Richmond Art Center Richmond Art Center

Marking Space

Sculpture has witnessed many changes: it has left the pedestal, it has sprawled on the floor, it has crawled up the wall, it has dug into the earth, it has written itself a thought on paper, and it has washed away with the tides. In Marking Space seven artists move off that historical pedestal to establish measured distance, to examine the nature of material, and to expose structure. In diverse materials, Mari Andrews, Robert Brady, Genevieve Hastings, Jann Nunn, Gay Outlaw, Lucy Puls, and Tracey Snelling, deploy matter to mirror habitat and architecture, to explore aggregation, to reflect on social structures, and to give voice to a common impulse to locate myriad humanistic concerns in space.

Here the very boundaries of what sculpture is become as fluid as the active movement of these artists from one material to another, from one line of visual investigation to another. Turning our attention to identity, materiality, the environment, systems of power and inequality, these artists have followed different paths with a common passion of expression. Yet there are thematic arcs to be read across each artist’s work. Likewise, there can be found thematic and conceptual commonalities bridging the works of these artists.

The struggle for resonance between form and content, a content of personal devotion and conviction, is especially poignant in the works of Lucy Puls who takes the book and makes language concrete in literal ways. Carum Thesaurus holds the breadth of language, but the pages are rolled, embedded, separated, encased, and suspended. Meaning remains elusive.

How measure is taken: by the breadth of the hand, the length of the arm, the foot or the stride, the body is intrinsic in anchoring space and in finding place.

The idea of the step, the shift in balance, can be manifest in the literal of Outlaw’s Screaming Mayme  as it can in the abstract of Three-Legged Inversion. We can also see this unhampered in Robert Brady’s wooden figure, Return, which not only takes on the figure, but dons angel’s wings to introduce another level of spiritual content.

The humanity of our lives is often understood through our bodies, through the vulnerability and awareness of the fragility of anatomy. In Breathing Space the fragility of the human body, the delicacy of the intricate systems of life, these inform Jann Nunn’s work as a vision of strings of thin glass pipettes gently rise and fall to air warming and cooling in cycles, a body of glass breathing – an invocation of life.

This careful and mindful eye is cast on nature in the work of Mari Andrews. The structures of plant form are taken for the structure of the sculptures, the materials found and collected are laid out in mimicry of their own architecture. Andrews orders the most delicate scraps in place and allows the quirky images to unfold like a winding trail.

With a probing eye, Tracey Snelling constructs the most specific and detailed representations of buildings, streets, and neighborhoods with lights and sounds and societal markers. Snelling creates tableaux mirroring our common architecture, reflecting our daily habits.

Genevieve Hastings is creating a new installation for the Richmond Art Center Courtyard as part of Marking Space. Occultation presents a mysterious structure beckoning entry. The enveloping and haunting work of Hastings creates a space to evoke memory, association, and relationship to interior and external worlds. Based on the workers’ company housing erected cheaply and quickly where crops once grew in Richmond,Occultation stands as a sign of all that is no longer visible just as it gives voice to lost connections and offers the beauty and solace of commemoration.

These artists present personal work investigating language, the body, and the very nature of image and recognition, space and orientation. Materiality is explored; materiality is challenged. The objects in space are spread out and then the physical is expanded through the integration of media. And throughout these artworks, a narrative emerges and re-emerges: self, home, loss, boundaries. The fleeting and shifting, the solid and anchored – here they evoke immediate response and lingering memory. The metal is scarred, the wood splintered, the asphalt cracked, the paint flaking. The child is screaming, the angel limping, the dinosaur extinct. So the art reaches high to the ceiling, stretches out along the path, lights up and calls out. It holds up the dry seed pod, points to the constellations, and whispers as softly as the air escaping our lungs. In bright plastic or smooth stone, a way is marked – a path from what we know and where we are to where we may find its meaning.

Artists’ Talk

April 1, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Panel Discussion with Mari Andrews,  Genevieve Hastings, Jann Nunn, Gay Outlaw, and Lucy Puls

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