Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Nora Kostow reviews Gregory Armstrong's final piece

Nora Kostow reviews Gregory Armstrong

“Untitled” by Gregory Armstrong is a sculpture about 9” by 12” by 3” made of a stack of paper completely covered in tape. The middle has been carved away to create an abstract shape. The shape along with parts of the covering tape is mostly painted with different oranges and pinks and is stitched with thread in some parts.
The process is extremely evident in this piece which reminds the viewer of the fracturing that went into creating the piece. The shapes are organic but the process is very artificial – you can see where Armstrong hacked away at the stack of paper. The cuts into the stack vary from shallow to deep and from steep to gradual which creates a lot of movement and places for the viewer’s eye to rest or wander.
The fact that the stack is covered in a layer of masking tape gives it a thick and skin-like quality. Is this skin being peeled away and stitched back on or verse visa? The way that the tape curls up around the carved out shape is especially disturbing and resembles horror movie images. Is it meant to be disturbing or natural or both? I think that the stitching is a successful part of this piece and should be explored further. The stitching adds a welcome contrast to the curved lines of the shape. The stitching and the tape add an interesting contrast to the use of paper. This contrast calls on ideas of cutting and pasting. Is the skin being put on? Is it being put back on? Is it tearing through the stitches that once held it together?
Another interesting element of the piece is the use of paint. The paint is darkest in the middle of the carved out piece and gets lighter and is applied less thickly as it moves outside of the shape and eventually onto the flat tape surface that the piece rests on. The paint is a good way of portraying the idea of encroaching because the viewer sees the paint that originates inside the figure encroaching on its surroundings. However, it is also unsuccessful because it does not appear to be done with purpose or attention – it seems like more of an after thought because of the poor craftsmanship. The carving is also not precise and the painting looks sloppy which distracts the viewer. With more precise craftsmanship I the viewer could focus more on the forms and what they mean and would not be distracted by the imperfections.
To me, this piece seems violent and recalls the idea of an organ or a cut up body. But the rectangle enclosing the piece is very constructed and not bodily. Perhaps this is an exploration of the nature of institutionalized violence. Or perhaps the use of tape and stitching refer more to the act of repair after a violent act than the action of the violent act.

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