Vertical Neck 2011

PROJECT OVERVIEW

Simon Preston is pleased to present Vertical Neck, the second solo exhibition of work by Brooklyn-based artist Michelle Lopez at the gallery.

The exhibition is composed of three series of large-scale, leaning and wall-based sculptures together with a freestanding found object, all of which continue the artist’s investigation of sculptural history, gravity and the body. The title of the show classifies a bird, military badge and, quite literally, a pose, but at its root alludes to a cultural and even human redundancy. In this instance, Lopez looks to the legacy of Minimalism. Through a sculptural inquiry, she examines the finish fetish and fascist quality of the monolith. Vertical Neck states the obvious about a well-established form in order to unravel how there’s no such truth. Instead the work looks to the bend, where we realize that things are not as they seem.

In Flare, a title taken from a John McCracken work, the individual elements initially appear as linear wall sculptures but expose a kind of natural, organic drawing. As the works unfold, they are not simply minimal but reveal fluctuations,painted in varying tones of purple and blue.

Blue Angels are a series of 10-feet tall mirrored aluminum forms that reference both Chamberlain and airplane fuselages. They each lean against the wall, having been manipulated to sag and endowed with a feather-like paper quality that negates the finish fetish. Tote, an empty,industrial, over-sized bag that gently slumps, becomes a figure in repose, an ephemeral form.

In a series titled Your Board, the artist exploits the materiality of a skateboard by making otherwise rigid plywood wilt like paper. Akin to her earlier gesture of covering a car in leather to tamper with its objectification, the board becomes another body to deflate. At human scale, the skateboard is rendered as a figure that is ridden on, skinned, hung, and yours.

Michelle Lopez: Vertical Neck, Simon Preston Gallery, New York, September 7 to October 30, 2011 excerpts from press release.

Blue Angels are a series of 10-feet tall mirrored aluminum forms that reference both Chamberlain and airplane fuselages. They each lean against the wall, having been manipulated to sag and endowed with a feather-like paper quality that negates the finish fetish. Each of these objects continue my artistic trajectory examining notions of failure, and with this pretext, investigates the loaded repeat of forms, of Minimalism, the human condition. I wanted to work with heavy, industrial material and make it appear delicate and wilted.

This work also overtly questions the idea of a “vertical neck”.  The title of the show is a technical term to classify a bird, military badge and, quite literally, a pose, but at its root alludes to a cultural redundancy. This piece looks at the vulnerable structures, figures, objects.  It looks to the bend, where we realize that things are not as they seem. In this instance, Vertical Neck states the obvious about a well-established form in order to unravel how nothing is purely vertical.

No items found.
BLUE ANGELS
2.5' x 2' x 10'
mirrored aluminum, automotive paint and matte-white aluminum powder-coated paint
Simon Preston Gallery, New York
2011
FLAIR
copper, steel, epoxy resin and clay
Simon Preston Gallery, New York
2012
YOUR BOARD
60"  x 16" x 4"
maple plywood, glue and skateboard grip tape
Simon Preston Gallery, New York
2011
TOTE
3.5' x  3.5' x 5'
construction  bag, dirt and steel
Simon Preston Gallery, New York
2010
PROCESS NOTES
No items found.

My practice evolved to examine debris and the aftermath of violence in direct response to 9/11, rather than the tidy closed seams of sculpture.  My process continues to build inversions of cultural iconography in order to investigate notions of human failure. I’ve explored abject forms of violence and entropy through sub-cultures ranging from skateboards to epic-related action figures and models; monolithic Minimalism to national flags.

I’m invested in the history of sculpture and what it means to make objects and figures in these uncertain times. My Blue Angels (crushed, folded powder-coated aluminum and stainless-steel sculptures) were a response to the cultural instability and violence of present-day America [Simon Preston Gallery (2011), Galerie Christophe Gaillard (2012)]. I imagined Blue Angels to be a hybrid of airplane wings, wilted petals, and broken bird feathers. As a woman artist, I’m interested in taking masculine and monolithic Minimalist material and form and rendering it vulnerable.

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Blue Angels began from Google image searches of “plane crash debris”. I was interested in the abject state of a once massive technological structure—informed by witnessing the fall of the Twin Towers during 9/11. Much of my work before Blue Angels involved the clean, closed object-ness from the process of mold making and casting. None of these forms though seemed to matter after the towers fell. “Wreckage” seemed a more appropriate place to work on as a concept.

I was interested in 3 particular images: crashed airplanes, birds diving in flight, and wilted flower petals. With these in mind I wanted to make a kind of hybrid folded piece, with the contradictions implied by using macho metal, and with the loaded implications of anthropomorphizing a form. But really, the starting point was debris and how to touch it in a way that had life to it. Or more honestly, I wanted to build a figure at the moment of death or defeat.

Blue Angels has been compared to Minimalist gestures and I find this partly wrong—an absolute misunderstanding and quick Formalist read of the art movement. Minimalism was against metaphor or image. It was against object, even though the forms produced out of the movement were in direct contradiction to its dogma.

I did want to formulate materiality contradictions in direct response to Minimalism. I wanted to use Metal and Lead and Automotive Paint (like the male Minimalists) rather than Resin and Transparency and Paper and Strings (like the female post-Minimalists). These materials themselves evoke a kind of gender specificity. I wanted to upset those moments.

In direct response to the static-ness of a clunky sculpture, I also wanted this work to be an open, action drawing where I draw with the metal sheet by wrestling with it on the floor to give it its wilted form. I was more interested in the “performance” of making sculpture rather than its finish fetish. But still this idea of a wilted figure interested me with the tension of being partly alive, partly defeated.

Color: The interior of Blue Angels was influenced directly from airline colors. I researched paint chips from Delta, and Korea Airlines, American Airlines, and others. I was interested in a particular institutional palette. The other color I used for Blue Angel was powder-coated, matte white in order to bring the association of crumpled paper into the fold. What was also important was creating a kind of intimacy and vulnerability to a large, discarded industrial form. Again I liked the contradictions of Minimalism and Feminism confusing one another.

Your Board: I exploited the materiality of a plywood skateboard by making otherwise rigid plywood wilt like paper. Akin to my earlier gesture of covering a car in leather to tamper with its objectification, the board becomes another body to deflate. At human scale, the skateboard is rendered as a figure that is ridden on, skinned, hung, and yours.  I soaked and then scored rigid plywood, enabling me to bend it in unusual ways: imitating wet paper hung up to dry.

Flare: The form of Flare came in reaction against the very physical mass and weight of sculpture. Every time I began making a form, I realized the bulk of it wasweighing me down. The idea of sculpture actually was closing in on itself the minute I started to put form to something. So these pieces came from wanting aperformative drawing very much in the same way as the Blue Angels but in line form. How much could I express in the simplest line? How much could “sculpture”reveal in the simplest line?

The title Flare comes from a direct reference to John McCracken’s leaning forms. I was interested in shifting the dialogue away from the strictly industrial, uprightform that brought in no questions. Instead I wanted to create an ambiguity between organic and industrial. McCracken’s pieces are explicitly industrial.The process is laid bare. With my own “Flare” I wanted to question a metaphorthat can be both tendril and robot; fragile and machined.