Barbara Liotta, Crenae, 2014. Lift cord and Italian marble, 120 x 13 1/2 x 4 in. Gift of the artist, 2014. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC
The Phillips celebrates the fifth anniversary of its Intersections contemporary art series with Intersections@5, an exhibition comprising work by 20 of the participating artists. In this blog series, each artist writes about his or her work on view.
The Phillips Crenae relies on the balance among its three elements—the formal parallels of the suspending cord, the violence of the shattered marble, and the cascade of cord below. The upper cords breathe but remain plumb, the stone holds the raw energy of the piece, and the cords below bring in grace, lyricism, and chaos. The sculpture is designed to exist in conversation with the space in which it is displayed – it can hang long from high up, or lower so that the cords pool out across the floor.
The strict restraints I apply to my materials are essential. By limiting my materials to the cord and the stone, the work is able to sing out clearly and directly, unencumbered by decoration. Suspension and the promise of movement are fundamental to the piece.
The Crenae were water nymphs, each with her own spring. My piece is not an individual story, but a paradigm, a portrayal of an ideal; it refers to a human archetype rather than a specific story. I strive for a sort of essence: a clarity that will allow the work grace but not prettiness; rhythm but not contrivance; balance but not stiffness. It will animate, as well as inhabit, its space. The work should be as clear as chamber music and as graceful as a dance.