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The Whole Thing

The IMA Blog team welcomes New York-based artist Orly Genger as a guest blogger.  We asked her to share some thoughts on her IMA exhibition, Whole.

I’m obsessed with making something that matters. I’m obsessed with working. And I believe that it is only through hard work that good work is made.

One of the most important things to me has always been to keep my hands moving, to keep making things. I worry about what I make and what it means after I make it.  I also used to think that talking about art, especially your own art, ruins it. That’s partly why I dropped out of art school. But I’ve softened on that in recent years, which is maybe a result of having gone to art school. I do talk here and there about my work and hope it won’t ruin anything, but instead reveal a bit about the way I’m thinking, at least in the moment.

Overhead shot of "Whole"

Overhead shot of "Whole"

For my show at the IMA I wanted to make sculptures that could stand on their own. I had previously created pieces that were sprawling and boundless and all consuming, the structures of which relied heavily on the spaces they inhabited. But this time I attempted to make sculptures that were contained, pieces that had a beginning and an end. And pieces that could be here, there, or anywhere but are themselves wherever they are and that rely only on themselves to be what they are.

There are nine stacks in the show. I used the most reductive forms of building to create mass-accumulation and repetition. My intention was to simplify my obsessive process into its most basic elements in order to reveal it, to expose the layers of building and to create a texture that is purely based on the movement of my hand making the knots.

Corner detail

Corner detail

People ask me if making my work is relaxing or meditative. It’s not. Working with these ropes is physically challenging. They are big and heavy and clumsy. I sweat, I curse, and I feel like I’m wrestling with an octopus.  There is a sense of accomplishment in overcoming a physical challenge. It is through endurance, and an intense level of psychological commitment and invariance that we push through the toughest of times. There is always a struggle and there are always challenges. I am fueled by the desire to overcome them.

Orly and Joe

Orly and Joe

We all have a need to flex. Whether it’s showing off our biceps and inflating our chest or wearing high heels and feathers in our caps, we want to be bigger. We want to be better.  My work attempts to deal with the hyperbolic nature of this survival tendency. Each stack is named after a different Mr. Universe champion from the ‘60s and ‘70s. They are not my heroes, but they are big men.

There are also moments of lightness, of fragility and gentleness. I like to pretend I am a boxer dishing out a bloody beating followed by a ballerina dancing with my toes barely skimming the ground.  And then I like to imagine that my work is the product of these two people falling in love. There is precision and there is rawness. And there is the combination of the two that creates the tension that I am attracted to.

But nothing I say matters all that much. It’s what I do. I believe in action. In what I choose to leave behind. In what I take the time to devote myself to. In the end it’s the work that matters.

Filed under: Art, Guest Bloggers

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