31 May28 July 2018

Esca, 1997  polished patinated bronze, horse-chestnut seeds, bali-paper, cloth, wood  33 x 61.6 x 13.7 cm, 13 x 24 1/4 x 5 3/8 ins  © Michelle Stuart

Text

Her books, scrolls, and codices seem selected as vehicles to figure something as elusive as the opacity of narrative and the intransigence of time.1

Alison Jacques Gallery announces our first solo exhibition of work by Michelle Stuart (b.1933, Los Angeles, California, US). Featuring work from 1967–2017, this exhibition spans 50 years of Stuart’s practice.

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This exhibition follows a major presentation by Michelle Stuart in ‘Viva Arte Viva!’, curated by Christine Macel at the 57th Venice Biennale (2017), and the acquisition by the Dia Art Foundation, New York, of Stuart’s installation of 4 earth scrolls: Sayreville Strata Quartet (1976), which is currently on show at Dia:Beacon. Stuart is also included in ‘Virginia Woolf: An Exhibition Inspired By Her Writings’, curated by Laura Smith, formerly on display at Tate St Ives (10 February–29 April) and currently on display at Pallant House Gallery (26 May–16 September).

Since the 1970s, Stuart has been a pioneer of non-traditional, often organic materials, creating works about transformation which collapse memory, time and place. The artist’s work addresses the metaphysical while remaining profoundly rooted in its own materiality.

Stuart grew up in Los Angeles and after art school worked as a cartographical draftsperson. Her fascination with Pre-Columbian cultures took her to Mexico in the early 50s, where she worked on the Teatro de los Insurgentes mural with Diego Rivera. After a period in Europe, Stuart moved to New York, where she has resided since 1957. Her multifaceted practice includes site-specific earth works often referred to as drawings ‘in the landscape’, painting, sculpture and photography, which all stem from the artist’s lifelong interest in archaeology, anthropology, botany, literature and history.

‘The Nature of Time’ references Stuart’s 1979 solo exhibition at ICA, London, ‘Paper Works’, curated by Sarah Kent, and includes two of the same works: Wind Book (1978) and San Juan Ermita de Chiquimula (1978). These works reference diaries and take the form of tattered, bound journals made from earth rubbings. They contain no words but act as poems about nature which enable the viewer to experience a place in a symbolic way.

Stuart’s experiments with alternative mediums led to her earth rubbings, which were created through a process of smashing, rubbing and imprinting soil and rock into sheets of scroll-like paper. She drew significant inspiration from photographs of the surface of the moon, and saw parallels between her early rubbings and these lunar landscapes. A rare example of this series, Moon (1969) will be included in the exhibition alongside scroll works such as #6 Kingston (1973) and Sayreville Quarry (1976). In the catalogue for the ICA, London exhibition, Stuart wrote: ‘As the paper becomes worked, to me it feels like skin, the most delicate, soft and warmest of surfaces.’ Lesser known bronze works which incorporate natural materials such as leaves and seeds will be shown alongside more recent photographic grids. An 88 panel work, In the Beginning: Time and Dark Matter (2017) shows Stuart’s use of analog and digital photography, which has been her primary medium since 2009. Another new work, Chatham Boat (2017), a wood and linen sculpture of a ship with a rose coloured flag, completes our voyage through 50 years of work.

Recent solo museum exhibitions include: ‘Michelle Stuart, Theatre of Memory: Photographic Works’ curated by Gregory Volk, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York (2016); ‘Michelle Stuart: Drawn From Nature’ curated by Dr. Anna Lovatt, touring from Djanogly Art Gallery, Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham, UK to the Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, NY (2013) and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, CA (2014). Recent group exhibitions include: ‘FORTY’ curated by Alanna Heiss, MoMA P.S. 1, New York (2016); ‘Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women, 1947–2016’, Hauser Wirth & Schimmel, Los Angeles (2016); ‘America is Hard to See’ curated by Donna De Salvo, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2015); ‘Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974’ curated by Phillip Kaiser and Miwon Kwon, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and Haus der Kunst, Munich (2012–2013); ‘On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century’ curated by Connie Butler and Catherine de Zehger, MoMA, New York (2010).

Major museum acquisitions include Tate, London; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Menil Collection, Houston; the Dia Art Foundation, New York, the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. and The Centre Pompidou, Paris. Monographs include Michelle Stuart: Drawn from Nature by Anna Lovatt (Hatje Cantz: 2013) and Michelle Stuart: Sculptural Objects Journeys In & Out of the Studio (Charta: 2010), featuring an essay by Lucy Lippard.

