Andy Goldsworthy's "Hand hit site dust," Presidio Spire, October 2008

Using only materials found as is in nature — rocks, dirt, water, flowers, branches — Andy Goldsworthy (whose exhibition Incidental Objects is on show at Haines Gallery, SF, through December 24) creates quietly beautiful installation works. Goldsworthy has executed over 120 commissioned works the world over, several of which are located in the Bay Area, including the cracked stone piece, Drawn Stone, which traces the entrance to the de Young Museum, Spire in the Presidio, River of Stone at Stanford, and Surface Tension at the Hess Art Museum. Typical of the Scottish artist’s work, these feel so right, so effortless, poignant and poetic. What isn’t evident is the complex conceptual and experimental considerations leading up to these elegant final products.

This current exhibition provides insight into Goldsworthy’s explorations; it includes documentation — photos, works on paper, proposal drawings, and video — of the “incidental” and often temporary creations resulting from Goldsworthy’s process. Images of a hand smacking the dusty ground in the Presidio at the site of Spire address his process and stand apart from the final rather architectural image. Video documenting the creation of Rain Shadows, for which the artist laid on the ground through rainstorms; in the end, the form of his body remains in the dry dirt. These action maquettes and other artistic residues bring a greater understanding to the longer lasting final product. But they also illuminate, as anyone who’s seen the 2001 documentary Rivers and Tides — which follows Goldsworthy through many artistic adventures — that this artist creates graceful traces, however impermanent, all along the way. It’s a selection that not only reveals Goldsworthy’s path of contemplation, but is a fine example of ephemera that succeeds as works of art in their own right.

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