Artist Spotlight: Michael Petry

Beutiful on the surface, Petry's work has depth in both wit and scholarship.

BY Christopher Harrity

March 17 2012 1:00 AM ET

MICHAEL PETRY FINGERING GOD X560 | ADVOCATE.COM In the "Memory Strings" series, the works continually change in size and name over time. The glass balls can be placed between six and 12 inches apart to fit the dimensions of the room they hang in. The title changes as each new owner or curator adds a memory to the work when they are shown. A name, place, date, or phase is added that they will always associate with viewing it (i.e. Memory String II [Venice, Welling Estuary...]). These works connect two strands of practice, the large-scale glass installations and the knotted rope and string series. As time passes the titles should grow into a form of concrete poetry, where only the last person who has added a memory is likely to know what it stands for.

A variation on these strings is the series "Memory Stops," where a single glass bead is suspended on rope and only one memory can be added to the title and then it will always be associated with that object.The first owner of the work names it (Memory Stop: New Art Gallery Walsall 10th Anniversary).

Additionally, various string works are named to evoke a place and can be re-sited in various scales to engage the architecture of the new space but retain not only their name, but the order of the beads as in Reclaimed Landscape, 2011, made for the "Sagacity" show in London, directly looking onto the new Olympic stadium.

The Treasure of Memory was one of three large installations I made for my exhibition "Laughing at Time" at the Hå gamle prestegard art complex in Norway in 2000. Hå is situated on the site of a Viking burial ground that looks out to the North Sea. A lighthouse and vicarage were built on the site in the late 19th century, which later became an art center. When one of the buildings was renovated, a burial mound was found under the floor and in it was a Viking wearing a stolen Roman glass bead necklace. The Treasure of Memory, a necklace for a building, or a Nordic god, features 32 unique glass beads, each referencing similar ones from ancient cultures (Egypt, Sumeria) to contemporary design (Prada, Gucci).

The work is owned by the Museum of Arts & Design in New York, and in 2007 its curator, Ursula Ilse-Neuman, organized a touring exhibition, "Glasswear," which went to museums from Belgium to Alabama.The work is designed to be re-strung for each location, and the local curator is allowed to string the beads according to their color taste as long as the pattern of the shapes of the beads (oval, round, and oblong) is repeated. Not all the beads need be shown in any one location, and the work can be hung at any height. — M.P. 

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