Sara VanDerBeek

September 10, 2011 - January 8, 2012


For the past several years, Sara VanDerBeek has explored the relationship between photographic imagery and sculptural forms. Working with a large archive of historical and personal images, she builds photographic assemblages in her studio and captures them in singular images. Recently, she has been shooting photos in American cities that carry particular personal, historical, or political meaning for her, including Detroit and Baltimore. Invited by the Hammer to participate in our Artist Residency Program, VanDerBeek spent several weeks in Los Angeles over the past year. The works included in her Hammer Project have grown out this residency and offer a particular view into our city. In the past, VanDerBeek’s sculptures have been built in order to be photographed, and for the first time, she will be presenting sculptures in the gallery alongside her photographs. Additionally, she has designed an installation within which the works will be presented—part stage-set, part studio, part imagined space. Resisting the iconic or spectacular, the works in the exhibition distill VanDerBeek’s experiences of Los Angeles and operate in the boundary between abstraction and representation. While touching upon various locations and attributes that define our city—from the diverse landscape to the region’s indigenous people, from Hollywood to community theater—the sculptures and photographs are primarily concerned with movement, materialty, and mark-making.


By Anne Ellegood, Hammer senior curator

Anne Ellegood: Can you speak about the relationship between photography and sculpture in your work?

Sara VanDerBeek: I am fascinated by the transformative quality of photography. Photographs can affect your sense of time, place, memory, and scale and thus are attuned to the central aspects of our existence. Photography is also about acute observation, the power of vision, and what can be gained from looking. It can function in many different ways—as a record, as an object, as a form of communication. When we experience something significant and want to capture that moment in an image, are we doing so because it is “historic” or because it has become an innate action, a reflexive processing of events? This type of questioning applies to my knowledge of art history and the history of sculpture in particular. My knowledge and memory of many works of the past are based upon their documentation rather than a primary experience. When viewing the work in person, I often compare it with my recollection of its image. This caused me to consider the ongoing relationship between sculpture and photography. I realized that I could investigate this process from object to image to object in my practice. In my earlier work I began by creating an object and then capturing it as an image. Then, through the process of making a final print, framing it, and hanging it on the wall, it becomes an object again. The color, texture, and scale of the print contribute to its presence as an object. An image has a particular strength and resonance when seen in person. The dynamic nature of sculpture resides in its dimensionality. I don’t think I fully understood this until I started to make the objects for my Hammer Project. More


Hammer Projects is made possible with major gifts from Susan Bay Nimoy and Leonard Nimoy and The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation.

Additional generous support is provided by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; Good Works Foundation and Laura Donnelley; L A Art House Foundation; Kayne Foundation—Ric & Suzanne Kayne and Jenni, Maggie & Saree; the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles; and the David Teiger Curatorial Travel Fund.

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