Conrad Shawcross: The Nervous System (Inverted)
The Nervous System (Inverted), an elaborate, hand-wrought rope machine in wood, steel and cord, is the newest work of young British sculptor Conrad Shawcross. Hanging 50 feet above the ground in The Sculpture Garden of 590 Madison (on view May 10 through July 10, 2010), the intricate structure of axles, gears, and drive shafts spans 25 feet in diameter, and radiates outwards from symmetrically arranged hubs; once in motion, its constellation of colored spools revolve in orbit reciprocally and begin to twine their threads.
Crafted and engineered on an epic scale and built entirely by the artist in his studio the work is suspended above the ground like a mobile that has been put to work. The bobbins slowly spin and turn in relation to one another, their threads drawn incrementally downwards, describing in space a simple inverted cone. At the tip of which, a woven rope begins to form six feet above the ground, to then pass through a pulley on the ground and be pulled slowly sideways by a large self-tailing winch placed to one side, finally cascading into an ever increasing pile on the floor.
The Nervous System (Inverted) explores the very human desire to turn the passage of time into a graphic physical reality. It seeks to address the limits of our perception and our language, highlighting the reliance on metaphor to understand and contemplate this foundational dimension of existence. The work continues the artist’s longstanding investigation of rope-making devices, which reference the orreries of astronomers, and the maps of consciousness researchers. Initially preoccupied by the perception of time by humans, and by quotidian images usually relied upon to express the temporal experience and concepts of destiny, Shawcross now confronts his viewer with a pure form, evoking Platonic geometry. While the work’s strong aesthetic and complex interactions are inexorably driven by its function, the incremental speed of the machine denies it any practical use, compelling the viewer to contemplate more metaphysical and philosophical paths for its raison d'etre.
Conrad Shawcross’s work is often cloaked in the appearance of scientific rationality, with physics, metaphysics, geometry and philosophy frequently providing the conceptual platform for his sculptures.
Attracted by failed quests for knowledge in the past, he often appropriates redundant theories and methodologies to create ambitious structural and mechanical montages, using a wide variety of materials and media. Different (sometimes outmoded) technologies - nautical and audio-visual - and different natural forces inspire his forms, but his mysterious machines and structures remain enigmatic, filled with paradox and wonder. Some have an absurdist melancholy feel, while others tend to the sublime.
Born in 1977, Conrad Shawcross lives and works in London. He has had solo exhibitions at Jenaer Kunstverein, Germany (2008), The New Art Gallery, Walsall, The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (2005), and the National Maritime Museum (2004) as well as an upcoming solo presentation at The Baltic Art Centre, Gateshead. His work has also been exhibited in various international group exhibitions and biennials including The Moscow Biennial (2009), Musée d'art Contemporain, Lyon (2008), Baibakov Art Projects, Moscow, Art Basel | 39 (2008), La Chapelle de L'Ecole National Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris (2008), The Saatchi Gallery (2004) and Manifesta 5, San Sebastian, Spain (2004) among others. Shawcross has been the recipient of numerous public art commissions and his first large-scale project, Space Trumpet, installed at Unilever House in London, won the Art + Work Prize in 2008. He was also awarded the Illy Art Prize in 2009, and is currently the centenary artist in residence at the National Science Museum, London.
Additional information for Conrad Shawcross: The Nervous System (Inverted) is available upon request by contacting Jennifer Benz Joy at firstname.lastname@example.org or Lauren Staub at email@example.com, or call 212.421.3292.