Miguel Ovalle: Fountain’s Centennial Fire Hazard
What happens when the original idea for a large scale installation is thwarted due to a fire hazard? Well, if you are Miguel Ovalle, being the renaissance artist he is, you adapt to what you have and make something just as visually striking. This is a common theme amongst temporary, rented spaces in NYC: You can’t do this, but you can do that. In essence, the temporary renter and landlord’s relationship becomes an all together rigmarole, especially when it comes to installing an art show. If it’s a private rental then, perhaps, you can get away with some fire code violations, but because we are talking about a government building, side stepping what whoever says goes is completely off limits. And here is where the limitations of the space can either present the artist with a challenge and show the audience his malleability and skill or it simply exposes that the project was a complete disappointment and, therefore, although out of the artist’s hands, an ideological failure. Luckily, for Miguel his project falls into the former and, although its location was off to the side and not front and center, the installation was the main attraction of the fair.
The concept for A Tribute to Marcel Duchamp came into fruition when Fountain Art Fair co-founder Johnny Leo came to Miguel and proposed to him that he do a tribute piece as homage to Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Stair Case––a painting you learn about in every 20th century art history class, it is considered a modernist classic. In 1913, the painting was considered “scandalously radical,” a perfect piece to honor for the 100th anniversary of the Armory Show, especially because of Fountain’s DIY, alternative spirit and for the simple fact that this year and last Fountain has taken place in 69th Regiment Armory, the same building as the original Armory Show 100 years ago.
At the top of the staircase projected Nude Gold by Australian based videographer Dru Blumensheid. Here, the nude is floating really rather than descending, but the video’s editing closely resembles the contorted body of Duchamp’s Cubist subject, echoing the mechanical portrayal of the figure in the painting. Ovalle’s futuristic, large-scale sculptures give the installation and tribute relevance not only to today, but also to the future of art making. When so many artists are using laser machinery to create sculptures like these, Ovalle’s work is painstakingly handmade.
Once again, due to fire codes, viewers were unable to walk up the stairs, but as you stood in front of the staircase, the eyes were immediately met by the video at top. In using a myriad of interpretations and techniques, Miguel Ovalle “seeks to reveal the inner psyche of the human condition. His steadfast approach defines his meticulous attention for detail.” The staircase becomes a bridge, a pathway and didactic conversation between the viewer, the sculptures, and the nude descending.
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