KAY WHITNEY


Kay Whitney's attracted to the analog, the physical manipulation of materials. What’s important is the insignificant but ticklish detail, the element that seems out of place. Whitney's eye is on the sensuous surface of things, something achieved through extremely labor-intensive means. Each piece represents an accumulation of repeated actions mirroring the passage of time. Whitney's sculptures rely on techniques such as sewing and the use of textiles; she works methodically and lyrically between the fields of fine arts and design.

The materials she uses (grommets, industrial felt, plywood, steel, hardware, aircraft cable) mimic the biomorphic and create objects that are synthetic and pseudo-organic. There is no transcendence of material – all elements tread the line between being only what they are and being something more. She uses felt and plywood because they are manufactured materials that mimic the natural.

Whitney begins by using various minimalist strategies. Although this involves a preliminary set-up that’s regimented, involves exacting measurements and counting, she works against her own systems so that the final object shows both choice and counter-choice. These selections appear intuitive but are carefully planned, measured out and involve a fixed repertoire of actions. From them, she develops a set of contrasts (soft/ hard, smooth/rough, color and anti-color) and a set of conditions (parts, piled, pieces, stacks, identical, interchangeable).The final stages are the result of several fabrication methods - wrapping, suspending, hanging, alterations of width and hanging devices (grommets, cable steel brackets and upholstery screws).

Whitney also makes small collages that are based on scanned advertising photographs that are printed out in grey-scale. These, generally fashion or editorial images, are partially obliterated by thin, torn, vertical strips cut from paint-sample cards. This both abstracts and transforms the images resulting in a confusion of realism and abstraction.

Her objects are grounded in several conceptual arenas from various time periods; mid-century modernist furniture and design and conceptual sculpture. The modernist forms that most interest her are those of Isamu Noguchi, Danish Modern designers, and Charles and Ray Eames. Whitney is drawn to their biomorphic forms, use of wood and their investment in the tenets of modernism. For her, they are a source of humor which is expressed in her work through the wackiness of the shapes and they way they meet the wall, floor or ceiling.

Kay Whitney's processes are obsessive and repetitive; her methods are derived from the work of anti-form conceptualist sculptors like Robert Morris, Barry Le Va, Sol Lewitt and Eva Hesse. Like them, she's interested in the edges of systems, the threshold areas where things break down and accidents happen, where an object is in a state of flux.