COMPRESSION TESTING / exhibition curation - 2012
The second curated exhibit that Jessica Calek and I organized at the 22 studio in Berwyn was entitled Compression Testing. Featuring work from 19 artists, designers, and architects, the show examined the flexible role that corrugated cardboard plays in art and design, from prototyping and shipping to a material used in finished gallery-ready pieces. Excerpts from the text accompanying the show:
The idea of “material” within art and design is incredibly important, both as a practical tool and as a potent symbol. By focusing this exhibit primarily on a single material, corrugated cardboard, we are able to explore this potency on a number of levels. Much of art and design is fundamentally based on gaining an intimate understanding of material properties, and then exploiting those properties for an expressive or illustrative purpose. We've chosen corrugated cardboard because of its ubiquitousness and importance in solving purely technical design problems, and because of its growing presence in contemporary art, as work grapples with questions of permanence, accessibility, and longevity, and connections to identity, portraiture, reuse, shelter, and so on.
Designers, engineers and architects often use corrugated cardboard as a purely practical way to produce prototypes or rough drafts for future projects. It is used as a material for packaging, support, or protection, thrown away once it is no longer needed. Indeed, many of the pieces of art and design in this show were shipped to us inside corrugated cardboard boxes -- boxes which will be discarded once their purpose has been fulfilled.
Cardboard, therefore, is inherently temporary, existing primarily as a means to a more permanent end. Its usage as shipping and packaging material imbues it with a sense of transition, of travel, of nonplace, of impermanence. This idea of impermanence or change makes corrugated cardboard a powerful and symbolic material in contemporary art. It appears quite often in contemporary sculpture, for example, as a signifier of identity in transition. The use of cardboard within these works also lends the works themselves a sense of impermanence, in stark contrast to the implied permanence of a bronze statue, for example.
Finally, the standardization of corrugated cardboard also touches on the influence of mass production and industry on the built landscape, the production of art, and the ways in which we construct our own identities. As mass production, standardized materials, and the hardware store become more prevalent in the creation of art, how does this affect the idea of artmaking as a deeply personal endeavor?
The exhibit ran from March to April 2012, and included large scale sculptures, drawings and paintings on cardboard, and architectural study models, as well as documentation of film work, installations, and other projects that explore the use and ramifications of cardboard in a more conceptual manner. Participating artists included Sue Arends, Jessica Calek, Charlie DeLeonardis, Robin Dluzen, Trevor Edmonds, Patrick Gantert, Matt Geer, Ania Jaworska, Josep Muñoz i Pérez, Wil Natzel, Jody Oesterreicher, Robyn Oliver, Michael Philips, Haynes Riley, Barbara Streeting, Dan Streeting, Zachary Trebellas, and Bob Turek. Photos of the exhibit, as well as the poster announcing the show, appear below.