry Bamburg (Marfa, Texas), and Cally Spooner (London, UK). Photo by Riley Robinson.