Carol Bove

CAROL BOVE cre­ates sculp­tures that seem to flow like wa­ter or tum­ble like loose fab­ric but are, in fact, as hard as steel. payal ut­tam re­ports

Prestige Hong Kong - - CONTENTS -

New York-based artist Carol Bove uses words like ten­der, light and soft to de­scribe her sculp­tures, though she makes them us­ing heavy stain­less-steel tubes and un­wieldy in­dus­trial-scale ma­chin­ery. Al­most in de­fi­ance of the very na­ture of metal, her vividly coloured works evoke crum­pled fab­ric, clay or even pa­per. In­tensely tac­tile, they teeter be­tween cere­bral as­sem­blages, sen­sual sculp­ture and sleek de­sign.

“We think stain­less steel is hard and strong, and I’m won­der­ing if this is re­ally the case. Can it be tricked into show­ing a dif­fer­ent side?” the artist mused re­cently in an in­ter­view with art his­to­rian Jo­hanna Bur­ton. “Un­der what con­di­tions is it soft and sup­ple? I never force the ma­te­rial to do some­thing it doesn’t want to do. I let it lead me as much as I lead it.”

Al­most like a pas de deux, she per­forms a del­i­cate dance, al­low­ing her ma­te­ri­als to steer the out­come of her works. Her lat­est ex­per­i­ments with metal are on view at David Zwirner this month (un­til De­cem­ber 14) in a show ti­tled Ten Hours. Spread across the two-floor space are a se­ries of vividly coloured works com­posed of steel tub­ing, scrap metal and highly pol­ished steel disks. Th­ese lyri­cal sculp­tures draw sub­tly from as­tro­log­i­cal, cos­mo­log­i­cal and art-his­tor­i­cal in­flu­ences.

While her work may be rel­a­tively new to the gen­eral pub­lic in Asia, au­di­ences across the United States and Europe are very fa­mil­iar with her oeu­vre. Bove’s se­duc­tive sculp­tures have ap­peared ev­ery­where from gal­leries and mu­se­ums to out­door parks and bi­en­nales. Since grad­u­at­ing from New York Univer­sity in 2000, the Cal­i­for­nia na­tive quickly made a name for her­self in the art world. She first be­came known for sculp­tures in the form of shelv­ing units with a sparse dis­play of books, mag­a­zines and ran­dom ob­jects such as pea­cock feath­ers and crys­tals. By mix­ing images and texts rang­ing from a Play­boy cen­tre­fold to

philo­soph­i­cal and mys­ti­cal trea­tises, th­ese works con­jured the spirit of the bo­hemi­an­ism of the 1960s and ’70s. Many of her sculp­tures and in­stal­la­tions re­sulted from scavenger hunts near her stu­dio in Brook­lyn’s in­dus­trial Red Hook neigh­bour­hood, where she scoured for pieces of wood and ur­ban de­tri­tus that caught her eye. In 2011, for in­stance, when she first ex­hib­ited at the 54th Venice Bi­en­nale, she showed an in­stal­la­tion ti­tled The Foamy Saliva of a Horse that con­sisted of a the­atri­cal ar­ray of ob­jects and ma­te­ri­als she found on the Hud­son River shore, in­clud­ing shells, a rusted oil drum, and drift­wood placed in a bronze frame. Over time she be­gan to shift away from as­sem­blages made pri­mar­ily with flot­sam and jet­sam and ven­tured into large-scale in­dus­trial works in the realm of 20th-cen­tury gi­ants like John Cham­ber­lain, Tony Smith and An­thony Caro.

In 2013, she cre­ated six sprawl­ing sculp­tures for The High Line park in New York, in­clud­ing a slick white noo­dle-like tube of looped steel sug­gest­ing a Slinky. Other pieces con­sisted of rusted an­gu­lar steel I-beams al­most cam­ou­flaged amid the old rail tracks. This year at the Swiss Pav­il­ion of the Venice Bi­en­nale (Bove was born in Switzer­land, to Amer­i­can par­ents), she ex­hib­ited seven fig­ure-sized metal forms sug­ges­tive of a fam­ily. The bright blue forms seem as if they’re in the process of be­ing con­structed. One fig­ure is made of rum­pled pieces of metal lay­ered upon a tall tube like a tightly closed flower bud wait­ing to un­furl, while an­other has wing-like an­gu­lar pieces that ap­pear to be pre­car­i­ously at­tached to a cen­tral tube. She also showed some “col­lage sculp­tures”, which she be­gan cre­at­ing in 2016 from square steel tub­ing that she ma­nip­u­lates and of­ten com­bines with pieces of scrap metal, painted in strik­ing colours. Bove ex­pands on this se­ries of col­lage sculp­tures in her cur­rent show at David Zwirner in

