MANKATO — Viewers may not immediately recognize the irony in Tyler Abrahamson’s sculpture at the Carnegie Art Center in Mankato.
The Minnesota State University master’s student in sculpture is exhibiting two- and three-dimensional work in an exhibition, “Concrete,” at the gallery through March 23. And though the exhibit represents Abrahamson’s first solo show, the conceptual underpinning of his work has been a long time in the making.
Abrahamson began as an artist who drew and painted realistic, large-scale works marked by heavy symbolism and relatively naked conceptual content. But Abrahamson gradually found that style of art too trenchant, too leading for his taste.
So, in his Carnegie exhibition, Abrahamson sought to deconstruct the symbolism of his art, paring it down to the fundamentals of materials and process. The irony lies in the fact that Abrahamson uses common construction materials and processes to create work that cannot be reproduced.
Take, for instance, the series of “blueprints” that Abrahamson created by washing his canvas in paint, then overlaying a series of construction materials. When he removed the materials (thereby, pulling up some portions of the paint), the result is a series of works that mimic the appearance of a blueprint — but none of the function.
“Unlike a blueprint, these can’t be replicated,” he said. “They defy what a blueprint does best.”
In another piece, Abrahamson aligns pieces of construction-grade lumber he split with an axe and hammer. Underneath the lumber is a sheet of mylar. Of course, the fractures themselves are as distinct as the wood grain that dictates their dimension, and so are the shadows and reflections cast onto the mylar through the fractures in the lumber.
Again, Abrahamson said the idea is to showcase the un-reproducible with materials entirely intended to be used for replication.
To further his mission of removing symbolism from his work, Abrahamson is selling his pieces for only the cost of materials. The idea is that even the pricetag attached to a piece of art will impact the viewer’s perception of the piece.
“My eventual goal is to create art without any symbolism that I can put into it,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with trying to get a point across in your art. But, at a certain point, I realized I like the open-endedness of art.”