On a visit to the Nevada Museum of Art this summer, I first encountered the work of Kansas City based Anne Lindberg. Tucked in a small, irregularly shaped gallery, Lindberg’s luminous installation immediately caught the eye, where individual threads created volume and marked space in a way that belied its virtually imperceptible constituent parts. Her large-scale graphite drawings also on view in the gallery invited close inspection, the subtle shift in hand drawn lines creating a palpable sense of movement within the confines of two-dimensions. I had the opportunity to speak with Lindberg on the occasion of her exhibition, sustaining pedal, at Carrie Secrist Gallery in Chicago.
I understand that after receiving your B.F.A., you served as a curatorial assistant at the Smithsonian Institute in the Department of Ethnology. How did your close work with textiles influence your approach to materials, pattern and color?
As a curatorial assistant, I had the rare opportunity to help unpack and notate objects from the Lamb Collection of West African Textiles that was being given to the museum. I was charged with making a drawing of a section of the objects, counting threads, identify if the threads were Z or S spun (which determined the likely gender of the spinner), make notes on provenance and repack the item for storage. That work at the Smithsonian, first of all, helped me to decide that I wanted to be an artist rather than an anthropologist or museum professional. I feel that this work honed my tendency to work with very fine delicate elements in accumulation and as a method to build intensity and meaning. I entered a graduate program at Cranbrook Academy of Art immediately after leaving the Smithsonian, and began an investigation of concepts to visualize and materialize space, spatial qualities of architecture and light.
Your work has been compared to Minimalists like Sol LeWitt and Richard Serra, for whom, it has been argued, concealing the artist’s hand in the resulting piece was paramount. In contrast, mark-making and physical involvement in the work seems key to your practice. How do you feel your process relates to these Minimalists? And what value do you place on the artist’s hand in the execution of your works?
Works by both of the artists you mention here have an incredible presence of the maker and the material. The graphite wall drawings by LeWitt are done painstakingly by hand, the index of the mark-making becomes the work. And with Serra, there is a compelling, riveting sense of body, weight, sound, materiality in his Cor-ten steel sculptures as well as the oil stick drawings. Minimalism has become a very broad term that is perhaps over-used, maybe even ill-used. In my work, the fact of my body and its actions to make the work are quite central, particularly in the graphic drawings. Each line corresponds to a body movement in time. Also, I intentionally show the beginning and ending of each graphite line so that one feels it as a physical line, an action with a beginning and a resolution before the next line begins. And the staples in the installations are quite visible as they mark the point of turnaround for the taut thread; they create another layer of drawing in the work and an honest acknowledgement of how the work is made.
What issues do you consider when deciding how to produce a thread installation in a particular location?
Each installation is different, yet the body of work is a process of building one work from another through knowledge gained, and so I see these works as a series of drawings. They just happen to live in different spaces at different times. It’s important to consider that I can’t actually make the work until I begin the installation at the venue. My studio is a place for study, research, engineering and model making for each project. With each project, I consider the architectural circumstances, i.e. height of the ceiling, vantage points within the space, materiality and proportion. The personality and character of the space is also important in terms of the age of building, current and former uses, cultural indicators, the overall energy of the place. For each project thus far, I have made numerous (upwards of 6-10) small 1/4 inch scale models of differing paths, forms, colorations and densities in order to arrive at what feels right.
Your work in two-dimensions with both your graphite and colored pencil drawings and your thread drawings, which can aesthetically look quite similar. What differences do you see in how these works operate?
I see the pencil drawings and thread drawings as very related yet quite different, and are really two distinct bodies of work. The thread drawings share a closer link to the installations, as they both address color as a powerful expression of the subconscious, the spiritual, the physiological, the optical. They are essentially built with color, filament by filament. I do not plan the color of the thread drawings, nor the installations; I only have a general palette in mind at the beginning. They begin with a sense, a presence. The pencil drawings depend upon a body sensitivity, using the gesture and weight of the arm, wrist and hand to create the marks. The thread drawings and installations draw upon the eye, reflectivity, density and light conditions to build the color, a thread by thread progression and interplay of color.
Your current exhibition at Carrie Secrist Gallery, sustaining pedal, makes reference to a piano’s sustain pedal, which “dampens the instrument’s strings, extending and elongating the life of the note into space.” Could you discuss how you arrived at this beautiful relationship/metaphor between your practice and music.
About 4 years ago, I began studying the piano again after some 35-40 years. I have found that I am drawn to minor tones, modal form and dissonant chords….sounds that cause you to pause and wonder where it originates culturally. Someone told me once to play each of the modal scales (Dorian, Lydian, Phrygian, etc.), and to ask myself what continent or cultural tradition from which it seems to resonate. I did that for months, tuning my ear to differences. I have had quite compelling conversations with my teacher about relationships between music and color theories. It made sense to me to use the name of a tool for the title of the show, and thus sustaining pedal. If you press the sustaining pedal while playing, the sound extends and opens up so you can hear elements otherwise inaudible.
What place do you think drawing has within the discourse surrounding contemporary art?
Within the last 10 years or more, drawing has experienced a resurgence and focus within overall contemporary art discourse, and I love that. It is now understood as a form in and of itself, rather than as service to another form. I see drawing as a way of thinking, it seems alive and direct. Drawing, to my view, is quite personal, intimate and daring. I am always seeking to push the boundaries of what is considered a drawing, by scale and material and conceptual premise.
sustaining pedal is on view at Carrie Secrist Gallery through October 20, 2012.