Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler: MIT List Visual Arts Center

By Miller, Francine Koslow | Artforum International, April 2006 | Go to article overview

Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler: MIT List Visual Arts Center


Miller, Francine Koslow, Artforum International


The decade-long creative partnership of Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler, which was cut short by Ericson's death in 1995, resulted in a substantial body of public projects, site-specific installations, and mixed-media sculptures, all marked by a keen social conscience, an idiosyncratic wit, and a cool, Minimalist-inspired aesthetic. With twenty carefully selected works, including models, plans, and documentary slide shows, their recent retrospective paid tribute to the duo's facility for poetically decoding the hidden agendas of a hypercapitalist nation.

The show takes its title, "America Starts Here," from an expansive architectonic wall installation completed in 1988, itself named for Pennsylvania's official tourist slogan. The work consists of 105 broken panes of glass and fiberglass replacement panels, salvaged from the derelict National Licorice Factory in downtown Philadelphia. The artists sandwiched these between panes of new glass and mounted them according to their original configuration. Sandblasted on the outer layer are tracings of rivers, historic trails, and railroad lines that not only refer to the historical drive toward westward expansion but also evoke the physical and metaphorical cracks found in government buildings and monuments. In places, the glass is further inscribed with images of New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, DC, tourist sites. At the List, a wall text reveals that the salvaged panes were replaced with new ones at the original site; the project's critique of Manifest Destiny is thereby augmented and an element of civic regeneration introduced.

Another large-scale wall installation referring to the building of America, Stones Have Been Known to Move, 1986, consists of a stylized map of the United States constructed from foot-square promotional samples of granite, limestone, and marble. Each square has been inscribed with the latitude and longitude of the quarry from which it was mined and the name of a place where the material has been used, thereby charting the displacement of our natural resources. …

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