GAIL LEVIN, CURATED AND EXHIBITION CATALOGUE, FORECASTS: VISIONS OF TECHNOLOGY IN CONTEMPORARY PAINTING & SCULPTURE, SEPTEMBER 24- OCTOBER 25, 1988
Christopher Sproat imagines a parallel universe of beings that employ a technology similar to our own. His sculptures are their creations: strange shapes and structures which light up or suggest other diverse functions. Sproat’s imaginary civilization includes bizarre manipulators, vessels, and other electrified, yet seemingly primitive forms.
I remember one early morning in my childhood year, when it occurred to me to do something I was told never to do? I took what may have been my Hop-a-Long Cassidy jackknife and crouched down for some investigative surgery on electrical extension cord. As it was attached to the wall plug, it wasn’t but a fraction of a second before sudden blue-white blast ejected me into a terrified huddle on the other side of my small room. My knife, still in hand, had a nasty chromatic bite nibbled out of it. That was my first experience at being really impressed, and evidently, I haven’t gotten over it yet.
The power that resides silently and unseen in an innocuous electric cord continues its attraction as the energy for an array of power tools, a medium for sculpture, and a thematic departure.
Living as we are in a kinetic world of rockets, film, and pop music poses a problem for sculpture. By its nature sculpture stays put, it can easily seem like an inert do-dad. Moving parts and flashing lights are a mindless and predictably boring solution.
It is more effective if the sculpture appears capable of doing or being something. The forms should create an aura that is both foreign and familiar, living and dead. It is the ability of the sculpture to generate clues at the edge of life that ultimately define its holding power. While I am writing a prescription, I should also add that a mood must be the sum total. After all, if the experience does nothing for the soul, it’s merely a clever intellectual and to exercise.
Why then do I use of light? Sculpture has always depended on light to be seen. In the sense that we consider a star to be alive because it generates light, and that most life forms depend on light for life, a sculpture seems to come alive if it too emanates light. Further, by incorporating its own light, a sculpture can reverse its traditional passive role and activate both itself and the space around it. As I have a predilection for skeletal structures, light used as the central arterial system becomes as necessary as blood is to bone. Light is also very much a medium our time, not using it would be a tantamount to Michelangelo not using marble. The fact that it has an “on” an “off” speaks directly to or preoccupation with temporality.
Technology has given us the adhesives, materials and machinery to embrace space, to produce perfect geometries with ease, to defy gravity, shearing, cracking and brittleness. The door that was opened allows for physical authority without mass. Our materials and methods have changed, the problem of content continues.
I related the childhood event because it tells modern man’s story. Our investigations into every field, not just nuclear and chemical, seem to be backfiring. I am convinced the human race is in the process of decline, and that we are wrecking the earth, as we know it. If my sculptures seem like “Angels of Death” forbidding Gothic amalgamations of flora, fauna and weaponry, and yet hopefully beautiful, it is my escape ? grace before threat.