Hong Kong, al­beit on a more in­ti­mate scale. When asked how she cre­ates the works, she’s ex­plained, “We use a hy­draulic press to start bend­ing and mas­sag­ing the tubes, and then we pull the bends closed us­ing a chain-hoist sys­tem. Through this process of ma­nip­u­la­tions, the geometry of the steel be­comes very com­plex, mak­ing the tube seem more like fab­ric, or some­thing with a softer texture. It takes some pa­tience.”

Her im­pro­vi­sa­tional process of­ten in­volves pick­ing up metal pieces and sus­pend­ing them in the air with a crane and find­ing the per­fect mo­ment for them to swing to­gether. What tran­spires is a se­ries of ele­gant forms that ap­pear to bend, fold and twist gen­tly in space. Many of the works are punc­tu­ated with highly pol­ished steel discs that look like gi­ant full stops. Invit­ing a ki­naes­thetic ap­proach, her works lure you close to them and coax you to cir­cle around them.

The sculp­tures are coated in ure­thane paint in colours rang­ing from a vi­brant or­ange-red (in­spired by a paint­ing

by French sym­bol­ist Odilon Re­don) to muted pas­tel pinks and jar­ring greens. “[My] in­ten­tion is to ap­prox­i­mate a pal­ette that would make sense in a dig­i­tal con­text, on a screen. At the same time, I choose colours that re­mind me of out­dated print tech­nol­ogy, and I play with com­bin­ing colours that in­ter­fere with one an­other in the same way colour-sep­a­ra­tion print­ing can fail and cause fric­tions be­tween ar­eas of ap­plied colour,” says Bove in the ex­hi­bi­tion cat­a­logue for the show.

A mas­ter of stag­ing, she care­fully cal­i­brates each ex­hi­bi­tion space to cre­ate a spe­cific en­vi­ron­ment in which view­ers can ex­pe­ri­ence her works. For this show, she’s placed sev­eral colour­ful works on pedestals of vary­ing heights in an open lay­out flooded with nat­u­ral light. One work, ti­tled Proof, 2019, is made of a jagged-edged, tor­nand-twisted piece of found steel that seems to col­lapse on to a crum­pled piece of steel painted in vivid orangish red. The two pieces of metal ap­pear to be en­tan­gled and lean­ing upon each other in a strange em­brace. Mean­while, an­other work ti­tled Hinge, 2019, is al­most an­thro­po­mor­phic and com­i­cal in na­ture. It shows a tall yel­low tube of steel that’s been folded over, like an elon­gated per­son bend­ing over at the waist. At the bot­tom is a gleam­ing black steel disc that could be the per­son’s head – or the whole work could be seen as a pair of car­toon­ish yel­low trousers with one leg bal­anc­ing on a black ball. Other works are much more ab­stract and sim­ply re­sem­ble crum­bled non­fig­u­rate tac­tile forms.

To un­der­stand the works, you need to walk through the full show; the artist de­scribes her ex­hi­bi­tion as “a com­plete state­ment” in which she’s care­fully an­tic­i­pated how view­ers jour­ney through the space and how her works tell a story of sorts, sur­pris­ing and cap­ti­vat­ing view­ers at ev­ery turn. As art critic Adrian Searle once said, “Her pri­mary fo­cus, as well as an abid­ing feel for form and place­ment, seems to be dis­play: how things are pre­sented to us, as of­fer­ings, gifts, rit­u­als of an­i­mal at­trac­tion. Look­ing at art, we of­ten for­get that we are an­i­mals too.”

“I never force the ma­te­rial to do some­thing it doesn’t want to do. I let it lead me as much I lead it” – Carol Bove



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