places we have never been / Cloudless White
Stephen Wirtz Gallery presents places we have never been, an exhibition of new objects and installations by the collaborative artists castaneda/reiman. This new work reflects the artists’ ongoing concern with the relationships between the natural landscape and landscapes transformed by the human hand.
The source materials for these new works are the artists’ combined personal collection of found landscape paintings, reflecting a 20-year-long mutual obsession and featuring works from the 19th century to the present. These materials reflect a variety of artistic skill levels, with representations of actual natural settings and others that are imagined or idealized.
At first glance, the installation appears to include these traditional landscape paintings. However, upon closer inspection, the installation is revealed as a collection of ersatz replicas, constructed from plywood panels, drywall mud and other materials commonly found on construction sites—a methodology that has been consistently associated with castaneda/reiman’s art-making practice. These replicas are presented unframed to suggest a continuing panorama. Just as landscape paintings function in domestic spaces as stand-ins or reminders of places or horizons, the representations in the installation serve as stand-ins for the paintings themselves.
For this collection, oak hardwood serves as a symbol of how elements of the natural world are placed into the service of interior domestic landscapes. Multiple units of stacked drywall are framed in oak, subtly and ambiguously suggesting the fabrication of a home, secondary baseboard or the framing of a painting. These units exist in the gallery as pedestals or foundations for the replicas, and thus themselves become objects of note in this created environment, speaking to their materiality and the manner in which representations of the outdoors function inside.
To further question this notion, castaneda/reiman have created cast replicas of rocks—fabricated from a porcelain often used to make precious domestic objects—and included them among the paintings.
castaneda/reiman (Charlie Castaneda b. 1970, San Diego, CA; Brody Reiman, b. 1970, Bethlehem, PA) live and work in the San Francisco Bay Area. Each received their B.F.A. at Carnegie Mellon University and their M.F.A. at the University of California, Davis. Reiman is currently an assistant professor of sculpture at University of California, Berkeley, and Castaneda is on faculty the San Francisco Art Institute. In 2004, they were recipients of the Fleishhacker Foundation Eureka Fellowship. Their work is in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art among others. castaneda/reiman is represented in New York City by DCKT Contemporary, where they will be exhibiting in September, 2009.
Spence creates objects and drawings that bear uncanny references to the natural world. Deeply rooted in her experiences as an avid birder, gardener, and conservationist, Spence creates installations that attempt to order and arrange both recognizable and unrecognizable forms as metaphors for psychological spaces. Constructed from manufactured materials unwanted and discarded—scraps, thread, and fabric from worn-out clothing—Spence’s objects emulate the living animals and other items and elements she observes in nature, and explore the disparity between the culture of the artificial and the existence of the untamed natural world that surrounds us.
This exhibition presents a sort of outdoor habitat, re-imagined and adapted for an inside space, bringing into sharp focus elements that may be hidden or overlooked in the real world. Spence’s man-made materials are meticulously gathered, cut up into pieces, loosely arranged, piled, and bound with string, transforming them into objects that bear a clear and striking resemblance to living species of bird, animal, or plant life. Owls, woodpeckers, and butterflies are accompanied by objects of indeterminate form, all comingling in a loose system of mutual support.
While this imitation of the real may seem an inadequate substitute for the real itself, in Spence’s world it is accepted that this is the deeper meaning—viewing the real through a transformative lens, so that specific structures that exist in nature without fanfare or drama are isolated, drawing them out in ways revelatory and unexpected. In her butterfly pieces, creatures of incredible fragility and fleeting transience are rendered from print media scraps, highlighting the tension between human development and the natural world.
KATHRYN SPENCE received a BFA from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and an MFA from Mills College, Oakland, CA. Her work is represented in numerous museum collections including SFMOMA, the de Young Museum, the Oakland Museum of California, and the San Jose Museum of Art, and the Birmingham Museum of Art, among others. In 2008, Spence was awarded the The Fleishhacker Foundation Fellowship, and in 2005, received the Anonymous Was A Woman foundation award. Spence was selected for the 48th Corcoran Biennial exhibition in 2005. Solo exhibitions of her work have been presented at the Kemper Museum, Kansas City, MO, and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. Upcoming solo museum exhibitions are scheduled at Mills College, Oakland, CA and the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, CT.