1 Anne Wagner, Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women 1947–2016, ed. Paul Schimmel and Jenni Sorkin, (Hauser & Wirth, 2016)

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Works

Chatham Boat (pink flag), 2017  Wood, linen, wire, string  14 x 45.7 x 7 cm, 5 1/2 x 18 x 2 3/4 ins  © Michelle Stuart

Chatham: Sailor Beware, 2017

Wood, linen, wire and string
14 x 7 x 45.7 cm (5 1/2 x 2 3/4 x 18 in)
© Michelle Stuart

Sacred Solstice Alignment, 1981

Archival inkjet prints of black and white analog photographs
92.1 x 177.2 cm (36 1/4 x 69 3/4 in)
© Michelle Stuart

Small Ledger: Near White Horse of Uffington, 1979–1980

Earth from site on muslin-mounted paper
Unframed: 29.5 x 44.5 cm (11 5/8 x 17 1/2 in); framed: 34 x 48.5 cm (13 3/8 x 19 1/8 in)
© Michelle Stuart

Earth (Sayreville), 1997  Bronze, earth, cotton  111.8 x 42.2 x 34.9 cm, 44 x 16 5/8 x 13 3/4 ins  © Michelle Stuart

Earth (Sayreville), 1997

Bronze, earth and cotton
111.8 x 42.2 x 34.9 cm (44 x 16 5/8 x 13 3/4 in)
© Michelle Stuart

Tomkins Cove, NY, 1977–78

Earth on 24 sheets of muslin-mounted rag paper
129.5 x 195.6 cm (51 x 77 in)
© Michelle Stuart

San Juan Ermita de Chiquimula, 1978

Cloth, string, muslin-mounted rag paper (Earth and rock marks from site in San Juan Ermita de Chiquimula, Guatemala)
22.9 x 17.8 x 7.6 cm (9 1/8 x 7 1/8 x 3 in)
© Michelle Stuart

Wind Book: Tikal, 1978

Earth and feather from site in Tikal Guatemala, muslin-mounted rag paper
3.8 x 33 x 25.4 cm (1 1/2 x 13 x 10 in)
© Michelle Stuart

Esca, 1997  polished patinated bronze, horse-chestnut seeds, bali-paper, cloth, wood  33 x 61.6 x 13.7 cm, 13 x 24 1/4 x 5 3/8 ins  © Michelle Stuart

Esca, 1997

Bronze, horse-chestnut seeds, paper, cotton and wood
33 x 61.6 x 13.7 cm (13 x 24 1/4 x 5 3/8 in)
© Michelle Stuart

Seed Pod, 1995

Bronze, wax and hickory seed from Amagansett, NY
7.9 x 12.7 cm (3 1/8 x 5 in)
© Michelle Stuart

Zacaba, 1979

Graphite and earth on muslin-mounted rag paper
241.3 x 154.9 cm (95 x 61 in)
© Michelle Stuart

Moon, 1969

Pencil on paper
Unframed: 61 x 61 cm (24 x 24 in); framed: 74.3 x 74.9 cm (29 1/4 x 29 1/2 in)
© Michelle Stuart

#6 Kingston, 1973

Graphite over Kingston area earth on muslin-mounted rag paper, 64” stripping
370.8 x 157.5 cm (146 x 62 in)
© Michelle Stuart

Small Photopiece: Animal Architecture. Earth Works and Earth. Leaf Cutter Ant. Tikal Ruins. Guatemala, 1981

Earth from site, colour-coupler photographs and rag paper
Framed: 36.8 x 44.5 cm (14 1/2 x 17 1/2 in)
© Michelle Stuart

Small Ledger: Comotán, Guatemala, 1980

Earth from Guatemala on muslin-mounted rag paper
Unframed: 29.8 x 45.1 cm (11 3/4 x 17 3/4 in); framed: 34 x 48.5 x 4 cm (13 3/8 x 19 1/8 x 1 5/8 in)
© Michelle Stuart

Lden Bel Rock, 1967–1968

Rock, earth and wood
21.3 x 11.1 x 7.3 cm (8 3/8 x 4 3/8 x 2 7/8 in)
© Michelle Stuart

Lavender Garden, 1997

Seeds, beeswax and pigment on canvas-covered wood support
30.5 x 30.5 cm (12 x 12 in)
© Michelle Stuart

Frame, 1998

Seeds, beeswax, pigment on canvas
30.5 x 30.5 cm (12 x 12 in)
© Michelle Stuart

Sea Measured, 1998

Seeds, beeswax and pigment on canvas-covered wood support
30.5 x 30.5 cm (12 x 12 in)
© Michelle Stuart

In the Beginning: Time and Dark Matter, 2016

Archival inkjet photographs
181.6 x 320 cm (71 1/2 x 126 in)
© Michelle Stuart

  • Chatham Boat (pink flag), 2017  Wood, linen, wire, string  14 x 45.7 x 7 cm, 5 1/2 x 18 x 2 3/4 ins  © Michelle Stuart
    Chatham: Sailor Beware, 2017
  • Sacred Solstice Alignment, 1981
  • Small Ledger: Near White Horse of Uffington, 1979–1980
  • Earth (Sayreville), 1997
  • Tomkins Cove, NY, 1977–78
  • San Juan Ermita de Chiquimula, 1978
  • Wind Book: Tikal, 1978
  • Esca, 1997
  • Seed Pod, 1995
  • Zacaba, 1979
  • Moon, 1969
  • #6 Kingston, 1973
  • Small Photopiece: Animal Architecture. Earth Works and Earth. Leaf Cutter Ant. Tikal Ruins. Guatemala, 1981
  • Small Ledger: Comotán, Guatemala, 1980
  • Lden Bel Rock, 1967–1968
  • Lavender Garden, 1997
  • Frame, 1998
  • Sea Measured, 1998
  • In the Beginning: Time and Dark Matter, 2016

Installation

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Betty Parsons & Michelle Stuart

in ‘Affinities for Abstraction: Women Artists on Eastern Long Island, 1950-2020’, The Parrish Art Museum, Long Island