TheMiddlePillar Carol Bove

October 26, 2012


Object Lessons With Carol Bove

The art of Carol Bove stands out not only for its striking yet simple aestheticism, but for its ability to span genres and defy classification. Her “ambience cues” and “assemblages” are often recognizable through their use of found objects, ranging from vintage hardcover books or items plucked from nature. Not one to use her gender as a gimmick or as a focal point in her work, Bove approaches feminism with a more genuine approach. She assumes her perspective as a woman is worthwhile without exploiting it. The WILD spoke to the artist about her productive procrastination and what she is currently working on.

Carol Bove Installation View Experiment in Total Freedom
Experiment in Total Freedom, 2003.Copyright by Carol Bove, Courtesy Maccarone, New York

What artists did you admire growing up? Did they inspire you to pursue your own career as an artist?

I think I was more inspired by artworks than by artists. There was one piece that shocked me when I was about ten years old and that experience continues to exert influence. It was at the Oakland Art Museum in a show about ‘60s art. There was pop art and photorealism, and then out of nowhere, this hot pink John McCracken plank leaning against a wall. I reasoned that plank must be art based on the context, but it took effort to believe it. I sensed that on the one hand I knew everything I needed to know about the sculpture from the encounter itself, and on the other that it was only one example from an entire class of objects I knew absolutely nothing about – that it was part of a vast field of inquiry. It made the world suddenly seem much bigger.

What is your usual approach and process when it comes to creating work?

I think with materials so I like to have things out, and it’s nice to be able to leave an arrangement of objects in one room and then forget about it so it’s a surprise later. Procrastinating also plays an important role. If I can devise a really difficult or unpleasant project in one room, then I feel like I’m getting away with something if I can do something with an artwork in a different room. The introduction of procrastination creates the possibility for guilty pleasure. I’ve always worked that way, even when I didn’t have much space.

Your work often explores the history of art of the ‘60s and ‘70s liberation movements. Do you consider yourself nostalgic? What is it about that era you find so intriguing?

I think it’s an inherently interesting time but my continuing interest is probably a result of my own biography, which begins there. When I got out of school and started making my “mature” work, thirty years had passed since the late ‘60s. My belief is that 30 years constitute a full fashion cycle – for example, thirty year old material looks great and vibrates with relevance. Twelve years later I continue to think of 1969/70 as the aperture where I can enter history, but I allow myself much more freedom to travel around than I did originally. I don’t consider myself nostalgic because I don’t think that time was better than this time. I don’t want to return.

Do you find the similar movements of today to be as inspiring to you?

I’m very conscious of how much those movements changed the world, how much freedom, power and opportunity I enjoy as a result of the Women’s Movement. I don’t know if it’s the movements themselves that inspire as much as the individual acts of courage and sacrifice.

TheMiddlePillar Carol Bove
The Middle Pillar, 2007, Copyright by Carol Bove, Courtesy Maccarone, New York and David Zwirner, New York.

Some of the work you do references a feminist viewpoint; do you feel that it is one aspect of your responsibility as a female artist?

I try to be honest about my experience and I just assume that a woman’s perspective is valuable and interesting.

Do you feel your work should be, or is associated with, a certain aesthetic?

I don’t know, maybe “display strategies”?

Could you explain the concepts behind your ‘ambiance cues’ and ‘settings’?

Ambiance cues let you know which aesthetic universe you are in. It’s hard to say if they’re more like something legible or something sensorial. I can only think of one thing I explicitly called a setting, the piece from 2006 “Setting for A. Pomodoro,”where I borrowed a small sculpture by Arnaldo Pomodoro and made an arrangement of objects for it to fit into. I try to treat all of the objects and artworks I use in assemblages with deference and respect, but I’m also colonizing them for my own purposes – they are forced collaborations.

You have explored collage, drawing, installation and sculpture. Are there any other mediums you would like to try?

Aside from the drawings, all of those things you mention actually seem like the same category – they’re all disparate material elements in combination, so on some basic level they are either collage or assemblage. I have flirted with installation art but I don’t know if I have ever practiced it. The difference between a solo show that looks like a group show and installation art is difficult to discern. I have been working on some outdoor sculpture, which seems like a completely different thing from everything I’ve done before – many of the considerations are almost opposite. Normally I’ve relied on all of the protection of a gallery, including the presence of guards, to prevent delicate materials from being broken or unfixed materials from being moved around or taken away, but now I need to figure out how to express that same tension and fragility with durable materials.

You have a strong personal interest in science. Does this interest carry over into your work?

I put a lot of stock in it on the one hand, but I also like the silliness of its ‘objectivity’ mannerisms. I want to approach art making from all different modalities and to set incompatible systems on top of each other. A sculpture could be an illustration of scientific objectivity, a Marxist critique, an expression of dharmic law, an exercise in formalism and a fashionable posture, all at the same time.

Some of the work you do references a feminist viewpoint; do you feel that it is one aspect of your responsibility as a female artist?
I try to be honest about my experience and I just assume that a woman’s perspective is valuable and interesting.

Do you feel your work should be, or is associated with, a certain aesthetic?
I don’t know, maybe “display strategies”?

Could you explain the concepts behind your ‘ambiance cues’ and ‘settings’?
Ambiance cues let you know which aesthetic universe you are in. It’s hard to say if they’re more like something legible or something sensorial. I can only think of one thing I explicitly called a setting, the piece from 2006 “Setting for A. Pomodoro,”where I borrowed a small sculpture by Arnaldo Pomodoro and made an arrangement of objects for it to fit into. I try to treat all of the objects and artworks I use in assemblages with deference and respect, but I’m also colonizing them for my own purposes - they are forced collaborations.

You have explored collage, drawing, installation and sculpture. Are there any other mediums you would like to try?
Aside from the drawings, all of those things you mention actually seem like the same category - they’re all disparate material elements in combination, so on some basic level they are either collage or assemblage. I have flirted with installation art but I don’t know if I have ever practiced it. The difference between a solo show that looks like a group show and installation art is difficult to discern. I have been working on some outdoor sculpture, which seems like a completely different thing from everything I’ve done before - many of the considerations are almost opposite. Normally I’ve relied on all of the protection of a gallery, including the presence of guards, to prevent delicate materials from being broken or unfixed materials from being moved around or taken away, but now I need to figure out how to express that same tension and fragility with durable materials.

You have a strong personal interest in science. Does this interest carry over into your work? I put a lot of stock in it on the one hand, but I also like the silliness of its ‘objectivity’ mannerisms. I want to approach art making from all different modalities and to set incompatible systems on top of each other. A sculpture could be an illustration of scientific objectivity, a Marxist critique, an expression of dharmic law, an exercise in formalism and a fashionable posture, all at the same time.

Carol Bove Basel 2012

Basel, 2012. Copyright by Carol Bove, Courtesy Maccarone, New York and David Zwirner, New York.

text by: Mia Kim










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