whitehot | May 2012: Andrea Galvani at Meulensteen Gallery
Andrea Galvani: A Few Invisible Sculptures
Through April 21st, 2012
In much of Andrea Galvani’s work, the viewer is left only with remnants, however aesthetically pleasing, of something that was and no longer is. Such is the concept of an invisible sculpture. This exhibition was a highly intelligible romp through conceptual occurrence and raised the imperative questions; what is sculpture? And when does a functional object become sculpture?
On view at Meulensteen Gallery until April 21st, 2012, A Few Invisible Sculptures was one of the smartest and most conceptual exhibitions to grace Chelsea in quite some time. Rather than presenting a body of work that was only that—a body of work—the artist made concise decisions to remove particular, important elements, granting the viewer an opportunity to think and wonder. Historically speaking, symbology, physical markings, and representation in art have always given us a clue to understanding possible narrative, hypothesis and visual aesthetic. Galvani left us with graphic fragments whose pieces may never again fit together to equal a whole. Instead, the exhibition is similar to the process of rediscovering an old, familiar book. One can flip through the pages, smell the saturation of dust, and cohesively, if tentatively, recreate the familiar narrative, even if many of the pages are missing.
Located in the main room of the gallery, A Cube, a Sphere, and a Pyramid #1 was an audio installation arranged to form a walkway of sorts. The recording, a catalyst for this particular body of work, was broadcast from eight black, rectangular speakers. The sound filled the entire gallery and its sonic versus spatial volume varied depending on where one happened to be standing. Originally recorded in a laboratory located in Germany, the track results from the echolocation of bats flying around three geometric sculptures, capturing negative reverb. A cube, a sphere and a pyramid, as the title suggests, were made and installed solely for this particular recording and later destroyed. The objects were present for one week in the dark, large space and the resulting audio sculpture is a documentation of the area surrounding the objects. The effect was haunting and only brought to fruition due to sonar recognition and precise scanning. The resonance of sound is almost unidentifiable (but how often does one get to hear the inaudible sound of a bat?) and is electronic and lo-fi even when using advanced technology. Standing in the middle of the configuration the viewer was welcomed to close his/her eyes and experience the architecture of sound and scent of sonic vibrations.
Food for thought: Is sculpture always an object? A thought? A fleeting emotion? All of the work in the exhibition addressed these questions and provides us with optical theories, if not necessarily answers or conclusions.
“In order to understand what we experience, perhaps you should try closing your eyes, putting your fingers in you ears and smelling the vibrations around you.”
Thus began a dialogue between Andrea Galvani and a fellow passenger who he encountered on a flight from Paris, France to Oslo, Norway. Upon first entering the gallery, the viewer was greeted by a stacked column consisting of written text, printed on 11" x 17" paper. Only after attempting small talk, did Galvani realize that his seatmate was deaf and also unable to speak. They proceeded to have a discussion utilizing a laptop, typing words and contemplating the shape of sound and communication through movement. The remaining, abstract dialogue existed the gallery and viewers were invited to take a copy of it, altering the height and leaving the gallery responsible for replacing printouts, in a way feeding the sculpture. This piece set the tone for the entire exhibition.
Along with the above-mentioned works, the exhibition also contained two photographs that document a performative gesture. For each, motorcycles were reconstructed with the gas tank removed, reshaped into pyramid, and placed between the handlebars and seat of the bike. In the first noted image, A Few Invisible Sculptures #1, a rider was commissioned to drive in circles, in one of the oldest clay quarries in Europe. During the action, material was splashed and thrown based on centrifugal movement, eventually camouflaging both the rider and motorcycle in the dense, auburn colored material. The two become one and are then indistinguishable from the surrounding environment. The second representation of this concept, A Few Invisible Sculptures #5, contains another motorcycle, which also performed a similar action. During this occurrence a cylindrical journey encompassed the quartiere or neighborhood, where the artist is originally from, a small town outside the city of Verona, Italy. The tires of the motorcycle created a large, expansive, black ring enclosing the area as a place of memory and personal experience. When the motorcycle ran out of gas, the functional object, now immobile, had inexplicably become a sculpture. The action resulted in what the artist calls an "empty monument".
A Few Invisible Sculptures challenged the viewer, in a contentious moment, to re-explore his or her own personal narrative, in a visual journal, a scientific diary. It provided a sober and insightful reflection on the function of contemporary sculpture, radically extending boundaries. The exhibition consisted of an interdisciplinary body of work including sound sculpture, drawings, text-based works, collages and photographs, which collectively sought to explore phenomenological experiences and convey what the artist describes as “architecture of the invisible”.