Sculptor and printmaker James Grashow was focused on paper as a medium for over forty years. Paper is generally considered to be a humble medium,
yet Grashow has repeatedly used it on a grand scale, most notably in his 1988 installation entitled The Ocean (a gallery-filling, woodcut-printed cardboard environment featuring an ocean liner, lighthouse, and towering waves) and his 1998 installation YaZoo (a collection of life-size cardboard zoo animals). His most recent effort, Corrugated Fountain, was inspired by the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Bernini’s famous Baroque sculpture that was completed in 1762.
Corrugated Fountain took four years to complete, and unlike the artist’s earlier corrugated works, its eventual destruction was integral to its conception. The Fountain has been exhibited indoors in Virginia, New York City, and Pittsburgh, but Grashow knew from the beginning that its last public presentation would be outdoors, and its demise would be a performance of sorts.
In the spectrum of materials, paper is one of the most ephemeral, and Grashow’s exuberant gesture is meant to remind us of the fleeting nature of all human endeavor. Grashow explains: “Corrugated Fountain seemed to be the perfect vehicle to express my growing awareness of our temporality. Water and cardboard cannot exist together. The idea of a paper fountain is impossible, an oxymoron that speaks to the human dilemma. I wanted to make something heroic in its concept and execution with full awareness of its poetic absurdity. I wanted to try to make something eternal out of cardboard… the Fountain was an irresistible project for me.”
Corrugated Fountain will remain outdoors at The Aldrich until May 12. The final chapter of the Fountain’s life is uncertain, as the forces of nature (and time) will now remove control from the hand of the artist.
Richard Klein, exhibitions director
Corrugated Fountain is accompanied in the Museum’s lobby by excerpts from the film, The Corrugated Bernini provided by Floating Stone Productions, a film that chronicles the story of Grashow’s creation and ultimate destruction of the sculpture.
Accumulated Wishes is a project conceived by the artist in which visitors are invited to participate by recording their wishes on special coins and tossing them into the fountain. The coins, embellished with a Grashow design, are available in the Museum’s Education Center.