Miroslaw Balka is a contemporary Polish sculptor and video artist. His show at Gladstone gallery last year was a confrontation of the natural and mechanical. I loved it.
I'm very big fan of large, intrusive and invasive sculptures. (Gladstone is one of my favorite galleries for that). Upon passing the reception desk at Gladstone you see a large white wall covering what usually shows the soon-to-be-viewed gallery space. As you start to open the door to enter the space you're hit with a wall of sounds made by the rushing water on top of the sculpture to come.
Entering the room you're greeted by two monolithic steel containers that completely dwarf you. Their original context is unknown, but the notion of the machine and its empowering drive to propel is evident.
A loud wall of sound is presented and could be confused for a waterfall if not for the overwhelming containers that sit in front of you. The thick black, oil-like substance that's currently being expelled from two industrial hoses into the two four-sided containers could be representative of many things. Is it oil? Is it another form of industrial waste? Or it is simply water and paint? It's re-circulated to continuously spool the liquid around in a fountain-like motion; gallons upon gallons of it circulate in a never-ending flow.
At this point you can take two positions: either walk around and explore the circulatory system that sits behind, or you stand on the plinth in the center of the two containers 10 feet back. After exploring this, I stood on the plinth and began a somewhat hypnotic experience. You're left with the discourse of nature and mechanized world. The scale and sound work together to focus your energy on the piece and the surrounding sound.
The transformation of something so industrial into this serene environment is something that I really love. You're confused as to what it is and you want to know more, but you're left there, watching and listening intently to the subtleties in the wall of sound and what distinctions come from every rotation of the substance. The confusion with the representation of machine and nature is polarizing; How could something so unnatural be so natural once I close my eyes? It's strong in itss appearance and idea, but upon further reading it only gets deeper—I truly loved this piece (and wish I had done it).
What I love most about these types of shoes is their ability to suspend my knowledge for their creation.