Susanne Hilberry Gallery
9 November 2007 – 5 January 2008
On the path towards becoming that a young artist ventures down, there emerges a discovery, the striking of a vein of inspiration that once uncovered can yield a lifetime of sustenance, a wellspring for which to feed creative exploration and bring forth new work. We might think of it as a box to call one’s own, in which to continually explore and further expand upon, in the process always growing with as an artist. Whether the box is one of method, materials, or concept – it’s a platform to build on and leap off of. Think of Pollock letting paint drip from brush to canvas, or Giacometti’s particular way of describing the figure, and how these creative explorations defined them but never limited them.
Of course, there is that danger of such a box becoming a limitation and lead to stagnation, that it can reduce the sphere of expression, and the artist reproduces the same sort of thing, in slightly different variations over and over.
Such a thing could be the fear of Ivin Ballen’s work, he’s found a box for himself, in this case, quite literally working with boxes – fiberglass replicas of boxes for moving, with colorful packing tape, contents often pushing through opening – all becoming abstract compositions displayed like paintings yet sculptural in form. It’s extremely clever, imaginative, and distinct territory, but potentially a trap to fall into.
Thankfully, this is decidedly not the case. For in staying within this box, Ballen quite literally explodes out of it as well, expanding the realm of the work to great delight. He pushes on numerous fronts, stretching the notion of the box metaphorically, conceptually, in scale, in form, and function. Despite the range of ideas on display, it remains quite consistent and always has the signature that makes it Ballen’s. The work emanates from this notion of the cardboard box as vehicle for moving and speaks to transient living, packing up and moving, cramming everything into boxes and relocating one’s life – a familiar experience to art students becoming working artists constantly living out of boxes. Transformed into art objects, we look at them from a whole new perspective.
The replicated boxes can be seen as objects and abstraction, but also serve as maps, as landscapes, perhaps the new locations these boxes will travel to, a notion Ballen had previously approached before and continues to broaden here. In “Province,” the composition is as an aerial view overlooking a city park, with boxes looming upwards as buildings and billowing stretched plastic-like surfaces becoming landscape. It works as abstraction – as that reversal of mimicry of ordinary materials, as landscape, and here, Ballen also introduces a more painterly quality that can be seen throughout the work. On the “park” surface, he employs an almost trump l’oeil effect, reminiscent of the paint handling and multi-panel compositions of former Detroit painter Peter Williams.
This painterliness is most prominent in “Sunset” achieved with the collaborative efforts of Jacob Feige, who provides a scenic cloudscape that is sandwiched between Ballen’s signature packing and tape forms. Openings in the boxes serving as portals to other spaces, windows to other realities, is a concept that is present throughout and really opens the work to multiple readings. This again speaks to the idea of transience, as if the box is existing in two realities – the here and now, and the hope of what lies ahead.
The works then are not just what they look like, but they become something more – the conceptual, often with a definite, if subtle sense of humor about them. Ballen displays this loudest with the introduction of real objects emerging from the boxes, in particular a full blown stereo system complete with a set of speakers, a working system and a triptych of sorts. All of them are integrated and jutting out of his box compositions, as if someone had moved and had to get the music going before unpacking further. The conflation of functional and art object is extremely creative and really shows Ballen’s continual expansion of ideas.
It’s a strong show with a lot of play between the form, the composition, and the elements at work, that make for rich and repeated viewing. For Ballen, the possibilities have multiplied, and it seems clear he’s on a path where they will continue to do so. – Nick Sousanis
No Pingbacks for this post yet...
This post has 2 feedbacks awaiting moderation...