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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ivin Ballen

 It had been years since I had visited Ivin Ballen's studio in Clinton Hill. You enter the space by going through a very well equipped wood shop, with various machines and wood shavings covering the floor.  Beyond the wood shop is a smaller studio space where Ivin paints his work after finishing it up in the shop. There is a long table in this room, of course handcrafted for its specific needs, that is covered with containers of Golden paint as well as the signature metallics he so often uses in his work. Above the table hung two box sculptures, some of the only few left in his studio. Ivin has been in multiple shows this season, he currently has work at Regina Rex in Bushwick, and Allegra LaViola in the Lower East Side. I was excited to get a peek at what he is up to now.

For several years Ivin has been making exquisite Trompe L'Oeil objects that appear to be made of the same packing materials that you might find in a studio, gallery, or museum. It is like he is doing studies of the tossed away materials that are used to take care of the art work as it moves from one place to the next, an interesting way to comment on the banal goings-on backstage in the art world. With all the necessary tools of a carpenter, Ivin begins to work on his meticulously crafted sculptural paintings. First, he creates a composition with the found materials, and then very carefully casts them. He described to me the trickiness of this casting system, how he has to build various armatures to hold the delicate parts of the cardboard in place. The two shown above were made for the body of work up at Allegra LaViola,  they are pretty literal renditions of simple boxes, you almost have to touch them to be convinced they aren't real. When he paints these aquaresin and fiberglass pieces, the tape becomes a more glamorous version of itself and the drab brown skin of the cardboard is elevated to an array of gratifyingly gradated colors. In other pieces, Ivin uses more than one kind of packing material, making found object-like sculptures that are painted with patterned motifs and strong, boldly colored shapes. These works are often partially covered in curious yet familiar textures that come well off of the surface. They are intriguing not only for their use of color and traditional minimalist compositions, but also their bizarre interpretation of everyday materials.
An install shot I took of the work up at Regina Rex.

While I was there, Ivin was making rubber triangle molds for tiles, which he has since brought to Pittsburgh to make casts of. He is working with a company that manufactures alternative, ultra high performance concrete tiles, among other things: http://taktl-llc.com/. He showed me the different textured surfaces he will explore, cardboard and wood being two of them. It was interesting to see what goes into this kind of new process experimentation. He was building a crate that would fit the molds, just so, in order to get them to PA, and explained to me how the box would hold the slabs by taking up the exact amount of space needed so as not to be wasteful. A carpenter at work.

This is a picture Ivin sent me from Pittsburgh of the first casting batch. 
I liked drawing with the noise of the band saw, a fall rain shower, and music steadily streaming from the background. It was so active and hectic in there. We both looked up periodically to comment on a tune or two that was playing (Ivin shared a lot of his musical interests with me). There was the great energy of the unknown in his studio that day as he worked on his new ideas. Please go to Regina Rex and Allegra LaViola before the shows come down and be sure to check out more of his work at http://www.ivinballen.com/.

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