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R.U.R. is a group exhibition that showcases the best projects from across North America, gathered during our annual call for submissions. The Soap Factory’s historic building is a raw and undeveloped industrial space, which, from its construction in 1882, has witnessed all of the political, economic and scientific changes that C20th industrial culture inflicted upon the world. For R.U.R., nine artists will create new work for our 12,000 sq ft gallery space.
The exhibition’s title, R.U.R. comes from Rossum’s Universal Robots, the 1921 Czech play by Karel Capek’s that first coined the word ‘robot’. Rossum’s Universal Robots gave life to the concept of the artificial man, the tireless worker who also, in their conflicted inhumanity, became rebellious and worked instead to overthrow their masters. The nine artists in R.U.R. will look at the role of direct work in the creation of the art object, the meaning of craft and the hand in the age of mechanical reproduction. Like the ‘robots’ in Rossum’s Universal Robots, these site-specific works question the manufacture of human identity inherent in the notion of work, and seek to understand whether the construction of identity in humans is as artificial as that of the ‘robot’; a reflexive analysis of the construction of identity in inanimate objects.
Kimberly Ellen Greene and Amy Ritter work with ceramics and blown glass: Greene with hand-made objects that mimic the reproducible industrial atom, while Ritter’s glass sculptures create from the human form in ways that are both obvious and willfully obscure. Katie Murken, working with the ‘raw material’ of the Yellow Pages phone books, has creates Continua, a towering monumental essay in recycling, standardization and color theory. Craft connects to identity in Pritika Chowdhry’s meticulous latex casts. Working in both The Soap Factory’s C20th industrial spaces and on the monuments to the 1947 Partition in the Indian Subcontinent (Pakistan, India and Bangladesh), these casts retain every detail of the stone, brick and wood surfaces, a plea for understanding the human microcosm of the great political events that shaped the last century.
Isabelle Hayeur’s monumental immersive photographs similarly use the micro in an attempt to encapsulate the macro, her submerged images examining the consequence of C20th industrialization across North America. Nadine Anderson’s work looks to the future of human identity though a languorous examination of her own fabricated and dreamed identity in video and photograph. Ceramicist Dustin Yager examines notions of a created self, gender and identity through the fabrication and use/misuse of found and made ceramic pitchers and their own societally fabricated identities of domesticity and utility.
Colin Lyons creates a simulacrum of industrial labor in a machine powered by the discards of artist’s craft — copper etching plates — and continues the laborious and ultimately futile industrial processes of The Soap Factory building. Judith Hoffman takes the totality of The Soap Factory as her work, letting sculpture mimic architecture, history distorting our building, as it distorts humanity itself, a work mirroring the new housing development that will surround The Soap Factory from the summer of 2013.