A Performance of Everyday Objects

by kbarulich

Virginia Overton’s solo exhibition at The Kitchen gallery entertains the viewer with a performance of construction materials. The Tennessee-born artist works with rough, rural materials in her post minimalist creations that stress the process of her art. She is linked to artists like Robert Morris and Richard Serra, as their work also interacts with the space it is exhibited in, creating a relationship between the viewer, work, and site. Her work examines the process involved in its creation, as this process is evident in the finished pieces. Overton’s sculptures and installations in the past take the form of minimal objects placed in structural doubt. At a show at Mitchell-Ines & Nash last year, Overton constructed a giant triangle composed of three thick poplar boards wedged between two of the gallery columns. This piece draws attention the gallery space as boards are held in place by only gravity and friction dividing the space by use of the architectural elements.tumblr_lkg51nuWqH1qdeys9o1_500

For her current exhibition, Overton had one week and free reign in the gallery space to gather whatever materials she wanted to create her show. The Kitchen opened up every nook and cranny for her. She found her materials upstairs, downstairs, on the roof, and in closets. Since the gallery is usually a performance space, the pipes, pedestals, and wood serve as perfect mediums for her work.

In her current show curated by Matthew Lyons at The Kitchen, Overton again explores the relationships between architecture, materials, and viewer. Above the reception desk in the first room of the gallery is a light box with the gallery’s name in black letters. This piece replicates the original sign that was above the main doorway of the gallery when it first relocated to its current location in 1986. The glowing box is also reminiscent of the “ON AIR” sign used during live radio and television broadcasts. The presence of the gallery’s name announces that this show is site-specific in the strictest sense. She also created a poster with the gallery’s original brick wall as the background for her pick-up truck.

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Overton uses another light in this space: a light bulb attached to a hanging plank of wood suspended from a wire.  The plank hangs flat, balanced like a mobile. This balance is thrown off by the light bulb commanding attention at one end. This piece references building materials, invoking a plank being lifted up in the construction of a building. One may think of a stage as the single light shines as a spotlight, illuminating the performance of the suspended wood. The viewer is made aware of the space as the sculpture hangs from the rigging in the ceiling. There are also lights that illuminate not only the walls, but lead the eye upwards toward the ceiling, again making the viewer aware of the specific space he or she is in.

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Eighty-six pipes lean against the adjacent wall; each a different height and color. Scrapings, tape, rust, and even a price tag are visible as these materials are being reused. The wall is an integral part of this piece as it holds the pipes in place. Interacting with each other and the gallery, these pipes, usually used for rigging in set creation compose a performance. Another pipe cuts the opposite wall in half, as Overton breaks up the classic white gallery wall with a pipe that fits its location perfectly.

Eight white pedestals levitate in the next room. Held together by small wooden wedges, the scuffed pedestals invoke a past performance. One uses a pedestal to put something on show. Here, the pedestals are the show, performing their levitation act through friction with the walls, threatening to come undone. Overton uses friction again to cover an entire room’s floor with 2×4 wooden planks. The red, black, and natural wood pieces fit together to occupy the floor space; each one fitting perfectly with the surrounding pieces to create a random pattern. Though each piece has been worn down uniquely, all the individual pieces function together as these found objects form a floor fit for walking on. They creak and bend slightly under the weight of a person, creating a symphony of misfit objects.

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Virginia Overton often uses and reuses the materials and images, creating a sculptural vocabulary that reacts to the specific installation site. These materials create makeshift solutions for the problems and challenges that the space provides. She does not use these materials to construct a set, but gives them life as they take the stage in this performing arts space. Overton called this show an “unscripted production” as she improvised her work about, of, and at The Kitchen. Her sculptures challenge the viewer’s idea of space and how it functions, drawing attention to the objects that are usually just part of a builder’s toolkit. These unique pieces are simultaneously fragile and monumental. In each piece, Overton successfully uses the available space and materials to successfully assemble an astonishing performance.

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