True or False
Sharon Engelstein's work has been inspired by industrial design, commercial inflatables and children's toys. While her materials and techniques have varied over the years, her forms have maintained a certain hybrid identity that she terms "biomorphic." She combines shapes that are suggestive but non-specific in ways that are at once fascinating, provocative and humorous.
Engelstein began developing her abstract, bulbous forms over a decade ago when she downloaded a free version of a three-dimensional modeling program. She discovered that computer-aided design (CAD) was an ideal way of "sketching out forms and conceptualizing." Researching how to get "these fully realized, sculptural entities that were trapped inside my computer out, without losing the perfect geometry and organic forms," she turned to an engineer at a commercial blimp company. Engelstein sent him her drawings and together they worked out how to fabricate them. As she states, "This was a different process for them, but it's all computerized - the pattern cutting, everything - until the sewers start sewing the shapes together."
For Engelstein, using technology-based tools to realize her medleys of organic-based forms represents an intersection between nature and science. The vinyl and nylon fabric scultpures are inflated by fans that make the corpulent orbs seem alive and breathing. Like bouncy castles and the holiday inflatables found on so many American lawns, Engelstein's work spends its downtime as fabric puddles awaiting its next performance.
The exhibition title, True or False, refers to Engelstein's computer-based technique. She calls these artworks "booleans," because in computer operations a boolean expression is a formulaic quantification that makes comparisons or determines conditions or relationships that always result in a value of either true or false. Just as the computer assigns a value of true or false in certain operations, as an artist, Engelstein must determine the true-ness or false-ness of each step of her decision-making process in creating the final form of her works.
By virtue of their enormous size and the abstracted formality of their shapes, her sculptures have a solemnity or gravity that is countered by their charming pastel and tantalizing candy-colored hues. Their shapes are reminiscent of bathtub ducks, teddy bears, or party balloon animals. At the same time, the rounded lumps, humps and appendages of these curious artworks evoke images of human or animal body parts that possess a soft sensuality.