Tony Feher: Extraordinary Ordinary
On view through fall 2012
With the indoor galleries closed for renovation, the Ulrich Museum of Art turned to internationally-recognized artist Tony Feher to activate the outdoor spaces by creating a pair of temporary site-determined artworks for the Martin H. Bush Outdoor Sculpture Collection.
On the WSU campus, his inventive application of fluorescent orange to the museum’s façade and the branches of trees across campus encourages university students, staff, and visitors to see familiar spaces anew.
Carl Sagan, Carl Sagan (Destination 1), 2012
DayGlo® paint, existing steel framework
On October 12, 2011, the last of the panels in the Ulrich’s iconic Joan Miró mural, Personnages Oiseaux (Bird People), was removed for conservation. Gone went the expanse of sparkling, brilliantly colored glass and marble tiles--leaving behind the bare metal grid of its support structure. For many visitors, this empty armature has been a dismal reminder of the mural’s absence. For artist Tony Feher, however, it is a stunning formal composition and aesthetically compelling presence.
In Carl Sagan, Carl Sagan (Destination 1)--one of a pair of site-determined artworks for the Ulrich--he painted the faceplates of the absent mural’s framework fluorescent orange. Recalling the repeated geometries of 1960s minimalist artists such as Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt, this vibrant punctuation highlights the rhythmic, overall pattern of rectangles across the building’s surface.
Feher selected the paint color deliberately. In keeping with his signature vocabulary of common objects and materials, he chose the ubiquitous hue of traffic cones, construction zone signage, and road crew vests. As it does in those practical applications, this "safety orange" stands out dramatically from its surroundings and marks the building façade as a space of action and change.
A fascination with the science of the natural world underpins all of Feher’s work. He acknowledges that keen interest by titling the artwork with the name of a famous astronomer who popularized science in the hit 1980s television series Cosmos.
Carl Sagan, Carl Sagan (Destination 2), 2012
DayGlo® paint, water-filled drinking bottles, and twine
Feher’s second installation likewise takes the famed scientist’s name and makes use of the fluorescent orange paint. However, in lieu of a fabricated, geometric structure, the organic, irregular lines of tree branches provide the artwork’s underlying system. Carl Sagan, Carl Sagan (Destination 2) comprises rows of painted, water-filled plastic drinking bottles hung at even intervals along the branches of central campus trees.
Marked with the orange bottles, these carefully selected branches create a compelling linear network. Viewed singularly, each individual row of bottles offers a seemingly random, unexpected pop of color; viewed collectively, they guide one’s eye to visually connect the stretch of one tree’s branch to the subtle arc of another's.
As the painted faceplates on the museum’s façade change in vibrancy throughout the day, so too do the painted bottles--waxing and waning in their luminosity depending upon the direction from which sunlight hits them. Additionally, this installation will change significantly through the seasons. Barren when Feher installed the bottles, the trees will leaf out over the course of the spring, altering the quality of the light that illuminates them and adding a brilliant, contrasting green.
Feher has an impressive record of exhibitions from New York to Istanbul. He has had solo exhibitions at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana; Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas; and Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, New York. A major retrospective of his work organized by the Blaffer Art Museum, University of Houston, opens this May at the Des Moines Art Center in Iowa, and travels later to Texas.
Tony Feher: Extraordinary Ordinary has been organized by the Ulrich Museum of Art and is generously supported by Joan Beren and Bud and Toni Gates.