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Just Get on With the Climbing


  • Sasha Sicurella

Diann Bauer has learned to embrace humanity's erroneous nature. She understands that everything can change from one moment to the next, so there's no point in giving up trying to succeed in our quest to become larger than ourselves. With the installation of her pavilion Icarus Meet Apollo at Omi International Arts Center in Ghent, she says she "espouses high ambitions for humans knowing full well that we will fall on our face pretty regularly."

Bauer's various creations—paintings, drawings, sculptures, and installations to name a few—stand as markers for humans to witness as they plunge to and fro through the intricate facets of contemporary society. After studying art and architecture at Cooper Union and Goldsmiths College, Bauer began exhibiting her work at galleries such as the Deste Foundation and Benaki Museum in Greece, the Ian Potter Museum of Art in Australia, and Socrates Sculpture Park in New York. Icarus Meet Apollo was unveiled at Socrates in 2013, part of Bauer's Emerging Artist Fellowship there.

The inspiration for Icarus Meet Apollo came after Bauer viewed Victor Pasmore's modernist "Apollo Pavilion" in England. Pasmore's pavilion, composed of concrete, was built as a folly, created with optimistic spirit after the Apollo missions to the moon. Much as humans marked the moon, the "Apollo Pavilion" was also defaced—with graffiti. "This was a fate far from Pasmore's ambitions," says Bauer "but this interested me, even Pasmore himself had said that the graffiti in some ways 'humanized' the work." The notion of combining high ambitions with human baseness sparked Bauer to introduce Icarus to Apollo.

Icarus, hubristic legend of Greek mythology, drowned in the sea after he flew too close to the sun and melted the wax of his wings. Apollo was the Greek god of sun, healing, and truth, the very things that destroyed Icarus. Bauer believes that his flight was worth taking because it drew a differentiating line between contemporary humans and their origins. Bauer says, "it is difference through our own making, through engineering. The reality of our ambitions as a species may lead to our individual demise, but this is not a reason to not have these ambitions and indeed actively pursue them."

From proposal to completion it took eight months to build Icarus Meet Apollo. The structure is comprised of plywood, out of necessity and because Bauer believes that "wood has a warmth that the [Apollo] pavilion did not have." Quotes from Shakespeare, Italo Calvino, Sun Ra, Robert Moses, and Jane Jacobs are typeset across the surface of the sculpture, adding visual depth. "The texts all speak in some way to either our mental and technological ambition ['basic instructions for leaving earth'—Sun Ra] in combination with the materiality in which we must execute these ambitions ['do not go gentle'—]."

Since June, Omi has featured Icarus Meet Apollo in the Education Omi Pavilion, which aims to integrate art with community. Icarus Meet Apollo is built to a child's scale. "In terms of what I would like the children to get, is more a sense of 'Wow, it's a letter M as big as me!' I don't expect them to get the references. Kids who can read will either make their own sense of it, ask for help, or just get on with climbing and not worry about it."

Icarus Meet Apollo will be exhibited at Art Omi in Ghent through September 27. (518) 392-4747; Artomi.org.

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