2nd Year Reviews: Ben Yacavone by Sam Meador

Making the Impossible Possible.  A Review of Ben Yacavone’s Current Work (2015)

The sculptures are made of wood, standard 2×4’s.  The wood is hard, sturdy, and stable, yet Yacavone has made it pliable and smooth.  The pieces emit the slightest reflection of fluorescent orange.  They hang from the wall displaying sharp angles and fluid curves.  They are balancing precariously.  Or, are they hanging on?  They defy gravity and push against it.  And very quietly they emphasize a small space between themselves and their supporting structure.

The sculptures, which are consistently geometric, formed of angles and curves, seem to be reaching or maybe pointing toward a small patch of reflected light.  That reflection highlights a point of tension between an object and a surface.  Tension as a concept is fascinating as it is omnipresent in the artists life.  There is tension within the artist, tension between the artist and the material, between the object and the subject, between the object and the support, between the artist and the patron.  Yacavone’s points of tension demand the viewers attention.  They lure you in for a closer look.

The materials, wood, drywall, and orange construction paint are materials of labor and reference trades.  Traditional tradesmen worked with their hands, understanding and utilizing the limitations of a material and transforming it into a miraculous object.  The most valued part of their work was the craft, the quality and detail of the object which often made invisible the hand of the artist.  In Yacavone’s work, the hand is both visible and invisible: visible in the adhesion, the cuts, the application of paint, the residue of applied pressure, and invisible in the clean seams, and the matching of the grain lines.

ben_bysam_ccadmfa

The fluid movement of the grain within the sharply angled forms creates a nice subtle contrast.  The machine is also present: made and operated by the hand, yet leaving it’s own defining marks, the curve clips, the mark of the knife, the rawness of the 2×4.

Yacavone’s need to create these works by hand is particularly interesting.  His process references the Decorative Arts movement which is often viewed as “lesser than” in the white box setting.  Therefore the incorporation of the white cubes, which are crafted by hand, calls into question the relationship between these two distinct points of view.  If the white cube is dirty, hand crafted, or vulnerable (the box with guts exposed) is it less than or can it maintain its high stature within the white box art scene?  Yacavone’s work transcends the designation of Decorative Arts through concept and material choice.  Although the sculptures are created by hand, the materials are atypical and retain the connotations of their purpose yet lose their utility.  Additionally, the process of creating the “U” forms references clipping garment seams which are traditionally hidden from view, yet these sculptures present the handiwork.  The process is on display with the object.

ben_bysam_ccadmfa2

While most of these pieces have their own presence and can exist independently on the wall, the view from either end is quite lovely.  The interaction of the forms with each other is interesting.  Whether viewed independently from the front or as a group from the side, I long for a more purposeful rhythm in the overall installation.  I am left with a couple of lingering questions. First, I wonder about the relationship of the sculptures internal angles to the angles created by the object on the wall.  Second, the height of the objects in relation to the body of the viewer seems unresolved.  And finally, how much space is required between an object and a surface to create visible pressure?

Yacavone’s new pieces exist as objects in space that engage the viewer in a dialogue of mind of matter.  The sculptures defy odds and call up visions of superhuman strength.  They left me with a bit of nostalgia for the romantic optimism of youth.

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/acam/hd_acam.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/26/arts/design/how-decorative-arts-evolved-and-became-a-social-movement.html?_r=0

To learn more about Ben’s work, please visit his blog at http://benyacavone.tumblr.com/

As part of the second-year graduates’ Thesis Projects I course, candidates were each assigned two of their cohort to review. As students begin writing their thesis papers and constructing artist statements, this review process proves to be beneficial twofold. Students not only exercise their written critique skills, but are able to read about their own project from other voices. Over the next few weeks we’ll be posting these reviews, so be sure to visit regularly for insights and photos of the second years’ progress!

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