Objects on the Horizon
audrey hasen russell
The constructed scenes in my work function as a fragmented narrative, nostalgic manipulations of fictionalized memory. Assembled stick drawings, ornamental objects, and familiar materials accumulate and condense, mutating into the pseudo-organic forms of miniature landscapes reminiscent of the mountainous terrain of my childhood. I integrate multiple scale shifts in each piece, generating tiny vistas within and upon fantastic surfaces.
My goal is to further a symbiotic relationship between fanciful pastoral landscape structures and found objects and spaces. I specifically focus on the spaces of the built environment delineated by the artificial bucolic horizon developing in my installations. Site-responsive projects both inside and outside of the gallery setting engage elements of existing architecture, subverting the viewers’ perception of scale and inserting fantasy narratives into and around familiar contexts.
Audrey Hasen Russell received a BFA in Sculpture from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and an MFA in Sculpture from Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI.
Her most recent solo exhibition, Slant Branch Souvenir (Thinkin’ on You) is on view at Wave Hill’s Sunroom Project Space in the Bronx, NY. Russell has had previous solo exhibitions at the Mason House Gallery in Greeneville, TN, and the College Union Art Gallery, SUNY Geneseo, NY. Russell also exhibited this year in the Bushwick Biennial, Nurture Art, Brooklyn NY, and Your Own Fairy Tale, AG Gallery, Brooklyn, NY. In addition, she has participated as an Artist-In-Residence at the Sculpture Space Residency, Utica, NY, and the Robert M. MacNamara Residency, Westport, ME. Audrey was born and grew up in Greeneville, Tennessee.
A Line in the Sand
by Benjamin Wooten
The degraded object has long stood for humanity’s hubristic legacy, especially when placed in the larger context of landscape. Failure of the human-made is, perhaps, the most iconic stand-in for the vastness of space, perpetual time, and underlying human fears of the terminal. In these instances – as in Shelley’s Ozymandias – the human edifice is toppled, evermore charging the space surrounding it. In some cases, these falls amount to no less than a wholesale physical and psychological reconsideration of what is ‘made’.
The artists featured in this exhibition engage objects in the landscape with levity commensurate to both our individual and collective occupation with ever shrinking spatial, material, and even psychological horizons. Place and time – the defining framework of landscape - are expressed in works of material dexterity, with the self-effacing admission of an uncertain, nonetheless beautiful, relationship with our surroundings. Amidst this, as around the decay of Shelley’s colossal wreck, lies the lone and level strength of the sculptural work as a persistent concept. It is the power of objects to move us, while ever asking that we move onwards.
Jason S. Brown tackles the physical landscape with his large installation, Ridgeline. His piece is architectural in theory, combining construction with a socio-ecological conscience aimed at the realities of coal powered energy consumption. Especially in the wake of recent coal ash spills in East Tennessee, Brown’s reconstructed disaster constitutes a harbinger in its own right. The work resolves itself into a domestic footprint, suggesting that the idea of a remote location is no longer applicable. Audrey Hasen Russell’s Slanted Yellow invokes a personal landscape, each surface an agonizing decision in terms of material, surface treatment, and placement. Slanted Yellow is an object-narrative, cushioning accumulated detritus from an incalculably gentle blow, with broken sticks and glassware peering from the feltscape as Ozymandias’ legs from the sand. The understated structure terminates in a rhinestone-studded cardboard box, orienting viewers to a full spectrum of the tenuous yet surprisingly pedestrian qualities of then and now. Also with an eye to the past, Greely Myatt’s Rug is a disarmingly honest attempt to approach place from within, by employing tricks of the distant horizon. An obvious forgery of space and material, Rug is a gallery-borne mirage, a harmless illusion that raises the real threat of delusion amidst an internal landscape. Rug is also an adroit recognition of the historic sculptural ground it treads, at once acknowledging Picasso’s rejected illusionism, while playfully dismissing it.
Straying from a strictly material approach, Greg Pond’s Userland[s] projects a landscape of measures. His charmingly low-fidelity homunculus is an awkward growth, driven by ongoing environmental input - but also by its original programmer - and so takes on the spiritual enormity of the creative act itself. Jackson Martin and Deborah McClary explore similar atapos “no lands” in pieces such as Displaced and the Nothing Seen series. McClary’s Nothing Seen #4 is a lipped, buboed grotesque, whose disquieting bulk menaces the space, flanked by the impossibly engorged succubae of the series’ paintings. Nothing Seen reveals excesses both seductive and repulsive, squaring viewers to a terrifying psychological landscape. In contrast, Martin’s Displaced is a sculptural chicken-in-egg, posing dichotomous form in dissimilar locations to establish the temporal landscape of ‘between-ness’. The breakdown of Martin’s objects over days and weeks constitute echoes of an original, while never quite deciding upon what came first. This is the conundrum and subsequent attraction of the carefully managed organic/inorganic material mixture in his work. Of similar impact are the natural/artificial blend of Brown’s Ridgeline and Russell’s Slanted Yellow, and especially the high/low-technology mix of Ponds’ Userland[s].
As contemporary sculpture continues it’s foot race with Brancusi’s shadow, it is heartening to find conscientious craftspeople reaching into spaces outside the sculptural norm. In fact, if contemporary sculpture is suited to any task, a humble look at how place and time are understood in concert with those forms that trace their existence through it certainly seems to be a priority of the first order. All six artists have taken landscape, in one way or another, as an intermediary between experience and meaning, distinctly opposed to any concrete notion of the pastoral and its perpetual reliability. Certainly, the landscapes proposed in Objects on the Horizon deal squarely with the idea of the limited rather than limitless, each maker creating objects that hint at what may lie significantly past the boundaries of their artifice. As in Shelley’s Ozymandias, the form is temporary. The notion of its passing, however, may stand indefinitely.
I met a traveler from an antique land?
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone?
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,?
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown?
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command?
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read?
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,?
The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.?
And on the pedestal these words appear:?
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:?
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”?
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay?
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,?
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
- Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley