Writer, publisher and curator, Oscar Tuazon is above all one of the most captivating and radical sculptors of his generation. Tuazon’s practice is characterised by a form of contemporary sculpture bricolage, which recalls Arte Povera in its inventive use of natural and industrial materials. References to minimalism and artists such as Richard Serra or Sol LeWitt can be found in the formal structure and positioning of his sculptures and installations.
Tuazon’s use of raw materials infuses his work with an energy and tension, which sets him firmly within the lineage of Gordon Matta-Clark and Robert Smithson. However, the way he considers this heritage draws upon concepts prevalent in contemporary culture, such as ideas of collapse and ruin, recycling and reforming. For his project at The David Roberts Art Foundation, Tuazon was asked to challenge the space. He creates a new body of site-specific sculptures, working with marble for the first time and using works from the David Roberts Collection. Using materials in new and unexpected ways he questions the gallery’s architecture and the public’s interaction with it.
Tuazon’s starting point for this exhibition was the desire to create an autonomous artwork. “Starting with a kind of abstraction and pushing it towards function. Take something and use it, misuse it. So the autonomous work of art wouldn’t necessarily tend towards emptiness, negation, blankness—but towards function. This ‘abstract function’ is a more straight-forward, literal idea of autonomy than Ad Reinhardt would have it: it is simply a self-contained artwork, something that can stand on its own. An object, actually, that doesn’t need any kind of support structure. It doesn’t need a wall, it doesn’t need lights, it doesn’t even need to be displayed inside. It’s just a thing. It can be left outside, left alone. It doesn’t even need to be looked at. And so it remains stubbornly abstract. Abstract in the sense that it doesn’t need anyone. It can function on its own, but the only function the object is capable of performing is that of an artwork, useless and inexplicable. To put it another way, the work is onanistic.”
The exhibition is curated by Vincent Honoré, Curator, David Roberts Art Foundation. The Foundation would like to thank Daniele Balice and Alexander Hertling for their assistance in the preparation of the exhibition and the production of the works.
TO ROLL, TO CREASE, TO FOLD, TO STORE, TO BEND, TO SHORTEN, TO
TWIST, TO DAPPLE, TO CRUMPLE, TO SHAVE, TO TEAR, TO CHIP, TO SPLIT,
TO CUT, TO SEVER, TO DROP, TO REMOVE, TO SIMPLIFY, TO DIFFER, TO
DISARRANGE, TO OPEN, TO MIX, TO SPLASH, TO KNOT, TO SPILL…
(Extract from Richard Serra, Verb List, 1967-68.)
Oscar Tuazon had explored living structures and how they define and frame human lifes in works such as Coming Soon, 2002, City Without a Ghetto, 2003 or Locked Room, 2004. His work had been often analysed through notions of (utopian) architecture, habitat, and use. However, his exploration of architecture and habitats had been much inspired by the notion of resistance: how the architecture can be changed, altered or negated through the use of uncommon forms and materials. His installation Kodiak, created with Eli Hansen for the Seattle Museum of Art in 2008, is exemplary: he uses a staircase that he turns into a monumental sculpture, an abstract and dynamic form.
For his exhibition at the David Roberts Art Foundation, Tuazon goes one step further: he totally engages with post-minimal sculptures. The works he had created all adopt primary geometric forms (cubes, colomns, etc). He makes a creative use of a wide range of material (wood, concrete, steel, and for the first time, marble) and explore the tensions created by their juxtaposition. The title also refers to his uncommon use of materials.
“One of the first thing I did when I started working in New York was to write down a list of verbs – to splash, to tear, to roll, to cut, and so on. I then enacted those verbs in the studio with rubber and lead in relation to time and place. The residues of the activities didn’t always qualify as art. I was primarily interested in the process and it was important that whatever was finally made reveal its making. Some of the residues were so replete in their exploration of material and the simplicity and singularity of the process that they would go unquestionned.” (Richard Sierra in Richard Sierra. Sculpture: Forty Years, Museum of Modern Art, 2007. P. 29). The practice of Richard Serra, together with others by minimal or post-minimal sculptors such as Sol LeWitt or Tony Smith, had infused the exhibition: the works are partly generated by the inner property of their materials, they have basic forms, their proportions make them neither an object nor a monument, they are made of industrial materials, etc.
The sculptures had been positioned in the space to create a rythme and engage with the visitor’s body as much as with the surrounding architecture and its luminosity. The artist had choosen to include works by other artists from the David Roberts Collection. These works, by various artists, photographers, painters, sculptors are mostly figurative. They either conflict with Tuazon’s works, or are clearly instrumentalised to lit part of the exhibition.
Works from the David Roberts Collection:
Andre de Dienes: Cowgirl, Turning, 1945. The friend and prefered photograph of Norma Jean Baker, before she became Marylin Monroe, Romanian photographer André de Dienes (1913-1985) emigrated to the US in 1938. He settled in New York to work for Esquire, Vogue, Life, and Montgomery Ward before moving to Hollywood in 1944. De Dienes’ association with Marilyn Monroe began in 1945 when he hired her for her first modeling job at age 19. A five week road trip photographing the young Norma Jean across California, Nevada, and New Mexico resulted in a love affair and numerous magazine covers around the world. Their working relationship continued until 1953.
