Sculpture is Everything, because sculpture really is everything

Lara Favaretto Gummo IV 2012 Iron, car wash brushes and electrical motors, originally uploaded by cubamxc.

I’m often asked, but what is it? Media reps in particular, insist that people need to know, is it paining or sculpture or what? It’s contemporary art, painting or sculpture isn’t necessarily relevant, is a response that’s often met with annoyance. Sculpture is Everything, a current exhibition at GoMA, offers a very tidy description:

Contemporary sculpture is extraordinarily diverse. It can encompass anything from found objects to kinetic structures, from monuments to installation and land art, from pop assemblages to ritual objects. Form, material and three-dimensional space have been considered to define the medium of sculpture, concerns which can be shaped through film, photography, painting and/or performance. As epitomised in the work of artists including Ai Weiwei, Francis Alys, Brook Andrew, Gordon Matta-Clark and Erwin Wurm.

The exhibition features a number of significant recent acquisitions made with funds from Tim Fairfax. Including Lara Favaretto’s Gummo IV 2012, comprised of five carwash brushes, each a cool shade of blue or violet, attached to a metal slab and a motor that causes them to spin. Like much of Favaretto’s work, Gummo IV employs a strategy of displacement, whereby a found object or readymade is removed from its usual surroundings and situated out of place. Stripped of their intended function, the appearance of five spinning carwash brushes in the gallery results in these familiar objects appearing simultaneously absurd, gleeful and mesmerising.

Another recent acquisition, with funds from Tim Fairfax, is Gordon Matta-Clark’s Office Baroque 1977, 16mm 40min, restored by Generali Foundation. I wasn’t previously familiar with this work. Matta-Clark is best known for his ‘cuts’, for which he sliced abandoned building in half or removed sections of walls, floors and ceilings from abandoned buildings.

Or my personal favourite, Fake Estates (1973-74), for which Matta-Clark purchased microplots, small unusable sections of curbsides and alleyways, at public auctions for 25 dollars a piece. Matta-Clark collected and montaged images, maps, deeds, other bureaucratic documentation attached to these surveying and zoning irregularities, some as tiny as one square foot. Quite simply demonstrating the arbitrariness of public/private property demarcation. Or Food (1971-74), a restaurant co-founded, managed and staffed by artists at the corner of Prince and Wooster Streets. Refer When Meals Played the Muse, New York Times, February 2007. Food in particular, reminds us of a decaying, pre-gentrified New York.

For Office Baroque on the other hand, Matta-Clark cut through a five-story Antwerp office building. The ‘cuts’ were organised around two semicircles that arced through the floors, creating a rowboat shape at their intersection. The 16mm film displays a bare-chested Matta-Clark in blue jeans and a dust mask, a year before his premature death from pancreatic cancer, labouring, wielding a chainsaw. Which recalls Richard Serra in his lead-spattered boiler suit. And, for me, a quote I recently came across by Monica Bonvicini, “I decided to art because it was the only way to a worker and an intellectual at the same time.”

I was also reminded that, like his father, the Surrealist painter Roberto Sebastian Matta Echaurren, Matta-Clark studied to be an architect. Architecture, with its inextricable relationship to private and public space, the economic implications of private property, urban development and decay, became the subject matter and material of his work.

The exhibition is also accompanied by a catalogue, with multiple essays addressing subjects including performance as sculpture.

Related posts:
Back to the Future, May 22 2012
Rear view: Spencer Finch, 28 December 2010
Field Trip, February 4 2007


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