Andy Vogt Finds Inspiration in Architectural DetritusAuthor:Robyn Wise
Somewhere between drawing and sculpture, in a liminal state between speculative and concrete form, lies the art of Andy Vogt. For nearly a decade, the San Francisco artist has used reclaimed wood lath—thin, hardwood strips concealed behind the plaster walls of most pre-1950s buildings—to create site-specific installations and trompe l’oeil, two-dimensional assemblages of precise and simple geometric beauty. Tonal variations in the vintage material define volumes and intersecting planes in his abstract constructions. “My work is rooted in the upheaval of demolition and the un-making of architectural space,” says Vogt, who began salvaging lath from Bay Area dumpsters in 2000 as new construction and renovation activity unfolded across the city at the onset of the real estate boom. Since then, Vogt’s admired studies in line and scale have found homes in private collections and public spaces, including recent commissions for Facebook’s offices, Texas A&M University and the David Baker-designed Harmon Guest House in Sonoma. We caught up with the artist to chat about his evolving creative process and what’s ahead as he takes on his biggest project to date.
You’ve been working in this very specific material that, with the advent of drywall, has become obsolete. Some wood lath used to build homes at the turn of twentieth-century was already 600 years old when it was felled for construction, so that would make it 800 years old today. I’ve developed a reverence for the age of the material and a sensitivity to its visual language. Freed from centuries of suspended animation inside a wall, it has become a drawing tool for me, complete with its own tonal scale, line weight and structural vernacular. I keep a library of it organized by color and work with the material almost like mosaic.
What inspires your forms? The lath itself and its former use as the envelope of a room’s spatial dimensions, as well as the forces of the destruction, or reconstruction, that unmoored the material from its previous life. The idea of a wall is a very two-dimensional concept when you are standing one side of it, but when a wall is exploded and the boards are in chaos—vectored and energized by demolition—that’s when things get interesting. Some of my forms are closed, others have a fractured feeling. They all depict states of disintegration or assembly, flattened in a way that halts transition, much like a photograph capturing a moment or a fossil trapped in a rock. The works float slightly off the wall by about a half-inch and cast real shadows. Soft lighting is important, to keep shadow from overwhelming the subtler 3D illusion.
Recently the wood lath has played a more ephemeral role in the work, becoming an absence. For a 2017 show at Eleanor Harwood Gallery, I created two new bodies of work that relate to my wood sculpture, but they now feature lath as a phantom presence. In one series, the lath constructions create residual impressions in concrete. In the other series, they create shadow impressions on photosensitive fabric.
What are you working on now? I’m developing a permanent sculpture for Terminal One of the San Francisco International Airport as part of the city’s public art collection. The piece is 11 feet tall by 45 feet wide, which is pushing scale in a new way for me. It will be similar to my wood wall drawings, but instead of lath, the units are mitered sections of architectural bronze tubing. The shape is a loose, rectilinear wavelike form that alludes to the spatial experience of air travel, mimicking the way we move through lofty ticketing halls into gradually confined spaces of security and boarding lines until we’re finally squeezed into a tiny seat on the plane. My piece is about this compression of perceived space and then the decompression, or reversal of that process, as you emerge on the other side at your destination.
Andy Vogt’s work is currently on view in San Francisco in Future City at AiASF through Oct. 12. Upcoming shows include Thinking Structure (October 27 through November 30) at the I.M. Pei-designed Buck Institute in the North Bay. His work is available through Eleanor Harwood gallery.
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