Sara VanDerBeek is the first to acknowledge the influence of an artistic family: Stan VanDerBeek, her experimental, surrealist-inspired film-maker father, and Johannes VanDerBeek, her sculptor brother. All seem to share a lively curiosity, a spirit of inventiveness and idealism. So it is not surprising that VanDerBeek lists her concerns as “memory, experience, inspiration and influence”, resulting in assemblages of found images and objects which she photographs in her studio and presents in final form as framed photographic prints.
The assemblages themselves may include magazine pages, family snapshots, bits of fabric, string, rods, plaster casts, and so on. Calder and Brancusi make their spirits felt, while the sense of suspended animation and randomness echo the films of her father. The fragile constructions seem to be no more than momentary constellations – at any second they might blow away like leaves in the autumn wind. Neither Mrs Washington’s Bedroom nor The Field-Glass has any more solidity than a dream. Despite photography’s desperate attempt to nail them down, these will always be works in progress.
Text by William A Ewing
Sara VanDerBeek - Mirror in the Sky
By Sara VanDerBeek
Art in Review
Sara VanDerBeek's adventures in set-up photography and appropriation embrace transparency and disclosure. Her works have mysteries, but their effects seem constructed before our eyes and are easily disassembled; the elements remain discreet.
Ms. VanDerBeek knocks together little sculptural armatures and then photographs them, creating modernist allegories.
She uses string, thin rods and cut-out bits of wood and festoons them with small objects and widely available images, often cut from books or magazines.
The images used in the photographs here include a Warhol Elvis, a Stella black painting and a bit of Brancusi's ''Endless Column''; these dangle from thread, as do clusters of buttons or strands of glass beads.
In ''A Different Kind of Idol'' this accumulation casts a shadow worthy of Synthetic Cubism. In ''Ziggurat'' the presentation of images takes the form of a Calder mobile. In ''Extravaganza'' the motifs of several black-and-white photographs are outlined with silver glitter -- a tree, a dancer, a Warhol car crash -- and piled up in a way that suggests a frozen bonfire or a surfeit of glowing, fading memories.
Ms. VanDerBeek's artistic DNA includes Max Ernst and Paul Outerbridge and contemporaries like Carol Bove, known for shelf sculptures that assemble meaning from carefully selected books and objects. Ms. VanDerBeek nails down her fragile ensembles with the camera, converting postmodern assemblage into an illusionistic fusion of collage and photomontage.
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