DeCordova will have outdoor works installed by artists Saul Melman, Nari Ward and Josephine Halvorson in the Sculpture Park during May and June.
As part of deCordova’s active Sculpture Park program, these new commissions and loans will enliven the landscape and offer visitors new ways of experiencing the park.
Melman’s “Best Of All Possible Worlds” is an interactive display of eight translucent casts of doors arranged in the footprint of the artist’s apartment — a ghostly exploration of personal, lived space. Ward’s three concrete casts of goat-shaped lawn ornaments are adorned with a variety of urban debris, commenting on the irony of using human-made materials to improve the natural landscape. Finally, Halvorson’s “Measure (Tree),” a hand-painted life-size replica of a fallen tree found near her western Massachusetts studio, was created by the artist to aid viewers in gauging their relationship to the environment.
“Each of these artists is pioneering new pathways in contemporary sculpture. Though their works are quite different in appearance, they all heighten our awareness of reality through methods of replication or casting,” said Sarah Montross, associate curator at deCordova. “Each sculpture is a representation of an actual object that has been altered in playful and profound ways: opaque doors are made clear; lively goats are burdened with found materials like discarded shoes; a tree trunk is revealed to be a flat wooden plank.”
DeCordova’s rotation of Sculpture Park loans and commissions will continue throughout the summer with upcoming projects by Nancy Winship Milliken, Cat Mazza and Andy Graydon.
PLATFORM 21: Saul Melman, ‘Best Of All Possible Worlds’ (2018)
“Best Of All Possible Worlds” consists of eight vacuum-molded casts of doors, arranged in the exact configuration of the artist’s Brooklyn apartment. The vacuum-cast process creates translucent replicas of the original doors. Traces of paint and small pieces of wood cling to the surface of some of the doors, suggesting their past lives and situating them between the material and immaterial, past and present.
In deCordova’s Sculpture Park, viewers can walk around the doorways to experience the ghostly echoes of Melman’s lived space. By emphasizing thresholds between interior and exterior, the installation alludes to personal secrets and past experiences that linger in domestic spaces — making a serendipitous connection to deCordova’s own history as a former residence (the opulent home of founders Julian and Elizabeth de Cordova). Melman sited the installation along an east-west axis to activate the doors with the maximum amount of light, particularly during sunrise and sunset.
“Best Of All Possible Worlds” was originally developed during Melman’s Socrates Sculpture Park Emerging Artist Fellowship Grant and Residency in 2011.
This work is part of deCordova’s “PLATFORM” series of one-person commissioned projects by early- and mid-career artists from New England, national and international art communities that engage with deCordova’s unique landscape.
Nari Ward, “Firehose with libation II, G.O.A.T.”; “Shoe tips with libation, G.O.A.T.”; “Social Media II, G.O.A.T.” (2017)
These three sculptures by the acclaimed artist Nari Ward were originally part of a major outdoor exhibition of his work at Socrates Sculpture Park, New York, in 2016. For this project, Ward created a series of concrete casts of goat-shaped lawn ornaments. He festooned each of his G.O.A.T. sculptures with urban debris, such as electrical wire, fire hoses, and old sneakers, attaching the found materials to lengths of rebar extending from the animal’s back. The artist notes that in his birth-country, Jamaica, houses are often left with exposed rebar on their roofs to allow for future generations to build additional floors. While Ward incorporates this symbol of growth and possibility into his sculptures, there is also a sense of weight indicated by the objects the animals carry.
The acronym G.O.A.T. in the title stands for “Greatest of All Time,” a phrase associated with icons of sports and music, such as boxer Muhammad Ali and musical artist LL Cool J. Ward sees the term as being burdened with racial and political undertones.
“I really wanted to talk about power and about hubris, about a kind of misguided investment,” Ward said. “This goat character kind of became my doorway into it.”
Ward’s work has been shown in solo exhibitions across the country, including “Nari Ward: Sun Splashed” at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston in 2016 — the largest survey of the artist’s work to date. His work is in the permanent collections of museums such as the Brooklyn Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and Musee d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean in Luxembourg. Ward has received honors such as the Vilcek Prize for immigrant artists in 2017, the Joyce Award in 2015, and the Rome Prize in 2012.
Josephine Halvorson, “Measure (Tree)” (2016)
Installation: early June
“Measure (Tree)” is a hand-painted replica of a fallen tree the artist discovered near her studio in western Massachusetts. Working on a 24-foot plank of wood, she painted each side to resemble the tree’s characteristics — on one side, daubs of paint convey the bark’s texture while on the other, an illusionistic spray-painted red arrow runs the length of the tree — carefully translating every detail onto the surface of her wooden “canvas.” Halvorson hopes the sculpture encourages close looking and curiosity on the viewer’s part. Installed among a group of towering pine trees in deCordova’s Sculpture Park, “Measure (Tree)” simultaneously blends in with its surroundings and stands out as an unnatural presence that draws viewers in to examine the work with more care.
“Measure (Tree)” is one in a series of three site-specific painted sculptures that Halvorson created in 2016 for the Storm King Art Center in upstate New York. Intrigued by the subjective nature of perception and scale, she created three different types of rulers intended to aid viewers in gauging their relationship to the environment.
Halvorson lives and works in western Massachusetts and Boston. She is currently professor of art and chair of graduate studies in painting at Boston University.