Cindy Snodgrass

Cindy Snodgrass’ collages—delicate, artificial flowers, eggshells stuffed with feathers, and dials from old watches—contrast with the 35-story, Mies van der Rohe tower, whose massive exhibition space is often dominated by formal, abstract, large-scale art. Hung in the center of each lobby window, these collages reflect the same idea as Snodgrass’ pneumatic sculpture, in which flexibility is planned after the exigencies of site: what altitudes allow a maximal spread, what is the reflection from the surrounding architecture, what are the projected weather conditions, and what guy wires can be strung. A recent example of this latter work at Pittsburgh’s Gateway Center was made of 700 yards of translucent nylon, 250 yards of which were hand-dyed and painted, structured after a bird-wing in flight. These sculptures, romantic, organic descendants of mathematically precise kites, change from bird wing to mushroom to Oriental dragon as they are animated by air, wind, and light—a vulnerable existence in this big, cruel, urban space.

As for the collages, they are equally vulnerable, giddy, fresh, technically studied, and responsive to changing surroundings. Sandwiched between two sheets of clear plexiglass, layers of material are held together with colored thread, burnt-knotted rope, or petit-point-chain lacing. A viewer looks through each collage, as if through layers in a stereoscope; they seem further animated by the real-life objects, people, and lights that are seen through them. Between their plastic sheets, Snodgrass’ materials stick out, negating the plexiglass slickness and delimiting the edges. In any one collage, the same object may appear in several guises: real, sewn, drawn, photographed, painted, xeroxed, color xeroxed, and xerox-transparencied. Structural lacing may make its own patterns, while long, thin wires suspend each collage from the top of the window, away from any static plane, and seem to mock the vertical steel columns that stalwartly anchor the building.

Emphasizing transience, immediacy, fallibility, relativism, and sex, the iconography is frequently autobiographical; it may both document and pun. There is one combination of skyscraper elevator plans, consumer confidence-level charts, and 1930s and 1970s King Kong images which reflect Snodgrass’ premonitions about a commission for one of her pneumatic sculptures. Nearby, a collage juxtaposes biblical, outer space, comic book, and art-historical imagery to nose-thumb various notions from “experts” about “ascendancy.” In another design, magazine photos of diplomats’ heads are covered with flowers, a wish that lush sensuality prevail over dry intellectualism.

The balloons, butterflies, and strawberries that circle on a curly wire in Snodgrass’ collages all have a related buoyancy that makes each work seem to take off even as it’s there. Similarly, the fascination with “air art” among the sturdy, high-rise buildings offers a contrasting freedom to fly, hover, spin, and even fall. In all, the most pleasing aspect of this work is “lift.”

C.L. Morrison