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John Abrams

Sculpture Garden Proposal

May 15, 2010

John Abrams            Still Life Construction #1           2010

John Abrams            Still Life Construction #2           2010





My art making practice has been investigating the idea of the archive as source material and as a creative principle through which to reinterpret narrative and transition. This Sculpture Garden project addresses questions that I have been engaged with in my artistic research. How to incorporate representing archives and histories in interesting ways in a single work and what are its representational limitations?  What types of archives can I use to interrogate contemporary art discourse?  What would be the best way to exhibit or present these projects to make the viewing contexts important to the work?  Are formal approaches to representation up to the challenge of depicting the underlying structure of chains of symbols and allegories?


            I have been exploring the potential of archives in popular culture and experimenting with the way they can be exhibited. This approach has made it possible to investigate ideas from other fields and frames of reference; focusing on the archive as subject opens up broad questions about the nature of discourse. By using a string of separate signs in the form of multiple paintings, a thought-provoking statement like Lacan’s “I am the process of becoming” becomes potentially more representable in a visual context.


            I am now examining the possibilities of using the field of modern art as an archive, like a pallet of images and ideas, to directly address discourses and influences that resonate in contemporary dialogues and production. I am currently interested in the Cubists and their attempts to represent shifting view points. I am not only intrigued by the cubist approach to making representational imagery by breaking it down to basic components but as a subject to be portrayed and by association the idea of art history as an archive of source material and subject matter.


            Through the process of re-investigating the Cubist experiment I am attempting to focus on other forms of contemporary thought and production that address issues of what can or cannot be represented.  By bridging the borders between creative disciplines the archive is able to foster potential for new perspectives on engaging ideas.





In the spirit of my current investigation into the idea of the archive and modernist art making strategies I have been exploring restaging preexisting cubist constructions. In particular I have been building a series of maquettes based on Picasso’s “Still Life” 1919. I would like to propose to build two assemblages on a scale suited to the Sculpture Garden.


            The two sculptures would be 6 x 8 x 8 feet and 8 x 8 x 6 feet. They would be secured to their own table/plinth like structures for support, to keep the constructions off the ground and as a way to present the art work in the tradition of the Museum’s approach to displaying art work.


            My working titles for this proposal are Still Life Construction 1 and Still Life Construction 2, 1919 – 2011. The first sculpture is a close rendition of the original Picasso piece and the second is loosely inspired by the same work.

Pablo Picasso                 Still Life                1919



The original cubist construction that I am basing my sculptures on was originally built from cardboard and paints. I have been using masonite to develop versions of these sculptures which will translate well to 1 inch resin based plywood for the larger scale needed for an effective size to show at the Sculpture Garden. The sculptures will be comprised of thick resen based plywood panels with some of the panels sandwiched with peg board or fake wood paneling to create that collage effect found in the early cubist work of Picasso, Braque and Gris. Some of the panels I will paint or collage in newspaper text using exterior laminent.

            As the larger scale will require stronger materials and attention to structural integrity I will place reinforcing braces between the plywood and exterior panels so the bracing supports will not be visibly prominent.


Logistical Points


I will have the sculptures built in sections at a professional woodworking shop and assembled in my studio and assemble them on site at the Sculpture Garden. Installation on site will probably take 4 days. Three of the sections will need to be delivered to UB Signs to have the lamination applied. I will use Museum Pros when possible for transportation.       The final pieces will need to be coated  to protect the wood from the weather and other outdoor concerns.

The legs of the table/plinths will extend 5 feet down into the ground so the sculptures will be securely anchored. 

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