Blog Post #8- SOFA Chicago

‘Empathy is the most radical of human emotions.’ - Gloria Steinem




 Speaking with Mary Ferazza about Social Practice Art and discussing the possibility of a future Shared Spaces event in Pullman, on the South Side of Chicago.

Speaking with Mary Ferazza about Social Practice Art and discussing the possibility of a future Shared Spaces event in Pullman, on the South Side of Chicago.

Talking with people conversationally about my work in an art fair or gallery show always seems to help me better understand my own process. I haven’t previously shown any of the flag pieces from Shared Spaces formally, but one of my long-time dealers was showing at SOFA Chicago sculptural art fair, and twisted my arm to bring two of the Shared Spaces studies. (Shared Spaces Study #1 and Shared Spaces Study #5.)  

The good news is they’re generating lots of dialog and there was that classic question yesterday: What was your inspiration?  Here’s a paraphrasing of what I was able to piece together:

 Joanna Pinsky, leading an Art Encounter group at SOFA, spent several minutes discussing Shared Spaces Study #5 with me and her group.

Joanna Pinsky, leading an Art Encounter group at SOFA, spent several minutes discussing Shared Spaces Study #5 with me and her group.

“I’m responding as an artist to how things are out there in the US these days – to the fractured dialog, the mistrust and anger.  By pulling together these flag works, filled with all kinds of different meaningful objects and symbols, in communities which themselves may be diverse and filled with lots of competing values and points of view, I’m hoping to learn more about how these things can all live alongside each other in some kind of whole.  When you stand back and look at the piece, I hope you’ll also feel it—that it all comes together –all those bristling powerful symbols and objects are all there, but somehow you feel the whole.

“I was a Middle Child, so I know all about how to live alongside other people’s agendas.  That feels like it has something to do with Pluralism, Diversity, ways of accommodating all sorts of different ways of being American. My hope is that by participating in a Shared Spaces event, or by viewing these works, especially once we can get six or eight of them together in a room, with videos of people talking about the things they are choosing and why, that we can learn something more about all the different ways of being American.  It’s like America is an invention, and we have to keep figuring out what we are and how to do it, every generation.”

 Visitors at SOFA Chicago, November 2018

Visitors at SOFA Chicago, November 2018

Art Encounter curator Joanna Pinsky discusses Bob Clyatt Sculpture Shared Spaces Study #5 at SOFA Chicago 2018, Maria Elena Kravetz Gallery

Blog Post #7 - Pelham, NY

IMG_6319.jpg
 Pelham Art Center Director Charlotte Mouquin with Shared Spaces participants, October 2018

Pelham Art Center Director Charlotte Mouquin with Shared Spaces participants, October 2018

I realize that Shared Spaces is going to evolve and take on new forms over time.  This kind of thing happens a lot to artists:  we never quite know where a project is headed until it’s already happened.   Keeping a clear, crisp concept of an art project in my head has no doubt helped me get things done over the years, but often enough, the good stuff happens when I trip over it and suddenly realize I’m being led down a new path.



In this case I was down in Pelham, New York a few times this summer visiting an art friend from my building in Chelsea, Charlotte Mouquin, who recently left Rush Arts Foundation and took over the Executive Director role at the Pelham Art Center.  As Directors do, she asked me to create an artwork for their upcoming Gala fundraiser: a 12”x12” wall relief work in panel format that all the contributing artists were using.  Of course I said ‘yes’, thinking I would do one of my regular Cultural Landscape assemblages. A week later realized I could probably generate more fun for them if I created it with input from people there in Pelham. Then I realized if I just did a square flag fragment, (I wanted to work in their requested format)  it could work as a regular Shared Spaces event.  

 Shane, helping unload the clay.  I’m always happy to have helpers, and give young people some old-fashioned work experience!

Shane, helping unload the clay. I’m always happy to have helpers, and give young people some old-fashioned work experience!




By the time dates were set for the first workshop, I’d already agreed to do a second one, and had been playing with various ways to get flag fragments into a square format.  I showed up with the clay already formed with the stripes, and we had a great afternoon in the courtyard of the Pelham Art Center with guests at their weekend events and people just walking by on the sidewalk.  As always, the kids get it right away which helps create buzz and gets parents and older people to come over and get involved. We filled up the two works nicely by the time it got dark, packed up everything, then Charlotte and I had a chance to visit some artists in their nearby open studios.

 This visitor was a serious Harley fan, and even owned a vintage Harley from the 1930s!

This visitor was a serious Harley fan, and even owned a vintage Harley from the 1930s!







I took the pieces back to my studio, poured the plaster next day and cleaned them up in time for their gala.  I’m happy with the results – it was a nice, simple one-day project with the public imprinting of objects part, and the square format let me play around with star/stripe forms separately from the actual flag, which was liberating.  And I just learned the two pieces found buyers at their fundraiser, so now Shared Spaces is officially a way for communities to create works that raise funds for more art!

