air GA

Sharon Engelstein

Exhibition: Jul 11 – Sep 8, 2002

Engelstein’s curious sculptures hover between abstraction and representation, between function and fiction. While her technique of execution has varied over the years, her forms have maintained a certain hybrid identity. The bloated molecular sculptures seem to originate from animal and plant bodies as well as other organic forms.

Through the investigation of suggestive yet non-specific shapes, Engelstein began adding technological elements that reflected contemporary culture, often overlaying the forms with urban or industrial references. The globular shapes or Booleans as Engelstein calls them, vary in size and material. While some are fashioned as inflated hollow cavities, others are presented as solid masses of plaster, foam, polyurethane, or vinyl-coated nylon, some even decorated with sequins.

Engelstein’s recent work evolves from design exploration which utilizes Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software to create and manipulate sculptural forms in the virtual space of the computer. To realize the objects in physical space, the computerized drawings are subsequently output through Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) and electronically transmitted for automated fabrication. Revealing little proof of their process, the completed three-dimensional objects are perfectly formed, geometrically constructed equivalents of the initial plan. For Engelstein this merging organic—her drawn forms—and technological—the computer process—creates an intersection between nature and science. The resulting air-filled large-scale sculptures are anthropomorphic hybrids.

During her residency at ArtPace, Engelstein continues her investigation of inflatable vinyl sculpture but here eliminates the fabricator opting instead for a hands-on approach. In response to the context of the residency, Engelstein turned her studio into a working laboratory—intentionally creating an environment that would facilitate this move back to an acute and intimate process of execution.

From the state-of-the-art computerized design programs to the traditional mechanics of a sewing machine, Engelstein is once again fusing the hand with the apparatus. Via the collaboration and consulting assistance of Chris Lund (Industrial Designer) and Mark Neumann (Custom Computer Workstations), Engelstein worked with a new computer program, designing and patterning her sculptures—growing them intuitively, sewing as she went. Despite the use of an industrial nylon fabric, the artist’s choice of fresh, pastel hues suggests a playful intimacy evident in Engelstein’s work. Previously the physical characteristics of the sculptures were known due to their flawless technological construction. However, this current body of work emerged from an intuitive but uncertain process of creation which allowed the artist to anticipate the peculiar physical outcome of these sculptural forms. Engelstein approaches this work more crudely with results that differ from her precisely manufactured, computer-generated sculpture.


Sharon Engelstein

Houston, Texas, USA

Born in 1965 in Montreal, Canada, Sharon Engelstein currently lives and works in Houston, TX. Engelstein earned a BFA in Mass Communication/Journalism and Sculpture at the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL (1987), and a MFA in Sculpture at Claremont Graduate School, CA (1990). Engelstein has exhibited widely throughout the US, including solo exhibitions at Locust Projects, Miami, FL (2002); the Glassell School of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX (2001); and Sala Diaz, San Antonio, TX (2000); Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX; Project Row Houses, Houston, TX (1996); and the Museum of Surgical Science, Chicago, IL (1992). Engelstein has been included in group exhibitions at the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum, Tampa (2002); Exit Art, New York, NY (2001); Nexus Contemporary Art Center, Atlanta, GA (1999); and Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, CA (1996). She was a Core Fellow at Glassell School of Art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, TX. In addition she has received awards from the Cultural Arts Council of Houston, TX., Louis Comfort Tiffany, and the National Endowment for the Art.

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Valerie Cassel

Houston, Texas, USA

Valerie Cassel is an Associate Curator at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX. She recently curated the first U.S. solo exhibition of the work of Ghada Amer and is organizing several forthcoming exhibitions including Afrotemple by Sanford Biggers and the group exhibition, Splat Boom Pow! The Influence of Cartoons in Contemporary Art (1970-Present). Prior to her position at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Cassel was the director of the Visiting Artists Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1996-2001) and Program Specialist at the National Endowment for the Arts (1988-1995). In 2000, she served as co-curator of the Biennial Exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY.

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