The museum recently acquired an evocative new sculpture by Carol Bove, a New York-based artist who is currently represented in the 54th Venice Biennale. Since graduating from New York University in 2000, Bove has become known for a body of work that includes collages, haunting ink-on-vellum drawings (primarily of images from early issues of Playboy), and elegant sculptures and installations that double as personalized archives of both the 1960s and the history of twentieth century art. The installation now in the Museum's collection represents a relatively new direction in Bove's work: although references to art and to 1960s design and architecture remain, they are far more discreet than in past works. In Not Yet Titled, priority is given to the formal, physical, and associative properties of materials, and abstraction tends to trump narrative. Arrangement, juxtaposition, and scenography are Bove's primary methods, and she employs them to stunning effect here. A variety of objects, some found, others made, rest on a low-lying platform, reminiscent of a stage. They include shells, a silver chain, a piece of driftwood suspended from a brass plinth, a peacock feather mounted to a custom-made steel stand, an abstract steel sculpture displayed on a small wooden pedestal, and, finally, a page from the book People Are Talking About: People and Things in Vogue (1969), which Bove came to know through Philip Johnson's library. The page features an Irving Penn photograph of a male hand cradling a small butterfly.
The collision of these varied objects, images, and materials creates a rich symbolic field: we might understand the elements as meditations on the relationship between nature and culture - more specifically, the migration of the natural into the world of art and artifice. In addition to a painted still-life, Bove’s scenography also evokes a landscape of sorts - a beachfront stretch of sand populated by ocean refuse, for instance. The lengths of silver chain that stretch from one end of the platform to the other call to mind a wealth of associations, from a web to a fisherman's net to ripples of salt water. The concept of presentation is crucial to understanding Bove's work. Just as Bove's installations are on display (for the viewer, in a gallery), so too do they serve as platforms for the display of other objects. They also foreground the act of display itself, both museological and commercial. In this respect, Bove's work shares a great deal with that of other prominent contemporary artists, including Rachel Harrison, Thomas Hirschhorn, and Josephine Meckseper, for whom exhibition is end, means, and subject.
Kelly C. Baum, Haskell Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art