Rita McBride: New Markers
May 9 – Jun 13, 2009
Since she began exhibiting in the late 1980s, McBride has explored the role of often overlooked mainstays of public space. Moved by a void of civic sculpture in the United States, she makes work to "connect the supervisible alternate universe of the international art world to the invisible sculptural real outside."* With an eye trained on modernistic objects and architecture, her sculptures toy with the functionalism and formalism of public structures. McBride explores the impotence of skylights as architectural elements, the parasitic relationships of HV AC units and awnings to their hosting buildings, and the transformative effects of tiered seating on social spaces. While parsing these relationships, McBride has been continually seduced by new materials, employing those that have a relationship to mass-produced goods and a modernist sensibility.
This exhibition focuses on two recent sculptural explorations. New Markers fill the main space of the gallery, clustered together to form a community. The sculptures find their roots in Joseph Beuys' 7,000 Oaks project, begun in 1982 at Documenta 7. Beuys proposed to plant 7,000 trees, each paired with a basalt stone marker, 16 of which can be found 3 blocks from this gallery on 22nd St. Taking their form from these basalt totems and their wards, McBride's Markers are clad in Abet laminate, a material emblematic of post-modern architecture and design of the 1980s. Paired with the New Markers are 11 Ship Curves. Made of chromed brass, the works explore the forms of obsolete templates used in drafting. McBride enlarges the templates beyond functionality, which “places them . . . in implicit relation to the human body, standing for the sacred engineer of the Renaissance human.”* Also present are Middle Managers (Karl and Uwe). These actual size, powder coated housings, are based on the forms of ubiquitous telecommunication boxes oft seen on the streets of Cologne and other European cities. New works from an ongoing series, they may speak most directly to the notion of public utility structures as placeholders in the vacuum of public art.
An interpretive drawing that occupies the landing on the gallery’s second floor, Tell Me Something Good, is a two-part collaboration between Rita McBride and Kim Schoenstadt, loosely based on Art By Telephone, a 1969 exhibition at Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. The second part of their collaboration will be held at the Santa Monica Museum of Art in September.
Rita McBride lives in New York and Germany where she is a professor at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. In 2004, McBride had an extensive solo exhibition at the SculptureCenter, New York. Over the last six years her work has been the subject of solo museum exhibitions throughout Europe, the most recent being Rita McBride: Public Works at the Museum Abteiberg Möchengladbach. The accompanying publication, A Field Manual by Mark von Schlegel (Dumont, Cologne, 2008)* will be available at the gallery.