In the early 1900s, teaching art history was frustrating for Clarence Kennedy. Smith College was miles away from the masterworks of European sculpture, and the images available to educators were of mediocre quality. Their compositions were rudimentary and uninspired; important details were regularly washed out or wholly obscured. Kennedy sought to right this wrong, by creating comprehensive folios that students and researchers could adequately learn from. He picked up a view camera—its large negative able to render details with the utmost clarity—and went to work.
Kennedy took a piecemeal approach to documentation, often shooting the sculptures in extreme close-ups with dramatic lighting. Even though the view camera was unwieldy, he was determined to bend the device to his will. In the image above, Kennedy has placed a relief onto an easel, to help him capture the work from the perfect angle. In her essay, “Photography as Carving: The Folios of Clarence Kennedy,” Sarah Hamill describes how Kennedy built a special tripod for his camera, replacing one of the legs with a ladder for better mobility. Kennedy’s efforts to make a good photograph through his own editing eye began the teaching of art history as we know it. In this exhibition, Lins contemplates both the problems and aspects of beauty in this approach, as we recontextualize written art history.
Kennedy’s images act as a point of departure for Lins, particularly photographs that involve figures grasping objects or touching one another. She reconstructs these fragmented scenes as ceramic relief sculptures, their backsides activated by swaths of bright color cobbled and formed in 75 pounds of clay. Lins has often employed the application of color to propose spacial reasoning alongside the language of color within her works. Similar to sculptures included in her last exhibition model model model, Lins draws the viewers attention to surfaces and locations rendered invisible by photographic representation.
These sculptures sit atop self-designed, yet open-source, stools—a practice inspired by Enzo Mari in his seminal open-source manual, Autoprogettazione (1974). The stools, designed to be assembled together from flat forms without any hardware, conflict the nature of the sculpture as a whole, asking the audience to identify and consider all parts of the art object and its close relationship to design of all kinds. Moreover, the artist has rounded the corners where the gallery walls meet, producing one large cyclorama wall. Screenprints of slide drawers, a harbinger of technology now obsolete, surround the exhibition space; the nameplates that once featured the names of predominantly male artists have been replaced with strips of Color-aid paper. Swiping gestures, made in sand and memorialized in cast aluminum, hang from a bold blue tree near the center of the room.
With this exhibition, Lins equates Classical frieze sculpture with photographic perspective, capture, and phrasing. By focusing on an array of tactile technologies utilized throughout time, she also asks the viewer to consider the physicality of the virtual realm. Lins’ work seeks to combat the prevailing notion that the digital should be defined as dematerialized. Swipes, slides, and taps seem to be invisible actions, but on some surface, somewhere, they leave a mark behind.