November 20, 2009 – February 21, 2010
Amy Hauft combines shifts in scale and perspective, the arcane craft of sculpting sugar, art-historical references, and metaphor to create a rich perceptual experience for viewers of her installation. To make the massive structure that will fill the gallery’s second floor, Hauft replicated in scale and form an eighteenth-century Louis XIV banquet table, originally designed for 100 diners. She enhances its amazingly ornate contours by introducing in one corner an immaculate spiral of concentric circles radiating from a central vortex, and by covering the entire table with an enormous tailored cloth.
Hauft has long been interested in lost or esoteric techniques of hand-making. Two years ago, she traveled to Europe to consult and study with culinary historian Ivan Day about the production methods once used to cast and sculpt sugar. During the Baroque era in Europe, before the art of making porcelain was perfected, artists were commissioned to create figurines and architectural follies in sugar. Mimicking the look of porcelain, these sugar sculptures graced royal dessert tables as demonstrations of conspicuous consumption: the sugar was imported from the distant East Indies, while the talents of the finest sculptors were expended on creating elaborate, but ephemeral, objects.
To complete her table, Hauft produced her own folly by sculpting in sugar a copy of the wooden model of a spiral staircase, whose perfect form and craftsmanship had earlier captured her attention at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. This sugar replica appears as the table’s centerpiece, surrounded by sugar-frosted snowdrifts. Together, these elements create a bleak snowy panorama atop the vast landscape of the table—a frozen wasteland of sugar.
The expansiveness of Hauft’s table, when encountered at ground level, foils efforts to comprehend its total mass and shape. However, an actual staircase at one end of the gallery affords an overhead view. The contrast between these two perspectives suggests the impossibility of ever fully understanding the topography of one’s own immediate landscape. ‘In the end,’ Hauft notes, ‘the work may serve as a model of history, impossible to divine when you’re immersed in it, but clearer in retrospect.’
This project was made possible by significant support from the Office of the Dean, VCU School of the Arts, and by generous assistance from the Richmond Center for Visual Arts, Western Michigan University, where it was on view September 10 – October 9, 2009.
Amy Hauft grew up in Southern California and received her BA from the University of California Santa Cruz. She attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and then earned her MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. For the next 2 decades, Hauft lived and worked in New York City where she produced her large-scale architectural installations for museums and galleries worldwide. Her work has been exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum (NYC), New Museum (NYC), International Artists Museum (Poland), The American Academy in Rome (Italy), Limerick City Gallery (Ireland), PS1 Museum (NYC), and the Sculpture Center (NYC), among other venues. She has received numerous grants, including the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, St. Gaudens Foundation Fellowship, PEW Foundation Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiatives, Howard Foundation Fellowship and a Public Art Fund Grant. Her residency awards include the Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellowship in Umbria, Italy and the International Artists Residency Fellowship in Lodz, Poland. Hauft taught for 14 years at the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. Since 2004, she has served as Chair of the VCU Sculpture Department.