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 Oliver Herring  (1964 - )

About: Oliver Herring
 

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Lived/Active: New York / Germany      Known for: conceptual-mylar sculpture, video

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Oliver Herring
from Auction House Records.
Untitled (Robe)
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from a review in Art in America, December 1999, by Janet Koplos:

Oliver Herring first gained notice in the early '90s by knitting Mylar coats and blankets as memorials to the performance artist Ethyl Eichelberger. He later shifted from making garments as surrogates for the figure to knitting actual figures. In his new work the figure is in motion: a Mylar man animatedly occupies a rocking chair in one sculpture and falls onto a mattress in another. Smaller sculptures depict furniture in isolation (an amusingly saggy chair and wail shelf are knitted of strips of wood veneer rather than Mylar--a witty choice). Videos show the artist making pictorial and sculptural arrangements of furniture. Thus, the whole exhibition is cleverly knitted together, if you will.

Herring's early knitting made a statement as a traditionally female activity used by one gay man in a tribute to another. The technique itself has brought him much attention, but he's had to face questions of whether knitting has outlived its usefulness and whether it now limits his expression. Here, the videos and the drawings escape these questions; the two large sculptures find a surprising justification. The rocking man and the falling man (both are Herring himself video-taped in action, translated into drawings and then into a wire armature over which he knits) are rendered as repeated partial figures, as if seen in a stuttering film or in Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase. The knitting gives an incremental continuity to the action, since it encompasses all the particularities of the forms in one uninterrupted directional flow from a beginning point to the conclusion of the piece, like the flow of film or videotape. The repetitive action of knitting is a cell of movement, and Herring's use of transparent Mylar over an armature that remains visible suggests an analytical interest in structure, position and pose.

In these sculptures, the technique is continuous while the image is not. Interestingly, the same is true of the videos. Rather than depicting the smooth flow of his activity as he arranges simple forms such as benches, chairs or cubes in a room, Herring trims the videos so that he seems to jump from one pose to another. The halted movement brings to mind Bruce McLean's 1970s "Pose sculpture" photos of himself perched fetchingly on pedestals. Herring's quick, rhythmic editing avoids the boring pacing that afflicts too many artists' videos. Shifting costume and furniture colors, he makes Mondrianesque compositions in videos so dense with incident that they bear repeated watching, and so brief (Sketch #4, for example, is one minute 14 seconds) that repeating is not a chore. Herring has lit a fuse. Several, in fact.

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