Artist Amelia Bauer’s playful approach to the subject of ruins—ancient and contemporary—acts as a perceptual leveling device in her series On Ruins.
Santa Fe | ameliabauer.com | @ameliabauer
Amelia Bauer’s series On Ruins (2020-21) is a disorienting visual experience of confused scale and perspective. The artist’s playful approach to the subject of ruins—ancient and contemporary—acts as a perceptual leveling device. Mammoth cinder blocks rest next to a free-floating wooden house frame that intersects at an impossible angle with a deteriorating Roman column in a scene that has ambiguous dimensionality. The use of scale and dimension in this body of work speaks to the often arbitrary value placed on the cultures of certain time periods, such as Classical antiquity. When something as lowly as a cinderblock occupies the same confusing space as a Roman column, who’s to say one has more value than the other?
Bauer implements a multi-stage process of mediation to break down the barriers between two and three dimensions. In the first stage, she begins in the third dimension with small architectural sculptures that are then photographed in a studio. In the second stage of mediation, the work exists as a flattened image in the form of an archival print. Next, Bauer cuts out the forms from their backgrounds and prints them onto aluminum and foam core which are arranged into three-dimensional installations. For viewers of the work in a gallery setting, this is the final stage. Since mediation is at the core of this work, an additional stage could be considered: the photo documentation of the installation–a flat image of objects that hold both two- and three-dimensional qualities.
The work brings to mind the grainy black-and-white photos found in mid-century art history books—great monuments reduced down to tiny representations. The rhetoric of Walter Benjamin suggests that those reproductions reduce the “value” of the monuments. Bauer, in contrast, harnesses the power of mediation to reshape what can be considered monumental.