Jim Goldberg (born 1953, USA) is most known for his famous series Rich and Poor (1977-1985) exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art, New york, in 1984 and published in a book in 1985 by Random House, Inc. Jim Goldberg’s photographs of rich and poor people, with the subjects’ own handwritten comments about themselves on the prints, give an inside look at the American dream at both ends of the social scale. His pictures reveal his subjects’ innermost fears and aspirations, their perceptions and illusions about themselves, with a frankness that makes the portraits as engrossing as they are disturbing. Jim Goldberg joined Magnum Photos as a Nominee in 2002 and became a Full Member in 2006.
Susan Meiselas (born 1948, USA) first major photographic essay focused on the lives of women doing striptease at New England country fairs. She portrayed (from 1972 to 1975) the dancers on stage and off, photographing their public performances as well as their private lives. She also taped interviews with the dancers, their boyfriends, the show managers, and paying customers. The series of photographs, Carnival Strippers, was published in 1976. Produced during the early years of the women’s movement, Carnival Strippers reflects the struggle for identity and self-esteem that characterized a complex era of change. A selection was installed at the Whitney Museum of Art in June 2000. Meiselas joined Magnum Photos in 1976 and became a full Member in 1980.
Andy Warhol (1928-1987) started his Torso and Sex Parts series in 1977. According to Warhol’s assistant at the time, Ronnie Cutrone, Warhol would take polaroids of of men having sex that Halston’s boyfriend, Victor Hugo, would “recruit” from gay bath houses. Warhol also later incorporated sex work into the making by hiring street hustlers to urinate on his Oxidation Paintings (1978). Linda Nochlin asserted that Warhol’s nudes of the 70s brilliantly navigate the shadowy territory between the two (arguably) mutually exclusive categories of the classical male nude and pornography. The male nudes, as exemplified by this work, is a significant part of Warhol’s oeuvre.
In the 1930’s and 1940’s British-American artist Gerald Leslie Brockhurst (1890-1978) was one of the most celebrated portraitists, first in England, then in America. He specialized in portraying beautiful women, often-famous personalities such as Marlene Dietrich and the Duchess of Windsor. The etching is based on a painting, Ophelia, ca 1937, now in the collections of the Royal Academy of Arts. It is a portrait of Kathleen Nancy Woodward, the artist second wife.
One of the most famous photograph by Burt Glinn (1925-2008, US) shows Andy Warhol With Edie Sedgwick And Chuck Wein in the streets of New York. of prostitutes working on the streets of New York. Glinn had covered many subjects, revolutionary leader Fidel Castro’s entrance into Havana, to the Sinai War as well as the U.S. Marine invasion of Lebanon. The work is part of a series Glinn took in 1971, of prostitutes working in the streets in New York in 1971. Burt Glinn joined Magnum Photos in 1951 and became a full Member in 1954
Born in Glasgow (1919-1970), Robert Henderson Blyth trained at the Glasgow School of Art. He was appointed to a teaching position at the Edinburgh College of Art in 1946 and served as Artist-in-Residence at Hospitalfield House (Arbroath) in 1947. He joined the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1941 and served until the end of World War II. This led to him painting Existence Precarious (1946), a self-portrait showing himself as a soldier in a trench, which is now held by the National Gallery of Scotland.
The artist’s “Leuchten” (lamps) are hybrids of the materiality of his paintings and the geometric transformations of his works on paper, translated into space. Reinforced concrete fragments of varying lengths with unworked ends jut out into the space of the gallery. The weakly shining light bulb mounted on the upper end places purist functionality and minimalist sculpture into a single, tension-filled context. Hoischen’s sculptures aim to draw out the moment between function and larger abstract concerns. The title “Geklärt im rechten Winkel” translates into “clarified in the right angle”
Liliane Lijn was born in New York in 1939, educated in Europe and has lived in London since 1966. She is a leading pioneer and exponent of kinetic art who in her work has experimented with light, movement, words, film, liquids and industrial materials. “I would like to make cosmic maps. It should be that in the discipline of a drawing there is the same rhythm as that of cosmic forces.”
Oscar Tuazon (born USA,1975) lives and works in Paris. This is his first solo exhibition in a public gallery in the UK. Recent and upcoming solo exhibitions include: Standard, Oslo (2009); Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin (2009); Michele Maccarone, New York and Jonathan Vyner, London (2008); Seattle Art Museum (2008); and the Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2007). Recent group exhibitions include: Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Vigo (Marco), Vigo (2009); Kunsthalle St Gallen, St Gallen (2008); Contemporary Art Museum St Louis, St Louis; Sculpture Center, New York (2008). Oscar Tuazon is represented by Balice/Hertling in Paris, Standard in Oslo, Michele Maccarone in New York and Jonatahn Vyner in London.
Download exhibition leaflet here.