Wood, paper, wire, and pigment
32 x 23 x 16.6 in. (81.28 x 58.42 x 42.164 cm)
Gift of the Kathryn C. Wanlass Foundation
As an artist Robert Cumming traffics in the conundrums of perception, presenting us with objects and images that strike us as obviously wrong, and yet poetically right. There is something head-scratchingly baffling about the forced confrontation of irreconcilables in this piece. Though it could be considered a partial readymade, there is also an element of careful craft that suggests a more personal engagement than is offered by the found object considered as art. This attention to the handmade seems very much a reflection of the 1970s.
Art/Life is essentially a small side table, maybe something ignored at a yard sale. One half of this table is battered and distressed, covered in paint, and hastily repaired in a way that suggests a rickety quality, with a couple of slats nailed diagonally from the bottom of one leg to just below the tabletop. But where this half revels in the aura of use and a kind of heroics of survival, the other offers high finish and good manners. Has the undamaged side been preserved from harm, for some reason taped off and covered over while its counterpart lived hard? Or has it been painstakingly restored, brought back to life?
On top of the table rest two small paper pyramids, each balanced on a pair of nails. They look a little silly, jaunty things not quite secure in their footing. Each sports a word pasted on one side, cut perhaps from a magazine to achieve a feel of anonymity. The one floating over the distressed side reads ART, and the other reads LIFE. The commentary is both obvious and not, leaving us contemplating the kind of puzzle that Cumming delights in presenting.
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