WorkSpace: Fabián Bercic
Meditate on this: a Zen garden made of perfectly smooth, shiny plastic
Reviewed by Rachel Koper, Fri., Aug. 29, 2008
'WorkSpace: Fabián Bercic'
Blanton Museum of Art
through Sept. 21
One feature of the big new Blanton Museum of Art is the unique WorkSpace gallery, a large exhibition room for which new work by contemporary artists is actually commissioned.
This is an important function, allowing artists to achieve the scale and scope of public art in a secure and scholarly environment. Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro, former Blanton curator of Latin-American art, is back in town from his new post as director of the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, a large collection of Latin artists, and he's brought us a sculpture show by Argentinean artist Fabián Bercic. Bercic has chosen polyester resin, fiberglass, and LED lights to convey his message in a huge, three-part piece called Zen Garden.
Pink is not my favorite color, but in this case, Bercic has chosen a saturated bubble-gum tone that is shiny, happy, and lush. Working with plastic, in a painstaking manual process, Bercic created something which looks machine-made. This is a tough challenge, and he's succeeded in his ambitious task of creating an Asian Candy Land atmosphere. Bercic has made white scrolling clouds, a vine with flowers, and a stream with lily pads. The scroll is used in each design, and the forms stretch across the floor and up the tall walls. The 1930s plastic is everywhere in our mass-produced society, but it's not commonly customized to form art. Other media are cheaper and easier to access than resin-based technologies. Surfboard designers and marine restorers offer models for how to manipulate fiberglass. It strikes me as a medium that is not forgiving and where any mistakes would be costly. Anyone who's bought a two-part resin at the hardware store knows that it's going to run you a chunk of dough. Then you go home and pour your piece, and it fills with bubbles. Then you do it again and again until your texture within and on the surface is what you were envisioning, and you're out several hundred bucks. Each piece, Bercic has made looks perfectly smooth, bendy, and shiny. These pieces feel very finished, carefully planned to look simple.
Even though Zen Garden is Japanese-inspired, something about the even rhythm of it is art deco. A plastic generic modernism permeates the room. I kind of wanted to sit on the piece – something about the durable look and large scale made me want to perch on a lotus flower. I like the concept of a manufactured garden. Parks and gardens are highly controlled and planned to give off effects. The twinkle of the blue LED lights in the water was not necessary to the sculptural impact of the work; it appeared a bit too literal. It gave me a momentary vision of the artwork in a store window displaying clear Plexi boxes that contained bonsai kittens; it was a groovy, nonexistent future store. I think folks should do a quick Google image search for bonsai kittens and then go see the show.
Don't be afraid of this rare creature, the plastic artist.