Museum Watch: Sara VanDerBeek "To Think of Time"

Posted by David Ozanich — 20 Sep 2010


The Museum of Modern Art is currently exhibiting “The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839-Today”. In an interesting counterpoint, the Whitney Museum of American Art just opened the first solo show of photographer and former gallerist Sara VanDerBeek. She uses photography of sculpture as her primary medium:

Sara VanDerBeek’s quiet semi-abstract photographs are based predominantly on sculptural forms created by the artist. In the past, she has collected pictures from various sources, including art history books, archives, magazines, and newspapers, incorporating them into sculptures that are made only to be photographed in the artist’s studio. (After being photographed, the sculptures are immediately dismantled, and VanDerBeek’s pictures provide the only remaining evidence of the temporary structure.) In her work on view in this exhibition, VanDerBeek continues this practice, yet she couples it with ventures outside the studio as she meditates on the nature of time as both a personal and collective condition.

The New York Times has an illuminating profile of the young artist in which it tells of her family history (her father was experimental filmmaker Stan VanDerBeek) and describes some of the works in this new show:

Some works in the show depict three-dimensional still-life assemblages that she builds in her studio. In “We Will Become Silhouettes” two plaster casts of Ms. VanDerBeek’s face suggest a double-sided death mask, while “Blue Caryatid at Dusk” makes a pint-size Brancusi-esque column look like an outsize funerary monument.

Others show architectural details, like the close-ups of decaying windows and foundations she encountered on a recent trip to New Orleans. And many of the most poignant found their source in Ms. VanDerBeek’s childhood home in Baltimore, now up for sale. The show opens with “Blue Eclipse,” a photograph of a photograph of the 1969 lunar eclipse that she discovered while cleaning out the basement, and closes with a grouping that includes an enigmatic image of light falling through the house’s windows onto a wall.

The show opened this past weekend and runs through December 5th.


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