The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Sometimes visual artists – sculptors among them – can come across as slightly vague when talking about their works and what they mean.
Take Joe Bartram, who created a large space installation in Summit Artspace, a Knight Arts grantee, for public viewing but especially as part of First Night Akron (the big New Year’s Eve celebration).
When talking about it in an interview, Bartram stated that the work “examines the possibility of a Multi-verse,” adding, “the work is concerned with identifies of isolation, expansion, dislocation, gravity, spatial differences and spatial awareness.” Right, of course it does, notably when you know that, “importance is placed on the amount of time inside the sculpture and the context of those thoughts and memories in relation to the context of the work.” That clears it up.
Then you look at his installation and the words start to take shape. Set in the large space on the second floor of Summit Artspace building, his “Everybody Knows It’s Everywhere” – which is, as Bartram notes, a series of “battered cast clay forms (space dust)” that are suspended in a solar system array of sizable undulating, rock-like constructions – does generate feelings and dim perceptions on all sorts of philosophical and spiritual topics.
The elliptical pattern of the many pieces certainly gives off the notion of vastness, such as the universe of which we are but an isolated part. The layering of the blocks suggest order, as those there is purpose but no explanation. That can generate a little unease, or “theories about our existence that we don’t know/understand,” as Bartram puts it.
Probably the best advice is, let the work be what it is and just feel and think and react to it without trying too hard. Bartram said he doesn’t concern himself very much with the question of whether viewers “get it,” but not to worry. They will. “Everybody Knows It’s Everywhere” speaks volumes by itself.
Bartram also commented in the interview that even though the work was designed with the Summit Artspace second floor in mind, that it shouldn’t be confined there or thought of as only suited to that space. He said it could be installed in various locations. And so it could–but not just anywhere, I'd think. If it were suspended in a cavernous cathedral open air, glassed-in dome, it would be very different. The closeness of the Summit Artspace area, with limited floor and ceiling space, give viewers a perspective that evokes the questions Bartram has in mind.
Joe Bartram’s “Everybody Knows It’s Everywhere” will be on display Thursday from 12-9 p.m. and Friday-Saturday from 12-5 p.m. through February 3, in Summit Artspace, 140 E. Market St., Akron; 330-376-8480; www.akronareaarts.org. Admission is free.