Bonnie Rychlak: Artist as Curator

I attended the artist talk given by Bonnie Rychlak on April 3rd. Bonnie is an independent curator, art consultant, and visual artist; she also is a lecturer, speaking mainly about the work of Isamu Noguchi. She is the former curator for the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum and the Isamu Noguchi Foundation, Inc where she worked as an assistant for Noguchi for eight years until his death in 1988. She was very fortunate to work as his assistant not only because it gave her an exposure to the higher status world of art but also because she was able to work on her art while doing her jobs for him. She spoke about what it was like to be his assistant, a tiring but rewarding position as well as gave the story of progression through her own work. She decided to speak about her work in reverse chronological order to show us how it has changed over time. She began talking about her latest installation project, a series of drain covers that she made out of wax and installed in the Key West before hurricane sandy. They were the same size as normal drain covers and completely hand carved, she did not use a template or anything which was extremely impressive. Although from afar they very closely resembled the appearance of real drain covers, she said the closer you get, the more imperfections are visible. Her focus in creating these pieces that represented things that people usually ignore; drain covers are such an overlooked part of society so she made them brightly colored and installed them in a row. People thought that she had lost her mind when she told them that she was going to make the drain covers, that were going to be sitting in the hot sun, out of wax (wax melts); but she persevered almost intrigued by the idea that they may end up slightly warped  at the end of the installation. She also played on the metaphor of the “wax dripping down the drain.” Her next set of work was called The Wax Carving Series, which she began in 2008. This was at a time where she had become bored with her previous work, in her mind it was too formulaic and she wanted to find accidents in the flaws in the process of creating her work. She decided that she didn’t want to recognize or envision anything before it was created and this effected her work process. For one of the pieces, she just put a block of blue/green wax on the top of a Noguchi cyclone table and let it sit out in the sun until it started to melt. This became the piece of art, an unsuspecting and uncontrollable work that she crafted but was left powerless in terms of the effect of the elements on it. In a few of her other pieces she decide to burry items into the wax when she melted it so that when she began carving she would have no idea what she is going to come upon. These pieces were really interesting, I don’t think this is what she intended but they almost appeared to me like organs or parts of a mechanical structure. I thought that her approach to them was interesting because it allowed her to continue working until she felt that it was right to stop. Her next series was her Pool Series, made during the years 1999-2006; these referenced architectural structures like fountains and pools. She was interested in the idea of leading deeper and deeper into the self and used mirrors and 3 dimensional objects to portray intangible reflections. These were interesting, the looked like architectural models, showing facet of the pool but on a much smaller scale. These pools were almost like pool or seascapes; within the pools she would cut holes in the glass over top and overlay the images of the pools for “the eyes that penetrate to be able to peak through the surface.” Her earliest form of work was created from 1990-1998, these were a series of photo narratives in which she took photographs from friends and family, overlaid them with beveled glass, and then either hung them or mounted them on top of boxes. The idea here was the glass both magnifies and obscures at the same time; she liked the idea of having the work being unrecognizable while standing close to it but more recognizable the further you stood away. I really enjoyed this series because it was a unique twist on photography. Photography is used to capture memories, to store precious details that you want to recognize and remember. Her work took the intimacy and detachment aspect away from the memories and skewed it so that it was almost unrecognizable. Overall the talk, although difficult to follow at times, was very interesting. I liked hearing her talk about her life as an artist as well as a curator.

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