Thursday, February 9, 2012

"Mechanical Reproduction" at Mulherin + Pollard Projects

I spent an intense three weeks in the SJSU Art building over the winter break, completing a new piece. The heat was off in the building and the rooms were 50 Fahrenheit and below, and for some of the time the water was turned off too, while some major repairs were being done in the building. Additionally, everything that could go wrong on this project, did–– several times! I still need to make more of these stamps, both larger and smaller (with different patterns) to complete the series. The piece is called "Mechanical Reproduction"–– a reference to Walter Benjamin's famous essay from 1936, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." Here is a brief statement I wrote about the piece:

The current series of oversized rubber stamps evolved as a whimsical tangent to a long-term project I am engaged in that involves casting black rubber tire treads. For me, this piece is about the tyranny of standardization. Damask wallpaper is a trope which connotes opulence and a bygone romantic era, while rubber stamps are frequently associated with bureaucracy and mindless repetition. These giant rubber stamps are hard to control, and their users will struggle to build up a logically repeating pattern. Perhaps they will quickly abandon all attempts at creating order, and succumb to more impulsive, chaotic overlays. In many cases there will be almost enough room for a stamped unit, but not quite, and the pattern will be forced to abruptly end. I am interested in exploring the many possible narratives that might arise from the use of this rudimentary but highly allusive form of mechanical reproduction. 

The first step to making this piece was drawing the damask pattern in Illustrator. I spent a month at the end of last summer making the drawing, and then had to refine the mold and rubber-pouring process which I had developed with my first tire tread piece. Unfortunately, there were many more urgent refinements I had to figure out on a tight deadline over the winter break.

Here are a few process pictures of the piece, and me in the amazing new powered air purifying respirator that I purchased with a generous SJSU Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity grant. I wore this every day that I worked on the project–– it protects against both organic vapours and particulates.

Four chunks of 16/4 basswood ready to glue into a block to turn on the lathe. I used the dowels to keep the seams lined up perfectly.

 Clamping up the block of basswood.

 The turning "blank" ready for the lathe.

 Cautiously beginning to lay out the dimensions.

A very backlit action shot on the lathe, with the camera sitting in the tool cabinet!

 The stamp handle takes form on the lathe.

 The handle next to the smaller test handle I made (the small one will eventually go on a smaller stamp.)

 Cutting the flat spot on the huge resaw bandsaw.

 The stamp body was made from 12/4 basswood which I could only find at MacBeath Hardwoods up in Berkeley.

 Drilling out the hole for the handle tenon using my carbide-tipped Forstner bits.

The system I came up with to make the stamp able to be disassembled. A threaded steel "cross-dowel" is embedded at 90 degrees to the tenon.

My amazing new 3M Powered Air Purifying Respirator, with belt-mounted fan and battery pack.

John Pollard of ADA Gallery in Richmond, VA and Mulherin + Pollard Projects in New York, invited me to install the piece in the NY gallery, in a two-person show with artist Jared Lindsay Clark. The show opened last Friday, February 3rd.

Below, are pictures of the installation called Mechanical Reproduction, at Mulherin + Pollard Projects, 187 Chrystie St., NYC.
"Mechanical Reproduction," (stamp,) 2012. 14" x 14" x 14".

 "Mechanical Reproduction," (stamp,) 2012. 14" x 14" x 14".

"Mechanical Reproduction,"(stamp,) 2012, at Mulherin + Pollard Projects, NYC. Cast urethane rubber, neoprene, basswood, paint, hardware.

 "Mechanical Reproduction,"(stamp,) 2012.  Cast urethane rubber, neoprene, basswood, paint, hardware.

 "Mechanical Reproduction," hand-stamped walls. Latex paint.

 "Mechanical Reproduction,"view from front door.

Action shot, stamping the wall. Image courtesy of Mulherin + Pollard Projects.

Stamping the wall. Image courtesy of Mulherin + Pollard Projects.

All images copyright, Shannon Wright.

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