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Cornelia Parker at Yerba Buena Center
Cornelia Parker, Mass (Colder Darker Matter) (detail), 1997, charcoal retrieved from a church struck by lightningImage courtesy of the artists and D’Amelio Terras, New York.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.-Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is pleased to present a new sculptural installation by Turner Prize finalist, British artist Cornelia Parker. The exhibition is part of YBCA’s Risk and Response series, one of the “big ideas ” that guide the Center’s programming for the 05-06 season. The artists in our Risk and Response series create work that investigates the current state of affairs around the world and in many cases, is a response to unique and challenging social and political climates. Her ambitious new work is made in part from remnants of a black congregation Baptist church destroyed by arson in Kentucky. This new as yet untitled work will be installed— f or the first and likely the last time — with her acclaimed Mass (Colder Darker Matter) (1997), a suspended, ethereal form of charcoal remnants from a Texas white congregation church struck by lightning. These two pieces, so alike in appearance and so different in circumstance, inspire questions about how we perceive physical material and historical context, issues central to the Center’s Risk and Response theme. Visual Arts Curator René de Guzmán says "Cornelia Parker is one the most compelling artists working today. Her artworks accomplish the rare feat of succeeding as rigorous formal sculpture while offering a point of reference to reflect upon our human condition."

The artist is celebrated for her inventive use of materials such as steamrolled silver and musical instruments, chunks of charcoal and found objects, and for the pointed conceptual themes toward which she employs them. Her remarkable ability to access rare materials has given her the opportunity to work with NASA’s moon rocks, employ the British military’s cooperation in exploding a shed, use actress Tilda Swinton as sculpture, temporarily alter Rodin’s famous Kiss sculpture and the debris of several razed churches in the United States.

Parker made Mass (Colder Darker Matter), now in the collection at the Phoenix Art Museum, while working as an ArtPace resident artist in San Antonio in 1997. The charcoal bits she used were from a Baptist church destroyed by lightning in the nearby west Texas town of Lytle. The day her exhibition opened there, she heard news of another Baptist church, also nearby, with a Black congregation that had also been destroyed by arsonists. “I was struck by the uncanny symmetry between the two events, ” Parker recalls. “It occurred to me if the opportunity arose in the future that I could make a companion piece, a diptych, for Mass (Colder Darker Matter) using material from a church destroyed by arson. The pieces would appear to be identical; the only difference being the circumstantial history of the site residing within the work. ” It is this vision and ability to apply tactile, charged materials toward such delicate and weighty issues, such explicit and hidden meaning, that makes Cornelia Parker one of the foremost conceptual artists in the world today.

Parker developed her new work while at the FORSITE Foundation, an artist residency program established in 2004. Parker is the first artist to complete the residency at the FOR-SITE Foundation. Mass (Colder Darker Matter) was exhibited in 1998 at Deitch Projects in New York, and caused an international sensation, earning her the International Association of Art Critics Prize in the category of “Best Show by an Emerging Artist. ” Now, seven years later in YBCA’s gallery, Parker will unveil a companion piece that picks up where its brilliant predecessor leaves off.

About the Artist: Cornelia Parker attended Gloucestershire College of Art and Design and Wolverhampton Polytechnic earning a B.A. with Honors in 1978, and earned her Master of Fine Arts from Reading University. Parker is most known for her large scale installations in which she suspends destroyed or otherwise altered found objects such as silverware, wind instruments and charcoal. She thinks of these pieces as three-dimensional drawings, the surrounding gallery walls functioning as white pieces of paper. In Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, for instance, she suspended the charred fragments of a garden shed, exploded for her by the British Army. Other pieces of note are: The Maybe, a collaboration with actress Tilda Swinton in which Swinton slept inside a glass display case in the Serpentine Gallery during business hours; The Distance (a kiss with string attached), in which she wrapped Rodin’s Kiss, a sculpture of a man and woman seated in a tight embrace, in a mile’s length of slack string; Thirty Pieces of Silver, featuring fine cake stands and utensils flattened by a 250 ton press; photograms of a feather from Freud’s pillow, chalk dust on Einstein’s blackboard, and a preserved spider recovered from Mark Twain’s house; Shared Fate, in which Parker displays a London Times, a loaf of bread, kid gloves, and other objects all cut with the same guillotine that beheaded Marie Antoinette.

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