The wiggle of a worm is as important as the assassination of a president.
I first experienced Tony Feher’s work walking one of the long aisles of an art fair, my eyes drawn to a collection of glass jars with their colored metal lids assembled in multiple stacks of varying heights, sitting just shy of sitting on the carpeted floor except for atop a low plinth to signal fair goers to watch their step. It was beautiful in its honesty and its simplicity of material and composition. The stacks of jars accentuated the clarity of the vessels and the color of the horizontal lines of the lids. It made me smile and laugh in amazement. That sculpture had sass and it was tough.
Several years later Tony once again shook me from my art fair trance. Among the dissonance of people and art, I noticed a simple line along the exterior wall of one of the gallery booths. It was “drawn” with yellow, blue, green, white and red colored plastic pushpins stuck into the wall about hip height and each a stride apart. My earlier hypnotic state became focused delight and wonderment. Following this wonky line back and forth along the wall, it was a beautiful gesture with colored “five and dime” bulletin board pushpins.
The best art of our era employs a shocking simplicity of means and an emphasis on the values of quietude. Such works prove to be profound catalysts for reflection and visual pleasure.
Fast forward to the present, the lumber room, Portland Oregon. Tony is working with 1″ width blue painters tape, transforming an entire wall of windows totaling 48 feet in length and 8 feet in height into a mosaic of blue light. Thousands of pieces of blue tape torn and fixed on the window surface. The light is ethereal and yet palpable as it suffuses every surface of the lumber room. Standing close within the blue light of the windows I am reminded of similar sensation felt when entering a James Turrell gandzfeld, I am soothed by the light. Yet, at times I can’t stop myself from wanting to turn it off, wondering who left the TV on!
1″ width blue tape, a material often used to mark flaws, a mark to draw attention. Initially, Tony had marked each wall in the “yard” with a piece of blue tape at its center. In this case it was not marking flaws, but seemingly breaking the large expanse of white and bringing the walls into the space. Or was it marking territory, Tony staking claim to the space? Those initial markings were replaced with a row of frosted clear plastic grocery bags turned inside out and “poofed”. Advancing across two walls each with a single piece of blue tape fixing them in place at Tony’s reach and a pace apart, a breath at each step.
During Tony’s residence the lumber room became a laboratory of trial and error, an alchemical stirring of materials and ideas. Dying rose blooms on the patio were plucked for their aroma and put into a homemade aerator made of two colanders face-to-face and sealed with blue tape. A silver
emergency blanket unfolded and affixed to the wall with two pieces of blue tape, its surface vertically striated by the folds of being compactly packaged. A second emergency blanket scrunched into a silvery bloom on the wall. Nearby the blue painters tape takes a new appearance in the shape of a giant’s thumbprint, the tape roughly torn into one inch pieces and fixed with a flair and confidence of a seasoned artist fully understanding the choice of his/her materials. Florescent pink plastic tape (the kind used to mark trees to be cut in the forest or delineate a line not to be crossed) fixed to the sprinkler pipe near the ceiling with a piece of blue painters tape. Just a few streamers at first until more rolls arrived to extend the pink striated surface further across the pipe and space. I can’t help but think of Daniel Buren and that it just fine. Like Buren’s striped works, the pink stripes integrate the visual surface and architectural space.
A line drawn of translucent pink plastic beads strung on fishing line transects the space between the blue light of the windows and the hot pink of the plastic stripes. It gradates blue to pink as it travels across the space, rising into the ceiling (affixed with blue tape) and dipping close to the floor. Tony states, “the pink beads mitigate between and merge the two different colors of light into one. Evidenced by the tiny inverted blue image of the window wall contained within. The bead in reality is a tiny optical device, think crystal ball. The streamers glow so brightly because they are dancing in their particular wavelength of light pouring in from the skylight thus making visible something that otherwise goes unseen”.
The sleeper amongst it all, the work that is incrementally emerging from its shyness, is a silver line traveling straight up the 14 foot wall in the entrance, from the concrete floor, up and over the wall, meeting you again in the stairwell. Quickly dismissed as a line of silver ribbon, but on close
Tony Feher, raised in Corpus Christi, Texas, received a BA from the University of Texas, and currently resides in New York City. Feher’s work can be found in the collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim of Museum and Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois.
An in-depth retrospective organized by Claudia Schmuckli, Director and Chief Curator of the Blaer Art Museum at the University of Houston, premiered at the Des Moines Art Center in 2012, and traveled to the Blaer At Museum, the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, MA and the Bronx Museum of the Arts. The exhibition is currently on view at the Akron Art Museum through August 1. A fully illustrated monograph published by Gregory R. Miller & Co. was published to accompany the survey.
This exhibition is organized with the help and guidance of Lucien Terras Inc, NYC. Feher is represented by Sikkema Jenkins & Co., NY and Anthony Meier Fine Arts, San Francisco.
scrutiny reveals itself to be silver glitter stuck to scotch tape, a gesture of sparkling brilliance.
The materials, blue painters tape, plastic grocery bags, glitter and tape, glitter and flattened pain relief boxes, emergency blankets, exist as themselves, their given form and color unchanged. It is all in the manner and mind of Tony’s aesthetic that their ordinariness becomes powerfully affecting.
People are looking all the time, but I don’t think they’re seeing anything. And I think that’s not true with just a piece of art that’s in front of them, but in a larger cultural sense. Our lives are shrouded in myths and superstition and prejudice. If you can accept a soda bottle with condensation on the inside as a work of art, then maybe that’s a way of seeing a broader picture, or of seeing the world from a different point of view.
Sarah Miller Meigs
Founder and Director of the lumber room