Material Intervention, the Modern Lab, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. USA.

Anila Rubiku, Object of Desire #1, 2005, cm. 56.83 x 76.2, sewn and perforated wove paper © Copyright 2020

11.02.12 – 12.08.12
Material Intervention
, the Modern Lab, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. USA.
Curated by Andrea Nelson. 

Appealingly tactile and visually provocative, the works in this installation engage the senses through their distinctive materiality. Created with wax, dirt, thread, and other unconventional items, they emphasize the power of materials to inform content and convey meaning. Blurring traditional boundaries between media—by combining painting with sculpture, sewing with printmaking, or sculpture with photography—these works establish new, hybrid forms of art. 

Vik Muniz craftily melds sculpture and photography in Bowl (1998). After covering the top of a light box with potting soil and leaves, the artist used a small vacuum to “carve” the shape of a bowl in the dirt. The final photographic print is both a document of his ephemeral creation and an exquisite visual pun that challenges viewers’ perception of reality. In Mes Voeux (My Vows, 1990), Annette Messager visualizes the shifting, malleable nature of identity with a montage of framed photographs and handwritten texts. The dense cluster of objects, hanging from pieces of string, possesses a striking, corporeal presence. Such physicality also plays an important role in Lesley Dill’s “embodiment” of a poem by Emily Dickinson (Poem Dress of Circulation, 1993–1994). Fusing drawing with needlework in her Object of Desire (2005), Anila Rubiku embroiders psychologically charged scenes on paper, subverting idealized notions of femininity and decoration. 

With their innovative and at times surprising use of materials, the artists whose work is shown here intervene in our normal viewing habits, focusing our attention on how we experience art.