Courtney Faith Richter

January 20, 2017 – February 12, 2017


surrogate friend

In 1971, Barbara Kasten traveled to Poznan, Poland on a Fulbright grant to study with sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz. She created three sculptural works during her time there and later explained, “I was interested in human form; I was interested in it in conjunction with an object like a chair, a utilitarian object . . . And they served as my surrogate friends while I was in Poland.”[1] (CCP lecture, 1983.)


: to put in the place of another:
a : to appoint as successor, deputy, or substitute for oneself
b : substitute

“If theater is often implied in [Barbara Kasten’s] work, it is due in no small part to her engagement with sculptural objects or, ‘props.’ Although the term suggests the artifice of . . . the stage, Kasten’s props are also essential actors. A prop is both a substitute or surrogate and a thing that holds something up; its dual nature is one of both representation and physical support.”[2]

surrogate friend presents a selection of works that share a relationship to the idea of a substitute or stand-in. Entertain the thought that each of the works, while complete as objects, are incomplete as entities. Is the work a substitute for an imagined viewer’s yearnings? Is there evidence of a process in which the work is only a trace of something no longer physically present? Can we imagine the relationship between the work and the maker?

Some of the works may be seen as part of a whole, and others may be seen entirely as a surrogate for an idea. Emily Culver’s Wand reads as part rarified object, part tool. It wants to be activated by use – for what, we’re not quite sure. It requires someone or something else to complete the narrative. Breanne Trammell’s Texas Forever is poster-sized (Texas-sized?) sheet music for the theme song of hit television show “Friday Night Lights”. Consider music as a visual object: we are separated from the experience of the sound the notes represent.  The sheet music is a surrogate, just as fans of the show might come to regard the fictional characters as “friends”.  When the Netflix binge is over, what are they left with?

Caroline Wells Chandler’s lovingly crocheted super painter impersonator feels like an imaginary superhero friend come to life, or perhaps an aspirational self.  Impersonator’s upper arm extends into three phallic forms – or are they globs of paint?  This nonsensical anatomy seems to poke fun at anyone focusing on body parts.  Its physical reference to a blanket results in a poignancy that speaks to the comfort and reassurance that can be found in the respite of one’s imagination.

Lily Kuonen’s [UN]-covered relies on an absent surrogate in a material sense: repeated forms are the result of pieces of tape that have been painted over and removed from the canvas. This very intentional action results in a complete composition, yet it can’t be fully separated from the picture of what is no longer there.

Amelia Steely’s Any Room is a response to a design article that claimed pink was the perfect rug color for any room in a house.  A hypothetical meditation on this somewhat dubious claim, the shapes that create a repeat pattern in Any Room could be almost anything.  Elephants? Teapots? Breasts? Steely’s painting alludes to the comfort or entertainment we seek from our surroundings and the imaginative way we may interpret or invent the objects that surround us.

Gabriela Salazar’s work is a delicate three-part sculpture that questions the relationship between each object, while revealing the individual components that make up each form.  The objects are not quite functional, though they imitate the shape of something that is; they have been created with the raw honesty of a tool that reveals its inner workings.  Whether stacked, bound, or bended and twisted together, these seemingly discarded materials possess a compact power that only the viewer can activate.

Courtney Faith Richter
January, 2017

[1] Klein, Alex, Liz Deschenes, Alex Kitnick, and Jenni Sorkin. Barbara Kasten: Stages. Philadelphia, PA: Institute of Contemporary Art, U of Pennsylvania, 2015. 175. Print.
[2] Ibid., 105.