In the spring of 2009, The Aldrich
cut down an ailing 100 year-old ash tree in the Sculpture Garden. Sculptor Jessica Stockholder, not primarily known for working with natural materials, has collaborated with cabinetmaker Clifford Moran and screenprinter Gary Lichtenstein to utilize the wood from the tree to create a new project that is on view in two of The Aldrichs galleries, one of which offers a view of the site where the tree once stood, through December 31, 2011.
Hollow Places Court in Ash-Tree Wood connects Stockholders continuing interest in ephemeral abstraction with the solidity, continuity of place, and sense of time that trees represent. The major elements in the exhibition are two large freestanding sculptures that resemble folding screens. Fabricated from boards cut from the wood of the tree, they were conceived by Stockholder as static armatures that she has activated with various types of paint, from auto lacquer to acrylic, visually suggesting walls (or a gallery) filled with pictures. Some of the forms represented reference eyes, mirroring the viewers gaze and suggesting both the accumulated experience of the tree and the fleeting experience of the viewer.
Exhibitions director Richard Klein explains, This tree had such a major presence in the Sculpture Garden for so many years, that the Museum wanted to remember it properly. After considering many artists whose practice involved wood working, we decided to give it to someone who is not known for working with wood, an edgier and ultimately more interesting proposition that would expand Stockholders concerns into new territory. This ash-tree wood replaced the industrial materials which Stockholder is known for using while tapping into her childhood memories of the forests in British Columbia. Hollow Places Court in Ash-Tree Wood is the latest example of work by an artist who consistently follows visual inquiry in ways that defy expectation.
Stockholder, who was born in Seattle, has had many international exhibitions in her twenty-five year career, including major solo exhibitions at Palacio de Cristal, Reina Sofia, Madrid; PS1 Contemporary Art Center, New York; The Power Plant, Toronto; Dia Center for the Arts, New York; and Kunsthalle Zürich. Her work is in numerous public collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago; The British Museum, London; the Whitney Musum of American Art, New York; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Stockholder has recently been appointed Chair of the Department of Visual Art at the University of Chicago, effective July 2011