SUNDAY is pleased to present Blowjob, the first New York solo exhibition by Houston-based artist Sharon Engelstein. Blowjob presents a selection of the sculptor’s work that she does not make by hand. A large-scale inflatable, three midsize “rapid prototypes” and a selection of drawings are variously created by different outputting technologies from computer files designed, assembled and perfected in cyberspace rather than in her studio. Her results are nonetheless traditional, Engelstein maintains, because she is still involved with inventing forms.
“Soft Head”, an inflated form designed for SUNDAY, fills the main gallery with a cluster of provocative forms both mechanical and biomorphic. One’s mind reads smokestacks, clustered fruit, cleavage, tubes, or tails, and something distinctly penile is thrusting at the front window. Massive at eight by eight by fourteen feet, the piece consists of a ribbed urethane-coated nylon fabric perpetually inflated by an internal electrical blower. Engelstein considers the process of transforming her design into a working inflatable, a collaboration with the manufacturer involved, who normally makes promotional items like inflatable body-builders, dinosaurs and superheroes.
Several smaller works are “rapid prototypes” created by an entirely different industrial process. This consists of “printing” out three-dimensional computer files in a plastic powder one micro-thin layer at a time, laser-fusing each layer to the previous layer, and eventually accreting the finished work. The images created by Engelstein consist not only of her own designs but also bits and pieces of three-dimensional models available on the web like “clip art”. For example in “Kitlit”, a craggy geometric mountain range is surmounted by a sphere, which is transformed into a head by the addition of two feline ears. The ears are found objects, licensed online.
Engelstein’s drawings are two-dimensional views of her three dimensional projects printed out in velvety black ink on paper. They necessarily exclude all but one of the endless possibilities for viewing such projects onscreen, where three-dimensional forms can be viewed at any scale, and from any angle and delineated by all manner of lines or contouring grids. Cousins of the potential sculptures they depict, each drawing represents a long sequence of aesthetic choices.
Though her restless exploration of technological horizons is impressive and fruitful, the magic of Engelstein’s art comes from its capture and presentation of haunting and evocative images. Sifting the intimidating infinity of possibilities proffered by our fabulous high tech, she brings out timeless themes re-imagined in contemporary media.
Sharon Engelstein (b.1965, Montreal, Canada) lives and works in Houston, TX. She received a MFA from Claremont Graduate School; Claremont, CA and a BFA from University of South Florida, Tampa. Engelstein was recently featured in solo exhibitions at Louisiana State University Gallery, Shaw Center for the Arts, Art Pace foundation in San Antonio, TX, and The Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, TX. Her work has also been featured in group shows at the Bakalar and Paine Galleries at the Massachusetts College of Arts in Boston, The National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC, and The Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, TX. Engelstein’s work has been discussed in Art News, The New York Times, and Art in America, among others. She is a member of the Artist Pension Trust and the recipient of The Louis Comfort Tiffany Award and the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.