IMG_6323-2.jpg





Blog Post #5 - Wrapping Up The First Piece

June 22, 2018

So people did show up, in droves!  The final participant count was 200 people, including about 60 children and people from all walks of life and across many different communities within the city (black, white, Korea, et al.)  It was actually overwhelming at times – they came with beloved items from home, they came to sniff around and see what was going on, they came with their teachers and many three-generation groups – teenage kids, parents and grandparents.  A Korean friend of the art center and gallery had come by on setup day, then sent out an alert to 130 Korean families in the area (KIA Motors has a big auto plant near here) and dozens of members from the Korean community showed up to lend their support.

A policeman came in with a badge from the department, wanting to have us include it, and a young girl brought in a grandfather’s World War II brass insignia that had been pinned on the grandfather’s Army hat.  People came in, curious, like we were from an episode of Antiques Roadshow, wondering whether something could be included, would it “print” into the clay, was there room or did we think it would be a fit?  Russ, the local notable, gave us his marijuana pipe to imprint in the clay, and his daughter brought in a logo representing his global corporation.

Bob with Policeman-LaGrange GA.JPG

We were busy, and went to work for a solid day adding pieces into the sculpture until 4:00 pm, at which time I was finally able to eat lunch! Then we picked up the ball again to pour the plaster and the foam, ending a very long and full day.

Reflecting on it tonight, I still worry: would the new gantry (a kind of mobile I-beam placed overhead) and chain hoist rig work when we have to raise and flip the piece? At my home studio I’ve always flipped the heavy clay and plaster ‘sandwich’, which weighs about 500 pounds, using chain hoists and steel beams mounted in the roof.  Here, I have no choice: I have to do it all with this mobile portable gantry, and it’s been stressful wondering if it would work. In the end, with 8 or 10 people watching and 6 people helping, we did make the flip to the delight of the crowd. The table started to tip, the gantry scudded a few inches forward, and everyone gasped and clapped as it settled down.



So it all worked, not elegantly, but all fine. We started cleaning, with a rotating crew of 15 people or so all having a chance to peel clay away, with essentially no missteps. It was all starting to be a blur – washing, picking, scraping, scratching, washing again, and more clay picking. It felt like a quilting bee with people talking and sharing and picking – all hunched over the piece from several angles, really drawn into a touching scene of genuine community. Participants were truly a part of something magnetic and worthwhile.  Lots of laughing, teens and young adults along with the elderly. A retired woman, a lifelong textile designer who had just moved back to town regaled us with her wit. “If I’d ‘a known how much fun this was going to be I’d ‘a started doin’ it years ago!”

I set the piece in its little tent to dry, with fans and bricks and boards and tarps and heater all working in unison.

Following the main event, I joined in with another dinner along with members of the Museum Board and friends – it’s been essentially one very long 72-hour- day. What comes next?

It’s clear to me that the hard part is ahead, even though this wonderful LaGrange experience has given me a great foundation.  Will we be able to put this piece and the community experience into context with similar projects from other places? Will we ever find other similarly inspired communities to work with?  As we do more of these will the results start to feel banal/skew toward a predictable middle ground? What if a (perceived) worn-down, beaten-up community (based on factors such as poverty-level incomes or undocumented-immigrant-percentage) produces a work that reflects only on the hardships of the community, as opposed to a vibrant look at who they are: encompassing all aspects of life in this Georgia community?

All ahead, all unknown.  What is clear is that after three exhilirating days (and a few more days tweaking with plaster and tints in upstate Georgia at another residency there)  is a tiny down payment, a preamble, an ante, for the real job ahead. The real work is getting several of these events in a wide range of communities to start building the outlines of a new story, generating fresh insights into places we think we know but never visit, uncovering a way of helping everyone involved find something new and valuable, perhaps something about what it means to truly be an American.

Blog Post #4- Show Time!

     

June 21,2018

This is the day I’ve been planning for- when people are going to show up, when the Thing is going to be created.  Yesterday we set everything up: the mold, the clay... Museum assistants helped me prepare, the gantry got put up, and people dropped in for a visit, stopping to chat and bringing objects for imprinting into the Shared Spaces piece. Everything ran according to plan.

 Collage of images during the day of imprinting works into the clay, LaGrange, GA

Collage of images during the day of imprinting works into the clay, LaGrange, GA

My main concern is: when all of these things get done, will we end up with something interesting and meaningful, or just a kind of community “craft” project?   What drove this whole project for me could be summarized: what if?

What if I could get a piece made simultaneously by people in New York and people in Georgia?

What if, in spite of each community having their own (quite different) objects selected to be in there, it was possible that instead of these objects ‘competing’ I could find a way to coordinate creation of the work so that these objects could live alongside one other as some sort of whole?

The idea would be to see the final piece with all its variety at the granular level while simultaneously seeing it all come together in a unified, balanced and comprehensive whole from afar. I’ve imagined it might give us some sort of glimpse of a new perspective, where we could reflect on our country with all its conflicts and differences, yet still see it as one cohesive, beautiful whole.


