Rose McCormick's Grande Ronde
Historically reflection pools have been the province of memorials like the Taj
Memorial Reflecting Pool
and the Oklahoma
all have a solemn shrine like aspect that encourages
visitors to personalize and empathize amongst other more imposing and idiosyncratic
edifices in their immediate environs. In a very real sense as well as philosophically,
these pools bring far away objects into closer more temporally present view.
the Taj Mahal
Like this exhibition, those structures are all inherently existential and imbued
with a sense of history, but instead of civic level grandiosity Grande Ronde
acts as kind of personal shrine to McCormick's own shifting and inherently subjective
art practice. Notably, it invites viewers to explore, but equally wonderfully
doesn't require them at all to operate as a piece. How the viewer comes to it
or not is not the artist's concern and it's where this work seems more mature
than some couture shows which tried too hard to manage or prompt viewers.
Blankets and scrap book
That's partially why Rose
McCormick's Grande Ronde
marks a strong conclusion to NAAU's
. By replacing her more specific canvases with a patiently
insistent reflection pool it becomes a form of institutional critique (more of a comment here really) of the
white gallery space she's shown and painted in as a studio.
It also gives viewers a personal entry into McCormick's painting practice more
fully than her painting
as the painterly gray concrete overlay becomes the stretcher
bar frame and the water the inexhaustible, inviolate and relentlessly existential
essentially a way to share that anxious painterly moment of
beginning (or ending) without having to push imagery on the viewer. It is one
of the great gifts of installation art and architecture to be able to act as
environment rather than an object
. To provide context and not the
focal point is liberating for both artist and viewer.
In fact, it's a complete and shocking departure for McCormick who up until
now has been a talented, extremely curious but somewhat reticent painter of
symbols, philosophically evidenced when her previous show presented herself
as an installation of a painter painting
ultimately emphasizing the process
over the finished painting as products. It isn't surprising that since that
effort, she's been increasingly influenced by John Cage and Eric Satie's investigations
into the process based intensification of time-based experiences, something
which translates from music to subtle installation art quite well.
As a conduit of temporal subjectivity Grande Ronde consists of a gallery sized
reflecting pool, a tidy pile of blankets, a scrapbook, an antique fan, a video
of the artist's statement and several old suitcases. The pool's surface, being
subtly influenced by the fan, outdoor breezes and viewer's activity, creates
an entirely existential feedback loop
one where the viewer is part of
the system (but not necessary by any means). I call this the guest experience,
where the viewer enjoys the hospitality of the space.
Grande Ronde's fan
Similarly, the pool is easily navigated by viewers but the scrap book, blankets,
suitcases and fan all create minor obstructions as differentiating reference
like talking points at a meeting, the Stations of the Cross or
stops along some interpretive nature trail.
Grande Ronde's ripples of light on the walls
I particularly liked how the fan activated wave reflections from the pool which
are thrown across the far wall, where McCormick had previously installed herself
some years before. This surface agitation prompted me to think of the act of
art making as a way to create waves or ripples in the death like stillness that
water will revert to without such stimulation. Thus, McCormick seems to have
developed a way to produce action without performing as an artist, a major personal
breakthrough that most artists can't "let go" enough to achieve. They have
trouble letting go of the overinflated sense of self importance in the interpretation/understanding
of the work... In any case, I don't sense any of that cling here and Rose seems to have stepped aside.
Still, McCormick's own scrapbook firmly inserts the artist's own artistic history
into the viewers experience
making this more like visiting a specific
monk's ascetic shrine (in this case McCormick's) than a more neutral art piece
like Judd's Artillery sheds or a Robert Irwin piece. The suitcases, fan, blankets
and even the painterly grey rim of the pool are all part of McCormick's signature
whereas Judd and Irwin take pains to neutralize any signature.
In fact the concrete edge of the pool bear an uncanny resemblance to her brushstrokes.
Instead, McCormick's painterly reluctance (to be or not be a painter) has bourn
a more complete repudiation of the idea of "finished work" as Grande
Ronde is sort of invitation for temporal self examination as an experience.
Instead of paintings or production of them, now the subject is the production
of "contemplation", rather than a painter's typical finished "production"
as subject of contemplation. Artists like Donald Judd and Robert Irwin have
been down this road before but in many ways Grande Ronde has more to do with
Beuys (the blankets), Richard Long (the path around the pool) and Walter de
Maria (the elemental gallery filling pool) who all traffic in an almost shamanistic
personal subjectivity as an environmental engagement.
Walter De Maria's One Sun / 34 Moons
at the Nelson-Akins Museum (lights in the pool are portholes to galleries)
Overall, Its stripped down and room filling intensity most calls to mind, Walter
whose work is less about objects than the siting of the contemplative
viewer in a vast ordered field in one's immediate environment. Works like the
with its elemental intervention), Broken Kilometer, the Lightning
, Seen Unseen Known/Unknown and the Las Vegas Piece (in particular)
are all about pilgrimage and physically negotiation of space, which then ultimately
becomes an awareness of self in that environment. McCormick's blankets evem
remind me of those at the lightning field, though hers are monogammed "RM".
A pile of cool old stuff at Grande Ronde
Are reflecting pools very original? No, but I don't think that's the point
here, it's the luxury of taking the time to feel time washing over you and I
suspect McCormick will have opportunities to pursue these ideas outdoors and
in a more public space in the future. Her dealer is involved in real-estate
development herself after all.
After thumbing through the scrapbook atop the blankets, and walking the path
I contemplated the space in a familiar, not new ways. NAAU is a space where
I have spent a great deal of time and even shown myself
and every single
time the large front window has been the focal point of activity. This time
was no different, but the late August's summer day had its own particular charm
and like John
it isn't the silence, but the unintentional sounds
and scenes that inhabit the void (that isn't a void) presented here.
It's a rather successful piece and upon viewing Grande Ronde, I felt a deep
sense of nostalgia for something that had passed only minutes ago
it was also part of a continuum
as if like every visit to the gallery
had been part of a daily walk, impressive for something I've only known for
a few days.