The conventional studio visit is one of the last bastions of what may be considered the analog art world. Time spent with the artist in his or her studio—the hub of operations—yields essential meaning that can in no way be acquired elsewhere (especially not in the currently fashionable mode of contemporary display, the art fair booth).
In anticipation of including Robert Wechsler’s work in SBMA’s summer 2014 exhibition, Left Coast: Recent Acquisitions of Contemporary Art, I took the opportunity to visit the artist’s studio. Wechsler’s work has suggested an underlying unconventionality—that of an ardent scientist. And an hour with him there confirmed the veracity of his devotion to not only his ongoing series of works in a vast range of media, but also his propensity for experimentation.
While there were plenty of distractions, including his Circular Bike (2003) that seats 9, and an Eames Lounge Chair that vibrates and purrs (much more fun and less expensive than a visit to the therapist), I was greatly rewarded to find evidence of the work I sought: his ongoing series, The Mendicant. These sculptures, formed by notching and joining coins into symmetrically ordered cubes, are feats of engineering in themselves. They are also remnants of life and history, as well as nostalgia for something else that is increasingly considered obsolete—the U.S. penny.
To see the vast amounts of time, research, and investigation that Wechsler has dedicated to this project, which has also led him to many other fascinating projects, was exciting. And what impresses me most from our meeting is how something so very small and seemingly minor, something like a penny, can become another thing that is utterly vast and enthralling.
Wechsler’s piece, The Mendicant (6,930) (2014) can be seen in Left Coast: Recent Acquisitions of Contemporary Art through September 14. The exhibition presents an overview of the Museum’s collecting habits in contemporary art over the past five years. Artists include Amy Adler, Kevin Appel, Brian Bress, Dan Connally, Russell Crotty, Tony De los Reyes, Roy Dowell, Carlee Fernandez, Mark Flores, Llyn Foulkes, Jack Goldstein, Ken Gonzales-Day, Lyle Ashton Harris, Zach Harris, Adam Helms, Richard Jackson, Kim Jones, Mike Kelley, Elad Lassry, Allison Miller, Kori Newkirk, Lari Pittman, Ken Price, Lucas Reiner, Steve Roden, Sommer Roman, April Street, Robert Wechsler, and Mario Ybarra, Jr.
Teens can join Robert Wechsler as he leads SBMA’s Teen Master Class, “Sculpting in Concrete,” July 7-11. For more information or to enroll, visit www.sbma.net/kidsfamilies.