During a brief chat with artist Andrew L. Rogers the other day, we touched upon a topic that continues to creep up in discussions about abstract artwork; how to confront associations when viewing and/or making art. For example, a typical response to an abstract artwork is a comment to the likes of “oh, that looks like…a rock…a dog…a vagina”, whatever thought comes to mind at that moment. This comment leads to a long winded interrogation into the mental state of the viewer for one, but more importantly the artist’s intent and the work’s placement in history.
If the artist made the work with the intent to loosely reference a rock, dog or vagina then great, mission accomplished. If the artist’s intention is to create something that is purely visceral, experiential, or evokes a mood rather than a thought, where does that leave the viewer? Where does that leave the artist? Is this the point where vulnerability reveals itself? Must the artist continue to chip away at the “it looks like…” comment by creating work that is void of the signifier? Everything means something, right?
Andrew Rogers’ work begs one to question, “what is it?” And the answer is a simple, “exactly”. Rogers’ familiar shapes are cast from molds or sculpted from fiberglass mesh. They are reminiscent of stones, metals and/or crystals, meticulously painted and contain the surprise of a haphazard gesture. There is a smoothness to the grit, a muted vibrancy, and a steady commitment to harvesting the replica.
Harmonious oxymorons emerge in these objects. To further obscure our associations the sculptures are mounted on the wall, stripping away any implied weight that could deduce materiality. They beg to be touched, held, examined and even petted in order to gain a better understanding of what they are. They even remind me of the reason babies put things in their mouths, using taste as a way to distinguish objects and categorize good and bad. Ever put your tongue on a 9Volt battery or bite on aluminum foil? Yep, even the abstract titles nudge the viewer towards a visceral experience inspired by environmental elements.
The sculptures are all made to be one in and of itself, upholding no pretensions of individuality. They are small and unassuming. We are immediately drawn to the paint coated shell, but what is inside? Seriously Rogers, is it a rock? Does knowing matter at this point?
Ambiguity can be a double edged sword in the art world, however it is a key element of abstraction. The concept behind the work solidifies when the choices made by the artist align with the reading of the work. Rogers’ sculptures are a good example of the cognative intent to toy with ambiguity in order to disassociate the rational mind from the visceral experience of the work.
If you have encountered this comment, what was the situation? What was your response? Discuss on Facebook!
Andrew L. Rogers holds a B.F.A. UC Davis and an M.F.A from Cranbrook Academy of Art. He has recently been exhibited in Portland, San Francisco, and New York. Look his work in our upcoming exhibition, Applications.
Click here to view more work by Andrew L. Rogers
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