Allan McCollum

The Shapes Project: Shapes Spinoffs
October 6, 2015 – January 16, 2016

Opening on Friday, October 2nd , Galerie Thomas Schulte presents the latest iteration of Allan McCollum's monumental Shapes Project started in 2005. Under the title Shapes Spinoffs, 144 hand made ash wood objects are on display.

Allan McCollum is among the best and most profound American conceptual artists and has been represented by Galerie Thomas Schulte for almost 25 years. His artistic work is defined by his preoccupation with the phenomenon of individuality within mass quantities as a sociological issue and the artistic problem of exploring identity and individuality. His works are often characterized by an extreme accumulation of individual pieces, such as drawings or sculptural objects. Certainly the most well-known example of this are his Plaster Surrogates, Perfect Vehicles, and his Over Ten Thousand Individual Works series, which have become icons of late 20th century art.

The Shapes Project marked a new beginning for Allan McCollum – also within the continued experimenting in a greater distribution of art works. The series is based on a system developed by the artist of combinable silhouette-like components. He can thus, with 300 individual components, produce millions of combinations and ultimately match an individual shape to each living person. Out of these approximately 31 billion shapes, the artist has set aside the potential of 214 million with which to work.

In the past decade McCollum has experimented with numerous variations and purposes for this vast amount of shapes, including adaptations into artificial marble and laminated plywood sculptures, framed prints,  hand cut paper silhouettes, scrollsawed wooden ornaments, copper cookie cutters, rubber stamps and other variations. While always well aware of the fact that the project of constructing all shapes is much too large a task to complete in his own lifetime, he encourages that others in cooperation with him find further use for them and is always interested in collaborating with local artisans and craftspeople .

In the exhibition, 144 hand lathed, ash wood sculptures are distributed among 24 tables in groups of six. Each shape is composed in the standard four-component system of the project, yet, in this case, the top and the bottom components are mirrored in order to produce the symmetrical wooden pieces on a lathe.

The rows of ash tables along with the great number of sculptures seem at first to be an overwhelming collection of objects indistinguishable from one another, filling the space of the gallery. In fact through the arrangement of groups of six allows for the viewer to move freely between the tables and appreciate the distinctive qualities but also the importance of the individually determined placement of each unique shape. This challenges culture's tendency to value single, unique art pieces over things produced in large quantities.

Allan McCollum was born in California in 1944, and lives and works in New York City. McCollum has had over 100 solo exhibitions, including retrospectives at the Musée d'Art Moderne, Villeneuve d'Ascq, Lille, France (1998); the Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany (1995–96); the Serpentine Gallery, London (1990); the Rooseum Center for Contemporary Art, Malmo, Sweden (1990); IVAM Centre del Carme, Valencia, Spain (1990); Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands (1989), and Portikus, Frankfurt, Germany (1988). His works are held in over seventy art museum collections worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. In 2008 McCollum received the Award for Excellence in Design through the City of New York.