Artist Profile: Gordon Hall
INSTAGRAM TAKEOVER: November 2, 2017
My sculpture FOUR HANDS at Socrates Sculpture Park consists of four cast concrete ball-and-claw furniture feet that are also useable chairs. I’ve installed these ball and claw chairs as if they are the feet on a massive Queen Anne style side table stretching up and over the park. The tops are sculpted with a rounded indent, cast from my own body, that orients the sitter diagonally outward, facing away from the other three stools. When FOUR HANDS is “in use,” it is being sat on by four people at once, facing away from one another but creating a shared space between our backs. Although chairs, stools, benches, and other platforms have been recurrent in my work, this piece is my first truly public and useable work, and will be on view at the park until March 2018.
My interest in the ball-and-claw originates in my 2016 work AND PER SE AND for which I made a to-scale concrete cast of a ball-and-claw furniture foot that was one of the twenty-three small sculptures arranged on a long table that was both a sculptural work and used as props in a lecture-performance. The ball-and-claw furniture motif has taken on a somewhat mysterious importance to me, and I continue to make casts of different varieties and am compiling them into a growing collection of these odd, historical, animal hand/feet reinterpreted into nontraditional materials. . A stylistic deviation from my sculptures’ usual geometric and abstract forms, my dedication to the ball-and-claw might be best explained by describing it as a kind of “key” to the investments embodied in the rest of my work—it is a sculptural articulation of the moment of touch (or potential for touch) between a body and an object. I have sometimes described it as a sort of “self-portrait”—positioning myself as the clenching bird/beast hand so intent on holding onto and holding up the material world, but primarily it functions as a methodology for my concern with the ways our bodies are defined by the things they physically engage with. . My intention to increase the scale of this hand-held sculpture to that of public seating results in a sort of doubling of this meeting between body and object: claw is to ball as butt is to chair. It is these moments of contact between our bodies and the architecture, furniture, and infrastructure that hold in them the possibilities and impossibilities of our lives. What are the social, political, affective, and erotic relationships we have with the objects that hold us up, arrange our comportment, and bring us into proximity with one another? . For me, the ball-and-claw—this odd inanimate creature grasping an unspecified sphere in order to hold up a piece of furniture—is a totem for the guiding questions present in the rest of my work. I hope to create a situation in which strangers can bring their bodies into contact with my sculpture as a means of physically mobilizing this set of questions and concerns.
There are additional research-based and personal motivations for this project. The ball-and-claw furniture motif locates us both spatially and temporally: down on the ground where the leg meets the floor, as well as in the 18th century in the Chippendale and Queen Anne furniture styles – borrowing the motif from traditional Chinese designs in which the ball symbolized wisdom or power being protected by a living being. Both of these positions feel important to me, spatially in the often forgotten inches where we touch the floor (where my work so often resides,) and temporally in the heyday of the ornate design styles the trickle down from which produced Minimalism as a backlash in both fine art and design. . While much of my work has been focused on embracing and reclaiming the language of Minimalism, I seek in this project to locate the concerns with space, presence, weight, and embodiment in this distinctly non-minimal design element by isolating it and transforming it into the signature material of Brutalist design and architecture: cast concrete. Having grown up surrounded by Queen Anne style furniture handed down from my class-aspirational white New England grandparents on both sides, (literally, as I was a chronic under-the-table hider as a child,) I am focused on this animal-furniture hybrid as an overlooked moment of trans-classification mixing as well as a way of gesturing towards the moments of touch between bodies and objects that are to me such a rich interpretive lens. Turning the ball-and-claw table leg into a quadrilateral arrangement of useable chairs is a way of weaving together these various investments while pushing my work in a new direction.