Material Handling by Noah Loesberg
Opening reception: November 15, 2013, 6-9pm
Molding Shapes, 2012
Plaster, paint and hardware
3" x 8" x 16" each (36"h x 8"d x 144" w overall)
The work in Material Handling by sculptor Noah Loesberg centers on contradictions and meanings they expose. Through shifts in scale and substitutions of materials Loesberg recontextualizes everyday items from our built environment into objects of rarefied ubiquity. Common things often overlooked or simply ignored by most of us are for Loesberg full of beauty and rich with metaphoric potential. In the past, he has appropriated storm drains, sewer pipes and smoke detectors among other things. This exhibition will feature two site-specific sculptures, and 4 pattern oriented charcoal and graphite drawings on paper derived from architectural sources.
Made to fit the gallery’s south wall, Molding Shapes, consists of cross sections of common molding profiles culled from local lumberyard catalogs and historical sources. Loesberg cut up and recombined these profile drawings to create six new conglomerations of shapes. These collaged drawings were then scaled up to an absurd but not huge scale and cast in plaster and painted black; thus reforming the molding drawings into entirely new three dimensional forms. Arranged across the wall in two rows these numerous profiles combine to create an overly decorative molding pattern not unlike a huge rococo chair rail. Loesberg says, “I like to think of this as a kind of infection with the germ of ornament, recolonizing our eyes after the sanitization of modernist reduction.”
The “centerpiece” of this exhibition Cardboard Arch will span the width of the gallery near the center of the main room. With this more recent piece inspired by the gallery space Loesberg wanted to bisect the gallery, to slow down the viewer’s progress towards the South wall. Made of cardboard just over 1/2” thick the “three center” or “basket handle” arch substitutes paper for plywood and was chosen because this design is capable of wide spans with less height required of single center arch designs. Like the cardboard that is both strong but very light weight the self-supporting arch form, as a building element, is strong and light. These visual puns and substitutions of material are a central theme throughout Loesberg studio practice.
The new charcoal and graphite on paper drawings included in Material Handling are two separate series based on images of concrete sewer catch basins and rubber dock bumpers. Found on the Internet through commercial offerings, patent applications and government specifications Loesberg makes stencils from these designs and then uses these to compose line drawings. These silhouettes are then filled in with charcoal to make new geometric shapes and patterns. Loesberg’s all-over compositions offer the possibility of pattern, but by maintaining a level of complexity, he seeks to thwart his relaxation into ornament. Dock bumpers and catch basins are two unlikely sources of beauty but when combined with the seductive, rich density of charcoal these patterns aesthetically transform. He comments, “…I am interested in the allure and repulsion that ornament and pattern elicits in me, and I suspect in others.”
Loesberg’s exploration of materials and context offers us a perspective to see common objects differently and manipulates our preconceived notions of beauty and value. By extracting beauty from the mundane he asks us to contemplate our cultural assumptions and reevaluate what we think as we experience our constructed environment.
Noah Loesberg received his MFA in 1994 from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL and his BA in 1990 from Bennington College, Bennington, VT. He has received fellowships from the Illinois Arts Council, a residency from Dieu Donne Papermill and was awarded CAAP grant from the City of Chicago, Department of Cultural Affairs. This is his second exhibition with Robert Henry Contemporary and maintains his studio in Ridgewood, Queens, NY.