Newsday August 31, 2003
Building Sculptures With...Construction Paper
By Steve Dollar
There's a certain elegant economy to the new exhibit at the SculptureCenter in Long Island City. "The Paper Sculpture Show," which begins next Sunday with a 2 p.m. public opening, involves 29 artists in a concept that originated in an issue of Cabinet, a magazine about art that sometimes becomes art.
"The editors wanted artwork to print in their magazine for readers to build [into sculptures]," explains Mary Ceruti, who curated the exhibit, along with artist Matt Freedman and Cabinet editor Sina Najafi. The issue, which featured contributions by five artists, went over so well that plans were hatched for a book. Subsequently, those intentions blossomed into the full-scale show, whose concept follows a simple outline.
Each artist has a blank piece of paper 10 inches by 13 inches, Ceruti says, and fills it with his or her own individual design, accompanied by instructions for assembly. Hopefully, exhibit visitors who cut out the shapes will wind up with a miniature paper sculpture, just like the ones replicated in "The Paper Sculpture Book" ($29.95, Independent Curators). Even the workstations that will be set up with the sculpture examples and pieces of paper at various spots within the 4,000- square-foot space follow a plan. They will be constructed from 4-by-8-foot sheets of plywood, emulating the paper format.
As Manhattan artist Allan Wexler explains, the larger-scale workstations are simply versions of smaller paper models included in the book. "So someone could be sitting at a workstation constructing from paper a model of the workstation they're sitting at," he says, suggesting that it's something of a surrealist game. "So then, which one is the model?" Carrying the idea further, the book itself becomes a set of instructions for any venue wanting to mount a similar show. "Each person becomes their own architect."
The interactive nature of the show, which runs through Dec. 7, leaves lots of room for variation. The artists all came up with something unique, and each piece has its own difficulty factor. Some may be as easy as piecing together a Burger King crown. Others boggle logic. "They reflect different approaches," says Ceruti, toying with some of those paper models of the workstations in the mostly empty gallery on a recent afternoon. "For instance, there's a very conceptual project that almost exists as a pure idea and doesn't need to be built at all." That would be a single page filled with impossibly detailed instructions from artist David Shrigley.
There are also pieces that will require significant hand-eye coordination: "Extremely well-crafted objects whose success has to do with how well you can actively build it," according to Ceruti, who points to Eric Oborsey's intricately thought-out glove, with its own paper "bolts" to hold it together.
The seemingly benign geometric shapes of Stephen Hendee's "Binding Sites" are, it turns out, anything but. "That's the sick part," says the Newark, N.J., artist. "They're in these banal colors. The project is somewhat perverse, because, psychologically, these are a big challenge." Hendee explains that he wanted to use computer-assisted design to create folding objects that would likely stymie those who would construct them. "I'm interested in making something that is close to the place where it's so complex that, really, a machine should be making it."
Nonetheless, someone had mastered the technique. Ceruti had a few ready to show off to visitors, as staff members worked to ready the space. The process implied was a bit like the children's game Rock, Scissors, Paper. Only this time, the rules will be a little blurry. Sometimes the rock will be paper, and paper will beat scissors - maybe as often as not.
In addition to the the paper show, SculptureCenter will open another fall exhibit from 2 to 5 p.m. next Sunday. "In Practice Projects," which also runs through Dec. 7, is part of a commissioning program that encourages innovation by emerging artists in contemporary sculpture. Artists include Chris Doyle, Ellen Harvey, James Hegge, Rebecca Herman, Mark Shoffner, Diana Shpungin and Nicole Engelmann. Pieces in the oft unconventional show range from video installations to a piece consisting entirely of mechanical vibrations.
SculptureCenter is at 44-19 Purves St., Long Island City. Thursdays-Mondays, 11 a.m.-6 p.m; $5; 718-361-1750, www.sculpture-center.org.