Oliver Herring: Me Us Them

Oliver Herring, born in Germany and now living and working in Brooklyn, is one of the more innovative artists working in New York today. He is a person of both principle and experiment, and, perhaps most important, he remains interested in exploring the figure—through his early knit pieces, his vivid photo sculptures of people, his films and videos, and his performances. His wide profile of expression not only demonstrates Herring’s ease with many kinds of situations, it calls up the audience’s interest as well.  The book Oliver Herring: Me Us Them, published by the museum at Skidmore College, offers a somewhat brief but nonetheless sharp investigation into the motives and mechanics of Herring’s art. There is a long interview with author Ian Berry, and an essay by Lawrence Rinder, both of which offer ample insight into Herring and his work. Indeed, the interaction that occurs during the course of the conversation between Rinder and the artist allows Herring to do what he does best, namely, work out an intuitive interaction with another person that touches the social aspects of art and the art itself in highly interesting ways. (The scenario of Herring’s highly creative TASK, a communal art activity dependent on the participants’ ability to create something from inexpensive art materials, perfectly defines his progressive, democratic notion that everyone can and, most likely, should make art.)

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Kenneth Snelson: Forces Made Visible

Anyone who thinks that Modernism is finished needs to look at Kenneth Snelson’s work. Spanning more than five decades, his career reminds us that individuals of unusual integrity are still working within the tradition of modernity. Featured in a mini-retrospective at Marlborough Chelsea last year, Snelson’s sculpture, from 1948 to the present, is also the subject of a comprehensive monograph.

Born in 1927, Snelson served in the Navy in World War II, turning to art at Black Mountain College, where he worked with Josef Albers and met with Buckminster Fuller. Snelson relies on tensegrity, an architectural term described in the dictionary as denoting “a stable three-dimensional structure consisting of members under tension that are contiguous and members under compression that are not.” His use of this principle translates into stunning structures whose stainless steel poles are held together by wire, so that the tension from the taut wire maintains itself in sculptures that range from early small works to the ambitious, much larger efforts for which he is best known (Snelson began working large in 1960).

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