Charles Long’s practice might be compared to that of an alchemist: the blending of art, science, and spirituality, encompassing a plurality of form and technique, driven by a sincere pursuit of answers to existential questions, and imbued with a healthy dose of imagination and play. Long is not only an artist but also an inventor, tinkering with ideas and elements like a mad scientist. He is also an academician, exhibiting a sponge-like absorption of modern philosophies and an array of scholarly pursuits, particularly those related to the intersection of art and nature. In his polyvalent practice, he utilizes a range of media—including installation, sculpture, film, video, audio, architecture, and found materials—to expand upon, tweak, and subjugate notions of sculpture. Long’s aesthetic leans toward the abstract and biomorphic, in the lineage of Surrealists such as Jean Arp, Joan Miró, and Yves Tanguy (kindred spirits of the psychological and unconscious), taking the shape of fantastical, anthropomorphic forms, rickety yet poetic assemblages, or seductive blobs, blips, and oozes. Much of his work exhibits a decided organic “softness,” even when it is hard to the touch, recalling Eva Hesse’s latex and fiberglass sculptures, Claes Oldenburg’s outsized, droopy re-creations of everyday objects, or Franz West’s wildly colorful, irreverent sculptures resembling papier-mâché sausages. In postmodern fashion, Long’s sculptures and installations embrace porous boundaries between object, environment, and viewer. Three-dimensional forms morph and blend with their pedestals and surroundings; likewise, the artist’s practice often engages collaborative methods and interactive intent.
For his winter/spring 2014 exhibition at The Contemporary Austin, Long manifests a transformative installation at the Jones Center, turning the space into a mysterious and mystical Gesamtkunstwerk, a Wagnerian hybrid environment of sculpture, film, music, fragrance, theater, performance, and grand spectacle. Titled CATALIN—after the trademarked moniker of an early form of plastic material developed in the 1930s Art Deco period from formaldehyde that was fugitive and, ultimately, toxic—the exhibition is a cacophony of sensory stimulation haunted by an ethos of impending doom. For this project, Long takes inspiration from Timothy Morton, a leading thinker on ecology, philosophy, and aesthetics whose writings often expound upon the inevitable demise of our ecological environment and art’s reflection of this reality. In characteristic collaborative spirit, Long has worked with local organizations and artisans and will engage the second-floor space for films, lectures, theater, and community events. Complementing this downtown installation, the artist’s Pet Sounds, 2012, is installed outdoors at Laguna Gloria. Titled after the 1966 Beach Boys album of the same name, these playful sculptures in bright, candy colors begin as railings and morph into luscious, playful blobs that engage the viewer with murmurs, vibrations, and strange sounds when touched. With CATALIN and Pet Sounds, Long walks the line between humor and gravitas, treachery and seduction, and formalism and existentialism, putting forth questions—without definitive answers—about the human condition and the fragility of our physical and psychological worlds.
— Heather Pesanti, Senior Curator
Support for Charles Long provided by The Moody Foundation.
Charles Long (American, born 1958 in Long Branch, New Jersey) currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California. Long began his career in the 1980s, attending the Whitney Independent Study Program in 1981, and receiving his MFA from Yale University, New Haven, in 1988. His work crosses multiple media including sculpture, installation, film, video, and music, often engaging in collaborative practices with other artists, and has been the focus of an extensive number of solo exhibitions and projects at venues including Jarla Partilager, Berlin (2013), Madison Square Park in New York City (2012), the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2011), and SITE Santa Fe (2005).
His work has also been included in numerous group exhibitions including XChange: 10 Years. 10 Artists. 10 Sites, the recent series of ten major public art commissions by the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, and venues such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2010, 2004, 2001, 1999), the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (2007, 2006), the Museum of Modern Art, New York City (2000), and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City (2008, 1997). He has been the recipient of an Award of Merit Medal for Sculpture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and two Pollock-Krasner Foundation grants, and his work has been collected by institutions around the world, including the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.
From the trivial to the catastrophic, the specificity of objects has been the focus of my sculptural investigation. From my earliest works that take inspiration from popcorn kernels or a single hair of Abraham Lincoln to the recent work composed of the unbiased intermingling of natural and cultural objects redeemed from the Los Angeles River, I have employed the autonomy of the sculptural object for metaphysical speculation, political awareness, and individual and social experience. In my collaborative and public works, I am not their only creator; I am also a witness to the diverse manifestations that emanate organically as others creatively engage with the objects and ideas I present. In these works the process remains open and the participant is both the sculptor and sculpture.
Known for his history of partnering with other artists and organizations, for CATALIN, Charles Long has collaborated with the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, Mylan Chacon, Chasing Ice, Jeneene Chatowsky, Ecovative, Eluvium, Brady Foster, Seth Hawkins, John Hiler, Kerstin Hovland, Emery Martin, Michael Mascha at Finewaters.com, Timothy Morton, Carrie Paterson, Alison Petty Ragguette, Karen Reitzel, Solid Concepts, SXSW, and Anna Wittenberg.
Join us for the opening events for our winter/spring exhibition of artist Charles Long, on view January 18 – April 20, 2014, at The Contemporary Austin.
Artist Charles Long talks about his ideas, work, process, and play in this public talk on the occasion of his new site-specific commission CATALIN for the Jones Center and the installation of Pet Sounds at Laguna Gloria.
Join artist Charles Long for a public viewing of his playful multisensory sculpture Pet Sounds on the lakeside grounds of Laguna Gloria.
This quarterly series, co-presented with Edible Austin, connects the art on view with local and sustainable food. Inspired by artist Charles Long’s use of fungi in his exhibition CATALIN, join us for an evening sampling mushrooms and cultured food and drink.
Learn the basics of analog sound circuits from Dr. Bleep of Bleep Labs, the creator of all manner of strange synthesizer gizmos, in this musical art project inspired by Charles Long’s interactive installation Pet Sounds.
Chasing Ice is the story of acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog’s mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of climate change.
Ecological theorist Timothy Morton, an inspiration for artist Charles Long’s exhibition at The Contemporary, explores hyperobjects, “dark ecology,” and more in this thought-provoking evening, co-presented by SXSW Eco.
Snort, baa, quack! Let your senses guide you as you meet real potbelly pigs, goats, and other mini creatures, then make your own animalistic art to take home.
For this special collaboration between The Contemporary Austin, SXSW, and artist Charles Long, four electronic sound acts take over and respond to CATALIN, Long’s seductive, multisensory installation on view at the Jones Center.