About the Exhibition
Trapdoor features new commissions by Ethan Breckenridge, Martha Friedman and Sara Greenberger Rafferty, and recent works by Francis Cape. By using or making reference to recognizable objects whose properties are exaggerated or altered in one way or another, the artists express transformation as a physical condition within their works. These artists convey an overarching sense of transition or metamorphosis in works that appear to be changing appearance, moving, disappearing or melting. In each case, there is an element of the unexpected, of things appearing delightfully out of the ordinary; as if the viewer has passed through a portal and entered into some kind of conceptual wonderland. In their own ways, these artists are experimenting with new ways of seeing everyday objects and occurrences, accentuating the spirit of change and innovation that is characteristic of the MetroTech Center’s downtown Brooklyn location—an area that has experienced pronounced growth and transformation in the last decade.
Ethan Breckenridge, I’m OK-You’re OK
I’m OK-You’re OK, a new commission by Ethan Breckenridge (b.1977, Madison, WI), is a sculpture composed of 100 standard, functional furniture dollies, piled on top of one another to a staggering height of 16 feet. Typically used for transporting heavy items, dollies are often stacked in pairs or groups before or after moving something from one location to another, and give the sense of work in progress. Breckenridge exaggerates this common occurrence to a state of absurdity with the soaring and seemingly impossible height of the stack, turning something practical into an improbable feat. Although engineered to be stable, the dollies seem to be resting precariously, as if the entire structure could topple over at any minute. In this work, Breckenridge pays homage to Marcel Duchamp and artists who have followed in his footsteps by working with everyday objects and transforming them into non-functional works of art, as well as making reference to Constantin Brancusi’s Endless Column and minimalists whose work includes the repetition of individual parts into sculptural arrangements, such as Donald Judd’s vertical stacks. Positioned within a seating area in the MetroTech Commons, I’m OK-You’re OK appears as a statuesque column resembling a civic monument or public marker.
Francis Cape, On Main Street and Blue Piece
Before attending art school, Francis Cape (b.1952, Lisbon, Portugal) was trained as a wood carver, a factor that has guided his work toward a fusion of strong craftmanship, sculpture and architecture. His pieces, which are constructed of standard milled lumber, are meticulously built and often include references to both functional and architectural elements that have gone through types of transformation. Two of Cape’s freestanding pieces, On Main Street and Blue Piece, are sited in the lobby of MetroTech One. Like all of his work, these pieces combine the look of Minimalist sculpture with the simplicity of Shaker design, resulting in intriguing structures that blend history with modernism. On Main Street includes what appears to be a fragment of a table and part of a shelf, fused with sections of wainscoting and portions of walls. From one side, Blue Piece appears to be a monochromatically painted, minimal sculpture, while the other side reveals unfinished wood and a small cabinet with a door. In each case, architectural elements are truncated or fused together, giving the viewer the perception that sections of a room have gone through a transformation, when in actuality, this effect is produced simply by the way in which the components are arranged.
Martha Friedman, Waffle
Martha Friedman’s work conveys the artist’s fascination with the sculptural characteristics of common objects, particularly food. In recent years Friedman (b.1975, Detroit, MI) has made sculptures inspired by melons, eggs, macaroni pasta and sausage, in each case transforming the scale of the grocery item or arranging them in such a manner that invites viewers to explore their more formal qualities. For MetroTech Commons, Friedman has created a seven-foot-tall “waffle” submerged in a thick pool that suggests syrup. Standing vertically upright, it appears to be melting or forming, and its enlarged scale brings focus to the rises, crevices, and surface of the foam, resin and metal construction. Friedman is especially interested in the grid pattern, a staple of modernism that is also characteristic of waffles. Furthermore, waffles are made in molds, a common method of sculpture making and one that she employs often in her work. Whereas minimalists, including Agnes Martin and Sol LeWitt, used meticulous grids as repetitive formats in their artworks, Friedman’s waffle is imperfect, functions as a “found” grid and, in doing so, makes reference to an aspect of everyday life and human consumption.
Sara Greenberger Rafferty, After Harry
Sara Greenberger Rafferty (b.1978, Chicago, IL) uses elements of performance as an overarching theme in her work. For MetroTech Center, Rafferty has created After Harry, a seven-foot-tall Plexiglas tank that is empty, aside from ropes and chains left in a pile inside, giving the impression that an escape artist has miraculously broken free. The vacant container is presented as a record of an imagined performance, a “souvenir” of an unseen transformation from bound to unbound. This is not the first time Greenberger Rafferty has alluded to great stunt performers such as Harry Houdini in her work. She often references historical performances and vaudeville in her art, creating a sense of vintage nostalgia. The tank itself has the sculptural quality of a modernist cube, and its transparent quality is also reminiscent of a museum display vitrine that has been expanded significantly to meet human scale.