Examining the threshold of the wall—
Up on the fourth floor of Studio 17 the ceilings are high—maybe 16 feet—with massive industrial windows—the fourth floor has a primary studio complex and then minor complexes branching off—I am in the annex—and the first studio in the annex belongs to Andy and Sarah—these buildings aren’t tied together structurally—in an earthquake they will move differently—Andy and Sara are on one side of the wall, I am on the other.
Andy is examining the threshold of the wall—interior and exterior are involved—whether that be a sculpture—or light cast through the sculpture—for example—Andy works with lath—he builds installations—from the recycled wood slats found in the lath-and-plaster walls of old buildings—when he first opened a wall and looked at the lath, he thought about how long the wood had been there—over one hundred years—and then he thought about the tree the the lath had been milled from—that might be another couple of hundred years—and then that lath which existed under a sediment of plaster in an old Victorian home is ripped out—thrown in a dumpster—and he thought about the landfill.
When Adobe Books closed down—which was the early sign of changes in the Mission neighborhood—Andy built a sculpture into the wall—in the picture he has from the exhibit—plaster is falling off the wall exposing the lath—in the center of the deteriorated wall is a clean geometric form that looks three-dimensional but is flat—the work is about removal—removal of the wall—the books—the book store—the readers, the writers—after the exhibit, a wall is placed over the sculpture and it disappears for five years—and he thinks about that piece hidden in the wall—he goes back—cuts away the drywall and pulls the sculpture from the wall—eventually the entire building is removed—only the sculpture is left—the sculpture is the blind witness—that existed under the sediment in the dark—if we can read the sculpture we can understand what is happening to the Mission.
The wood is oxidized—Andy has placed the slats carefully in a geometric form—for Andy the wood’s history happens with another thought—“I can draw with this wood”—“create a sense of perspective using the various coloring of the wood”—the word “orthographic” emerges—a perspective-less drawing—playing with a mirror in the sun next to the large window—he noticed another way of drawing line—not through wood but through light—Andy asks himself—“How to control this light?”—“How to build with this light?”—through the use of the mirror—he projected a beam of light onto the mirror at an angle that caused a reflection— at the same time that light passed through the mirror—in the final installation—the viewer observes three ideas—surface, reflection, transparency—what lies behind a wall—the wall—what lives in the room—is also a type of surface, reflection and transparency.
The lath is a vocabulary—it is standardized material, but each piece is also different—oxidized differently—the side that touches the plaster versus the side that doesn’t—
material is the artist’s language—“It is very geometric”—“It’s a product of architectural thinking”—“Streaming lumber into units”— “Self imposed rules”—“Proto- architectural shorthand”—“Life cycle of material”—“Problem solving”—Andy’s sculptures maintain consistent spacing like the vertical framing of the lath walls—his work is referencing history while developing complex and dynamic sculptural shapes—his work is about line—I walk into the kitchen—water is boiling in pots on a stove—Andy has a piece of fabric in hand—he is working with a photo activated dye—fabric is hung in his studio window—he is using sun exposure with his sculptures to create line—“It is like a tangent” he says to me laughing—“The light from the mirror leads me outdoors”—in fact all discovery involves tangents—the shadow cast by his sculpture reminds us of the light—following the light—he comes to the sun—the sun activates the dye—in the kitchen he dunks the fabric into the boiling pots—the room is steaming—the boiling water with detergent stops the activation.
When I ask what is important about the studio space he answers, “Size”—the size he needs to build his large sculptures—to hold the machinery to cut the wood—but he has a big window—and is now working with light—this complex of studios is an old brick building—three buildings put together—when you walk through one door it seems you are simply in another hallway—but if you look carefully—brick has become wood—a ceiling is lower—if you look carefully you understand that there are thresholds—and history—and things that once were and are now gone—and the seams are still there.
When Andy says—“I am examining the threshold of the wall” – he opens a wall—pulls the material out—turns it over and over—he looks at the space—the lines—the residue—and I understand we are not talking just about the material.
More about Andy Vogt: andyvogt.com
About STUDIO 17: The Artists’ Space by Alex Nichols
At the end of June—a community of over 70 artists—at the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District—must leave STUDIO 17 to make way for high-cost working space. This blog will catalog the end of this community above Thrift Town (on Mission &17th Street) and what it means. To understand what is being lost—I will spend the next two months carefully observing how artists work in their space—to give an intimate look at the inside of this community.
More about Alex Nichols: alexhnichols.com
How the journey began… STUDIO 17: The Artists’ Space by Alex Nichols
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Published on April 8, 2015