Styrofoam at the RISD Museum

March 21st, 2008 · 2 Comments · Artists, Providence

Folkert de Jong, Mount Maslow, 2007, (detail), styrofoam, polyurethane foam and pigment, [source]

Any exhibition where the organizing factor is as straightforward as material runs the risk of reading like a treatise on variation and the artists’ ingenuity of the material’s exploited uses. With a material as ubiquitous and malleable as styrofoam, the title and basis of RISD museum’s current exhibition, the risk of catalogued variation seems a pitfall hard to avoid.

Yet, in this quirky show, the stuff the artwork is made of stays in the background, allowing the works to speak to one another in surprising ways by using the properties of the material as a point of conversation.

Richard Tuttle’s carved arrowhead-shaped works play at the crossroads of high / low art and old / new technology. B. Wurtz’s photographs of the contours of packing material are a humorous take on modern landscape. Heide Fasnacht’s Exploding Plane, which hovers in the airspace above the other works, though made in 2000, draws the conversation into a possible political commentary on exploited natural resources and the lead-up to the terror attacks of 2001.

It is Folkert de Jong’s dancing figures that inspired curator Judith Tannenbaum to originally propose the exhibition. Carved into kilted totems of leprechaun-like hilarity, these creatures pose defiantly under the deadly plane, just, you know, keepin’ it light.

RISD Museum
March 14-July 20, 2008

Category: Artists · Providence

2 Comments so far ↓

  • John Charles Thompson, Jr.

    I have spent many hours of many nights over the last 3 years working styrofoam. I control the contortions of exposure to heat, spray enamels gunpowder and various fumes. I construct exoskeletons of lead, silver and gold to frame the final work as a medium for oil portraiture and things of delicacy and ephemoral changes in color and substance from different angles.

  • John Charles Thompson, Jr.

    I just thought somebody might care. Some of these things are going to be around a lot longer than canvas.
    Set yourself up a good ventilated stall before you get to work with your torches, though. The best of masks won’t do it, either, so don’t kid yourself. The fumes that get released will eat your liver in ways that will probably make it more permanent than you.

Leave a Comment