As in all of McKendree Key’s exhibitions, West 23rd: Ground Floor is titled after the location in which the exhibition is presented. Composed of a site-specific installation in the front gallery space and photographs and individual sculptures in the second space, Key continues her investigation into altering environments through the introduction of artificial elements.
Many of Key’s installations are presented in nature and juxtapose the uniform rigidity of the commercially manufactured plastic balls with a natural environment. Whether floated on water or blown by the wind, the balls respond with a fluidity and spontaneity that is in direct contrast to their intrinsic inorganic nature. As Key states, the balls are not intended to compete with nature, nor to beautify it. Rather, they are presented as a means of intervention in a specific locale or landscape through the addition of a foreign element for a limited period of time. The duration of the piece is often defined by the impact of natural elements such as water flow or wind.
Because of the temporal nature of both her outdoor and indoor installations, photographic documentations are the sole manner in which McKendree Key’s dynamic works survive. In West 23rd: Ground Floor, Key presents photographs of her commissioned site specific installation for the Fleming Museum at the University of Vermont last winter. Some 4,000 3.5-inch-diameter white plastic balls were scattered over snow-covered frozen Lake Champlain. As seen in the photographs, the result was an unearthly landscape whose subtle palette and lack of scale forces the viewer to question the reality of the scene.
McKendree Key is the recipient of numerous awards and grants, including Socrates Sculpture Park Emerging Artist Fellowship in 2003, a NYFA Artist Fellowship in 2004, an LMCC (Lower Manhattan Cultural Council) Swing Space Award and a Skowhegan residency in 2005. She is a 2001 graduate of Colorado College and has been exhibiting professionally since that year. Her work will be seen in the upcoming In-Practice exhibition at The Sculpture Center in January 2006.