you, your sun and shadow

Curated by Michael Jones McKean | Organized by VCUarts Anderson Gallery

January 20 – March 11, 2011

Hany Armanious | Rashid Johnson | Pam Lins | Tony Matelli
Ian Pedigo | Dario Robleto | Haim Steinbach
Sarah Sze | Tatiana Trouve | Daniel Turner

Our eyes are complicated sense organs, ones that require a medium—light—to register the things in our field of vision—objects, surfaces, colors, contours, and shapes. And with light and objects comes shadow—light’s inverted cast, an object’s surrogate ghost twin, the most basic evidence that a thing even exists.

On this day, this is the show, a speculation on a branch of objects we collectively call sculpture. Within these rooms, there is an invisible valence generated by these objects that also claims hold on them. In our most sensitive moments of reverie, we can feel this attraction momentarily, but this pull is fragile, so delicate that it would be demonstrably altered if something was removed or even repositioned slightly—the magnetism recalibrated, the poem rewritten.

On this day, this is the show, aggregative but complete. The objects in these rooms offer up a subjective index of sculptural marks and movements, each volunteering distinctly eccentric versions of our thing-based world. Yet, in
another universe only slightly altered from our own, the show would be an anthropology of ambient and origin-unknown objects, an archeology of uncatalogued volumetric displacements, an abridged lexicon of alchemically formed things, a partial library of spatially feral mark-making techniques, an extended mediation on dimensional skins, a depository of shapes that happen not to be screens, an inchoate history of misunderstood sculpture-objects as analog algorithmic registers.

And within our minds, silently triangulating, the show might be these things as our frontal lobes do what they do, roaming and skipping in the margins, inventing inside of idle time, forming value where there might be none, finding shapes in clouds. And we do all this at the risk of massive misunderstanding, even as we search for meaning in its most crystalline form, as we float within the valence sweetly reporting to us in these rooms.

Michael Jones McKean
Associate Professor
Department of Sculpture + Extended Media

 

You, your sun and shadow introduces to Richmond audiences the work of ten sculptors—both veterans and relative newcomers to the international art scene. Curated by sculptor Michael Jones McKean, this exhibition offers a singular opportunity to explore a significant aspect of contemporary sculpture from the personal perspective of an artist who is himself highly regarded as an innovator in the field. Not surprisingly, McKean’s substantial efforts offer an idiosyncratic take, reflecting a mindset that differs greatly from academically-based curatorial approaches, and that circumvents the familiar sense of spectacle pervading so many of our visual encounters.

In his own work, McKean applies an uncommon regard for objects, making or selecting and arranging them in ways that bypass function and utility to confer new meanings and narrative possibilities. He has often used the phrase “object harmonics” to describe the desired outcome of his artistic process and, early on, considered adopting it as the exhibition’s title. Using this idea as an organizing principle of the project, McKean not only attended to the display of specific works with exceptional care; he also explored their potential to exist as coordinates within a larger constellation, where complex interconnections emerge from the intentional assembly of its disparate parts.

While most exhibition curators hope to achieve a similar goal, the perspective of an accomplished maker—at once intuitive and deeply informed—heeds and illuminates divergent aspects of the work. In this instance, McKean urges us to experience these sculptures and installations, first and foremost, as sustained meditations that call for our speculative engagement as the agent for discovering meaning. Rather than relying on theoretical tools, he has elsewhere proposed an alternate, albeit demanding approach to looking at objects that involves “mentally shelv[ing] all our collected baggage, to actually try and clear out space in our brains for the poetic possibility of a new thing to exist.”

Ashley Kistler
Director
Anderson Gallery

 

Read a review of you, your sun and shadow in Style Weekly.