The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston is pleased to present a new site-specific work by Houston-based sculptor Joseph Havel. For the third installation in CAMH’s Art on the Lawn series, Havel has created an “endless column” of books. Endless (2013), made from books cast in bronze and resin, emerges from the centerpiece of the Museum’s lawn, the Ballard Fountain. The column of books, cast from a stack of Sotheby's auction catalogues among others, stands almost 20 feet high and gradually transitions from bronze to translucent resin. Join CAMH on Friday, July 19, for the official debut of Endless during the opening reception for Graphic Design—Now in Production, 7-9PM.
Havel has been concerned with how social and political histories become intertwined with his own personal life and artistic practice. For several decades he has concerned himself with the balance between biography and larger historical frameworks, particularly as it relates to the history of modernism—something that he often references in his work. Havel cites both Romanian-born sculptor Constantin Brâncuși’s (1876-1957) well-known The Column of the Infinite (1938), popularly known as The Endless Column, as well as the Bernini altar columns at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City for the overall form of Endless.
Working in bronze, fiber, and resin, Havel’s sculptures often infuse the coolness of minimalism with personal narrative. His ongoing series using personalized labels arranged in geometric patterns speak to issues of loss, desire, and longing. Alternatively, his lithe sculptural series created by cascading columns of collars and cuffs denote a sort of self-portraiture and the universal ideas of the deconstruction or taking apart of man.
Most recently, Havel has begun engaging other aspects of his personal self into the work by casting books found in his library, choosing those that relate closely to his own artistic practice. The use of the book, especially auction catalogues, in Havel’s work is a recent development over the past three years. The artist states, “The predominant use of books in my work addresses the construction of history as a personalized fiction or fable.” Working alternatively between bronze and a lighter translucent resin, Havel’s column of books cast from Sotheby auction catalogues, books on art history and sculpture, and those inherited from his parents create endless columns of personal memory, obtained knowledge, and private pleasures.
Regarding his decision to install the sculpture in CAMH’s Ballard Fountain, Havel states, “From the beginning I thought a stack of transparent books rising from the middle of the fountain was conceptually and visually the most interesting. It really is the most coherent and, in a strange way, subversive installation of the book sculptures as it emphasizes the area clearly designed to be public use space.” In his use of the fountain as a base, Havel defies expectations of sculpture and its histories, evoking new ways of seeing and experiencing sculpture as both concept and form. As such, the artist provides viewers with new and expanded ways to discuss sculpture from the perspective of history as well as humor, gravitas, and lightness.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
A Minneapolis native, Joseph Havel moved to Houston in 1991 to join the staff of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Glassell School of Art where he serves as director. Havel’s sculptures and drawings have been exhibited extensively in Europe and in the United States, including at the Whitney Biennial 2000. His work has been exhibited extensively in Europe and the United States, including exhibitions at Hiram Butler Gallery, Houston; Talley Dunn Gallery, Dallas; Yvon Lambert Gallery, New York; and Galerie Gabrielle Maubrie, Paris, among many others. His work is in many museum collections, including the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; S.M.A.K. Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent, Belgium; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Two large bronze panels commissioned by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston frame the doorway to the Audrey Jones Beck Building. Havel was recently named the 2013 Texas State Visual Artist 3D by the Texas Commission on the Arts. Havel has a BFA in Studio Arts from the University of Minnesota and an MFA from Penn State University.
Below is an audio excerpt from a discussion between artist Joseph Havel and CAMH Senior Curator Lynn M. Herbert. The larger discussion took place during the 1993 CAMH exhibition 3D Rupture: Dave Darraugh, Shannon Engelstein, Joseph Havel, and Annete Lawrence.