Friday, February 7, 2014

Guest Star #131…Wolfgang Laib

Pollen from Hazelnut

One of the best exhibitions I have ever been to was a Wolfgang Laib retrospective at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle in 2001. I didn't know about his work at that time but was awestruck immediately. I think the first piece I saw was Milkstone and it made me stop in my tracks…so simple and so beautiful. The color, the perfect square, the delicate tension of the meniscus of the milk along the edge, the complete silence in the room…it was stunning. I continued on to view dishes of rice and wax rooms and jars of pollen, all so perfectly, yet effortlessly placed, so it seemed. The stillness and contemplative feeling in the gallery, the smell of the beeswax, the subtle variations in color of the pollen, the thought of Laib hand-collecting the pollen and then sifting it onto the floor…it all blew me away. Then I saw a pollen field, and it was a singular experience. The gallery was packed but I felt alone with that piece, transported or something. It was moving. Years later, I happened to be in New York when he had an exhibition at a gallery in Chelsea. There were three pieces on view, including a pollen field. This time, however, there was no one else in the gallery. I was completely alone with the piece and I just stood there and starred for I don't know how long, again transported.

Pollen From Hazelnut installation with pollen harvested over 20 years

jars of pollen

Laib's pieces are minimal and quiet, yet they make a huge impact visually and emotionally. They appear simple, but the concepts are layered and run deep. I also admire how his process is embedded in the work. I have seen many images of him collecting pollen outside his studio and hand sifting it onto the floor of a gallery or pouring milk on a stone very carefully. I cannot separate these images from the work--it's like he's in there on view with each piece. Very powerful.

Milkstone, milk and marble

Nowhere-Everywhere, beeswax and wooden construction

Rice Meals, rice and brass

Please visit my latest artist board on Pinterest, Wolfgang Laib.

Thanks for reading.

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