Artist Scott Bye is well-known for creating sculptures out of ordinary, sometimes even mundane objects. He takes the detritus of our everyday lives, the bits and pieces of things that we take for granted and gives them new meaning and purpose. His latest show at Big Orbit Gallery, “Turbine,” is a massive sculpture created from simple shipping palettes; the ordinary, gridlike, wooden constructs that aid in transporting millions of consumer goods every day. In combining these palettes together, Bye creates arcs, twists and undulating, serpentlike waves that dominate the gallery space.
The palettes that are the building blocks of “Turbine” are barely altered or refined in any way by the artist. As a way to remind the viewer of the object’s original purpose, as a rather ordinary tool of the manufacturing world, the unfinished, raw wood of the palette is left visible and the original shape intact, highlighting the remarkable evolution of the palettes, from staid, utilitarian objects into abstract expressions of energy and movement. The elaborate composition of the resulting sculpture seems all the more miraculous when you consider that the rigid, linear structure of the palette, when strategically layered one upon the other, is what creates the assemblage’s many spirals and curves. The contrast between the linear, gridlike form of the palette versus the curvilinear shapes of the sculpture is quite remarkable and shows the keen compositional eye of the artist.
Using basic linear forms as the compositional foundation for paintings and sculptures was of paramount importance for many abstract artists throughout the 20th century and now. The grid, as characterized by parallel and perpendicular lines, was essential to artists like Piet Mondrian, whose work is revered for its distillation of experience into abstracted gridlike images. Artists have utilized the grid with varying intentions and to many different ends, but it has proven to be a powerful tool in the annals of art history. Similarly, Bye utilizes the power of the palette’s linear form and uses it, not only as the foundation of his work, but as a means to resurrect the object from obsolescence, thus breathing new life into something that would otherwise have been discarded.
The very title, “Turbine,” further underscores the transformative nature of Bye’s work. The turbine, an essential invention of the Industrial Revolution, is responsible for change and transformation, essentially taking energy from one source and converting it into a more usable form. Like the turbine, Bye harnesses the unseen dynamic potential of the ordinary shipping palette and converts it into a building block of soaring sculptural abstraction, monumental in size and elegant in its fluid contours.
Not only does “Turbine” exude movement, but it is the catalyst that compels viewers to move about the piece. One simply cannot stand still for very long when confronted with “Turbine.” The need to keep changing position and perspective is essential in order to fully absorb the dynamic, multidimensional nature of Bye’s work.
What: “Turbine: Scott Bye”
When: Through Aug. 31
Where: Big Orbit Project Space, 30D Essex St.