Published in the Foundation for Contemporary Arts 2014 Grants Booklet
Just before entering the Foundation of Contemporary Arts headquarters, I am met by a mysterious door that is made of old cardboard boxes, flattened, joined together like a patchwork quilt. It requires you to pay attention; to look, and keep looking. Recessed cubes and a protruding cube create voids. It is like a cubist sculpture having just smoked a joint. Is it new, or old? Spontaneity and intimacy exist in creative equipoise. The printed words appear: FRAGILE, EAR, good, PHONOGRAPH RECORDS, and a chunky solid black arrow that points up above the handle. The handle is round and wooden and blends in with the color of the cardboard. A squared off, lined address box is signed and dated. The work (is it leaning, resting, in flux, to be recycled?) is immaculately installed and precisely situated. A door opening and closing, opens as quickly as it closes.
The work is made by Rauschenberg… Ahhh yes! A hand so deft, adept at illusionary magic. In his inimitable way, he asks us to reconsider this material manifestation. He is a medium with material; he beats the boundaries and so we are whipped into reassessing what it is we are seeing. Discarded, re-regarded. Material is transformed so as to render its new version unnamable. Constructed with integrated integrity and ingenuity. It is almost like you can feel this moment when the work and the work of the maker combine into an alchemical rhapsody. A riotous moment of invention, reckless servitude, trust in chance, and failure. The one act affects the next and then the next in response. A moment in time. What must it have been like to be making art as a young Bob in the vortex of New York City? “Cardbird Door"was made in 1971 at Gemini G.E.L. in Los Angeles, which makes it nearly 43 years old. It looks so new, happenstance, as if it had no maker at all. Everything and nothing, free from the known.
The care taken to keep this work alive, its spirit intact, is indeed the essence of this Foundation. It works to keep artists' spirits alive by seeing and acknowledging them. To see another is an act of love. Boundless intention.
Thanks and praise.
Siobhan Liddell is an artist based in New York. She received a Grants to Artists award in 1999.