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American, born 1952
Balancing with improbable grace, Monochrome for Austin boasts seventy recycled aluminum canoes and small boats clustered at the end of a listing column. It deploys a sense of mass and scale that can be compared to a performer’s perfect timing, a characteristic that is ever-present in the work of artist Nancy Rubins. Her sculptures combine surpassing delicacy and indomitable strength, a polarity that is even more striking when encountered outdoors.
While still a student in the early 1970s, Rubins experimented with sculpture by using wet clay to stick coffee cups to suspended tarps; the cups popped off as the clay dried. In another project, a hybrid of sculpture and drawing, she used a small electric fan to create a work that involved graphite-covered paper spattered with red paint. More recently, an exhibition of sprawling sculptures made from vintage animal-shaped playground equipment was titled Our Friend Fluid Metal (2014), referencing the molten phase of the constituent metal. Porous boundaries between disciplines and the fluidity of the mediums themselves are qualities that appeal to Rubins.
By the late 1980s, Rubins’ constructions had reached colossal proportions. She added trailer homes, water heaters, and mattresses to the materials tethered together, and later, fighter jet wings and fuselages. By the mid-1990s, Rubins had begun to assemble brightly colored fiberglass canoes and kayaks into oversized bouquets that flower overhead with exuberance. The Monochrome series, which began in 2010, brings to the fore the grace of the unpainted metal forms. Examples from the series can be found at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York; Gateway Park at the Navy Pier in Chicago, Illinois; and l’Université Paris Diderot in Paris, France.
The vessels evoke a different kind of movement and life than Rubins’ earlier work. In contrast to the thundering flight of retired military aircraft, canoes glide gently through the water, suggesting a kind of simple solitude. Swirling on currents of air, the canoes in Monochrome for Austin are removed from their associated landscape and combined in a visually precarious mass, giving the impression that they are suspended in time and space.
Location: Northwest corner of 24th Street and Speedway (NHB)
GPS: 30.287462, -97.737132