about the exhibition
New Works 04.1
March 18–May 09, 2004about the artist
Oliver Herring has captivated audiences with performances, knitted objects, and lyrical, movement-based videos. Under Herring’s hand these profoundly disparate media are intertwined and constantly tested. They become contemplative, sensual, and pregnant with issues of time and human intimacy.
The elegance of Herring’s sculptures, hand-knitted with strands of silver mylar or treated wood, is due to their laborious process and their soulful forms. After weaving a number of solitary objects that reference time and mortality (a queen-size bed, an open coat, an empty chair), Herring worked from video stills to imbue stationary objects with a sense of actual motion. Double Rocker (1999), a life-size rocking chair and body knit out of mylar, shows successive motions of rocking at once—the chair has two backs, and the person that has propelled it is physically shown twice. In the piece a static medium carries the expressive weight of a performance.
In 1999, breaking from the solitary act of knitting, Herring delved further into interactivity with video. Herring loosely choreographs people into synchronized actions that are filmed in stop-motion. The results are minutes-long, looped works that transform humans, movements, and props into compelling sequences. Increasingly he plays with the unpredictable. In the series Basic (2003) he took out ads inviting anyone interested to come work with him in his studio. The videos produced from the improvised sessions feature strangers thrown together into unrehearsed dance-like movements that are paired with music.
Oliver Herring was born in Germany. He received an MFA from Hunter College, New York, NY in 1991 and has lived there since. Solo exhibitions include Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art, FL (2002); the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, OH (2001); the Camden Art Center, London, England (1997); the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (1996); and the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, NY (1993). His work will be included in a forthcoming group show at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, NY (2004).
about the project
Further increasing the element of chance, for his residency project Oliver Herring has left the studio and formed connections with people in their spaces. The artist conducted photo and video sessions with people he met in San Antonio, letting them determine where and what they would do for the camera. The interactions have yielded distinct pieces that meld aspects of performance with photography. Bridging Herring’s past performances, objects, and videos, the project pushes a static medium to become cinematic.
The centerpiece is Do Two Monologues Make a Dialogue?, a linear pair of snapshot sequences that intersect in on a gray wall. The images result from the trust Herring built with people in diverse worlds. One storyline features teenage girls hanging out after school; the other focuses on a young man who teases the camera with his body and his possessions. Like a movie unfolding, each image is a successive moment—until the two worlds collide in the center. For a single photograph, the girls replace the man in his living room, casting doubt on the idea that snapshots are truthful, and suggesting that these stories could be a fiction, with no actual beginning or end.
The Day I Persuaded Two Brothers To Turn Their Backyard Into A Mud Pool is constructed to mimic a newspaper. The editioned piece is filled with images of brothers horsing around in their muddy backyard. The format confounds expectations of an objective, linear story on the very pages of a medium that is assumed to be just that. In another work, a vitrine, strategically frosted, sits atop a long table. Windows have been left clear, framing photos taken backstage at the rodeo. The images are further filtered and fetishized with red and black marker, resulting in a multitude of slightly erotic narratives of cowboys stretching, dressing, and waiting.
With his residency project Oliver Herring has continued an investigation of intimacy while subverting a static medium. Here photography expresses the simultaneously fractured and cohesive nature of life.