Exhibition: Jesse Stecklow

Jesse Stecklow (born 1993, Cambridge, MA; active Los Angeles, CA), Ear Wiggler, 2016. Dried corn, drawing, aluminum, duct fan parts, powder-coated aluminum, wood, hardware, and cables; 33 × 45.7 × 33 cm, 16 lb. Collection of the artist. © Jesse Stecklow / image courtesy of Sweetwater, Berlin, photo: Jason Mandella

Highlighting the relationships between visible and invisible components of our surroundings is fundamental to the practice of the Los Angeles–based artist Jesse Stecklow. For Components in the Air / Jesse Stecklow, he explores the individual characteristics of the rooms in Bainbridge House, outfitting the galleries with works that interweave imagery, motion, and sound.

In the first gallery, a solitary air sampler, custom-crafted by the artist, collects data about the material components of the air throughout the run of the installation. This sculpture makes for a fitting first encounter because it evokes a central theme of the project—environmental capture, the acquisition of various types of information and stimuli from one’s surroundings.

In contrast to the silent operations of the air sampler, scale models of the other three galleries are mounted onto motorized timers near their respective entryways. Titled Room Boxes, they spin on the quarter hour for fifteen, thirty, forty-five, or sixty seconds, sequentially. To mark these rotations, a small ball bounces from side to side in a rhythm distinctive to the shape of the box, creating a sonic environment and a kinetic experience of the architectural space.

Jesse Stecklow, Box Set (detail), 2021. Corian, aluminum, chipboard, paper, UV print, ribbon, and clips. © Jesse StecklowCentered on the floor of each gallery is a diorama-like Box Set. Due to travel limitations imposed by COVID-19, Stecklow had to conceive the exhibition remotely, and he began by mapping out the floor plan of Bainbridge House with string in his Los Angeles home. He then photographed segments of his floor onto which he digitally collaged elements of his other artworks: paper circles, ear bones, or sketches; these pictures became the imagery on the bases of the Box Sets. Stecklow notes, “It’s as if a section of my studio floor, where the show was made, has been lifted out and brought into Bainbridge House.”

The Ear Wigglers are another kinetic element of the exhibition. Data collected during previous installations of the air sampler revealed a prevalence of ethanol and corn-derived compounds in the atmosphere, leading Stecklow to create artworks based on corn. The Ear Wigglers pay homage to the artist’s grandfather, the sculptor Henry Krinsky, who had an exceptional ability to wiggle his ears and who often used humor as an entry point into his artistic practice. The Ear Wigglers simultaneously animate ears of corn and reproductions of a childhood drawing that Stecklow made of Krinsky’s ear.

The idea of a network of interconnected elements runs through the exhibition—in the spinning Room Boxes, in the Ear Wigglers, and in a series of anagrams that reference other works in the installation—intervening in the visitor’s experience to draw attention to the ways in which our personal associations, memories, and perspectives profoundly shape our experiences of space.

Mitra Abbaspour
Haskell Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

Components in the Air / Jesse Stecklow is curated by Mitra Abbaspour, Haskell Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, and former Curatorial Associate Alex Bacon.

Art@Bainbridge is made possible through the generous support of the Kathleen C. Sherrerd Program Fund for American Art; the Virginia and Bagley Wright, Class of 1946, Program Fund for Modern and Contemporary Art; Barbara and Gerald Essig; and Joshua R. Slocum, Class of 1998, and Sara Slocum. Additional support is provided by Stacey Roth Goergen, Class of 1990, and Robert B. Goergen.