For his Intersections project, Australian artist Marley Dawson has created a site-specific project in two parts that respond to the Phillips’s collection and architecture. Entitled ghosts, the project reimagines the history of the museum in the present.
Inspired by the dramatic architecture of the Phillips’s Goh Annex stairway, Dawson produces two groups of kinetic sculptures that accentuate its spiral configuration. In the first group—comprised of five chairs made in brass and suspended from the dome at different heights and rotating at different axis points—the artist creates a dialogue with both the stairway railing and the Phillips’s early Modernist-Arts-and-Crafts-style chairs. While the shape and size of Dawson’s chairs mirrors the Phillips chairs, the brass he uses is the same as the brass used for the railing. Whereas the museum’s chairs are heavy and sturdy, Dawson’s are weightless and almost translucent; they function like ethereal ghosts of actual objects.
Dawson’s other piece—a wall mounted sculpture consisting of hundreds of brass rods hung on a machined brass track and assembled to allow movement—converses with Morris Louis’s painting Number 182. The sculpture is scaled to two thirds, which is precisely Dawson’s height, and the rods are arranged in various patterns to achieve the striped finish of the original painting. A small motor attached to the work oscillates the rods to give them a sway and hum that echo the shimmering radiance of Louis’s painting. Much like with his hanging chairs, Dawson reverses immaterial with material, shifting the liquidy stripes of Louis’s painting into a solid sculptural mass.
The Embassy of Australia and HEMPHILL Artworks in Washington, DC, are featuring concurrent presentations of the artist’s most recent body of work.
Marley Dawson (b. 1982, Wellington, NSW; lives and works in Australia) uses physics, chemistry, and engineering to construct experimental sculptures and installations that highlight the uncanny or surreal aspects of our everyday life. He often turns gallery space into a hall of wonder populated with sculptural works that look like familiar utilitarian objects—such as furniture, motor vehicles parts, baseball bats, or miniature rockets—but are instead imaginary art constructs. Dawson received a Bachelor and Master of Visual Arts from Sydney College of the Arts, Australia. His work has been exhibited in Australia at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney; Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart; and the Awesome Arts Festival, Perth; Para/Site, Hong Kong; and in Washington, DC at the Embassy of Australia and Hillyer Art Space.
Intersections is a 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.
Intersections is presented by