Conceived specifically for the Phillips, Sk(in) is a two-part installation occupying the Hunter Courtyard and adjacent gallery space, thereby playing off the artist’s idea of inside-out, outer and inner, and visible and invisible. The massive exterior sculpture is made of steel but not as a solid volume; its delicately crafted surface comprised of numerous steel parts welded together is suggestive of tree branches. However, at second look, the intertwined, organic shapes become anthropomorphized, resembling a human heart or brain with knotted blood vessels and nerves.
In contrast to the hollow free-standing sculpture in the courtyard, the interior installation engages the surface of the walls connecting the museum’s Goh Annex to the Sant Building. Both, outdoor and indoor works are cast from life: the former from a fallen tree and the latter consisting of three interrelated pieces—from a tree trunk (Wound), a wall (Untitled), and the artist’s body (Hidden Sight). In Wound, a wall is cut and left open, alluding to cut off trees that are revived through a natural cycle of decay and growth. In Hidden Sight, the artist’s hand reaches out from the wall in an effort to grasp the seemingly ungraspable, while in Untitled the wall’s “skin” is pinched by nails tracing the places where artwork use to hang. Although separate, these three works speak to the connectedness between concave and recessed space, push and pull, presence and absence.
Both parts of the project—the courtyard sculpture and the wall installation—function as “skin,” or the exterior of things, but only to point to its flip side, the depth and inside of things. It is in this sense that the title Sk(in) appears in parenthesis marking the reversible aspects of being: in and out, solid and shallow, tangible and intangible. This concept of reversibility underlines Balasubramaniam’s work, bringing to mind the artist’s own words: “life is what it is, not what we think it is.”
A. Balasubramaniam was born in Tamil Nadu, India, and now lives and works in Bangalore. He received a BFA from the Government College of Arts, Chennai, India, in 1995, then continued his studies mostly in printmaking, but also in painting and sculpture, first in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, and later in Vienna, Austria. Balasubramaniam’s works have been on view in several exhibitions at institutions worldwide, including the Guggenheim Museum, New York (2010); Mori Art Museum, Japan (2008); Essl Museum, Austria (2009); Singapore Biennale (2006); and École des Beaux Arts, Paris, France (2005). Most recently, his work was featured in the group exhibition On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Intersections is a new series of contemporary art projects that explores—as the title suggests—the intriguing intersections between old and new traditions, modern and contemporary art practices, and museum spaces and artistic interventions. Whether engaging with the permanent collection or diverse spaces in the museum, the projects suggest new relationships with their own surprises.
Many of the projects also riff on the nontraditional nature of the museum’s galleries, sometimes activating spaces that are not typical exhibition areas with art produced specifically for those locations.