Emerging artist Brandon Bultman’s large-scale sculptures prompt investigation as they often provoke a variety of responses ranging from an initial playful engagement to a much deeper psychological inquiry. In his first ambitions 2012 Robischon Gallery solo exhibition, Bultman created a sculpture made from a decaying, overturned 1959 Buick station wagon. The upturned rusted vehicle was planted with native grasses which symbolized the inevitable cyclical renewal and the acknowledgment that growth often follows even the most catastrophic, upending events. For “Aphelion,” Bultman expands on such universal themes of humanity’s place within the larger order and humankind’s quest for essential meaning. The four imposing sculptures of the exhibition are actual water buoys that the artist altered and designed. The large grey and black forms, one seemingly weightless and hovering, are placed together so that considered movement must be undertaken within the gallery space to take in or meet each work. The discovery of the text on the forms shifts the focus into a consideration of the compelling prompts posed by the artist. In their original incarnation, Bultman’s inflated conical forms serve as directional sailboat race lane-makers directing order where the sky meets the water. In the confines of the gallery, the sculptures serve to impose a directive or attention toward a more expansive path – one that is philosophically vast.
As research for the series, Bultman examined author Eugene Thacker’s assertions from In the Dust of This Planet including the three ways of interpreting the world: 1) the world-for-us, or the world in which we live; 2) the world-in-itself, or the inaccessible world that we then turn into the world-for-us; and 3) the world-without-us, or the spectral and speculative world. Thacker notes, "The world-without-us allows us to think the world-in-itself may co-exist with the world-for-us—indeed the human being is defined for its impressive capacity for not recognizing this distinction. By contrast the world-without-us is the subtraction of the human from the world." Moved by these ideas, Bultman was further inspired by the definitions to the words APHELION and APOGEE. Respectively defined as the farthest away from the sun and the farthest away from the earth, aphelion and apogee primarily derive their meaning from the proximity of celestial or man-made objects in space. In Bultman’s order, the same terms are amplified in meaning when considering the charged pronoun “we” along with the accompanying sculptures in relationship such as, the forms labeled APATHY, a word connoting a blind eye to humanity’s problems and MORTAL AGONY, a moment filled with suffering in contrast to the perceived stillness of death. Signaling a kind of ultimate in human experience, perhaps as its wake-up, Bultman calls to the personal within reality. He states, “Pain is a reminder that we are very much alive; it is body consciousness in its most urgent form.” In a unique position, the APATHY sculpture is the only unmoored work, able to move with the currents around it, as much of the world might at times be forced to follow other psychological paths including those of fear. Bultman states further, “Our inability to comprehend the finitude of our own existence within the black seas of the infinite universe is a constant source of cosmic dread; as a fear of the unknown.” In offering the associative words and phrases on objects used as directional markers, Bultman ignites inquiry into the heart of the human condition as he acknowledges a shared dilemma. His directional objects possess a kind of admonition to balance nihilist and pessimistic thinking with intervention and correction. It is the persistent buoyancy of Bultman sculptures that in the end affirm optimism; a metaphor for an insistent belief in the human ability to shift back into balance after disequilibrium, once its course location is realized and the larger truths are revealed.