No artist stereotype is as persistent as the garret-living starving artist, but a runner up with a more contemporary feel must be the artist trapped in the studio, ruminating on his or her surroundings. Bruce Nauman’s floor-pacing, wall-bouncing videos from the 60s and ‘Mapping the Studio…’ from ’01 give the artist’s space itself a role in the creative process. Jeanne Silverthorne casts her studio floor as a means of ‘archaeology’ while artists like Ellen Altfest have created meticulous renderings of paint-splattered floors, plants and views from the window of her studio.
London-based artist Elizabeth McAlpine also reproduces scenes from the studio, but obscures their origins in ‘The Map of Exactitude,’ her first New York solo show. The exhibition features mysteriously shaped sculptures combining organic and geometric forms and even more eccentric-looking framed images on paper that hint at architectural diagrams which, in a way, they are. McAlpine’s sculptures are actually casts of the ceilings and corners of another artist’s studio, which she then made into pinhole cameras with multiple tiny openings.
Photosensitive paper folded to the dimensions of the casts’ interiors records multiple views that are often so abstract, they don’t really give much insight into a place that is intended for art making. Instead, McAlpine puts the artistic process itself on display by exhibiting her tools and the resulting images – sculpture-like cameras – on equal footing. Using the peculiarities of the space to make artwork about the space could be obnoxiously self-referential, but comes across instead as a thoughtful reflection on the process of pursuing ideas and discerning meaning in the studio.
Elizabeth McAlpine at Laurel Gitlen, 261 Broome Street, Show extended through July 1, 2012.