Margo Sawyer’s REFLECT at Austin’s UMLAUF Sculpture Garden and Museum is a sumptuous set of installations that contemplate site, time, personal history, and a broader historical narrative. Drawing from her early experiences traveling to wartime Egypt in 1973, she and the sixteen others on the trip experienced notable and sacred sites without the distraction of crowds, as they were the only tourists allowed in the country at that time. Visiting Tutankhamen’s tomb and the Abu Simbel temples caused Sawyer to consider art making in a new light. The union of monument, architecture, sculpture, and painting in the sacred spaces of Egypt influenced the trajectory of Sawyer’s work and influenced her heavily. Deeply moved by this early experience, she later found that working in installation allowed her to respond to architecture, space, and objects in a way that hearkened back to her experiences in Egypt. Sawyer’s work at UMLAUF is twofold, with installations both in and out of doors. The indoor work is a large, lush floor installation while the outdoor work is a series of stacked brick pyramids complemented by an installation of glazed bricks embedded in the earth.
Inside the striking exhibition space at UMLAUF, Sawyer has created a floor installation consisting of layered mirrors, panes of glass, ball bearings, glass vessels, beautifully coated wooden and metal boxes, small sculptural forms, and other jewel-like materials to create a rich and complicated optic experience. The title, REFLECT, clearly gestures to the use of reflective materials but also responds to the act of personal reflection, memory, and time. While reflecting on the past, we are also able to see into the present and consider the future. The acts of reflecting emotion, site, and space causes some areas of the installation to form dimensional ambiguities, making the floor look like a void or cache of infinite space. Capturing light and responding the unique architecture of the building, a conversation is initiated between infinity and the fleetingness of the moment.
On the verdant grounds of the sculpture park, the glazed brick installation and stacked pyramid forms provide an earthy contrast to the luscious indoor work. In the pyramids, the stark beauty of the 100-year-old, T-shaped bricks shine through. The T-shaped bricks, collected from a historic building on Sawyer’s property that blew over last year in a windstorm, have both personal and historical importance. Taking an archetypal form, touching on her past history with Egyptian pyramids as well as a nod to her very early student work, Sawyer has created a series of small monuments to the buildings that the bricks once held together. The stacked pyramids, in their humble tans and light browns, hold a self-contained serenity and groundedness. While the palate is very different from her usual colorful repertoire, the modular nature of the stacked bricks aligns with her transposable system of making.
To see more of Sawyer’s work, please visit her website. REFLECT is on view until October 19, 2014.