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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Facing North: Katinka Bock's Intimacy With the Faraway

Posted by on Sat, Feb 8, 2014 at 10:01 AM

You can see this art by Katinka Bock at the Henry Art Gallery. It involves a rubbing of Roman ruins, and vandals in France.

Katinka Bock makes parts of her art in an art studio. She makes other parts in other places altogether. Other parts she gathers, like a magpie, acquiring objects that have their own shiny biographies, then combining these bits with her ceramics, bronze casts, and wood carvings. At the Henry Art Gallery, where the Paris-based, German-born artist is now having her first solo exhibition in the United States, the list of materials includes an I beam dredged up from Elliott Bay, an iron ball and chain used to test the depth of actual chimneys hidden behind walls in France, and a soccer ball found on the side of a Seattle road.

You may lose patience with Bock before you even begin if you're a purist, someone who doesn't want the objects mucked with exterior information, stories, realms. Then again, the severe simplicity of Bock's art is, on the surface, not unlike the European abstraction of sculptors going back decades. Especially the wood carvings, human-height sentinels with subtle depressions in their bellies and on their backs that help them balance without pedestals, and make them warm and living. On their skins are storms of hash marks. Drawings of motions. In other words, the objects have presence.

But they carry strong absences with them, too.

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