Friday, October 29, 2010

Caroline Bagenal: House of Words

As I walked through the gallery and entered the rear, I immediately stopped and was taken aback by what I saw. Caroline Bagenal’s large scale House of Words stopped me in my tracks. I went in expecting to see some sculptures placed on the wall or on pedestals that I could walk by and look at. However, this is not what I got. Bagenal’s latest sculpture is almost as tall as the gallery ceiling, and actually incorporates one of the columns of the gallery into her project. The sculpture is made of columns of all different sizes covered in newspaper. The newspaper that covers these columns includes art reviews, politics, and crossword puzzles that were actually completed by people, incorporate an authentic hand made(interactive) feeling of the project.

When I saw Bagenal’s installation, it was at its' beginning stages. Bagenal was inspired by meeting houses that she had been to in Mali, Africa called togu na, which translates to House of Words. At the meeting houses people come to rest, converse, teach, and work. These houses are made of wood, earth, have deep thatched roofs, and a few columns. This installation seems only fitting since Bagenal also teaches African Art History locally and occasionally takes students on filed trips to Mali as part of the class.

As work progressed on the project, it was clear that balance is a strong theme of the piece. After all, some of the columns are only held together by newspaper so it is both delicate and sturdy.

Although the onsite build had been stressful, Bagenal seemed very pleased with how the installation was coming together. She initially had a numbering system to help her put the piece together when she got it to the gallery but it was evident that was not going to help much. There were just too many pieces to put together. So instead.....As the work was being constructed, it cast a very interesting shadow on the gallery wall.

Ideally Bagenal wants the viewer to sit on bean bags inside of the piece and be able to look up into the piece. I am definitely going to have to make my way back there to view the finished House of Words. House of Words was on view at Boston Sculptors Gallery through Nov. 7, 2010.
- by Jen Costa, Boston Sculptors Gallery intern

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