Canadian artist James Carl has focuses his attention on the creation of sculptures which explore the legacies of modernist abstraction and the marriage of everyday materials, hand fabrication, and ideas around the social life of sculpture.
Cardboard was a signature material for Carl in the 1990s. He would find empty cardboard boxes discarded on the street and repurpose the material to create cardboard facsimilies of the appliances the boxes once contained. The finished works were placed back on the street corners, a comment on commercialism and waste.
Carl’s recent work, the jalousie series, takes its title from the colloquial French name for venetian blinds, “jalousie”. Each of these works is meticulously crafted using the slats of aluminum blinds, in a conventional triaxial weave, a pattern admired by Buckminster Fuller for its strength and material economy. Fuller’s earliest—failed—geodesic dome experiments at Black Mountain College attempted to utilize venetian blinds. In the jalousie sculptures, the original social function of the venetian blinds—to reveal and to conceal, to divide inside from outside—is literally tied in knots. These woven volumes create a sculptural experience that mixes intense visuality with a decentered spatial experience of the viewer’s body. The resulting works appear as hollowed out carapaces, hand-crafted versions of the modernist work of Moore, Hepworth or Arp. They provoke speculation upon some persistent sculptural questions, including: the ambivalent relationship between art and craft; the uncertain legacy of 20th Century biomorphic abstraction; and the various anxieties associated with eccentric form. In perceptual terms, the empty interiors of the sculptures suggest presence as a direct reflection of absence, and tension as a primary creative force.
James Carl received his MFA from Rutgers University in 1996 after receiving diplomas from the Central Academy in Beijing (1995 & 1990), a BA from McGill University in Montreal (1992,) and a BFA from University of Victoria (1983). Carl’s educational experience was unique in that it spanned continents and cultures and immersed him in a vast dialogue of artistic influences ranging from formalist approaches to art, to the emerging generation of China’s contemporary art scene, and Conceptual and Fluxist philosophies. He is currently Professor of Studio Art at the University of Guelph outside Toronto, Canada.