"The Paper Sculpture Show" is special in a couple of ways. Since it relies on printed material instead of unique objects, it is open simultaneously at several galleries around the country. Also, the exact number of artists involved cannot be known, and most of them are anonymous gallerygoers.
It all began with the 29 artists who created sets of printed images, with instructions for creating paper sculptures using tools and workspaces provided by the gallery. Visitors (or "collaborators," as described in the show's press release) are invited to select projects and assemble them on site, leaving their efforts behind to become part of the exhibit.
The DiverseWorks installation has been up since September 10, and the space contains hundreds of samples of the visitors' work, some tacked to the walls, some arrayed on tables or on the floor. For the most part, samples from each of the 29 patterns are displayed together.
It is obvious that the collaborators have found some of the projects more interesting (or less challenging) than others. Projects with a lot of bright colors seem to be popular. Fred Tomaselli's "Guide for Spring Molt and Courtship Display" includes a page of "Old World Warblers" from a bird guide and a collage of images from an outdoor-wear catalog. The single page of instruction demonstrates how the 11 warblers may be cut out and arranged in a flowerlike pattern. On one wall someone had cut out and tacked up the 11 warblers in the suggested pattern. The flower was surrounded by several dozen other warblers in a cheerfully haphazard arrangement. The collaborators also found ways to work warblers, sweaters and hooded jackets into several other projects.
Quite a few people had fun with the Art Guys' "Paper Stunts." They provided slightly larger-than-life-size portraits with front and back of the head on opposite sides of the page and an instruction sheet with three options; folding instructions for paper airplanes (a suggestion followed by many), hanging as a poster, and my personal favorite, making confetti. "Punch holes until the page is gone." Most of those who worked with these ignored all three suggestions and made funny collages out of the faces, in much the same spirit that moves us to draw mustaches on photos in the newspaper. There were Art Guys with multiple sets of eyes and mouths, some rouged, some horned, some with mountains of hair. One had straws from Rachel Harrison's spitball project in his nostrils. And of course, the warblers and hooded jackets were pasted on a few (or behind them, behind cut-out eyes).
The curators intended this exhibit to provide useful perspectives on the nature of collaboration, the relationship between two-dimensional images and the three-dimensional sculptures built from them, and the question "At what point is a work complete?" I found it interesting that confronted with the printed patterns and the tools, the viewer's response can be not one of thinking or acting, but of making something. There are those who say that a work of art is only complete when some sentient being has responded to it. This response is usually an internal, emotional or intellectual one. In this show, one could assume that the materials provided and the printed book containing all these patterns constitute the complete work, and the constructions made from them are the response. To see a physical manifestation of responses to one's art could be as much fun for the artists as constructing the responses is for the usually silent viewers.
There is also a lot of light shed on attitudes toward following instructions, not only in the sculptures created by the visitors but also in the pages from which they are to be built. It's no secret that artists as a group are not fond of following instructions. It's likely many would be accountants, engineers or working in the family business if they were inclined to take direction well. Some of the 29 artists seem to have deliberately tweaked the notion.
Janine Antoni's "Crumple" is a set of solid and dashed lines, numbered from 1 to 585. The page is to be folded in reverse sequence from 585 to 1. My guess is that this will produce a crumpled ball from the page. I have to guess because I didn't see any samples on the floor at DiverseWorks and I'm not yet ready to invest the time in trying it myself.
Chris Ware created "Paper Dolls," three pages of a comic book tracing a dull life from birth to quiet old age. In most of the sequence, the main character is depicted with the cut-out tabs of a paper doll. The accompanying instructions are a list of simple imperatives that, if followed, will create a life similar to the life in the drawings. "Say please and thank you." "Have your bus card ready." "Avoid regrets." "Appear interested."
Some of what could have been the most interesting three-dimensional objects didn't seem to have a lot of popularity with the participants. This could have been a matter of difficulty. "Craft-Proof," by Seong Chun, requires 14 gray teardrop and square shapes, each with seven or eight slits to be cut out and woven together into a complicated little paper octahedron. If not a matter of difficulty, it's possible that anyone who successfully put this together may have decided to take it home with them.
Another cool piece that didn't produce many samples from the DiverseWorks visitors is Stephen Hendee's "Binding Sites." It consists of three colorful shapes to be folded, glued and attached to one another. The pieces are neat-looking, but people were probably scared off by the estimated build time on each: ten, 20 and 35 minutes.
A popular project was "Things I Don't Like," by Ester Partegas. Visitors are instructed to build a trash can, then write the names of things they don't like on the paper provided, cut them into strips and throw them in the trash can. Many simply wrote their lists of things they didn't like, and leaving the lists intact, posted them on the wall. Things DiverseWorks visitors didn't like include empty refrigerators, mean people, a small penis, chilled red wine, fraud, ear wax, raisins and dirty old men. From a list of things liked and things not liked came "Long talks in the evening with a friend" and "Long talks in the morning with a boss."
Other projects that looked good when completed were Aric Obrosey's "Mail Glove," Charles Goldman's dark screens, Eve Sussman's cool shades and Vargas-Lugo's smiling lips.
I tried to put together "Pop-Up #16 For Flying-Practical Training for Beginners," by Luca Buvoli, mainly because from the printout I couldn't figure out what the result was supposed to be. I ended up with a diorama depicting a teacher presenting a training film on flight to a trio of comic book characters including Proto-Angel and Blind Super Hero. The construction included a slider with a flying character, which brought up credits for the training film and steps 25 and 26 of the 33-step method. Handy hints include "Gliding will help to streamline your flying." Thanks, Luca.
I had more success with Francis Cape and Liza Phillips's "No. 7." This is another one where I wasn't quite sure what the product would be. Following instructions faithfully, if not necessarily with any dexterity, I found myself the proud creator of a paper box that, when opened, revealed a city rooftop complete with stairwell, skylight and beach towel, surrounded by a skyline and blue sky. In this case, there was no question at all of when a piece of art is complete or who created it. It's mine.
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