Skip to main content

Josh Garber Goes Out on a Limb

"in their clothes", branches, shrink wrap, tape, 12' x 18' x 14', 2015
Oak Park, famous as the home of the young Ernest Hemingway and the slightly less young Frank Lloyd Wright, is a separate township about ten miles due west of downtown Chicago, though it merges almost seamlessly with the city in a way that makes you feel you’re visiting a leafy Chicago neighborhood. Speaking of leafy, Josh Garber’s installation at Terrain, Oak Park, consists of tree branches and limbs connected by shrink wrap and tape that clamber up off the ground and claw spikily at the air, denuded of foliage but seemingly revivified into a new stage of growth.

Titled “in their clothes,” the sculpture is 12 feet x 18 feet x 14 feet, and is placed like all of the exhibitions at Terrain on the streetside lawn between two houses, opposite a local school and open to all weather which on the day I visited was warm, but not enough to melt the piles of surrounding snow. The whiteness of the snow provided a blank backdrop that accidentally emphasized the outlines of the piece, and focused the eye on the way the shapes struggled to achieve an airborne lightness. The artist spoke about hunting for trees on railway embankments and in the streets around his studio, of how he wanted to avoid the obvious interpretation of “nature strangled by plastic refuse,” and how he was more inspired by the Japanese practice of repairing damaged trees by binding them with plastic cord ties, like a sling for a person’s damaged arm. 
Is the piece also, as Garber put it, a precursor of a time when there will be creatures, humans possibly, that are a combination of organic and artificial material like plastics? That statement seemed as opaque as the title of the piece (whose clothes, exactly?). Looked at from the streetside, the piece starts to look like an animal, its long neck rearing up into the sky. Interpretations are fluid and open with most works of art, of course, so there’s no reason why I shouldn’t have been reminded of some words by Robert Frost, from a poem called  The Sound of Trees:
My feet tug at the floor
And my head sways to my shoulder
Sometimes when I watch trees sway,
From the window or the door.
I shall set forth for somewhere,
I shall make the reckless choice
Some day when they are in voice
And tossing so as to scare
The white clouds over them on.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Brancusi in Plastic

Artist Mary Ellen Croteau is showing these columns made from recycled plastic cartons and lids in the window of the Columbia College bookstore on Michigan Avenue. They are a playful homage to Brancusi's "Endless Columns", with a serious environmental message for our times:

Mary Ellen also runs a wonderful experimental art gallery in a window space in west Chicago, called Art on Armitage. I will be exhibiting a mixed media piece there during August 2012.

How to etch a linoleum block

Linoleum as a material for printmaking has been used for nearly a hundred years now. Normally, you cut an image out using special gouges similar to woodcut tools, cutting away the lino around the image you want to print. This is called relief printmaking, because if you look at the block from the side, the material that remains stands up in relief from the backing material. You then roll ink with a brayer over the surface of the block, place paper over it, and either print by hand or run it through a press. You can do complex things this way (for example, reduction linocuts), but the beauty of the process is that it is quick, simple, and direct.


A few years ago, I saw some prints that were classified as coming from etched linoleum blocks, and I loved the textures I saw in them. In the last few months, I've been trying to use this technique in my own studio, learning about it as one does these days from websites and YouTube videos. I've also had email exchanges with several pr…

A List of Every Drink in Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises"

I first read Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises" when I was a teenager, and immediately fell in love with it. For the last couple of years, I have had the incredible privilege of teaching a class based around Hemingway in Paris -- while living and teaching in Paris itself, close to the Boulevard du Montparnasse, where most of the action of the novel's first half takes place.

Of the many things that one notices about the book, the colossal amount of drinking is something that stands out. These people didn't just drink like fish: they drank like whales, as if the ocean they swam in was alcohol and they had set themselves the task of drinking the seas of the world dry of it. During my read-through of the book before class started last year, I tried to underline every mention of drink in the book. And now, purely in the interests of science, I am listing the entire menu of booze mentioned directly by name. Some preliminary observations:
Most of this is…