Nancy Rubins

Nancy Rubins

Frac Bourgogne

Nancy Rubins, Table And Airplane Parts, 1993. Burgundy Frac collection.

June 30, 2005

Nancy Rubins
2 July to 10 September 2005

Opening: 1 July from 6 pm
Free guided visit: 27 August, 3 pm

Burgundy Frac
49 rue de Longvic
F-21000 Dijon
T 33 [0]3 80 67 18 18
infos [​at​]
open: Mon- Sat, 2 to 6 pm

This summer the Burgundy Frac has invited the American artist Nancy Rubins to present her work Table And Airplane Parts (1990). This spectacular work is a challenge to gravity and, because setting it up is such a huge task, it has not often been shown, although it has been in the Frac collection since 1994. This sculpture will be shown in association with a collection of graphite drawings that seem to anchor the work in the exhibition space. The exhibition is an opportunity to experience the impressive energy of this American artist who is not often shown in Europe.

Nancy Rubins is mainly known for her sculptures monumental works made from mattresses, hot water heaters, mobile homes, electric appliances as well as airplane parts. The exhibition in Dijon is also the occasion to discover the artists graphite drawings. This practise, less often shown than the sculptures, share with them a spectacular deployment in space and a chaotic structure that bear witness to a world in a permanent state of decay and renewal. Though not often seen in France, Nancy Rubins took part in the Venice Biennale in 1993 and in Ce qui arrive (What happens), an exhibition conceived by Paul Virilio for the Fondation Cartier in 2003. Her work was also included in the exhibition Country Sculpture at the Consortium in 1994, which resulted in the acquisition of Table And Airplane Parts.

This work was made in 1990 in the studio and shown for the first time in 1992 at the Burnett Miller Gallery in Los Angeles, along with two other sculptures conceived on the same principal. It consists of an accumulation of airplane parts, some of which are set into a makeshift wooden table, while some of the parts are simply resting on it. Parts of the reactor, of wings, doors and elements of the cockpit are tangled up in an enormous heap. Nancy Rubins started working with plane parts in1986 after a trip to the Mojave Desert, where she found a stock of them that had been protected from corrosion by the dry atmosphere. She was immediately interested by them: They were beautiful and there were lots of them. I liked not knowing what most of the pieces were and not being able to make them if I tried 1.

The artist chooses her materials for their capacity to reveal unusual qualities. She started to use objects in her work in 1977. Continuing the Pop Art artists interest for the everyday, she embedded consumer society items in concrete, making what one could call anti-monuments. An example of this is Big Bil-Bored (1980), a work made by Rubins for the esplanade in front of a shopping centre in Berwyn, Illinois. Standing more than 14 metres high, it is made up of an enormous mass of electric appliances (fans, mixers etc.) that sprouts from a concrete trapezoid pedestal. Salvage of scrap materials is a process common to many artists, and the 1960s witnessed a new realism that questioned the place of the object in the society of plenty: what consumerism produces in the way of waste.

However, Nancy Rubins choice of materials is also guided by questions of a sculptural order. The sheer scale of her work is mind-boggling. In a way that is characteristic of many American artists work, these sculptures arouse a very intense physical sensation in the spectator, who has no point of reference in common with the work other than the architecture that surrounds it. The spectacular effect that the sculptures enormous scale produces is accentuated by the manner in which Nancy Rubins succeeds in going against the physical properties of the material. She uses monumentality as a means of pushing the play of tensions to an extreme, and succeeds in making the work take off from the ground. Thus, the whole structure of Table And Airplane Parts is supported by the table legs and the reactor. Seeming to defy the laws of gravity, the mass of metal spreads out in all directions. The presence of the work seems to provoke a contraction of architectural space, as if the site had to fight against a threatening intruder.

This organic metaphor dominates the perception of Nancy Rubins work. Her concern is always with what a material can do naturally and what she can bring it to do. She has used the same process with mattresses, on one occasion for the work shown at the Aperto section of the Venice Biennale in 1993, Mattresses and Cakes, in which the forms seemed precarious, and their stability only temporary. Our sense of movement, which develops as we accumulate different points of view of the piece, also acts to permanently modify its internal structure, its points of support and its expansion in space.

On the occasion of this exhibition, Table And Airplane Parts will be accompanied by drawings that the artist has been making since 1975. These are large sheets of paper in different formats, entirely covered by graphite, which gives them a materiality close to that of metal. Assembled, suspended in space, in the angles of walls, they pass from surface to volume. The process of covering the sheets of paper demands as much energy as the realisation of the sculptures. Nancy Rubins has said that it is this particular gestural moment, in which she is taken up entirely by the energy of her gesture, which she wants to capture.

Baroque in style, the chaotic impression that the work provokes is less that of an accident a too literal interpretation than an affirmation of the entropic character of life forms. Disorder thus manifests the state of change of a growth system in which order cannot exist. This symbiotic relation between the support, the material and the form is at the heart of Nancy Rubins work, allying conceptual rigour with a very singular materiality.

Text: Claire Legrand, manager of the visitors’ department

1 Nancy Rubins cited by Kathrin Kanjo, « Beyond Addition », Nancy Rubins, San Diego: Museum of Contemporary Art, 1996

This exhibition was made possible through the support of the Minister of Culture (DRAC: Regional Direction of Cultural Affairs of Burgundy) and the Regional Council of Burgundy

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June 30, 2005

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