Sunday, July 1, 2012

Bill Bollinger: Here I Am, Now Make Sense of Me

Movie, 1970

Bill Bollinger's work by itself doesn't come across as being anything extraordinary (but maybe that's the point of his minimal art).  Regardless, in the cracked concrete and rust of the Sculpture Center’s 104 year old building something magical happened that made this exhibit an experience to remember.  

According to the Sculpture Center's website (
Bollinger made significant waves in the late 1960s, challenging the limits of sculpture and expanding thought regarding concept, materiality, and commodity. Bollinger's works were made from primarily pre-fabricated industrial supplies, such as sawhorses, oil drums, rubber tubing and cyclone fence. Focusing on the gesture of construction and the physical limits of material, Bollinger's work addressed ideas of gravity, balance and material nature. According to him his interests lay not 'in the aesthetics of form but in the fact of form'. Bollinger frequently used water for as a material, transforming it into something sculptural with mass and form as it fills a plastic hose or a steel barrel. Bollinger summed up his attitude to the making of his work: 'It is all very easy to execute, does not exist until it has been executed, ceases to exist when it has been taken down.' This approach, while radical and ultimately influential, is also likely a factor in the subsequent disappearance of the work from art history.  

Not all of his drawings and sculptures worked.  But like all artists it’s refreshing to see the ones that worked along side risky work that did not.  Too perfect an art exhibition sometimes looses a welcome edge that challenges the audience and provokes thought.

His best pieces are quietly confrontational… a chain link fence with a single twist in it, a white “shelf” mounted to a white wall, two wheel barrows filled with water, a drawing made up of dots or splatters.  These pieces are beautiful in their form and composition, they are graceful and they are engaging, yet they are things you might happen upon at a construction site… and that's what makes them confrontational… they’re extremely simple/minimal and primarily made up of pre-fabricated objects.  That's the tension you feel in his art… it’s as if his sculptures are saying “here I am, now make sense of me”.

Anodized Aluminum Extrusion (Channel Piece), 1966
Cyclone Fence, 1968

Untitled, 1970

Pipe Piece, 1968/1969

Rope Piece [VW], 1967


Graphite Piece, 1969

Installation view in the Basement Gallery

Rope Piece, 1969 and Rope Piece, 1969

My deliberate blurry photo of Rope Piece, 1969

Posters in a glass case display


*** FYI Bill Bollinger originally studied aeronautical engineering at Brown University.  When I showed my brother the drawings above (who studied aerospace engineering) he immediately thought they resembled cross sections of wings/turbine blades.  The diagrams below we found on google images and thought there was a slight resemblance to his drawings.

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