ListenIntroduction by Andria HickeyOscar Tuazon and People
Oscar Tuazon’s art typically combines industrial and natural materials to transform the experience of a building or space. The rough and ready materials and do-it-yourself sensibility of his work pushes the limits of objects and architecture: wood beams are strapped against structural frames, trees butt up against cast-cement forms, and metal studs are hinged on patches of sheetrock.
For Brooklyn Bridge Park, Tuazon (b. 1975, Seattle, Washington) has created three related sculptures. Inspired by the resourceful creativity of urban neighborhoods, the structures suggest sculptural variations on familiar playground designs. Installed along Pier 1 and 2, each work is enlivened by its everyday use: a tree becomes a fountain; a makeshift handball wall is held straight by a tree trunk that also accommodates a basketball hoop; a cement cube breached by a tree frames the surrounding landscape and echoes the original piers along the waterfront. Tuazon’s work deals inventively with the fundamental aspects of sculpture such as balance, volume, and weight. At the same time, his installation creates a playful dialogue with built and natural forms against the Manhattan skyline.
This exhibition is curated by Andria Hickey.
A Machine, 2012; Black Oak Tree and Water Pump
The Rain, 2012; Red Oak Tree and Concrete
People, 2012; Sugar Maple Tree, Concrete, Metal Basketball Backboard and Hoop
Major support provided by Kraus Family Foundation.
Additional support from Jennifer Napier Nolen & Malcolm Nolen and Two Trees Management Company. Assistance from Maccarone, NY.
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Andria Hickey: Often, the creation of your work involves a process of improvisation or experimentation. With this series, the works were planned farther in advance. Does this cause you to think more about the utilitarian “thingness” of these works and their playfulness? Can you talk about how you conceived of these works?
Oscar Tuazon: One of the things I was thinking about, of course, was creating spaces for people. So to me, the works each have an improvisatory character—not in how they were made but in that they will be ‘completed’ by other people and experienced in lots of different ways. And the utilitarian aspect of the works is really interesting to me. It’s a way for the works to shift in and out of visibility. I like the idea that from a distance you might see them as sculptures, but if you’re sitting down on the structure or playing basketball on it, that isn’t relevant anymore.
AH: How does working outside in a place like Brooklyn Bridge park change your process? Does working outside architecture create a whole new set of problems?
OT: It’s true that working outside is very different than working against an architectural space. The park isn’t the reflection of a particular ideological position, or the embodiment of an institution. A park really is as close to a free space any in a city. So on one hand, I did feel that the context of the park was really liberating somehow, and I think it’s reflected in the work—there is a playful aspect to the pieces. But on the other hand, the site is so completely overwhelming; what I was working against was the whole skyline of Manhattan. So I wanted to do something at human scale.
AH: These works are reminiscent of some of the impromptu games that we all made at one point or another—a fort between two buildings, a tree house against a tree rather than in it, a homemade basketball hoop, a building for dodge ball... These works seem to connect to your ideas about freedom and autonomy with a simple, DIY sensibility that many people can identify with. How do you see the connection of these works along that trajectory?
OT: I rarely work with any kind of reference in mind, but because this is a public project in Brooklyn I couldn’t help but be inspired by the ad hoc nature of public space in the city—how people are constantly reinventing the city, renewing it. When I think about the creativity that takes place on the streets of Brooklyn it’s really humbling, and that was something I wanted to literally incorporate into the works themselves. I hope the works are adapted, repurposed, reinvented.
AH: “Leaking sculptures,” or works that stretch the limits of their function, are mentioned in several texts about your work, and for Brooklyn Bridge Park, there is very much a leaking sculpture—a fountain that spurts from the top of a tree trunk. This piece seems more hopeful, or intentional, as a fountain, rather than a domestic or architectural object that expands to the point of leaking. How do you see A Machine (2012) in relation to these past works?
OT: I don’t know if the connotations of a material process are really that clear, which is what interests me in those kinds of problems. The fountain piece probably will have a hopeful, even absurd aspect at times—but then the tree will start to rot, hopefully animals will start to live there, moss will grow on it, it will freeze in the winter. Sometimes it will probably seem pathetic, run-down, a ruin. But it’s a living thing, and I think it will be most interesting like that—not as something you go to look at once, but as a thing you return to, which appears slightly different each time you visit, like a friend.
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