Casting the Negative
Daniel Faria Gallery
February 13–March 22, 2014
In effect, Casting the Negative features three artists — Iris Häussler, An Te Liu and Jennifer Rose Sciarrino — who engage the sculptural potential of negative space through casting techniques. While this framework serves to unify the artists, their approach to casting is divergent, often antithetical; indeed, they point to the natural world, the leftovers of consumerism and the wholly imaginary.
Häussler contributes three Untitled works to the exhibition formed by pouring beeswax into the earth, letting it cool and solidify, then excavating the remains with her bare hands; thus, ridged traces of the artist’s fingers sweep across and around the exterior. Bits of plant and grains of sand can be seen throughout the forms, emphasizing its organic character. The arrangement of the work, resting on a white plinth and under clear glass, is a strong and considered reference to the museological presentation of strange artefacts and curiosities. Each is reminiscent of sea coral, even of bone, mainly through its appearance and consistency, which is further emphasized through distinct colour combinations of subdued browns, oranges, and yellows. The forms are spectacularly abject and simultaneously alluring, somewhere in that volatile divide between grotesque and beautiful.
Liu’s work moves away from the organic underpinnings of Häussler’s work by casting from the waste of contemporary shipping and packaging materials such as Styrofoam; namely by using earthenware, stoneware and bronze, among other materials. Placed on a long white platform, many of the works and their arrangement make explicit reference to a Brancusian logic, specifically his preoccupation with columns, plinths and idiosyncratic geometry. Indexical traces of the original object that was housed in the packaging are visible in several works, including one of the strongest, Hard Edge Kawaii Subtraction no. 2 (2014). Though this object appears almost alien in form, it’s cast from casing originally used to protect a Hello Kitty toy, the only trace of which can be found in three small but distinct whiskers inside of the cast like a bas-relief. Ultimately, Liu’s encounters with the spoils of consumerism reflect a regeneration of waste material into sculptural form.
While Häussler and Liu make clear use of casting techniques, Sciarrino’s images employ negative space in an altogether different trajectory. The three works on display here represent part of her larger North Facing on December 21st series (2013), which just so happens to be the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, and subsequently the time when the longest shadows are cast. Using digital software, Sciarrino creates imaginary public artworks then marks the shadows they would cast onto thick slabs of concrete using water jets.The result is a thick, grey and banal block of polished concrete made vulnerable through line. Yet the power of the work may lie in its ability to forge a connection with the imaginary, specifically the shape and appearance of Sciarrino’s fictional public sculptures, whatever they may be.
Casting the Negative represents individual approaches to casting and negative space in order to reconsider the breadth of casting techniques and conceptualizations. However, it also involves artists at work in different stages of their careers, each utilizing particular mediums and processes, from the historical to the digital. The exhibition marks a fascinating dialogue between artists who rethink hollow voids and proffer life to the absence of matter.
Matthew Ryan Smith, Ph.D., is a freelance writer and educator based in London, Ontario, as well as the curator of the Glenhyrst Art Gallery of Brant. He received his Ph.D. in Art and Visual Culture (Curatorial Stream) from the University of Western Ontario in 2012. He is a Sessional Professor of Art History at the University of Toronto, Mississauga and the University of Western Ontario. Matthew has published extensively in exhibition catalogues, art publications and academic journals, most recently “Relational Maneouvres in Autobiographical Video Art” in Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly and “Performative Appropriation of Video Art on YouTube, Vimeo and Dailymotion” in the Journal of Curatorial Studies. He also recently completed a book chapter on unsanctioned graffiti interventions in post-apartheid Johannesburg to be published by the University of Indiana Press.