Ruckus logoThe second floor gallery space of KMAC Museum, a white wall gallery space with shiny black wood floors, on which present 4-5 floor standing abstract sculptures of various soft and hard materials including but not limited to, rusted steel, pillows, fabric, insulation, and concrete. A bright white-blue glow fills the back of the room nearest a window facing the street.
Above: Install of Before It Falls Apart. All photos courtesy of KMAC Museum.
︎ KMAC Museum, Louisville

Before It Falls Apart


Review
Brittany J. Thurman


From the fragility of our own lives to the structures that surround us, the brink of collapse is as close as this moment, as far away as tomorrow. In our own cities, porches, backyards, street corners, we have seen fragments of items that used to be. A child’s ball that was once kicked over a fence now rests on a roof, forgotten. A seat is missing its cushion, one that may have sat many children for countless lunches. Or there are the chains that once held up a porch swing. Today, they are only rust metal chains, painted.

Kiah Celeste, who works in a collection of mediums, uses the concept of procuring once useful items and objects, repurposing them into sculptural works of art that bear new meaning. Before It Falls Apart, on view at KMAC Museum in Louisville, Kentucky until November 7th, 2021, is Celeste’s current exhibition. Before It Falls Apart spans a range of items placed together, each crafted into a new sculpture, sparking a fresh perspective. The exhibition simultaneously highlights photography in which Celeste is the subject, suspended in a moment amongst and inside objects.

Between the floor and ceiling, objects are assembled into sculptural formations. The components of each sculpture were once singular items, unique with their own traits. Metal cylinders. Rough rectangular bricks. Smooth cushions and protective sandbags. Each equally simple and brief as they emerge into our view. Two large cylinders, perhaps once pipes, now rusted, compose Etage 3 (2021). Cylinders and circles, spears and coils repeat in Celeste’s work, be it sculpture or photography. Situated on top of solid, thick stone, the cylinders support sandbags which rest firmly between them. Viceversa, the sandbags support each cylinder. This is a reminder of how easy it is to take for granted what holds us together. The maternal figure that we assume will always be there, the mortar between bricks that we hope will always hold, until one day it does not.

In Crimson Press (2021), two square blocks lay parallel, with a single red cushion between them. The weight of each block bears down, pressing the cushion. The bright red is a contrast to the light, tan blocks. With the weight on top and underneath, the cushion edges spread and spill, replicating an overflow of plasma. This is due to the precise edges of the blocks cutting into the cushion, like a knife. It is a visualization of what happens when pressure cannot be released. There is no stepping in to remove the blocks pressing the cushion. The feeling of the weight of the world hovers in the air, with the only option being to give in.

On the wall is a single short green chain which holds four long tubes. This is Recess (2021). The four tubes playfully cascade over each other, one side slouches short, the other long. Uneven and on the brink of collapse, it seems as if it is only a matter of time before all four tubes slide out of position. Any given moment.

While the sculptures seem to rise out of the floor and take up delicate space on the wall, they each leave a presence. The room given to walk between is small but sufficient. The body is aware of the sculptures which surround it. Careful movement and consideration is given to where to place the next step. This is often what happens when we are in spaces where there are a lot of things. Spaces, such as a child’s room, or a cluttered library. But also the places we tread lightly, delicately deciding where we stand or how we move. Mentally, we are aware of when we make the sculpture ourselves. Resolute and firm, but also small.

Three compressible, round objects sit in an almost circle. This is In Good Company (2021), each round object is confined, suffocated by forklift tires that trap them around the middle. Malleable, multicolored tubes emerge from the floor in My Arms About You, (2021). They stand thick as they lean against and bend over each other, reminiscent of overgrown grass. Each one a little taller, or thicker than the next. They hover over a thinner, blue tube whose upper body is bent forward and low. This is a reminder that over the past almost two years, from the beginning of 2020 until now, we have all been supported in one way or another. Through the smallest gesture of a head nod and eyes that acknowledge your presence. Through gifts of homemade dinners and an extra bill paid. There are those who will look out for us when we are in need.

Adjacent to the sculptures are self-portraits by Celeste. These photographs, representative of her body as subject, line the walls of the exhibition space next to the sculptures. The photography in Before It Falls Apart was sparked by inspiration from two multi-disciplined artists: Senga Nengudi and Erwin Wurm.

In the array of black and white photos, Celeste uses herself to take the place of solid objects typically seen in sculpture. In Contingent Sculpture 7.10 (2021), she poses in a black bodysuit, in between her arms and legs are stark white golf balls. These round objects typically seen in movement are still. With the golf balls held in place firmly by Celeste’s stance, there is a feeling each one could drop, bounce, causing chaos and noise in a moment that’s calm.

In Contingent Sculpture 2 (2021),Celeste is confined in a box, its sides a window for us to view her silhouette, legs extending from the open box top. The sharp, ballet-like movement of one foot stretched to the ceiling is reminiscent of the work of Senga Nengudi. Nengudi, who uses found objects such as worn pantyhose to capture a person's energy, focuses on movement and dance. Contingent Sculpture 2 (2021) displays the precision of dance in a confined space, while honing in on the sense of claustrophobia and escape.

Contingent Sculpture 5.2 (2021), the photograph of Celeste facing forward with a thick white veil covering her face. Celeste is surrounded by thick, black coils, each wrapped in front of her torso. While previous pieces of Celeste’s have highlighted her uses of cylinders and coils, such as Etage 3 (2021), Contingent Sculpture 5.2 gives significant pause. The coils imply those of a snake. Typically seen as malicious or nuisance, here the snake coils are seen as authoritative and calm. Masterful.

The coils wrap around Celeste three times. The use of three also holds meaning. Three tiers in Etage 3 (2021), three structures in In Good Company (2021), the golf balls in Contingent Sculpture 7.10 form three distinct lines.

Before It Falls Apart places new meaning upon objects once discarded. The rusted pipes that once provided water now provide support in a different way. The golf balls that roll on courses are held steady here. Tubes, reminiscent of overgrown grass, lean in and support each other, as we have often been supported through the pandemic.

Just as the objects Celeste used to construct Before It Falls Apart vary and have a meaning of their own, how we view each sculpture, each photograph will differ. What we witness, what we explain away will depend on the experiences and viewpoints of the person.  Walk between the sculptures made from objects used in everyday life. What do you see?.

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Before It Falls Apart is on view at KMAC Museum in Louisville, KY through November 7th, 2021.

Notes:
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11.4.21

Brittany J. Thurman is the author of picture books and middle grade novels. Her debut picture book, Fly, publishes January 11th, 2022. Brittany has worked for the Speed Art Museum and Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.
A white wall gallery space with 3 cleanly framed and spaced out large format black and white photographs of a body dressed in a tight black outfit in various positions.
Install of Before It Falls Apart at KMAC Museum



A white wall gallery space with several cleanly framed and spaced out large format black and white photographs of a body dressed in a tight black outfit in various positions. The photos themselves are square and in increasingly large groupings left to right: one, then two, then three, then four.
Install of Before It Falls Apart at KMAC Museum


The second floor gallery space of KMAC Museum, a white wall gallery space with shiny black wood floors, on which present 4-5 floor standing abstract sculptures of various soft and hard materials. Nearest to frame is a large roll of seems like an insulation coiled around a large piece of cast concrete.
Install of Before It Falls Apart at KMAC Museum