Barbara Westermann’s projects have been characterized typologically into three separate arenas: Information Architecture, Architectural Sculpture, and Interior Architecture. But each facet of her work is pro-social change. While her work is formally minimalist and conceptual it has rightly been called ‘social sculpture.’ Westermann’s work deals flexibly with concepts of space and time and the dynamic relationships of physical and metaphorical, near and far, public and private, inward and outward and past, present and future.
Westermann trained in architecture and urban planning at the University of Kassel, Germany, met the legendary sculptor Joseph Beuys while a student and contributed to his 1982 Documenta project by planting some of his "7000 Oaks." She ascribes to Beuys’ philosophy that integrates private passions with public art making, a combination she has inflected with much energy and creativity over some 25 years. Beyond Beuys, she maintains that a feminist and Social Democratic impulse must infuse the work. In Cologne, Westermann earned her master’s degree in Sculpture with Daniel Spoerri, a member of the French New Realism group that in 1960 called for integrating cast-off materials into art. The city of Berlin has been another muse, where she worked on a project called Borderlands that addresses the physical and historical spaces of the Berlin Wall.
She attended the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program and the School of Visual Arts Teacher Education Program in New York. Westermann exhibits widely, including single shows at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art in California, the Freiburg Contemporary Art Museum in Germany, Clay Street Press, Cincinnati, OH, Brown University in Providence, RI, Au Base, A.R.T., and Momenta Art galleries in New York. Group shows include the Multiple Strategies exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, the Holly Solomon and Ronald Feldman galleries, PS1, Dia Art, and the Whitney Biennial in New York, as well as the Newport and Bristol Art Museums and Lenore Gray Gallery in Rhode Island. She has just installed a piece in the Progressive Art Collection in Cleveland, OH, and is preparing a show for the Wheeler Art Gallery in Providence, RI. She collaborates frequently with her husband, the activist poet and artist Bill Allen. They also curate an online 'social sculpture' gallery called Living Room. She has received awards from Art Matters, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the Utica Sculpture Space and a RISCA Fellowship in Sculpture. More of her work can be seen at www.barbarawestermann.com.
Camp David I - IV, 2012
Woodcut on Rives Heavyweight paper
17.5” x 22”, Edition of 18 each
Parallax View & Camp David
These pristine and playful woodcuts mirror the spaces that building plans and buildings occupy. The artist says you should see the history of modernity (the Bauhaus years) through the prism of a world now that is fractured and bent. The choreography of these forms is funny yet formal, the colors coming from the traditional Constructivist palette. As with her earlier blueprints of modern cities, her Google Earth animations, and museum reliefs in plaster, these constructions evoke paper cutouts of famous buildings, free-form sculptures, or imaginary landscapes. You might see the contours of the United Nations, the Museum of Natural History, the Gropius Bau in Concord, Ma., or the Swiss Institute in Berlin. Or you might find fanciful Constructivist play. The initial "Camp David" prints came from looking at aerial photography, down upon Camp David (of the Clinton, Arafat, Rabin era) and other places of civil strife or negotiation. Aside from saying the prints should be pleasing to look at, the artist insists they add to the critique of the subjectivity of objects, seen so often in modern architecture. The prints rather celebrate realism and objectivity, leaving subjectivity, aside, allowing the grace and grandeur often found in modernist design to flourish where it isn't ideology: in the evolution of that aesthetic to a place, here in prints, where real, symbolic, and imaginary architecture finds another partner: virtual architecture found in the space of these prints.