10 September 2007

One Great View Of Boundless Internal Space, or Further Evidence That Sculpture Is Hard

Jedediah Caesar's Three Views From Space still pleases me more than any of these shows because one piece does that thing that sculpture does best. It rests, thinkingly and lovingly, on the stupidest, most elemental stuff and gets that stuff to actually change on you. Whatever else the show contains, Caesar manages to make disparate things, like magazines or lemon rinds, into a singular material. And then he manages to insist that the material remains material, even after it necessarily becomes a form.

This is good, nourishing stuff. And for that matter, so is the sweetness and humility of the original gesture of all this work. It is right to look at all the things around us, the trash we produce and the stuff we sweep up, and know that it doesn't go away, that it goes to a place and becomes something else.

I like, for selfish reasons, that this work takes a geological look at our own detritus.

And for all my own prejudices about arriving at form, it is easy to admit that the grid makes this untitled wall piece the satisfying spatial adventure that it is:

It makes the grand idea more than process art. It becomes more like to make and understand peoplerock. Not people rocks, but a monolithic substance that has been sampled from, not made and sliced. Caesar made a series of literal core sample shapes that were, well, literal. The enterprise turned into a too-specific fiction about core samples. The grid works better. It's empirical-looking without being specific. And it's ongoing. You'd want to count a number of circles and interpret what that means in terms of any core samples you've made as a young science student. Those geodey shapes remained objects--geological artifacts. A grid, on the other hand, is known for a fact to be endless. You get a sensation of genuine vastness never before possible with only, oh, I'd guess a few hundred pounds of material. Economical!

That's what I mean when I say that this piece asserts itself as material and not form, even though, duh, it obviously inhabits a form. The thing, though, is that the magic is formal, not the form. Grids and cubes are not simply magical disappearing shapes! The grid solved a particularly evil little problem in an elegant way. Once. On that back wall. Cubes and squares do not fare as well in the rest of the room.

One of the most compelling things about Caesar's work is that it's got this fatal flaw that he keeps chewing on and never spitting out. It's so interested in materiality and internality, and so uninvested in form, that it could become a boring sausagemaking project like that! A dead end lurks around every corner, and Caesar surely knows this. And in the rest of the room, he's casting about for quick answers to hard problems, which is too bad. The prop piece. The potted plant. The crappy chair. Instead of doggedly, carefully insisting on material and material alone, he starts trying to do something with the materials he makes. And when he does this, he closes the door to vastness and geology. The rest of the pieces in the room are more about their form (and their relationship to art history and objectness) than anything else. Their materiality doesn't matter very much.

This is kind of a shame, but it's also par for the course. Sculpture is best when it is impossibly stupid, and it's always a better idea to keep hammering at the unsolvable problem no matter where or when the show is than it is to try to wind up with a decent product.

(I know, I know. Easy to say...)

You can't make something that is inherently bounded read as boundlessly as geology. You can't communicate something as paradoxical as the infinity of internal space using ordinary, physical means... in a small room, even! And that Caesar even does this once with such an improbable process is meaningful.


Blogger Carla said...

Isn't this use of a wall grid really more about a picture plane space/realm? The work functions within the grid in a particular manner which you've described well, but it seems to do so, ultimately, by abandoning the world of 3-d form.

I'm remarking from photos and with a limited sensitivity to sculptural art (though you're blog may yet guide me to 3-d art enlightenment).

11 September, 2007 17:26  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

This is an appropriate critique!

In real space and not a photo, it's easier to see that these things function as slices, which are still things and not pictures.

A piece of baloney is not a picture, it's a very thin thing... know what I mean?

But don't sell yourself short. I have been so interested in JC's work because he keeps wanting something out of these internal spaces that seems impossible. He wants to "turn them inside out" and whatnot--and well, you don't have to be "3-D enlightened" to see that "thinly sliced" is not the same as "inside out". It's not as interesting as "inside out", and yes. There is a formal reduction to the surface layer that is, you are right, flattening.

This piece is a huge improvement on a process that has been, IME, all talk and little walk. That's what the excitement is all about on my end. If I were Caesar, and I got that glimpse at something huge coming out of a process that is so small and bounded, I would be fucking psyched.

It would give me some hope that there is something to be done with these dense, deeply internal things that really does approach the turning inside out goal.

12 September, 2007 08:24  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

a process that has been, IME, all talk and little walk.

I forgot to add a disclaimer to this statement.

All artists should talk bigger than they can deliver. I personally say I do things that I am still only hoping to do one day. If having a big mouth is a sin, then throw the first stone at me.

All artists should, though, be held accountable for what they say, me included. If they aren't, then there's no reason to actually do the hard work of realizing the impossibilities that fall out of one's mouth so easily.

12 September, 2007 08:29  
Blogger Carla said...

Hmmm...I see where a simple slice of boloney, while in that form, is really much more about its materiality. Doing things with it often detracts from its materiality, or at least from it's material specificity. It becomes more about other things (being an artist making art, etc.).

I'm getting short glimmers of what the inside out concept can/could be, which is probably as far as I can go sans actual experience.

12 September, 2007 12:14  
Blogger Mark Creegan said...

SInce reading your latest posts, I have been working in my studio surrounded by all this STUFF thinking I wish I could pour some resin over all of it and get rid of it! But what a paradigm shift that would be for me.

I do like his work and was impressed by the smaller things i saw in LA that time, but I am interested in your assessment because you seem to be setting his strategy apart from the rest. Notice i didnt say "art", i said "strategy". My first take is that it one strategy/process among many other equally valid ones. But perhaps there is something special here I am not seeing?

12 September, 2007 23:38  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

I apologize if I am setting JC's strategy apart. I think he's like many other good people doing stuff.

Here's the smallish stuff that separates him in my mind:

1. He's working with memes I am working with. (selfish interest)

2. He is asking his work to do things in words that are a) kind of but not really happening and b) kind of beautifully impossible.

In other words, I am interested in his work because he is failing mostly, occasionally eloquently, at something I am stabbing at too.

There is not something special that you are not seeing. I am probably being unclear. Rereading the original post, I seem to be using a somewhat ecstatic tone to describe a somewhat ordinary show. Not sure where that came from.

Probably the selfish interest part.

12 September, 2007 23:57  
Blogger Mark Creegan said...

no need to apologize. I just admire your writing and respect your thoughts on the subject so i was interested in further info. It is exciting when an another artist's work speaks to you in some way and informs what you want and dont want to do. I recently had that with Felix Gonzalez Torres and Tony Feher before him. If you were unclear it is just because that is a very personal response.

13 September, 2007 14:37  

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