Statements From “Overthrown” at the Denver Art Museum
The Hamilton building at the Denver Art Museum responds to the natural landscape with carefully calibrated geometric volumes. I think of my installation as a kind of tapestry – or embroidery – embellishing th architecture with a more intricate structure.
Many of the qualities of ceramics make it ideal for large scale architectural applications: it is permanent, colorful, and relatively simple to form.
But clay also presents considerable challenges. It is fragile, heavy, and requires a kiln large enough to contain and carefully heat each component part.
For a thousand years architects have developed strategies for constructing large surfaces by connecting many clay pieces (The Sydney Opera House and the Alhambra are two of my personal favorites). Innovations in complex geometry have emerged from their solutions. Peter Lu, a Physicist and Harvard Professor, discovered the use of Penrose geometry in Medieval Iranian architecture. Penrose geometry – an idea not discovered in the west for another 500 years – is a series of non-repeating tessellating polygons – in this case a functional solution for aligning ceramic tiles on a wall, and also a revelation as a component of fractal geometry; a mathematical concept for reflecting on form in nature.
While more modest in scale and complexity the components of this installation are borne out of the same impulse. The Hamilton Building at the Denver Art Museum is an ideal site. The building responds to the natural landscape with carefully calibrated geometric shapes. My installation is a second layer – a more intricate structure for weaving together the geometries of nature with the volumes of this architecture. The scale of the building and the significance of this exhibition have provided the catalyst for my largest and most ambitious work to date.
The large tile wall was developed with CAD software and the prototypes were formed on a computer controlled mill. The geometry in “Links”, and “Wedgewood Black Hive/Hole”, were developed using more tactile, and analog methods. The form for “Links” came from casting a rubber truck tire innertube, that had been suspended and filled with 150lbs of plaster. With “Truncated Octrahedra” I re-discovered a fundamental space filling polyhedron through a back door method – by printing out sheets of equilateral polygons, gluing them to foam-board, and building forms by taping together the pieces.
I’m interested in the ways that scale of production – and the amount of mechanization in the process – affects the quality of an object. The fabrication of this work was kept intentionally small scale, and in contrast with the software and machines used to generate the prototypes – at times very low tech. For each of the forms I made a series of plaster molds. For 6 months my studio assistant and I cast the molds by hand. Because of the variability in the making process a layer of texture – of variation – interrupts the consistency of the geometry. The work was also glazed by hand, yielding mottling in the color and variation in the color and translucency of the surfaces. The turquoise color in the glaze at the bottom of the tile wall comes from the introduction of a small amount of Copper Oxide, a metal that is mined in the Rocky Mountains, and whose forms are reflected in the buildings exterior.