Magazine article Sculpture

Evidence of Action in Progress

Magazine article Sculpture

Evidence of Action in Progress

Article excerpt

Isabel Nuño de Buen's installations explore architecture, urban planning, experience, and memories, with an emphasis on re-creating and tabling organizational systems. Blending drawing and sculpture, she builds her constructions through a complex layering process in which each level operates according to its own internal logic. Wide-ranging interests, including German Expressionist architecture, cultural anthropology, and religion, combine with a diverse array of materials (plaster, papier-máché, steel, chalk, and paint) to create formally and conceptually expansive forms and configurations. Each overall form consists of some newly made elements contextualized within moments and parts from previous installations. Intertwining the malleable and the structural, the constant and the changing, these provisional environments flow one into another in a continuously evolving body of work.

Robert Preece: Could you tell me about the process of making and installing "Nightwalks" (2017)? I understand that you collected cardboard on the streets of Hannover, where you live, and used it as part of the installation in San Francisco.

Isabel Nuño de Buen: The work was made specifically for the 500 Capp Street Foundation. I had recently moved to Hannover to start a residency at the Kunstverein, and although I had been to Hannover before, I had never spent much time in the city. After a while, I noticed that the shops took their garbage out to the street every Tuesday, so I found a lot of cardboard debris just laying around. I had worked with cardboard before - it is a material that I particularly like because it is unpretentious, malleable, warm, and light, reacting to water and humidity. So, I started gathering it every Tuesday night, walking around with a small wagon.

I became more and more aware of and interested in how the external rhythm of the city was influencing my internal work rhythm in the studio. For example, every Monday, I had to be finished with the cardboard I had collected the week before so there would be space for new material. Working with the city's debris and transforming it, developing a new sensitivity to the different colors, nuances, and thicknesses of cardboard, became very fascinating. Although it wasn't part of my initial intention, I had to think about Schwitters walking through the same streets gathering materials to build his Merzbau.

RP: How did you approach the installation process in San Francisco?

INdB: The sculpture consists of 32 pieces that together build three pillars. The shape of the elements varies, creating different combination possibilities. The pieces were numbered and marked with pencil and later varnished. Every piece of each pillar has at least one peer on the other pillars. This means that the pillars can be composed out of different combinations and in different orders. There is no strict ideal form or order; it is more about the process of combining and about understanding sculpture in a non-static and non-hermetic way. In the work, the vertical motif of the standing pillar or column can only be completed as an idea or mental image.

For the installation, I decided to make a drawing on the floor based on the walks I did at night. Working from memory, I developed a subjective map focusing on different feelings about distance and time. The drawing created a sense of place for the sculptures. It also encouraged the viewer to move through the space in order to see the work from different angles.

RP: What was the starting point for Constellation 1.2 (2015), your installation at Kurimanzutto in Mexico City? How did the process work?

INdB: Sometimes it is hard to tell where one work starts and another ends. I see my practice as a wider exploration in which things can intertwine and exist as part of multiple works and embody various states - so, recycling is part of my process. Producing the sculptures in the studio is mostly an independent process based on the investigation of forms and materials. …

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