- Kate Newby
A puzzling light and moving.
The lumber room presents A puzzling light and moving. part III, the third public encounter with New Zealand born and New York-based artist, Kate Newby’s year-long engagement. Part I opened on October 6, 2018. Four months later part II opened January 20, 2019. On October 6, 2019 we will close the project with a celebration.
Kate Newby’s Redemptive Optimism:
At first glance it might seem a bit strange to associate a sculptural practice ostensibly associated with land art and, to a lesser degree, institutional critique, with optimism. But Newby’s work is fundamentally optimistic. I am not the first writer to remark this– Chris Kraus has remarked it in writing, and the artist herself has been known to describe the work as optimistic. But just how is it optimistic? How does this alleged optimism function? I believe it can be found not only in how she titles the works and the attitude of relative openness and trust that they evoke, but more importantly, in her active faith in redemption. Of course, I do not mean to use that term in the religious sense, but in a much more secular and existential sense. This redemption can be seen in her embrace of the human trace (the hand is always everywhere present in her work) and her willingness to recycle and valorize broken bits of glass that she finds on the street, literally transforming them from marginally menacing litter into tiny pools of unexpected and materially surprising beauty. The optimism and redemption of the gesture behind these works is two-fold: initiated through an act of paying attention, it goes on to transmit its own form of redemption through its very transformation. This transformation is not limited to materials, but also extends to the artist’s relationship to space, which, when all is said and done, is not so much transformed as it is activated.
Newby’s spatial activations occur in a variety of ways, many of which can be seen in her current exhibition at the lumber room. One is porosity. In refashioning a number of glass planes with holes in the work, I screamed, “i was there!!” (2018-2019), Newby symbolically and literally dissolves the distinction between exterior and interior. This relative dissolution and spatial activation is compounded by two other interventions. One is the presentation of a bronze wind chime, entitled A puzzling light and moving (2019) nestled in a tree immediately outside the lumber room’s second story window. As such, the visibility of the work depends entirely on being inside the space, that which activates the space through symbolically extending and exteriorizing it. Interestingly, another work, entitled, It doesn’t hurt to know it (2019) which consists of three large, amorphous sculptures, which are located about two blocks away on the roof of an art school, does not abide by the same parameters. Unlike the chime, it can be seen from other nearby points in the landscape, but only achieves sculptural and spatial coherence when knowingly viewed from the lumber room. Although it deliberately moves the discussion and its locus away from the exhibition space, it always points back to the exhibition space. Both of these works extend the reach and significance of the exhibition space without dominating or even really modifying the landscape; they merely activate it in very unexpected ways (and what generates optimism and even redemption more than the generation of possibility?). The strangest, and perhaps, most arresting activation of space in this exhibition occurs in the work, no end to the sands I have been trying to cross (2019). This temporary activation/intervention consists of a subtly inclined expanse of blue concrete dotted with golf-ball-sized balls of cast glass in front of the entrance way to the stairs leading up to the lumber room. Far from uniform in any sense of the word, the rugged expanse of concrete is patched together through different pours of the material and hues of blue. The surface comes off as alternatively lunar or recently bathed by rainfall and pocked by large pieces of hail. What is interesting is that in either reading, the intervention looks almost natural. Which is to say, despite being totally and completely constructed, it looks like something that could (or maybe did?) occur naturally. And yet, nothing could be more unnatural than a large, uneven expanse of concrete in front of a set of stairs. It’s so unexpected, not to mention gorgeous that it all but takes your breath away, taking you away to another place, which is right where you are.
– Chris Sharp
Press: Artforum, Jon Raymond
Please view A puzzling light and moving. performance series here.