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September 9, 2000 to November 1, 2000

Projects by 1999 Pew Fellows: Pollenized Light/New Work: Kevin Kautenburger and Nick Kripal: Santo Spirito: An Installation Inspired by Brunelleschi

1999 Pew Fellows Kevin Kautenburger and Nicholas Kripal were invited to respond to the Philadelphia Art Alliance's first-floor galleries in siting their most current work made during their Fellowships. Both artists are sacred, in Kripal's case, and domestic in Kautenburger's-and have created new installations for this joint exhibition that play off the interior architectural features of the Art Alliance Galleries.

Kevin Kautenburger's speciality is sculpture that closely resembles custom-made furniture and furnishings. His designs draw inspiration from the quiet elegance of Shaker design as well as from the studied simplicity and meditative quality of Asian domestic interiors. Kautenburger draws from both eastern and western domestic traditions in creating "an installation for the daydreamer" in a gallery space that was originally used as a formal reception room next to the main entrance by the owners of the Wetherill Mansion, now the Philadelphia Art Alliance building. His goal is for the installation to "almost recede into the architecture of the room."

The dominant work establishing the ambience of Kautenburger's installation is Pollen Shutters, mounted on the interior of the gallery's two pairs of windows. Pollen (a trademark material for Kautenburger) collected from the artist's own beehives is encased between glass and mirror slats in wooden frames. The slats face upward, simultaneously emitting natural light on to the gallery floor and reflecting the dimensions and decorative molding of the ceiling. The operable shutters disperse "pollenized light" through the space of the room. "It is my hope that the dusting of pollen together with the reflection of light will emit a soft glow throughout this room," Kautenburger says. "This should be a room heightened with sensations in which to simply sit."

Kautenburger treats the room as an artist's study. He situates Amber Rocker, a functional sculpture emulating an adult-size rocking chair but cast in golden amber-colored resin, in one corner of the room. In Side Table/Cricket Box a diminutive, red cedar box with a flip up lid rests against a second wooden panel framing an oval mirror coated in resin. The box resembles the face of an acoustic guitar, with a small, screened circular opening, and contains common house crickets. Another piece inviting literal and metaphorical reflection is Dry Basin , a sculpture made of poplar, mirrors, pollen, and beeswax, placed in a corner opposite Amber Rocker. We are invited to look down in to the waist-high "basin" to gaze at our pollen- speckled reflection. A final object of contemplation, Semé/Ant Colony --an ant colony in the form of a Chinese scholar's table-top ornament (and filled with sand)--appears on the fireplace mantle.

The impulse uniting Kautenburger's new work stems from his notion of the artist as a daydreamer. The artist's "nonproductive" studio activity is gauged by the slow passage of time-marked by the activity of the any colony, the crickets' intermittent singing, and the natural light moving across the room--as well as the fugitive quality of the materials used (pollen, resin, mirrors, glass, sand, ants, crickets). This ruse of the daydreamer's studio-the installation as an imaginary room for meditation and contemplation--is belied by the meticulous craftsmanship of the furniture-like sculpture and the deliberately meditative function of each object in the room. Kautenburger asks visitors to daydream, if only for a moment, and to draw their own conclusions from the sensations experienced in his installation/environment.

Nicholas Kripal casts in concrete the interior volume of the Renaissance church Santo Spirito (designed in 1534 by Brunelleschi), but on a miniaturized scale, eighteen times.  He began with an architectural drawing of the Florentine church and built a model from the drawing’s specifications.  He then used the model to make a mold for the concrete casts.

In Santo Spirito 3 x 6, Kripal literally “makes concrete” the ethereal volume of a sacred space. By reducing the scale so drastically, though, and by casting the same form 18 times, and then configuring six groups of three elements in a fractal formation on a low platform, Kripal invites us to speculate on the effects his transformations have on the meaning and manifestation of spirituality in the physical realm. Kripal will also display Ghost, a cast-concrete piece suspended from the ceiling, and a digital blueprint, Insterstial Plan, which synthesizes the positive volume of Santo Spirito and the negative volume of Ghost.

Kripal is professor of art at the Tyler School of Art, Temple University. He received an M.S. in Arts Education at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and an MFA in ceramics from Southern Illinois University. In addition to the Pew Fellowship, Kripal’s  most notable awards include: The Pennsylvania Council for the Arts Visual Arts Fellowship in 1992, 1997, and 1987; the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant; a residency at La Napoule Art Foundation, La Napoule, France; the Michigan Council for the Arts Creative Artists Program Grant; and a residency at Art Park, Lewistown, NY.

Curated by Amy Ingrid Schlegel, curator, Philadelphia Art Alliance.

Tags: fiber, installation, mixed media