Born in Istanbul, Turkey and now living there and in Berlin, Germany, Ayşe Erkmen is well known in Europe for her spectacular public projects and subtle architectural interventions. Busy Colors will be the artist’s first solo exhibition in the United States.
Busy Colors is a provocative and dramatic installation that works with and off of SculptureCenter’s 100-year-old steel and brick building. Twin images of a small, jewel-like metal object (a sculpture of a landmine) are scaled up to billboard proportions and cover the entire 3,000 square foot surface of the courtyard. Inside, SculptureCenter’s main exhibition space remains empty of objects but is activated by the automated movement of the building’s 20-ton gantry crane, twenty-five feet above the ground. Attached to the crane are expanses of two different translucent fabrics, which, as the gantry moves from one end of the building to the other, alternately create vertical and horizontal colored planes, changing the dimensions and experience of the room. Simultaneously beautiful and menacing, Busy Colors emphasizes surfaces, thresholds, and barriers as sites where multiple social, cultural, and political conditions temporarily reveal themselves.
Erkmen’s projects and installations respond to specific sites and contexts, often using physical displacement to engender perceptual and epistemological shifts. Shipped Ships (2001) was a project commissioned by DeutscheBank for which the artist brought three passenger boats to the Main River in Frankfurt, Germany – one from Japan, one from Venice and one from Istanbul. The boats came with their crews and for a nominal fee residents of Frankfurt could ride up or down the river in these foreign boats, undoubtedly changing the way they saw their own city.
Working indoors, she often adds little to a space but rather manipulates aspects of the architecture. In Das Haus (1993), for instance, Erkmen simply lowered the galleries’ fluorescent lights to a few feet above the floor. What had been a mere aspect of the rooms’ infrastructure became a sculptural object that also restricted viewers’ movements within the space.
Ayşe Erkmen has completed several major projects in Europe over the last decade and has been included in many international exhibitions including Skulptur Projekte MŸnster 1997; Manifesta 1; the second and fourth Istanbul Bienniales; and the 2000 Kwangju Biennial. She has presented solo projects at Schirn Kunsthalle (Frankfurt); Magasin 3 (Stockholm); Secession (Vienna); Ikon Gallery (Birmingham, U.K.) and Kunstmuseum St. Gallen (Switzerland).