Virginia Overton

by Felicity Lunn

freymond-guth Ltd. fine ARTS

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Virginia Overton, 16 Mudflap Girls (360°), 2011, Detail

Virgnia Overton, 16 Mudflap Girls (360°), 2011, Detail

Virginia Overton’s means of engagement with the physicality of materials – particularly their suspense, weight and gravity – places her firmly in the current generation of sculptors, yet her strategies for displacement and negotiation are unusually intricate.
The American artist’s first exhibition in Switzerland contained three main pieces, each shown on its own in a separate space. In the narrow entrance area, the artist nonchalantly leant four wooden planks against the wall (Untitled, all works 2011) and turned these finds from a Zurich building site into elegantly spare and, ironically, rather feminine sculptures by dint of a light bulb attached to the top of three of them. If it hadn’t been for the trailing electrical wire, peeling paint and worn surface of the wood, the installation might have been mistaken in formal terms for a DIY imitation of John McCracken’s Minimalist sculptures.

Another plank – this time painted yellow – formed the lynchpin of the second installation, which almost filled the smaller of the two gallery spaces. Untitled (Zurich) was created from objects salvaged in the area surrounding the gallery and is therefore a kind of indirect portrait. The plank – suspended by a single rope from the ceiling – hung horizontally in the middle of the room; insulation foam covered one end while a glass carafe, half-filled with water, sat near the middle. In this precarious balancing act, the plank could have rotated and the carafe fallen down at any moment. The small size of the room forced viewers to move carefully around the work, which blocked and disorientated. The room, its occupants and the yellow paint were reflected in the carafe’s glass surface, thus producing a shifting microcosm of the whole.

In the main space, Overton surprised with an installation as clean-cut and graphic as the first two works were raw and physically confrontational. Appropriating the cartoon-like girl familiar throughout the USA as an adornment for truck mudflaps, the artist repeated a near life-size, black cut-out version in a frieze along the base of all four walls. 16 Mudflap girls (360°) – each of the 16 girls rotated a few degrees further than the previous, like a cinematic somersault – seems to free the figure from her frozen position. At first glance, this work looks aesthetically very different from Untitled and Untitled (Zurich). Yet all of these works deftly change one’s perception of the space as much as drawing attention to themselves.

Felicity Lunn

frieze d/e

Summer 2011
Issue 1

First published in Issue 1

Summer 2011

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