Tuesday, March 8, 2011

‘Gedi Sibony - The Deception of Context’



Hammer Museum

January 30 - April 24, 2011

Gedi Sibony’s unconventional sculptures, exhibited as part of the Hammer Museum’s, ‘All of this and Nothing’ show, compel the viewer to tow the line of what can be thought of as an art object. Though much contemporary art presents this same challenge, Sibony’s pieces have a sincerity in their origins, and tactility in their materials, that seems at the same time universally, and surprisingly, appealing.

Gedi Sibony
The Predicament (what it is that ceases)

Sibony’s sculptures often consist of found, salvaged, and recontextualized objects which were in their former lives, discarded, unfinished, or incidental. Site-specificity is at the heart of understanding Sibony’s works as, given the familiarity of the objects he chooses, placement in white-cube environments becomes a catalyst for their reconsideration. Sibony’s work is about the experience of living in the world, about ‘when’ and ‘how to’ look at things. Much of his inspiration derives from the things he lives around which is why objects in his studio often become the subjects of/or literally become, his pieces (as is the case with both pieces in this entry). Dominic Molon, Chief Curator at the St. Louis Contemporary, notes how Sibony’s work derives from his experience of “living in the world,” suggesting that “it’s almost as if the art finds the artist, rather than the other way around.”

Sibony reinvests in mundane materials such as cardboard, packing materials, walls removed from his studio, a tarp draped over an easel which accidentally embodied his dream of a floating sculpture, and breathes in to them a new aesthetic life, a new identity in a new home, and hence a brand new reception. The artist is occupied by the notion of waste - both that of discarding perfectly good materials and also the energy spent in remaking and replacing the discarded. As with ‘The Cutters, 2010’, a wall removed from his studio, and his other smaller pieces at the Hammer which were the backsides of frames and drawings salvaged from yard-sales, Sibony seems not only to reclaim objects but to draw attention to their traces of history, and respective roles within what Molon calls, “the industrial food chain.”

Gedi Sibony
The Cutters

The success of Sibony’s work relies heavily on how it occupies space. The placement of his pieces creates a balance with the architecture of the gallery that is both graceful and uncanny. There is a surreal inappropriateness to such rough objects at once alluding to landscapes, or the passage of time, while, evoking an emotional recognition that things so commonplace, so incidental, so unfinished -gone just slightly awry- can all of a sudden be beautiful, and oddly consoling.

Trash to Monument.

Sibony’s sculptures also challenge the convention of the ready-made by simply presenting unmodified, prexisting objects in a new context. From everyday context to art context, Sibony shifts their conceptual context from discarded or incidental, to intentional. With respects to his trash objects, Sibony transforms something that was formerly a liability in to something precious. He takes something that is a material, financial, spatial, and environmental burden to society - something that has to be processed as waste- and not only recirculates it back in to society, but hails it as monumental and important.

Deception of context

There is a magic of balance and transformation that happens with Sibony’s work at the same time that there is a nagging sense of the absurdity of what we will consider seriously when asked. This seems to beg the question of what is not worthy of our deeper considerations. What is it exactly that makes this work interesting? Is it the consistency of his message? The romance of it? Our realization that we agree with Sibony? Or just the social pressure to agree created by these objects placement in an intellectual space?

Finally, there is a humor in being asked to consider the unimportant as monumental. Sibony’s pieces are thoughtful, simple, and austere enough to command consideration, to know that you aren’t having a joke played on you, but with the simultaneous understanding that you are considering a nicely placed piece of trash, or at the most, some utilitarian commonplace object. What makes Sibony’s work so successful to me is that sometimes its only distinguishing characteristic from something leaning against a dumpster, or sitting in an empty storefront, is his level of intention and the consideration that this intention and consistency compels in his viewers.

CLICK HERE: Gedi Sibony talking about sculpture

CLICK HERE: Interview with Dominic Molon, Chief Curator at St. Louis Contemporary Museum of Art


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