Angela Bulloch: Heavy Metal Stack: Fat Cyan Three (PART I)

On September 16, the Phillips unveiled a new sculpture by Angela Bulloch on the corner of 21st and Q Streets. We asked Angela a few questions about her artwork. Stay tuned for Part II of the interview.

Angela Bulloch with her sculpture. Heavy Metal Stack: Fat Cyan Three, 2018, Powder coated steel, Made possible with support from Susan and Dixon Butler, Nancy and Charles Clarvit, John and Gina Despres, A. Fenner Milton, Eric Richter, Harvey M. Ross, George Vradenburg and The Vradenburg Foundation

Angela Bulloch with her sculpture. Heavy Metal Stack: Fat Cyan Three, 2018, Powder coated steel, Made possible with support from Susan and Dixon Butler, Nancy and Charles Clarvit, John and Gina Despres, A. Fenner Milton, Eric Richter, Harvey M. Ross, George Vradenburg and The Vradenburg Foundation

You were born in Canada, studied in the UK at Goldsmiths College, and are now based in Berlin. Can you talk about what drew you on this trajectory and how it has impacted your work?

I was born in the middle of nowhere in Canada, a very remote and small place, and yet I always wanted to live in the city, where all the people and museums are and such. I had to wait until I was old enough to go and study at college and that was in London. From there it was easy to visit many other cities and I found Berlin exciting and possible to live in, for a whole combination of reasons. I continue to travel frequently, in all directions.

Your work is known for your exploration of mathematical, social, and aesthetic systems and structures alongside aesthetics. What appeals to you about how they intersect?

The interesting thing about systems is that they order your time, your life, the environment in such a way that the mistakes or anomalies jump out at you. When the pattern is broken you feel it. If the note is wrongly played on a musical score you instantly know about it. The ruptures are interesting.

You demonstrate extraordinary conceptual creativity in a wide variety of media, including sculpture, light, sound, and video installation. Have you always been interested in working in diverse media or have you found yourself organically exploring different materials?

I find it more interesting to work across or with various different media because then I can focus on the ideas or the dynamics of a situation rather than only on the media itself.

Tell us about your Stack series.

I think of them as the Rhombus series, referring to the four sided shapes or rhombi within the three dimensional rhomboid form, but, yes, some of them are stacks or the same forms stacked on top of one another that forms a stack. There is one group I have made that I call Totem Pillar works because the forms stand on top of one another in a stack or a totem and that Totem stands then on top of a pillar. The basic unit is a four sided shape – a rhombus.

How do you make them? What is your inspiration for these sculptures?

At first I conceive of them within the virtually real place inside a computer using 3D drawing programs. It’s easy to play around with forms inside a space like that right up until you try to actually make them. Then after that it becomes more complicated, the simple 3D drawings are converted into engineering files which have to be very precise and self-sustaining. The sculptures eventually have to stand up in the real world under conditions of gravity, so the drawings often need some adjustments at this point—a reality check of sorts. Then the material is cut and puzzled together, the surfaces are treated in many different ways, the base plate (the means of attachment to the ground) is considered and chosen appropriately for the environment where it will end up. This one here was made to stand outside in all weather and has been prepared for that.

Can you please describe this particular sculpture and its creation?

This one started with the context—I was asked to make a new sculpture specifically for the site outside The Phillips Collection, a commission. I tried out several versions and settled on a larger scale piece that holds the corner spot with more authority than a slimmer work that was the same height might have done.

Welcoming Nara Park and Ellington Robinson to the Collection

Ellington Robinson (left) and Nara Park (right) discuss their work at the Phillips

Ellington Robinson (left) and Nara Park (right) discuss their work at the Phillips

On Thursday, August 23, the Phillips welcomed Nara Park and Ellington Robinson to discuss their artworks which were recently acquired by the museum through the Contemporaries Acquisition Fund. The artworks were selected for acquisition by the Contemporaries Steering Committee, with the guidance of Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Vesela Sretenović and the approval of the Director.

The Contemporaries Acquisition Fund was established in 1996 as a way to create deeper engagement with young professionals with philanthropic aspirations and interest in contemporary art and collecting. By participating first-hand in the museum acquisition process, young patrons gain experience in collecting practices while also helping expand the Phillips’s permanent holdings. Active through 2008, the Fund amassed more than 20 works of art—mostly photography—that date from the early to mid-20th century. The Fund was reinstated in 2017 with an aim to further grow the collection with contemporary artworks.

Visit the Phillips to see the new works along with photographs acquired by the Contemporaries over the years. For information about the Contemporaries—the Phillips’s young professionals group—visit PhillipsCollection.org/contemporaries or contact membership@phillipscollection.org.

Nara Park, Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Vesela Sretenović, and Ellington Robinson

Left to right: Nara Park, Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Vesela Sretenović, and Ellington Robinson. Photo: Ray A. Llanos, 2018 (All rights reserved. ray@rayllanos.com @rayllanos)

Disillusioned I by Nara Park

Nara Park, Disillusioned I, 2017, Plastic laminate and monofilament, 105 x 13 1/2 x 13 1/2 in. Contemporaries Acquisition Fund, 2018

Never Forget On Ice by Ellington Robinson

Ellington Robinson, “Never Forget” on Ice, 2013, Acrylic, collage, found objects, and glue on vintage mirror, 38 x 53 x 2 in. Contemporaries Acquisition Fund, 2018

The Phillips Collects: Ruth Duckworth

Ruth Duckworth, Untitled, 1989

Ruth Duckworth, Untitled, 1989, Porcelain, 15 1/2 x 7 7/8 x 3 in. Gift of Jane and Arthur Mason, 2016

In a career that spanned more than six decades, Ruth Duckworth (b. Hamburg, Germany 1919-d. Chicago, 2009) is recognized as one of the most innovative and important modernist sculptors. Although she began her career in Liverpool and London by exploring stone and wood carving, as well as metal casting, she ultimately decided to focus on ceramics in the mid-1950s. Her facility with clay led her to stoneware and porcelain, creating vessels and sculptures that were radically freeform, organic, and liberated from function. Most importantly, she demonstrated that clay was a viable medium for sculpture.

The Duckworth sculpture recently gifted to The Phillips Collection is an unglazed porcelain tabletop work from 1989. It is the first work by this pioneering modernist sculptor to enter the museum. Duckworth has been called an “alchemist of abstraction” whose prolific body of work in ceramics, stoneware, and bronze is boundary-crossing in its material innovation and visually seductive in its austere refinement of form. Her smooth forms have been influenced by both the stylized modernisms of Henry Moore, Constantin Brancusi, and Isamu Noguchi, as well as ancient Egyptian, Mexican, and Cycladic art.

In her studio Duckworth had what she called her “play table” where she would begin every day using the parts of abstracted forms already sanded to the desired translucency. The Duckworth sculpture gifted to the Phillips is a unique object composed of two “blades.” Mounted vertically on a base, one slightly in front of the other, there is a sense of poised interaction between the two similar, yet different slab-like forms, with the shadow between an active linear element. Approaching clay as a sculptor, rather than as a potter, Duckworth brought aesthetic rigor to her work that masterfully continues the aesthetics of modernism into the 21st century.