HOUSTON, TX.- Rice University Art Gallery has commissioned a new installation by New York artist Kirsten Hassenfeld, whose translucent sculptures have been characterized as extravaganzas of the handmade. Hassenfeld uses the most ordinary of materials, paper, to create ornate, obsessively detailed objects that reference luxury goods, classical architecture, and decorative arts. Described by Hassenfeld as dreams on the edge of vanishing, her ethereal sculptures are carefully lit to evoke the diaphanous surfaces of precious gems and glass objects. Her installation at Rice Gallery will consist of the largest objects Hassenfeld has ever created. Structures six to eight feet in diameter, resembling gigantic droplets or the onion domes of Russian architecture, will be draped with clusters and strands of faceted, gem-like forms. Lit from within, they will transform the gallery into a dim, cavernous treasure trove. Rice Gallerys opening celebration will take place on Thursday, September 27, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm, and will feature remarks by Kirsten Hassenfeld at 6:00 pm. Complimentary beverages including ale from St. Arnold Brewery will be served. The event is free and open to the public.
Initially inspired by the idea of pawnshops and casinos as places of longing for money and coveted objects, Hassenfeld explores her own fantasies of plenty and abundance. She scours auction catalogues and books on decoration, indulging in her attraction to the beauty of ornament, which she feels adds a human quality to whatever object or building it adorns. Hassenfeld begins a sculpture by creating patterns on a computer, precisely replicating the angular geometry of various cuts of gems and crystalline formations. She then hand-cuts pieces of paper and uses traditional techniques of paper folding, rolling, and coiling to assemble the tens of thousands of tiny, fragile decorative components that comprise each work. Each work is constructed using a variety of papers and vellums of different opacities and requires an elaborately engineered armature made of lightweight, yet supportive materials. Her installation at Rice Gallery will be her most technically ambitious work yet, because as Hassenfeld puts it, With paper, the minute is easy; the gigantic is extremely difficult.
Kirsten Hassenfeld was born in Albany, New York. She received a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1994 and an MFA from The University of Arizona, Tucson in 1998. Her work has been featured in numerous exhibitions throughout New York, including Light x Eight: The Hanukkah Project (2006), The Jewish Museum;
Greater New York (2005), MoMA/P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, and Open House: Working in Brooklyn (2004), The Brooklyn Museum of Art. She has been an artist-in-residence in New York at Dieu Donné Papermill (2005), The Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation (2004), and Smack Mellon Artist Studio Program (2003). In 2006, Hassenfeld was awarded a grant from The Pollock-Krasner Foundation. She lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.