Tight Squeeze

Tight Squeeze

July-August 2017

Artist: Claire Ashley

For this installation I was thinking of a place where the caged animal in the zoo oraquarium meets the mannequin body in a window display. The glass window of thestorefront puts things on show, yet keeps people at a distance, preventing them frompetting the oddly bulbous body inside. The inflatable is both pressed tightly into thespace with nowhere to go and bound within its’ own frame or skeleton. It is held withinthe history of painting while also pushing against it, trying to escape its’ clutches, animpossibly Sisyphean task.

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Claire Ashley
Tight Squeeze (2017)
Acrylic paint and spray enamel on Tyvek and Sintra panels
120” x 156” x 30”

My recent work investigates inflatables as painting, sculpture, installation and performance costume. I mine the language of painterly abstraction, monumental sculpture, slapstick humor, and pop art to transform mundane industrial materials into inflatable painted sculptures and performative props.

I work within a deeply feminist critique of the contemporary art world. I use humor, acidic color, obnoxious scale, and absurd pop-culture references to challenge art historical precedence and current art world power dynamics. My work is particularly invested in exploding the structural possibilities of abstract painting, expanding the kinetic possibilities for monumental sculpture, and enlivening the dialogue around contemporary art across class, gender, age, and education. I am interested in creating democratic access to contemporary art by utilizing a deliberately egalitarian and generous collection of humorous and formal entry points for multiple communities to engage with my work.

I am interested in the assumptions and history of both painting, performance, and sculpture. I create objects that engage in intellectual play, testing the boundaries and expectations of each medium, while exploring the possibilities of low-brow, mundane, unconventional materials. I am interested in how objects “look” as opposed to “how” they are created i.e. the appearance of abstract painting visualized through industrial materials and monumental sculptural form. I combine expressive painting in opposition to the linearity and the rigidity of adhesive tape and stencils.

I have explored many approaches to get at my desire for this conglomeration. In so doing, my work with inflatables has been the most satisfying. I find the inflatable form compelling, as it exists in two states: both as flaccid skin and taut volume. I think of the polarities of form within these objects as metaphors for our bodies: inhaling/exhaling; taut/wrinkled skin; flaccid/erect organs etc. In addition I am interested in how a body can activate sculpture, and how the prop abstracts and extends that body. I think of the scale and weight of the object when carried as a reference to a turtle carrying it’s home or to Atlas carrying the world: a metaphor for the responsibilities we bear. So labor, ritual, endurance, and humor are also important components in my work.


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