New York

“Stones Have Been Known to Move”

The collaborative projects of Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler present a conceptual art that combines landscape, architectural space, and theory. These cross-investigations have minimal presence and lasting impact. Conceptually complex and formally modest, their work provokes a number of questions about design conventions, collective assumptions, and the material arrangements of contemporary culture.

In this installation, Ericson and Ziegler generated ideas about the multiple histories of stones commonly used for building facings, as well as the kind of physical and metaphorical transformation of material that occurs in most architectural production. Arranged against two walls of the main gallery space were square stone samples, donated by the many suppliers who sell granite and marble as sheathings for buildings. The name and location of the particular building that had used the sample stone were engraved in the center of each slab. Below this incision were the latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates of the quarry site where the stone had been extracted. Thus each stone had the mark of two identities: a geological record and a recent, invented, and applied history. Along the west wall a sequence of the promotional stone samples were leaned against the wall like a lineup of headstones. On the north wall the stones were arranged in a map configuration of the United States created by placing each small slab at the site of its original extraction. Stones used for building in New York and Washington, D.C., were placed in the western regions, the site of their ancestral homes. The variety of color, texture, and pattern was cacophonous.

Ziegler and Ericson underscore some of the inherent ironies of architectural practice, as well as the painstaking and tedious process of constructing a public symbol. In the context created by the artists, the significance of public image becomes entirely capricious, whimsical, and arbitrary. Stone used for toilet partitions from Abilene looks a lot like the stone used on the United States Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. Are these two situations equally significant? Are they both inspirational? What does all this architectural primping mean as public art? The questions do not end here, because this work is open-ended, clever, and inherently skeptical.

Patricia C. Phillips