MAIN SPACE EXHIBITION
JUNE 7 – JUNE 29, 2002
RECEPTION: FRIDAY, JUNE 7, 2002 AT 8 PM
LOCATION – STRIDE GALLERY
722, 11 AVE S.W, CALGARY, ALBERTA
In STACKED, Rhonda Weppler constructs sculptural works out of fragile surfaces to create domestic objects that are precariously dark and humorous. Furniture pieces made from pieces of paper-thin wood veneer are adhered together with various types of taping mechanisms. These pathetic sculptures twist, mutate and sag over time causing them to take on animated poses and personalities. The work has an element of tragic comedy that is reflected in their failure to exist as real objects of domestic value. Despite their flimsiness, these sculptures are painstakingly constructed, fueled by a seemingly desperate, and persistent hope.
RHONDA WEPPLER graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Master of Fine Arts in 1998. Her sculptural works have been exhibited at Gallery 101, Ottawa, ON.; Struts Gallery, Sackville, NB; Alternator, Kelowna, BC.; The Surrey Art Gallery, Surrey, BC.; And the Museum for Textiles Comtemporary Gallery in Toronto, ON.
I had much fondness for LEGO, Lincoln Logs and such. Weekend trips to see relatives precluded bringing too much stuff, so often a book was purchased for me as a substitute: my ersatz construction toys were pages of cut-and-assemble-yourself paper models. The standout was the Farm set, of which the cylindrical red silo with its conical roof was the jewel. I relished these trips because I preferred my paper house to my very bulky and awkward plastic Fisher-Price one, whose only saving grace lay in the utterly unconvincing and thus intriguing “trompe l’oeil” stickers adorning its plastic sides. The incorporeality of the model paper farmhouse, on the other hand, helped to transfigure it from clumsy, mute material to something more like a purely mental construct: a spectral, illusory space.
Such models benefit greatly from squinting. Also, looking through a tiny peep-hole formed by one’s fingers adds to the illusion. Rightness of scale can be achieved by simply laying one’s head at the level of the cutouts. Much of the enjoyment of such constructions arises from the games of editing and vantage point required to endow them with life. Of course these games would not be fun if it were difficult to locate the seams, tabs and blank insides of the models, or if the whole contraption did not move with breath. One might be tempted to characterize this as the sublime transformative power of the imagination were it not so easily (sometimes even dangerously) externally manipulated, contingent as it is upon cheap props, prompts and tricks.
It is now common for the product displays of stores such as the Brick to be decorated with similar paper props: televisions, computers, books. If I were running these stores I would think poorly of this arrangement, which is ruinous to two illusions. The illusion of the cardstock books cannot stand up to the materiality of the furniture; the reverse is also true. Knowing that the paper membrane of the books is merely filled with air reflects badly upon the ugly, dense particleboard beneath the veneer of the shelf. I thus always find displays of paper models to be melancholic.
Currently, my bookshelf is a mess. I have had a number of different systems to give logic to my bookshelf, including one that was particularly irrational and difficult to maintain: order on shelf by date of publication regardless of subject. Strangely I was able to maintain this system the longest of any. After deciding upon this a priori ordering logic, I rearranged my books and experienced a kind of epiphany. “So that came after that” and so on. As hoped, my system endowed my collection with an intelligibility, or perhaps readability, that I subsequently fantasized had some connection to reality. I also used it, cheaply perhaps, as a mnemonic device: a kind of giant heavy flashcard.
As time passed however, it became apparent that the middling number of texts I owned could not live up to the extravagant system into which they were inserted. The twentieth century was interminably long, for example. Some eras only had one person living in them. The only answer was a good shuffling.
My arrangements of books are usually modeled upon either archaeology, as above, or librarianship, as evidenced in other efforts based upon alphabet or subject. It is rare that I have ordered texts by any formal characteristic, excepting when packing to move. In this case I work from stacks of small, medium and large texts, fitting them puzzle-like within the confines of whatever box is on hand. In other disciplines this method of installation is termed site-specific. It does strike me that a purely formal or mathematical system, self-contained within clearly set limits, would not fail in the manner of my archaeological one, striving as it did for sense. Consider an arrangement of texts by size: small to large or thick to thin. The unnaturalness of such a configuration of books would imply that I didn’t read them. Yet the dumbness and frankness of such an installation might be condusive to other kinds of narratives. Hallucinations might be an example. You could run your eye along the shelf, imagining you were getting larger as the texts got smaller. A second option would be to buy only the same book repeatedly. This would surely dispel any of the pretensions of the bookshelf.
Artists such as Donald Judd introduced a set of strategies to sculptural practice in the 1960’s that subsequently and quickly ossified into a now-familiar model: serial or mathematically ordered structures, elemental forms, the disclosure of the hollow interior of sculpture to thus render the form as all surface. Above all, professed is a disavowal of illusion and aesthetics.
I have owned a number of spectacular boxes, including cigar boxes full of relationship tokens and a massive box for a dryer that I, as a child, turned into a small house. Boxes are ideal containers for such nostalgia, and the emptier the box the better. Perhaps Judd underestimated this. Yet it is true that minimal boxes were not meant to contain but rather to be contained by larger boxes, hence the ease of their transition to (overtly) commercial spaces, against which they are defenceless. I thus always find displays at Zara, Caban or Holt Renfrew to be melancholic, though I suppose no less so than those at MOMA. Perhaps this is a good thing. Shoes, sweaters and bar utensil sets haunting minimal boxes, the impossibility of the utopian minimalist position haunting the store: the dream of things without illusions.
TREVOR MAHOVSKY is a Vancouver-based artist. He has written for Art and Text and Canadian Art, and last exhibited at the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Queens Museum of Art, NYC.