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New Works: 99.4
About the Artist
Austin-based Mel Ziegler was born in Campbelltown, PA in 1956. He received his BFA
from the Kansas City Art Institute and his MFA in sculpture from CalArts. From the late
1970s until her death in 1995, Ziegler collaborated with his partner, Kate Ericson. Their
projects created new vocabularies for making art in public spaces, by involving
community, examining history and responding to specific sites. Ziegler is currently
teaching in the Sculpture Department at The University of Texas at Austin.
The works of Ericson and Ziegler have been exhibited in a range of venues, including
the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; The Institute of Contemporary Art,
Philadelphia, PA; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Real
Art Ways, Hartford, CT; and Capp Street Project, San Francisco, CA. Their works were
included in the 1989 Whitney Biennial; the 1991 "Places With A Past" public art
component at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC; Sculpture Chicago's 1993 "Culture
in Action" project; and the 1999 Museum of Modern Art exhibit, "The Museum as
The public nature of Ziegler's recent work continues the themes and forms
established with Ericson over the course of their collaboration. Sites and histories are
methodically researched, as in the case of Camouflaged History for the Spoleto
Festival, in which a house was painted in a camouflage pattern in 72 paint colors
designated as the "authentic colors of historic Charleston" by the Charleston Historic
Society. Projects generally involved public space: in San Francisco, the artists inscribed
roofing shingles with San Francisco's street names and then re-roofed a neighborhood
house with the transformed materials.
About the Installation
At ArtPace, Ziegler continues his investigations of historical sites, domestic space and
everyday materials and forms. Two new works are the result of his residency, each
marked by a sense of mobility and a moment frozen in time.
Taking Measure is comprised of a large LED sign that displays the current time and
temperature at the sign's location. Historically used as "public service" advertising for
banks, Ziegler transforms this pedestrian medium by changing its site. The resulting
large-scale documentary photographs show the sign in various locations in South Texas.
As the piece travels, additional photographs will be generated. The sites are activated by
the changing clock and thermometer, dislocating their history and questioning the current
physical and mental health of the viewer in the public realm. The digital sign also draws
attention to the site's health, presenting dynamic information at the pace of a deep breath.
Personal Read is another mobile sculpture that is transported to a variety of
locations. Placed in the gallery, the 40-foot flatbed trailer is covered with over 100 found
floor and table lamps. All lamps are lighted, creating a family of familiar domestic forms,
a gathering of sources of light. A self-contained, yet mobile group of individual objects,
the lamps become their own society. When photographed in front of various sites,
Personal Read does indeed offer viewers their own interpretation of the piece: a space for
mourning, a pulpit for questioning, a platform to revisit history.
Ziegler's work provides juxtapositions that draw attention to spaces between public
and private, between social history and personal memory. The temporal experience of
recounting history is encouraged in his work, where the viewers bring their own stories,
their own lives, their own communities to create the full text of the piece.
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