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Rob Voerman

July 7, 2004 - October 17, 2004

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Dutch artist Rob Voerman combines the formal language of makeshift sheds with the aesthetics of mass production and technology to obsessively construct sculptures and prints. Voerman’s sculptures of office machines, created from discarded, weathered wood and other found materials, become objects whose apparent functionality is constantly belied by their haphazard fabrication. They are installed alongside large prints of cityscapes, which can be seen as reactions to the over-designed environment we live in. According to Voerman, his work seeks to unmask the “risk, uncertainty, and decay [that] are systematically concealed from daily life.”

Organized by James Elaine, curator of Hammer Projects.

Rob Voerman, Bricoleur

By Aaron Betsky

 

Rob Voerman does not like slick surfaces. He transforms the neutrality of the off-white plastic containers that encase our office equipment and the anonymity of the mass-produced spaces of offices into assemblages of rough, recycled wood. Everything he makes is thought out but appears thrown together and layered, worn and frayed. Voerman doesn’t even allow his etchings and drawings to be smooth presentations of pretty pictures. Instead, they exhibit chicken scratches and rough lines, fields of unevenly cut lines, and forms whose contours (as well as purposes) are uncertain. Contending that urban life has become increasingly devoid of the vagaries and realities of both human and natural existence, Voerman colonizes the empty plains of the cities he draws, constructing small huts and implements with which he can build a world dedicated not to the smooth functioning of things, but to something else, something less certain, something he cannot even yet name.

 

There is a romantic longing for the farm, the nineteenth-century factory, and the workshop in the work of Rob Voerman. He sees his atelier, itself a small colony in a former army barracks, as a continuation of a world of small-scale manufacturing that inhabits and contradicts the much larger and more abstract structures by which our environment is both physically and socially structured. He wants to be a farmer and a furrier, a carpenter and a blacksmith, in an era of consultants, executives, and operators of symbolic logic.

 

This does not mean that this young Dutch artist fetishizes nature or operates as a latter-day hippie. He is too fascinated with the mechanical world, with construction and with production, to make things that have an explicitly organic form or function. Most of his art takes the form of mundane, often technological objects such as photocopying machines, or of productive or even penal buildings with industrial overtones. The task Voerman has set himself is exactly to transform these objects through his particular craft into something that subverts, or at least questions, what they are by the way the artist makes them appear. More

Notes
1. See Ewout Dorman et al., eds., Too Blessed to Be Depressed: Crimson Architectural Historians, 1994-2002 (Rotterdam: Rotterdam-Maaskant Foundation; 010 Publishers, 2002).

Aaron Betsky is the director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute, the largest museum and archive of its kind in the world. He is also a critic and author of more than a dozen books, including, most recently, False Flat: Why Dutch Design Is So Good.

 

Hammer Projects are made possible with support from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Annenberg Foundation, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, and members of the Hammer Circle.

Additional support for Rob Voerman's Hammer Project has been received from the Mondriaan Foundation and The Consulates General of The Netherlands in New York and Los Angeles.

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