Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum presents Kathryn Spence. Dirty and Clean

The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in ridgfield presents Kathryn Spence. Dirty and Clean an exhibition on view through June 10, 2012.

Kathryn Spence, Short sharp notes, a long whistled trill on one pitch, clear phrases, 2010 Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Wirtz Gallery, San Francisco

San Francisco-based artist Kathryn Spence is inspired by nature in the production of her sculptures and installations. Using found, dirty, and discarded materials in order to point to the invasion of the natural environment by human-produced garbage, she accurately re-creates wildlife from scraps of paper, fabric, string, and wire. The avid birder and lover of nature is capable of distinguishing particular species from a great distance and able to create animals portraying clear, distinct personalities and identities with incredible exactitude.

Spence’s nuanced, obsessive, and busy gathering of seemingly “dirty” used materials has its counterpart in the way she impeccably reorganizes them in the sculptures. When seen from afar, works such as Untitled (2005–6) may bring to mind an unquenched desire for accumulation and the notion of pathological hoarding, yet Spence’s works are overtaken by the greater compulsion of organization. On closer inspection, her ordering of the materials in stacks, piles, and bundles, and the balanced composition of the overall cluster, allows us to find relationships and commonalities amongst all the parts. We may even find immense beauty in these orderly accumulations.

Paradoxically, the artist considers that on occasion her work takes the opposite approach: she dirties the gathered materials because the dirt distances them from “consumer” sensibility; in those cases it is the dirt that “cleans” the sculptures. By “cleaning” her materials of foreign and extraneous matter (either dirt or consumerism) and making this process the basis for her practice, she is appealing to the notion of cleansing—and, perhaps, grooming—as a social activity that scientists believe creates bonds and builds trust amongst the members of a community. In Spence’s artworks, the back and forth between “dirty and clean” is a conciliatory exercise between nature and human, animal and human, self-sufficiency and consumerism.

The Aldrich is one of the few independent, non-collecting contemporary art museums in the United States, and the only museum in Connecticut devoted to contemporary art. The Aldrich is accredited by the American Association of Museums. Founded on Ridgefield’s historic Main Street in 1964, the Museum concentrates its exhibition program on solo exhibitions by emerging and mid-career artists, complemented by acclaimed gallery-based education programs that use the work on view to help adults, families, and over 7,000 students annually to connect to our world through contemporary art. The Museum is located at 258 Main Street, Ridgefield, CT 06877. All exhibitions and programs are handicapped accessible. Free on-site parking. Regular Museum hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 12 noon to 5 pm. For more information call 203.438.4519.

The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
258 Main Street
Ridgefield, CT 06854

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