"Never for the sake of peace and quiet deny your own experience or convictions."
"And still another inquiry remains… whether Leviathan can long endure so wide a chase, and so remorseless a havoc; whether he must not at last be exterminated from the waters, and the last whale, like the last man, smoke his last pipe, and then himself evaporate in the final puff"
As expressed by this engraving in Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza, the former UN Secretary-General was a dedicated proponent of justice and reconciliation, from international affairs to his own working environment at the UN. His influential actions ranged from fearless visits to war torn regions in Africa and Asia to creating a UN meditation room for people of all races, religions and creeds, a place for introspection and thought. With her new sculpture, Inveterate Composition for Clare Rachel Owens hopes to illicit this same sensitivity while making a thought-provoking statement about current circumstances, both humanitarian and ecological.
Placed in Manhattan’s Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza – the historic “Gateway to the UN” and designated protest site, the piece is composed of dissembled parts from two replica military Hummer shells, recomposed and welded together in a monumental pyramid-shaped stack. Sprayed with metallic icy-white auto body paint, the piece will also evoke the form of an iceberg. Additional parts welded between the two both create a more cohesive form and refer to extra armaments that American soldiers have recently added to their own hummers and other equipment.
A bass heavy stereo system will be installed in the trunks. However, instead of the hip-hop as heard in the city or the heavy metal soundtrack many soldiers use as a way to “psych” themselves up, the moody songs of whales and crashes of calving glaciers will emanate from the speakers – the haunting sounds acting as a cry for everyone. In accordance with this soundtrack, the headlights of the cars will be set to dim and brighten. Thus, the lustrous and compelling form will beckon visitors and reveal its true identity on closer inspection.
With its misplaced parts, Inveterate Composition also places itself in recent art history dialogue involving destroyed automobiles as well as war machines, such as in the work of Lee Bontecou. The crashed car has become an iconic form of the violence and excesses of contemporary culture as seen in work from John Chamberlain's car part sculptures and Andy Warhol’s infamous Death and Disaster series, to Charles Ray’s Unpainted Sculpture and Jeremy Deller’s current Conversations about Iraq. Summoning references from the political strife of the Middle East/American conflict to our planet’s general discord, Rachel Owens’s latest sculpture continues this discourse, while adding focus on environmental distress to the pile of ruins. However, her abstract, melodious form also has a hulking beauty and calming presence that speaks to a hopeful undertone of optimism and potential for change and renewal.
This work was originally developed with the enthusiastic support of the late Clare Weiss, curator for the New York City Parks Department, who passed away in January 2010 after a long battle with breast cancer. This piece is dedicated to her.
ICFC At The Frist Center for The Visual Arts
Repurposed replica humves (steel and fiberglass), humpback whale songs, lights
134x168x126" / 340.4x426.7x320cm