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Fantastical Topographies: Sculpture by Ulrike Palmbach and Genevieve Quick

 

San Francisco artists Ulrike Palmbach and Genevieve Quick create vividly imaginative landscapes in Fantastical Topographies: Sculpture by Ulrike Palmbach and Genevieve Quick, an exhibition that opened at the Montalvo Gallery on November 17, 2002 and continues through January 26, 2003. Curated by Michele Rowe-Shields, Visual Arts Director, Fantastical Topographies features Palmbach's installation, Inertia, 2000, and Genevieve Quick's series of related sculptures, Rousseau's Paradigm, 2002, Low Tide, 2002 and a new untitled work made especially for this exhibition. Somewhat theatrical or staged, Palmbach and Quick's fanciful environments suggest larger natural landscapes or topographical terrains. They are visceral, tactile statements, full of metaphorical and philosophical intent.

Palmbach creates enigmatic objects from commonplace materials. In her floor-hugging installation, Inertia, 2002, a multitude of gray stones or perhaps huge mussels or clams lie scattered as though left by the retreating tide on a shore. Close inspection reveals that the work is created out of dark gray felt, cut and glued together from blankets to form solid, yet pliable, double-grooved cones. Existing in a zone of rest, Inertia seems vulnerable to the forces of chance -- a strong wind, the returning tides or the touch of a curious scavenger. The resulting work creates both a natural and mental landscape, rife with intriguing scenarios with a simultaneous feeling of movement and rest. (left: Ulrike Palmbach, Inertia (detail), 2000, felt, installation dimensions variable)

Quick, on the other hand, produces more literal and pictorial works that are intentionally realistic in form. Her craggy mountain sculptures, with their reddish rough earth topped by a layer of brilliant green grass and trees, create an imaginative utopian world where the viewer envisions climbing the Lilliputian hills as Gulliver might have. These landscapes are absent animal or human life, yet the small, upright trees provide scale and act as stand-ins for a figural presence. These sculptures play on the notion of "miniature," built on a scale that eliminates specificity. Quick comments, "At the root of my work is the politics of scale and its relationship between the model and the actual." Her terrains take on a philosophical appeal as the enormous mountains force the examination of man's relationship to nature against such a vast landscape. (left: Genevieve Quick, Rousseau's Paradigm, 2002, plastiline, wire, foam, 5' x 5'3" x 3')

Both artists live and work in San Francisco. German-born Palmbach received her BFA at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1989. Since then she has shown her work regularly in the Bay Area and is represented by Stephen Wirtz Gallery. Quick received her BA in political science from the University of Michigan; studied sculpture at Wayne State University, Detroit; and received her MFA in 2001 from the San Francisco Art Institute.

 

Following is an article by Michele Rowe-Shields, Visual Arts Director at the Montalvo Gallery, which appears in the exhibition brochure:

 

Topography: Physical or natural features of an object or entity and their structural relationships; configuration of a surface including its relief and the position of its natural and manmade features.
Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary

 

Fantastical Topographies brings together the work of two San Francisco based artists, Ulrike Palmbach and Genevieve Quick, who create vividly imaginative landscapes in sculpture. In Palmbach's floor-hugging installation, Inertia, 2000, a multitude of gray stones or perhaps huge mussels or clams lie scattered as though left by the retreating tide on a shore. Mountains float on a wall or rise like islands from the floor in Quick's series of related sculptures, Rousseau's Paradigm, 2002, Low Tide, 2002, and a new untitled work made especially for this exhibition. Somewhat theatrical or staged, Palmbach and Quick's fanciful environments suggest larger natural landscapes or topographical terrains. They are visceral, tactile statements, full of metaphorical and philosophical intent.

Ulrike Palmbach's Inertia is both a natural and mental landscape, rife with intriguing scenarios. Masses of double grooved cones, ranging from knee height to palm-sized, lie on their sides, scattered across the floor. They could be spinning tops at rest -- their centrifugal force suspended in the flow of time. Their natural associations are equally potent: the bivalved shapes suggest huge clams abandoned by the tides. Inertia creates a zone of rest, in which a sense of potential movement hovers. One imagines their being activated by the forces of chance -- a strong wind, returning tides, or the touch of a curious scavenger. Inertia is also a force that moves us through the day.

Close inspection reveals that Inertia is made of dark gray felt, cut and glued together from blankets to form solid, yet pliable, double grooved cones. Their felt forms are muffled, quiet, and edgeless. They have weathered the external forces without breaking. Palmbach's use of felt is also a nod toward well-known artists such as Joseph Beuys and Robert Morris who also exploited its contradictory aspects in their work.

Genevieve Quick's craggy mountain sculptures, with their rough reddish clay earth topped by a layer of brilliant green grass and trees, create an imaginative utopian world. Made of architectural modeling paste, they exist as large-scale models of idealized landscapes. Included in the exhibition are three works, each describing varied terrains from rolling hills to ragged cliffs. These landscapes are absent animal or human life, yet the small, upright trees provide scale and act as stand-ins for a figural presence. Quick is fascinated by the idea of utopia: "Literally a utopia is a 'no-place,'" a place that has no spatial or temporal locale. Utopias lack physicality because they exist as conceptions of idealized places." These mountainscapes extend into the viewer's space in a very physical way. As in Palmbach's Inertia, the viewer is both an observer and a participant in a staged enigmatic environment.

More literal and pictorial than Inertia, Quick's work is intentionally realistic. The viewer imagines climbing Quick's Lilliputian hills as Gulliver might have but the scale of these materials are designed to eliminate specificity. They play with the notion of "miniature" architectural models. Quick comments, "At root in my work, is the politics of scale and its relationship between the model and the actual."

Quick's terrains are also abstract representations with a philosophical implication. In an uncanny way, they recall Chinese Sung landscape scrolls/paintings where enormous craggy mountains dominate the pictorial space, rising from and surrounded by a void and where man, if depicted at all, is a tiny figure almost lost in the landscape. Sung painters were making a philosophical statement about man's relationship to nature and such thinking can be applied to Quick's landscapes.

The artists live and work in San Francisco. German-born Palmbach received her BFA at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1989. Since then she has shown her work regularly in the Bay Area and is represented by Stephen Wirtz Gallery. Quick received her BA in political science from the University of Michigan in 1995; studied sculpture at Wayne State University, Detroit, and received her MFA in 2001 from the San Francisco Art Institute.


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