When a layperson thinks of sculpture, he or she probably envisions a classical nude, cast in marble and standing poised and still. Suffice to say that the Yale School of Art’s Sculpture MFA students are not laypeople.
“TIME ITEM”, the School of Art’s sculptural thesis show, is on display in the Green Hall Gallery in the School of Art. After a first exhibition from March 4 to March 27, the gallery began its second showing April 3 for the remaining six students of the group of 11, and will remain open until April 11.
An array of three-dimensional structures paired with video displays, “TIME ITEM” explores the relationship between space, time, nostalgia, process and creation. The gallery is divided into three floors of unlabeled pieces that dominate empty, undecorated corridors and floors, filling the otherwise warehouse-like emptiness of the gallery. The pieces are displayed alongside one another with no indication of title or author; one doesn’t move from piece to piece so much as immerse one’s self in the exhibition as a whole.
Particularly striking is a sculpture on the second floor of the three-level exhibit. In the middle of a dark and narrow corridor between two stairwells is a half-built structure of white brick. Two walls meet to form a corner and peak, and the rest of the foundation is absent, save for five lines of bricks radiating outwards from the sculpture’s foundation. It’s unclear if the piece shows a structure partially built or partially destroyed.
Beyond the sculpture is a video projected onto the wall, a point-of-view shot pointed at the ground and showing a stroll into a house and then back out onto a street. Through subtitles, the unknown presence behind the camera offers its life story: the house where it grew up, reflections on adolescence. Detailed descriptions of the bedrooms, of the patio, of the details of the house contrast with shots of the floor, suggesting loss and isolation. The brick exhibit, then, can be seen as a testament to loss and destruction, and the role of nostalgia within those experiences. Given the clear connection between the three-dimensional display and the silent narrative, it is particularly fascinating.
On the exhibit’s first floor is an enclosed room with a low ceiling, from which dangle dozens of black tendrils made out of thin tissue paper and weighted with balls of clay. Many of the tendrils do not reach the floor; below them is a pile of gold dust. Around the walls of the room are several television monitors showing an intriguing and ambiguous video display. The 24-minute video features cut scenes of mountaineers climbing ice or volcanoes, cut scenes of two-dimensional monsters in Asian art, flowers in bloom, dollar bills on fire and references to demons and death. Occasionally, point-of-view footage of the artist constructing the paper tendrils is superimposed over the footage.
In other instances, the artist is shown chewing on balls of clay on her mouth to moisten it for the assembly.
The bottom floor features a sprawling display of black rods, figurines and photos. Particularly fascinating was the middle of the display: a small, circular array of mirrors, at the center of which lay two peacock War Bonnets, resembling Native Americans. The war bonnets are disheveled, and on top of one of them lies a pair of rubber gloves, suggesting a modern intrusion or a sterilization. Further suggestions of this imagery is the setting of exhibit itself — an empty, undecorated white room, reminiscent of a warehouse space; the antithesis of the wildlife and nature that the peacock headdress invokes.
One looks up from these cultural remnants to see one’s self reflected repeatedly and at different angles in the mirrors surrounding the display. Perhaps, then, it literally is a reflection on what was destroyed, and who the perpetrators are and remain to be.
If “TIME ITEM” probes the idea of destruction, it engages in it as well. The various works on display are notable for the infinite directions in which they take sculpture, defying its stoic tradition and seeking out new territory. It is a bold exhibition and an impressive one, but “TIME ITEM” is definitely not a period piece.