Revealing the act of creation through one’s work has been a central aspect in the oeuvre of many influential and revered artists. Pollock worked quite literally within the canvas, making each drop of paint evidence of his presence. Helen Frankenthaler exposed the process of her “stain-and-soaks.” In recent years, the art world has become much more product-based and commercial fetishes have soared. In some cases, the process is revealed insomuch as the work appears ad hoc and unfinished. Thankfully, the beauty of the process is yet skillfully emphasized in the work of some artists, such as RobRoy Chalmers.
RobRoy Chalmers’ installation and pieces displayed at Swing reveals an exquisite attention to detail and spatial orientation. Chalmers is a skilled printmaker and a few of his prints are also on display, but some may not realize that the small strips and loops that form his wandering sculptural works are cut from imperfect prints. What might be considered useless is salvaged and gives each fragment of his artwork a unique texture and design. The idea of process art is quite prevalent in Chalmers work as the ripping and tearing of the prints turn his work into a sort of meditative process. Chalmers explains that the process of collecting and creating the individual elements takes many, many more hours than the actual installation. The layers of elements, meanwhile, reveal an expert intuition for composition whose development could only be measured in years, not hours.
The pieces at Swing take various forms. Some are contained within handcrafted frames while others are site specific—their forms responding to the lighting and the wall on which they are pinned. “They” is an apt pronoun, as Chalmers’ pieces take on a life of their own through their organic, fluid nature as well as the sense of multiplicity within each work. The largest piece at Swing hovers on the wall to the right of the entrance. Its seemingly spontaneous shape sprawls onto the neighboring wall in an almost spider-like form. There is a transitory nature to the pieces, as each time the work is installed a different design or vision is created by Chalmers. This idea evokes a resonance with its peculiar time a place, a reflection of the artist’s investment and a sense of individuality. The protruding pins and print materials project shadows on the wall, expanding the work from two to three dimensions and back again with the changing light.
The majority of Chalmers’ pieces at Swing are those encased within frames, which act as encapsulations of time and space fundamentally different from Chalmers’ installations, as they are not as transient in nature. Their forms are fixed, yet are filled with a similar spontaneity. Some of these framed pieces incorporate larger, twisting elements—still woven from printed matter—are reminiscent of wood veneer. Veneer, and sometimes regular pieces of wood, through a process of steaming, can be shaped into similar sculpted designs. Through this association, Chalmers’ pieces take on a further materiality, beyond that of paper and pins.
Chalmers mentions Kiki Smith as an influencing factor in the development of his desire to use his background in printmaking to construct more sculptural pieces. The transformation of printmaking—the traditional foundation for masters such as Dürer and Daumier—into contemporary sculptures that are transformative in their own right creates an alluring dichotomy, as well as a material and artistic narrative. The pieces showcased exhibit Chalmers’ attention to detail, process and space and enable the viewer to see beyond the dimensions of the installation.
Swing salon is located at 2423 E Union Street.