My first investigation of the CMU in 2003 was in wood. The blocks were simple in construction and were made of different species of wood- pine, bass, poplar, maple, and walnut. The initial idea was to re-create the block and plank shelving that so many students use in their dorm rooms, the most affordable shelving out there. Inserting humor, I reversed the materials making the blocks from wood and the planks from concrete. Taking the size to an extreme creating a large wall size version 7 feet tall and 16 feet long.
From that first piece came limitless configurations using the wooden CMUs to create wall dividers, side and end tables, to block up entrances and exits and to present the blocks as the real thing, on a pallet, as if Home Depot had just dropped them off.
The flexible urethane foam blocks came from an interest in surrealism and the desire to remove the weight and danger from the CMU. Builders are constantly looking for new lighter materials to work with. For me the complete opposite of concrete was air, the cells in foam being the containers for that air.
I began thinking about the relationship that we have as children to the built environment and our ability to shape and change our world. The foam blocks allow for an installation that can be built and destroyed on a daily basis by children and adults.
As a child I was a Lincoln Log kid before moving on to Legos, these are great tools for education, imagination and play. The foam blocks however take on an additional role in development, beginning to investigate the social role each person takes on a specific project. The role of management and worker come into play as ideas and goals are set and become realized. Imagination comes to the fore when engaging with the blocks. Its never a matter of what to build, only what to build first.
The CMU replaced the stone foundation in most modern construction, however it can not compete with the beauty of real stone. I began to think about the CMU as a modern artifact, as if 5000 years from now our civilization is unearthed and the common cider block is celebrated and idolized like an Egyptian or Greek bust in the Metropolitan Museum.
I also liked thinking about someone actually taking pride in the construction of something as simple as a concrete block. Using a water-jet cutter I was able to cut cinder blocks from found pieces of limestone and marble, revealing the fossils and age of the stone. The sculptures are presented on the floor, on pedestals, and on pedestals like fine art objects using steel dowels.
I began working on CMU drawings as preliminary sketches for the wooden block installations, the “elevation plans”. I define drawing as simple mark making and use a lino block and ink as my tool to make the marks.
The drawings have evolved beyond the original plans for installations and are now used to create commentary on architecture as well as modern artists who have used iconic imagery as well as cinder blocks. I like to present my work as a footbridge (pedestrian bridge) between art and architecture.
The CMUs have become the perfect medium to blend the world of contemporary art and architecture while still allowing the functional object to become an obvious conclusion. I am an artist that supports the presentation of the functional object in the home and in exhibitions. I believe the object can assist in informing the viewer about art objects as well as architecture of a space.
I began shooting photographs of cinder block rubble piles in 2008. I want the images to talk about the death and destruction in the urban environment. The real sense of loss and the ephemeral qualities of architecture blend with the realities of mass graves and human devastation.