Trots and Bonnie

Allen Glatter

Opening reception: Saturday, January 28, 6 – 8 pm
January 28 – March 11, 2012

Selected Works

For immediate release

Rawson Projects is pleased to announce an exhibition of new sculptures by Allen Glatter. Born in 1967, Glatter received his BFA from Pratt Institute and currently lives and works in Brooklyn. A conversation between the gallery and the artist follows.

Rawson Projects: First, can you discuss a little bit about the process you use to create the drawings and the sculptures? The drawings, in particular, are unique in that they are produced by a semi-mechanical process. Can you discuss this process a little bit, and how you developed your technique?

Allen Glatter: Sure. About five years ago I was in a bookstore in Los Angeles, and I found a book that described this device called a harmonograph that was popular in the Victorian era. It was a form of entertainment, and it was used to make drawings with pendulums. I just found it absolutely fascinating, and I made one. You would recognize the kind of drawings if you saw them. They are kind of quasi-scientific, and look like an x-ray of a seashell. I just thought there was really something interesting there, so I started playing around with it and making some drawings. Then I realized if this was going to become something it has to actually become something - that these drawings could potentially describe space, and be a kind of a blueprint for making sculpture.

At the time I was talking with a friend of mine, Philip Ording, who’s a mathematician, and we just went back and forth about the possibility of how you could flesh this idea out and make sculpture. Philip made some really critical suggestions that led to wire models and eventually to the sculpture in the gallery now.

RP: So there’s a definite relationship between the drawings and the sculptures. Would you describe the drawings as studies, or would you consider them as separate but related bodies of work?

AG: I think, in one way, that they are two separate autonomous bodies of work. On the other hand, I see a direct transference of information from the drawings to the sculpture. In other words, I make the drawings because I really enjoy making the drawings, but when I’m thinking about what direction the sculpture can take, I really look to the drawings in terms of the quality of the line. The sculptures really, more than anything else, are about the quality of the line, how fast it is, the speed, the rate, the radius, these are all things that are really directly informed from making and looking critically at the drawings.

RP: The drawings themselves are two-dimensional, so how and why did you translate that work into a third dimension?

AG: The way that the pendulums worked was that they make a drawing based on frequency, and they function like an oscilloscope functions. It makes a drawing on X and a Y axes and there are a lot of variables. You can change the frequency, which is basically how fast the pendulum is swinging. I really didn’t want to get too hung up on the pendulum.

I guess the question was what is the Z-axis. Again, this is something that came from having long conversations with Philip. He suggested that the Z was time. We imagined that, instead of making a drawing that exists on a flat plane, the drawing actually moves through space as I am making it. Once we talked about that, it opened up a whole other way of thinking about it. For me, what’s rewarding about this problem is that at each step you have to reassess the goal and the criteria.

There’s someone else who was really critical in helping me get the sculptures where they are, and that’s Dave Stanavich who’s a master fabricator. I brought the problem to Dave, and he made several suggestions that allowed me to be working with the process that I’m working with now. It was challenging because again every step of the way I had to exceed my comfort level and was forced to learn about new processes and skills. As a result of that collaborative effort, the sculptures improved not only in form but in content as well.

RP: Finally, if you could talk a little bit about the title of the exhibition. I remember when you first started discussing it you talked about Trots and Bonnie and your relationship with it growing up during that period of time.

AG: There’s a story about what the cartoons were about, and there’s a story about my relationship to them. When I’m working on these pieces, I give them a working title, so I can just refer to them. I have a file on my computer for them. I could be reading something or listening to a song, and I’ll call it whatever. So these pieces were called Trots and Bonnie. Trots and Bonnie was a comic strip. When I first became aware of it, it was in the mid ‘70s, and it was by Shary Flenniken. It appeared in National Lampoon. It was a narrative comic strip about the relationship between a girl and her dog.

The girl was a teenager, and, because it was the ‘70s, they were talking about their relationship. The content was smoking dope and getting your period and how square your parents were - a lot of stuff. I was probably ten years old at the time, and I really had no business being interested in those topics in the first place. But somehow I found the style of the way that it was drawn and the dynamic between Trots and Bonnie compelling.

The other thing was that, when I was growing up, in addition to living with my parents, I lived with my grandparents. We had a two family house. I was very close with my grandfather in particular. He was an audiophile, and his job was repairing and building things like hi-fi and musical audio equipment. He had hundreds of hours of classical music on reel to reel. As a consequence of these endeavors, and his job - he worked with a lot of young rock and roll guys, I would occasionally go to work with him, and he would bring home 8-track tapes of Edgar Winter and The Rolling Stones and the Stooges. He would also occasionally bring home copies of National Lampoon, and that was totally inappropriate for someone who was seven, eight, nine, ten years old.

But it was an interesting time. You look back on it now and National Lampoon was straddling the ‘60s counter culture and ‘70s punk. That was the contradiction. So I guess in a way Trots and Bonnie is about that contradiction. I think it is apparent in the work in the gallery - the contradiction between something that’s rigorous and abstract and yet playful and light. It’s also about my relationship with my grandfather.