“Sculpture is made with two instruments and some supports and pretty air”- Gertrude Stein.
Stein’s pithy remark, innocuously hidden in an appendix of a text published only after her death, betrays a modernist preoccupation with form and holding as shape. However, Stein’s words lack the finality of much modernist rhetoric, perhaps anticipating the playful, ephemeral nature of the generations of artwork to come. To this point, the works in ˈäbjəkt challenge notions of autonomy and preciousness in sculpture. By destabilizing the artistic and physical autonomy of modernist sculpture, the works make a feminist intervention in space. Ann Greene Kelly, Ruby McCollister, Brie Ruais, and Leah Wolff probe the concept of “pretty air” as activator. So too, the exhibition’s title (object spelled in the phonetic alphabet) is only truly realized through the “air ” essential to its utterance.
Each works in ˈäbjəkt contains vestiges of Stein’s sculptural trifecta. Tangible materials—plexiglass, carpet, clay, plaster, cement—serve as “supports” as Stein uses the term. Along with these, however, more illusory mediums make their presence known through absence. The “two instruments:” the artists’ hands, evidence of fabrication, of corporeal labor. The “pretty air:” evaporation, time, and projected social personas. This trifecta (instruments, supports, air) functions less as a stable definition than an alchemical point of departure. Abandoning a unilateral subject-object relationship, the viewer experiences the pieces circuitously—their physical existence is saturated with ectoplasmic evidence of gestures less tangibly present. In place of a modernist sculptural milieu, the exhibition fosters a space in which the tangible and supposedly evident come into question. Those who enter the space must negotiate their own experiences of vulnerability to “pretty air,” an air that leaves traces rather than providing finite answers.
Curated by Sara Grace Powell