Michael Yefko /// Laundry Grove /// Contemporary Sculpture at Chesterwood 2012
My sculpture for Contemporary Sculpture at Chesterwood 2012 is a site-specific installation titled “Laundry Grove.” I was inspired by the exhibition’s theme “genius of place,” which Frederick Law Olmsted used to express his views about “the unity between landscape and the social and economic order,” to quote Justin Martin from his biography of Olmsted, Genius of Place. I see this sculpture installation as an opportunity to extend my own series of work about the built landscape of suburbia, which I see as a strange world of almost religious obsessions with lawns, homes, and social order. As with recent installations of mine—“House and Home,” “Sod,” and “Shed”—“Laundry Grove” continues a body of work that critiques and ponders our relationships to nature and peopled places. I would add that much of my work struggles with my own upbringing in a suburban environment, my engagement with environmentalism, my outrage at financial injustice in the housing/economic crises of our day, and my love of the comic nature of people in the world.
“Laundry Grove” creates a pattern that echoes the built landscape in a humorous manner. I chose the umbrella clothesline for a number of reasons. Most obvious is its tree-like shape. “Laundry Grove” is also emblematic of returning to the old way people did things: the energy crisis of our day has brought back ecological ideas like hanging your laundry outside in the air to dry. Looking back at the history of laundry shows a communal activity where people shared news and built social bonds (forgetting for a moment the tedious hard work of it all). What’s old is new again. I am further interested in the “two sides of a coin” nature of thought, so this installation also plays with the paradox of having communities creating laws that outlaw outdoor laundry lines because such clotheslines, with the display of people’s undergarments, disturb picture postcard Edens. Yet the “genius” of open space is that it is a great place to dry out your laundry and talk to your neighbors.
What better way to ponder, critique, and change the stigma of drying clothes than to create a dedicated monument to the act of laundering with “Laundry Grove.” As Justin Martin writes, Olmsted in creating the design for Central Park in New York City saw its potential as a “place in the city where rich and poor could meet on equal terms.” I see the use of this particular ready-made and its extended Olmsted-like patterns as a bringing together of art/museum with pragmatic utilitaristic Americanism.
Laundry Grove is an interdisciplinary effort. The sculpture illustrates how art and business can work together. The sculpture was made possible by a generous donation from G and G Clotheslines, http://www.
Michael Yefko, Laundry Grove
Michael Yefko, Laundry Grove