In The Land of Sugar and Grain


The Suit and Desk
July 9, 2009, 4:23 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

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The Suit and Desk. Reinforced concrete, found objects. Alexander A. Bandazian. 2009: Currently on display on Wheaton College Campus (Mars Fine Arts Sculpture Garden)

Artist’s Statement

At the end of the Fall semester of my senior year I was asked to build a sculpture for the stone garden outside of the Mars Fine Arts Building as an independent study in studio art. From the planning stages to completion, this piece has come through many different changes and permutations as different problems (technical and aesthetic) presented themselves.

The first consideration in any project of this magnitude is which material to work in. Whatever I chose had to be resilient enough to endure the New England climate and winter freeze/thaw cycles and cost effective enough in large quantities to build something of considerable size to fill the space. I decided ultimately on concrete, as it met these requirements amply, and was also a material I had never had a chance to work with.

Over the winter break I did a great deal of research on concrete in both architectural and artistic applications. I experimented with different aggregates and add-mixtures and casting techniques and through trial and error (and some advice from a local masonry expert and professor Cunard) I decided to use a quick-drying masonry cement with synthetic mono-filament on top of a re-bar armature with expanded steel lathe reinforcements. Once I had limited myself to one material, I made a number of sketches of possible sculptures, ranging from abstract minimalist (i.e. ten foot tall solid concrete block), to strictly figural, to found object casting and repetitive organic forms. I used Google Sketchup Pro to make three dimensional renders of the ideas that I liked and digitally edited them into an image of the space to see how they would look against the architecture of Mars. Image 2 was the basis for the final project, though it has changed considerably from this original digital sketch.

Despite all of my planning, the execution stage of this project was more electrically driven than carefully planned. I made aesthetic and conceptual decisions as solutions to technical problems as they came up in the building process. I would come across an issue in the building process (for instance, how to make the transition from concrete to the steel desk less abrupt) and think to myself “how can I resolve this logistically and make it visually appealing at the same time?”

The choice to put a man in a suit upside down was mainly driven by aesthetics rather than concepts (though in retrospect there are a number of pretty direct readings one could come to). I began with an image in my mind, albeit a morbid one, of a man upside down with his head cast into a massive block of concrete. I don’t know where it came from, but if felt very appealing to me. I realized that logistically, making a solid block of concrete would be very difficult and not that interesting, so I played around with hollow forms with interior space, ultimately deciding on the desk. To add an extra dimension, and also to give a sense of movement and tension to the piece, I modified the desk so that it would stand at a slant as though it were sinking into the ground with the drawers spilling open. When working with the human figure, I like to play with the proportions that we are all so familiar with to add a sense of alienation to the piece. The suited man was designed to appear slightly off in proportions, his legs just a little too long for his torso, his shoulders too large for his waste, his feet too small for his height, which all together contribute to the strangeness of the piece, abstracting it further. The dripping concrete that seems to flow from the suited man is, admittedly, my favorite part. I feel it adds a cartoonish sense of lightness, giving the sculpture an almost surreal undertone, and calling to question the relationship between man and desk. Is he melting/crashing into it in some sort of violent physical interaction? Or are the two melding together, assimilating? I find the over all effect of the piece at the same time somber and amusing, jarring and strangely harmonious, simple and yet quite thought provoking. I am hesitant to crystallize a specific meaning for this piece, but given the current state of the economy and the connotations of symbols like the suit and desk, I find people tend to draw their own conclusions.

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