So, as always in these projects, practical matters muddled my original intent. It simply isn’t possible to move the piece anywhere while it is halfway made: my original idea of having Georgia participants to create half of the piece before bringing it home to New York to complete just won’t be possible. This is what I had imagined, but it seems this just won’t be the case -  unless I had convinced a busload of New Yorkers to come with me to LaGrange! From this evolution, eventually the current model of a multi-city tour idea took root: seeking a diversity within each community, and diverse communities around the country, and hoping something similar or at least interesting would happen for each piece. Then hopefully all of these voices can be arranged into one overall exhibit, with the video of their making, on the national level.

What concerns me now has to do with depth.  Will I get the depth of meaning I’ve been hoping for?  Will the things people bring just be personal knick-knacks or things of personal meaning that don’t build up any deeper resonance in others? Also, will people be able to talk about their choices and objects, and do so on camera?  Finally, will a diverse audience show up to participate?

So far I’ve met a number of people here, and by and large it has all been surprising- not what I had expected – different and better.  Starting with my host Wes, who looks on the outside like a northerner’s concept of any random Southern good ‘ol boy, who then turns out to have committed his and his wife’s life savings to building up a high caliber collection of African-American artists’ works on paper, along with other substantive, museum-quality American works.  Then there is his buddy, I’ll call him Russ – we met over bourbon at Boys Night Out up at Wes’s country house a half-hour out of town. Russ started a global company producing custom floor mats, with thousands of employees in plants around the world. He’s retired now, his son runs the business, but stays active in the community. His politics could be described as old-time-Republicanism, and he’s happy to speak like any CEO firmly and confidently about his views on illegal immigration (“lock ‘em up!”) and so forth.  Except that Russ has been one of the earliest, leading figures in the legalize marijuana movement – confronting Newt Gingrich on numerous occasions, donating generously to the cause and sharing a blunt with us at night. “I told him, Dammit Newt! I am Sick and TIRED of being a criminal in my own Country! Now you get in there and talk to Reagan and get this stuff legalized!”

I’ve also met women from the local homeless shelter, teens, a vibrant and large community of Koreans (there is a big KIA plant outside of town) and people from the local colleges. “Who is LaGrange?  Who isn’t?”  is my whole notion of whatever cultural flavor I might find on the “Georgia/Alabama border” just another wrong-headed idea?  It’s certainly different here than New York – for one thing people really like to take their time and sit and talk with each other!- but beyond that isn’t it likely to just be a community full of individuals, like anywhere else, and not something that can stand in for some New Yorker’s view of ‘a datapoint for opinions in rural America’?  Still I feel it is important to be here, to see something that is not New York, and see what I can learn even if it turns out to be completely different from whatever I was expecting.

 Tree outside residency Butterfly House, LaGrange GA

Tree outside residency Butterfly House, LaGrange GA




Oh, and the stillness in these woods up at Wes’s country house is exquisite!

Contemporary Relief Wall Art

Creating a new body of work that connects me to long traditions in sculpture- wall relief art-  that are for some reason not widely pursued by sculptors today.  It has been fun figuring out a new way of working that has immediacy, cultural resonance, flexibility and feels alive.  Process is a blend of 3-d printing, direct carving, mold-making,  life-casting, and press-molding.  Learning to think inside-out-and-backwards and relishing the surprises.  This next sentence is for the bot-like non-humans because this is the place they love to come and read and feed, and they must be fed!   contemporary sculpture relief art, wall-mounted.  contemporary art and sculptural innovation.

 contemporary relief wall art, Cultural Landscape Series #45, bob clyatt sculpture 201742cm x 260cm x 10cm deep.

contemporary relief wall art, Cultural Landscape Series #45, bob clyatt sculpture 201742cm x 260cm x 10cm deep.

Contemporary Relief Sculpture and Heads Sculpture

In an attempt to ensure people can find my work according to the kinds of things they like to search for, this page is my way of dealing with that.  Humans will probably find things more interesting on other parts of the site.  Thanks for visiting :-)

 

Below is an example of my contemporary relief art, a traditional-referencing bas-relief or alto high relief sculpted art form.  Art using Brands and Logos, as well as figurative relief art sculpture.  This art also uses emojis in contemporary art.

 Contemporary Relief Sculpture Art, wall-mounted relief art, Cultural Landscape series, Bee Art

Contemporary Relief Sculpture Art, wall-mounted relief art, Cultural Landscape series, Bee Art

I also have large head sculptures for public art installations, as well as smaller wall-mounted sculptures of face art and head sculptures for collectors.  These head sculpted contemporary art is the latest evolution from my wall-mounted head sculptures.

 (E)scape New faces public art Head sculptures installed outdoors at Marcus Garvey Park, Harlem NYC.  Photo Courtesy Hyperallergic.  They engage the community in a dialog with art, an aspect of art social practice outreach art in a community of color.  This is inspired by the work of such artists as Theaster Gates and Nick Cave.

(E)scape New faces public art Head sculptures installed outdoors at Marcus Garvey Park, Harlem NYC.  Photo Courtesy Hyperallergic.  They engage the community in a dialog with art, an aspect of art social practice outreach art in a community of color.  This is inspired by the work of such artists as Theaster Gates and Nick Cave.