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Original Display?

By United States

Displays and installations are fascinating to me. Artists and jewelers seem to be trying to find more and more compelling ways to show work and add to its meaning through the use of display strategies. In the past year the installation that I found the most amusing and brilliant was the Marzio Cattelan retrospective at the Guggenheim. 

He hung all his work from a system of pulleys and ropes from the top of the large opening in the middle of the building, creating an awkward mobile of floating things. Since he likes to poke fun at the art world it seemed to be a great way to do that while at the same time saying something that needed saying about Frank Lloyd Wright’s crazy design of that museum. In this installation Cattelan found a way to occupy the vast amount of space usually devoted to the architecture but denied to the artwork exhibited in this museum. Clever.

Bruce Metcalf at Snyderman Gallery
Bruce Metcalf at Snyderman Gallery

Q: What is your perception of how the show was recieved?

A: Some people saw it as an art installation, with the painted silhouettes constituting the real content of the show. They tended to overlook the jewelry in that case. Which I thought was unfortunate, since the jewelry was so much more complex and interesting than the painted figure.

Q: Are the figures  generic or are they people you know?

A: All the silhouettes are of actual people. I carried my camera around for a few weeks and photographed people as the opportunity came up. There were seven or eight students from my class at the University of Arts, a bunch of exhibitors at the Philadelphia Craft Show (Ford and Forlano, Pat Flynn, Michael Puryear) the staff of Snyderman Gallery (including Rick and Ruth) and few of my best friends. Then I projected their images on the gallery walls with a digital projector, adjusting the images so the silhouettes were exactly life-size. Sometimes, I tried to suggest an interaction between two figures. Mostly, I was winging it. The installation worked out surprisingly well.

Q: You put a lot of stock in originality as I can see from your blog entry called Let History be the Judge.  How orginal is this idea for an installation?

A: I’m surprised that (as far as I know) I am the first to use this device. In retrospect, it seems so obvious! But I have never seen it or heard about it before.

Because Bruce is concerned with originality what he says about this installation bears some serious thought. Have you seen anything like it before? Please send your responses and images to

Bruce Metcalf’s show Adorned at the Snyderman Gallery is open until January 14, 2012 and the Marzio Cattelan retrospective is on at the Guggenheim Museum until January 22, 2012.

Bruce Metcalf at Snyderman Gallery
Bruce Metcalf at Snyderman Gallery
Bruce Metcalf at Snyderman Gallery
Bruce Metcalf at Snyderman Gallery


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