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Robert Gould

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Robert Gould 26 Tiffany Place #2R Brooklyn NY 11231 917.592.1618 http:/

I have been making things for as long as I can remember. Starting in grade school I found that I had a talent for drawing. Getting as much detail into a drawing as possible had a special hold over my imagination. I remember drawing pictures of birds. I would obsess over the details of the feathers. It became interesting for me to pursue techniques that would enable me to achieve higher & higher degrees of realistic representation. This is what I spent most of my creative energy on- perfecting my techniques & skills. During this time I worked mostly in pen & ink & dry brush watercolors. I found that with a smooth watercolor paper I could achieve very fine details. My subject matter did not have to be inspiring-it was all about the act of capturing everything I observed in my drawings. I painted large pictures of the boy?s bathroom at school and captured the cracks on the walls. I made a close up of a littered patch of grass a la Albrecht Durer complete with cigarette butts. During this formative period I developed a love of art materials & a passion for representation.
At Parsons The New School for Design I was exposed to a great number of influences. For the first time I was wrestling with finding my own voice as a painter. I felt that I had mastered basic material techniques but that I was lacking a vision. I could make paint do whatever I wanted, but my struggle became about what I was trying to say through my work. When I was in the Fine Arts Department painting and sculpture majors were separated by a flight of stairs. I ended up finding my voice in the sculpture & welding shop. Making sculptures & objects provided me with a fresh set of design and technical issues. Sculpture was, for me, a playful medium. Working in 3D was physical. The materials had to be welded, cut, constructed, connected; they needed to support themselves in space, etc. These elements of play and construction engaged me on a new and deeper level- more so than a static painting. The possibilities that sculpture offered were fresh and open.
I teamed up with two other sculpture majors and together we formed a performance group that was known as DSR-Douglas Durning, Simon Smaan, and Robert Gould. Together we created our own musical instruments, self-playing sound installations, & recorded music. Materials were always an important element of my work with DSR. I started working with non-traditional materials like motors, found tape decks, old or broken zerox machines. Could I make my own electric guitar using these objects? What would happen if I used this old tape deck & made a long loop of tape that would play the same thing over and over again? Is the ?Art? the deconstructed repurposed machine or the sound on the tape?
We were always trying to create instruments where the form was directly connected to the sound generation. String instruments were stripped down to basic frameworks strong enough to hold strings in tension & we would add a simple playing device. We adopted the motto form follows function. The materials that we worked in were unembellished & raw. Most of our sculptures were created from found objects and that added a strange, Rube Goldberg element to it. Crazy machines making crazy music & sounds. Again I found that I spent most of my creative energy on connections & process. How will part A connect with part B & through this connection will it function? Does it work? Will it work? Materials and their use became both an engineering & aesthetic choice. I was also quite limited in budget. Simple cheap solutions to construction problems had to be found and used. This limitation pushed our creativity.
When DSR played music it always was a free form jam session. Rhythm, textures, and patterns would grow, dissolve, morph, and change. The music always tended to be on the edge of becoming this or that but without ever ultimately getting there. We all enjoyed the freedom in creating open-ended musical compositions. But, we also recognized other elements were at work. We began to see through the chaos generated by our machines and instruments and hear an underlying structure. Whether it was through the limitations of our sculptures or our playing abilities, we could sense that something solid and primal was being formed. That was the most exciting thing about performing. We were never sure the sounds would coalesce, but we knew that the act of the search was the most satisfying aspect. We hoped the audience would put up with our journey.
After DSR disbanded I became interested in developing natural or random controls over sound machines. In creating sculptures on my own I was again attracted to elements of chaos. I wanted to replace the human performer. I was able to build large outdoor public sculptures that were self-playing using wind power. A large sail would pull or push a series of pluckers across a piano backboard. A wind turbine would spin guitar picks and play three acoustic guitars. Indoor works used the rough surfaces of rocks to play various prepared string instruments.
Simultaneously I began to develop drawings that described sound patterns. First I created large ink brush drawings. I strived for random and repetitive markings. These were beautiful but were somehow just representations of what my sculptures were doing. What I was looking for was a technique that truly added a random outcome to the mix.
To that end I have created a series of small painting constructions that incorporate elements of chance & natural organic growth. These works are also very much about the process of their construction. They are composed of a sandwich of glass, tracing vellum, & thin metal. I first create a drawing on the drafting velum using natural sepia ink or sumi ink. Next I draw with iron powder & sea salt on the metal plate. The drawings are then married together tightly with clamps & dipped into a salt-water bath. This final step causes the vellum to curl & wrinkle allowing the ink drawing to smudge & run into the wrinkles thus creating automatic tracings. After the sandwich is removed from the water and dried, the delicate ink lines remain visible. The water, as in nature, also activates the iron & salt to etch the metal plate in surprising & organic ways. The outcome is exactly what I was seeking. The pictures have a majestic, larger-than-life amorphous quality. They are a graphic realization of form and function, while also obscuring the hand of the creator.