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Public Art - Table of Contents

2015 Photos
"The Canoes" - "Stainless Steel, Aluminum, Monochrome I, Built to Live Anywhere, at Home Here"

By Nancy Rubins

Nancy Rubins
was born in Naples, Texas, raised in Tullahoma, Tennessee, and studied at the Maryland Institute, College of Art, Baltimore (BFA, 1974) and the University of California, Davis (MFA, 1976).
Her work is included in many major museum collections.
She lives and works in Topanga Canyon, California.

Big Bold Boats - and a Win for the Albright-Knox
By Elizabeth Licata
Buffalo Spree (online Jan. 2015)

Aluminum canoes are actually a conservative choice for artist Nancy Rubins, who in the past has used electrical appliances, airplane parts, mattresses, water heaters, and - most recently - colorful kayaks for her monumental sculptures. Rubins is notorious for her ambitious repurposing - one of her most dramatic creations involved 10,000 pounds of mattresses and 1,000 pounds of cake, bound together by wire and suspended from the ceiling of the Whitney Museum in New York. Another mammoth construction - this time at MoMA - consisted of 10,000 pounds of salvaged airplane parts, also bound with wire and defying gravity.

Despite its huge size and its use of what some might consider unorthodox media (60-plus silver canoes), the sculpture is pure formality. It is not about boats, water, or salvage. There is no environmental message. It is a beautiful explosion of vaguely organic forms, alive with dynamic tension. Like some of the other abstract works outside of the museum, it transforms its raw materials and challenges the viewer to see the extraordinary within the ordinary. (But it's more fun.)

The Albright-Knox’s Nancy Rubins Triumph
By Tyler Green
August 23, 2011
BlouinArtInfo (online Jan. 2015)

Rubins’ eye-catching sculpture is a controlled explosion of shining boats held together by stainless-steel wire. In part because of their icy silver color, the canoes appear frozen in place, about to burst outward or fall to the ground. A couple of times while standing across the street from the Rubins I realized that I was holding my breath, waiting for the sculpture to finish whatever action seemed to be going on. I had to remind myself that the work isn’t kinetic.

Stainless Steel is the latest Rubins to press 21st-century chaos upon late 20th-century sculpture, to reject the rigor of Donald Judd’s shapes and surfaces or Kenneth Snelson’s orderly and carefully calibrated forms. Judd and Snelson’s work inspires a very particular kind of wonder and admiration: How can their objects be so meticulously perfect?

Rubins’ work, especially this Albright-Knox sculpture and its bombastic cousin at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, forces a viewer to wonder how such imperfection came together - and how it holds together. Rubins’ best pieces - and this is one of her absolute best -  inspire a motivating sense of wonder: As I walked around ‘The Canoes,’ I tried to figure out how it ‘worked,’ what held it together. Sure, the piece has a sturdy base and lots of apparently high-tension wire that holds the individual canoes in place. But still, how the heck…

Part of Stainless Steel’s presence comes from the way it plays off of the Albright’s 1905 Edward B. Green building, a heavy, grounded, orderly neo-classical pile.  One is button-down, the other bursts.

Nancy Rubins' New Sculpture in Front of the Albright-Knox
By Charlotte Hsu
June 22, 2011
ArtVoice (online Jan. 2015)

A voluminous sculpture of about 60 tangled, aluminum boats has been turning heads skyward since construction started on June 6 at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Planted on a lawn in the middle of a looped driveway off Elmwood Avenue, the web of mostly canoes rises like a tree, with watercraft bursting like silver branches atop a stainless steel armature.

The sculpture, by Southern Californian Nancy Rubins, is most certainly art. For three decades, Rubins has been joining televisions, mattresses, airplane parts, and other objects into awesome, mushrooming constructs.

Other boat-based works by Rubins include Big Edge, a firework-like bloom of some 200 vessels that she erected in Las Vegas in 2009, and Big Pleasure Point, a playful conglomeration of rowboats, kayaks, canoes, sailboats, surfboards, windsurf boards, and more that she exhibited in New York City during the summer of 2006.

The Vegas and New York displays—built, respectively, on the grounds of the multi-hotel resort and urban community CityCenter and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts—exploded with color.

The Albright-Knox assemblage, in contrast, is a more subdued silver, endowing the collage of boats with an industrial feel that seems more in line with Buffalo’s history as a steel and factory town.

Rubins, however, says she has no agenda when it comes to what viewers should take away from her work. As she told the Las Vegas Sun in 2009, “I’m not really a message artist. That’s not my job. My job is to make it so people can bring to it whatever they have got going, for the viewer to have their own interpretation.”

Pesanti said the artist does not know precisely how many vessels are in the assemblage. Between 55 and 60 - all canoes, with the exception of maybe a couple of rowboats - is a best guess.

At the Albright-Knox, in her signature style, Rubins has made many of her creative decisions about composition on the spot; she has previously compared her process to arranging flowers (but with boats, of course).

Engineered to withstand conditions from wind to blizzards, her newest sculpture is not necessarily delicate. But the canopy of vessels has a certain grace. Many look as if they’ve been caught in mid-motion, twisting or flying on some invisible wave. The canoes, all used, bear the nicks and scratches of a carefree life on the river.

It is possible to see any number of emotions in Rubins’ bouquet of pleasure craft. Aloft, the boats are heavy but exquisite, gritty but light as air. Tied together, the vessels seem explosive, yet somehow playful, too.
Jan. 2015 Photos

August 2011 Photos

Photos and their arrangement 2015 Chuck LaChiusa
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