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In his first solo show, Bernard Klevickas has staged the space of Orchard Windows Gallery on the Lower East Side for contemplating industrial process and the aesthetics of machinery and its methods. Turbulence is a small, but detailed, show of sculptures created between 2002 and 2012 from metal and plastic, all with consciousness of surface and form.
When I stopped by Orchard Windows over the weekend, Bernard Klevickas happened to be gallery sitting and I talked to him about his work in Turbulence. “I’m fascinated by everyday objects, but we don’t think about what goes into making them,” he said. This curiosity for the process that goes into creating, whether it’s bringing undulating waves out on a flat piece of steel or molding plastic in the same fashion as the mass-produced things that we use everyday, is a focus of his current work.
After receiving his BFA from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago in 1998, Klevickas relocated to the New York Hudson River Valley in 2000 and started working for Polich Art Works (now Pollich-Tallix) as an art fabricator, making pieces for artists like Frank Stella and Louise Bourgeois. While his background is in fabric art, where he made patchwork pieces from scraps and thrift stores finds, he used his work at the foundry as inspiration to move from fiber stitching to industrial fusion.
Turbulence is his first time to entirely own a gallery space with his art, but he’s exhibited extensively in group shows, including recently at the Katonah Museum of Art, as well as in Presents: Three Months of Mail Art for Hyperallergic HQ, where the carefully constructed folds of his origami envelope piece graced the cover of the show’s zine. He’s also had some sculptural projects get wide visibility, such as the “Twisted Bicycle Planter,” where he upcycled old mangled bicycles into planters that he installed on light posts around New York in 2011. Both of these pieces involved 3D computer modeling that he used as base for the art, and for Turbulence he created a computer model of the gallery space to first layout the show, before seeing how it would adapt to the physical space.
He started using computer rendering while working 50 hours a week at the art foundry, approaching the tool as “virtual clay” where he could pull shapes in different directions in a 3D space, like traditional sketching for a sculpture with “a very elaborate pencil.” These models are translated as measuring guidelines for working in styrofoam or metal, and he has also used them to print rapid prototypes, as for “Bluewaveforms” and “Untitled (Sixpack)” in Turbulence, which were cast in stainless steel and finished with colored powder coating paint. “Some people call it finish fetish work,” he says. “I say I’m just obsessive.”
The Orchard Windows Gallery is the size of a cramped studio apartment, holding a narrow space at the front and a larger room at the back, with a rawer feel than other galleries on Orchard Street. Much of Klevickas’ work is as glossy as a sports car straight out of the factory (automotive paint is a recurring material) and others have a tarnished gleam on their futuristic shapes, like cast-offs from some as yet undiscovered machine. The contrast between the gallery and the art works well, humanizing art that could be distant in a more pristine gallery with its heavy industrial feel, and giving the gallery an edge of modern refinement.
One of the standout works in Turbulence is “Bauble” (2002), which has a subtle use of color that is absent from the glossier pieces. For “Bauble,” he used a found gold bar and scraps from a place that manufactures the guts for televisions. The punched out details were already present when Klevickas found the metal, but the combined materials and layered form mask their origins and make for a surprisingly elegant sculpture from something that started in a dumpster.
The earliest work in Turbulence is “Untitled (Maroon),” a cascade of colored metal that Klevickas stamped with waves and hollows. All of his art starts as a flat surface and either through molding or physical interference develops a landscape of waves with few sharp angles, reflecting his “engineering mind” that is intrigued by how spatially these planes can morph into complex curves. While some works in Turbulence are on pedestals, others, like “Untitled (Maroon)” hang from the wall, yet are still visible in three dimensions through mirrors embedded in the sculptures. Klevickas said that he thinks sculpture is something to “not just have the one view,” and even standing in place a viewer can see a different angle of a piece. They also play off his fascination with both the physical and conceptual sense of suspension in the way a material holds its own hanging from a wall.
Klevickas cites both Donald Judd and John Chamberlain as influences on his art, but the act of industrial creation itself is just as present. He points out that we often don’t consider to laborious processes that go into the execution of objects we encounter everyday, even in something as seemingly simple as the forming of a plastic coffee cup lid. Art, as something that can exclusively explore processes of creation without a utilitarian purpose, is where these methods themselves can be explored.
Bernard Klevickas: Turbulence continues through March 25 at Orchard Windows Gallery (37 Orchard Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan).