Crystal Wagner: Surface Tension

Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art
Apr 11, 2016 4:57PM

This spring the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) presents Crystal Wagner: Surface Tension. For this exhibition, Wagner created the site specific installation, Alluvion. This swirling behemoth has taken over the gallery in which it resides. Spilling out from the ceiling and pouring down over twenty five feet to the gallery below. This complex structure gets its form from quotidian objects. Chicken wire and thin sheets of colored plastic, like disposable tablecloths, give the structure form and shape. Wagner weaves them onto a wire armature where they take on a life of their own. Like all her installations, Alluvion maintains a strange, anthropomorphic quality. They mimic the natural world as they creep, stretch and grow in, around and through their environments. It feels like a rushing river or waterfall.

To experience Alluvion is to be in the moment. The artist directs the movement of the viewer.  The artist used MOCA’s unusual architecture as the substrate for the installation. Upon first encountering the work, you look up, craning your neck to see where the work originates in the ceiling. Moving around the piece requires an awareness of feet and body placement. The holes in the structure creates a dappled effect on the floor. The sheer size and amount of soft plastic muffles sound. Pausing underneath the piece provides a moment of near silent reflection. Wagner directs every moment with her strong use of line. For her, mark-making extends beyond the flat planes of traditional surfaces. With both her installations and her sculpture, she uses line to explore scale, mass, and surface.

The artist works within several disciplines. She began as, and still is, a printmaker. Wagner prints the paper that she uses for her smaller sculptures, the terrariums. Deep, wood shadow boxes house delicate, cut paper sculptures. Like their namesakes, the sculptures are dynamic and alive. They seem fragile, yet ready to burst from their confines. Throughout, Wagner’s creations have an aggressive physical presence; color and form that insist on interaction and reconciliation.

Crystal Wagner lives and works in Harrisburg, PA. She received her MFA from the University of Tennessee and her BFA from the Atlanta College of Art.  Her exhibition schedule includes growing large-scale installations all over the United States. Past installations include Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (Grand Rapids, MI), National Museum of Singapore, Singapore and in Times Square, NYC. Wagner is a recipient of the 2015 Pollock-Krasner Grant. She is represented by Hashimoto Contemporary, San Francisco, CA.

—Heather Hakimzadeh, Curator, Virginia MOCA

This exhibition will be on view at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art until April 17, 2016.

Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art