I must have been six or seven years old the first time I sat on them. We parked in midtown and took the subway out to Flushing Meadows. It was dirtier then, lots of graffiti. I don’t remember being scared. My parents told me not to look at anyone but I stared down everyone the entire ride. Eventually we ended up at the tennis center and watched athletes “beat the hell out of the ball” (1). Since then I’ve been on all of the trains. They’re cleaner now but not necessarily. If you have incredibly good posture the soft of your bottom will find comfort in the curve of the plastic, although this is really never the case. This is a place of transportation - it is also a refuge, a stage, an office, a space for chance encounters, a miniature city flowing below and above ground with each train a cell within a moving body.
I’m writing this now on the G train making my way to the L train where I will get off at the Jefferson stop - the same stop you would take if you were going to visit Charlotte at her studio in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. I remember when Charlotte first started making these sculptures. She spent time studying the seats in search of what they represent. The newer models are now composed of nothing more than long benches facing each other, lining either side of the train car’s exterior where individuals merge to contain bodies and multitudes of intersecting templates. Here you make eye contact with the person across from you, rub shoulders with the people next to you. Other trains have individual seats that are most often in pairs. These examples have more lines to them, more architecture. The configuration of these seats also differ with riders, in pairs, sometimes facing forwards or backwards, riders knees touching one another. She took measurements, made moulds and casted them in resin and fiberglass, injecting color with the material, finishing them in a matte application of pigmented paint and/or ink.
It would be easy to compare Charlotte’s use of color to American Abstract Expressionists palettes (think Frankenthaler, Gottlieb and Rothko) or her forms to Gober’s sinks, indeed there is something of the spiritual and the suggestion of the bodily in them. Her hazy surfaces remind me of surfaces in the subway that have been painted over and over again, the product of graffiti being applied and removed in a never ending cycle, advertisements in the subway that are layered on top of one another that have been scratched or scraped away, or dust and debris finding their way to forgotten crevices. Charlotte looked at these colored forms as accidental abstract compositions. Due to the frequency of their use and/or vandalization, these seats are constantly repainted with an exhilarating disregard for contours and color codes.
Compared to the first itineration of these works that I first saw at a group show in C L E A R I N G gallery’s New York outpost that were mounted on the wall and orientated so that if you jumped up you could sit on them, these new works that compose “Run River” for Charlotte’s first solo exhibition in Mexico here at Galleria Mascota, have been flipped - rendering their original function moot, reenforcing their abstraction. The industrial component of these sculptures is now vague and several of these works are no longer attached to the wall. This process of moving from the generic to the independent speaks to Charlotte’s interest in changing a cold, manufactured object into a sensitive form.
Please allow me to take you on a ride….you have already ascended the stairs and if you can, imagine where you are now as a platform. You are waiting for a train, waiting to be transported. Perhaps you are alone. Maybe you live here and have been here before, waiting, hoping, expecting to be taken elsewhere. Or you are visiting, a stranger. In any event, here we are, together. Visualize the four galleries as those same subway cars sometimes speeding and other times crawling through the city. The sculptures could be your old friend but most likely, they too are strangers. Photographs punctuate the spaces providing isolated poetic moments into this urban, industrial landscape. Traces of the fragile human form crack open, like morning being broken by first light. I hope you are not in too much of a rush. You may miss something
(1) - My fatherText by Marc Breslin
Charlotte vander Borght (b. 1988, Brussels, Belgium) Received her MFA at Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Visuels de la Cambre in 2013. Her work has been exhibited amongst others at A.D. Gallery New York / C L E A R I N G Brussels & New York / New Space, Liège, BE / Deborah Bowmann, Saint-Gilles, BE / Centre Wallonie-Bruxelles, Paris, FR / Bunk Club, New York and WIELS, Brussels, BE.
Upcoming : Sculpture Garden Geneva Biennale curated by Devrim Bayar She was artist in residence at WIELS, Brussels in 2016. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.