October 27, 2021

Jesse Stecklow Exhibition at PU’s Art@Bainbridge

“EAR WIGGLER”: Conceptual artist Jesse Stecklow’s site-responsive works will be featured in “Components in the Air / Jesse Stecklow,” on view November 6 through January 2 at the Princeton University Art Museum’s Art@Bainbridge gallery at 158 Nassau Street.

From air samplers that record the microclimate to scale replicas of the rooms at Bainbridge House that spin on the quarter hour, Jesse Stecklow’s work investigates the ways in which both atmospheric and built surroundings affect our perceptions.

In “Components in the Air / Jesse Stecklow,”  the Los Angeles-based artist explores the processes of perception and creativity through site-responsive installations at the Princeton University Art Museum’s Art@Bainbridge gallery, located in a restored 18th-century home.

The exhibition, on view November 6 through January 2, brings together works from five of the artist’s series — some newly commissioned — that interweave imagery, motion, and sound to heighten visitors’ attention to the ways in which our personal associations, memories, and perspectives shape our experiences of space.

These installations engage both the macro and the particular, examining broad networks that govern environmental conditions, such as the American reliance on corn byproducts; systems of play, as in his series of anagrams; and a recollection of his grandfather’s ability to wiggle his ears.

“Components in the Air / Jesse Stecklow” is curated by Mitra Abbaspour, Haskell curator of modern and contemporary art, and Alex Bacon, former curatorial associate at the Princeton University Art Museum. 

“With its strong architectural orientation, incorporation of recognizable everyday materials, and deeply felt concerns about our environment that resonate now more than ever, the work of Jesse Stecklow draws on a long line of influential conceptual artists, with a vocabulary, wit and sensibility all his own,” said James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher–David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, director. “In dialogue with the distinctive historical spaces of Bainbridge House, the installation will highlight the ecosystem of this emerging artist’s body of work.”

Stecklow approaches the exhibition as a series of interdependent room installations and as a microcosm of the larger systems, seen and unseen, that affect our experiences. His work invites conversations on a broad range of subjects, from air quality and industrial agriculture to explorations of perception — such as how time and humor shape our understanding of our surroundings.

The exhibition creates a sequence across four galleries. In the entry gallery, a polished metal sculpture encases an air sampling device, which will capture data on the components of the atmosphere throughout the installation. This data, later sent to a lab for analysis, will provide source material for future sculptures. Other works grapple with how Stecklow engaged the distance between his Los Angeles studio and the galleries of Art@Bainbridge as pandemic precautions prohibited travel. Sculptures from a series that Stecklow calls Room Boxes, designed according to the building’s floor plan, incorporate sound through the ricocheting of a small ball, while vibrating sculptures of ears of corn are set in fireplaces. Such works reinforce the humor present throughout the exhibition.

“Stecklow works in the tradition of American humorists who, operating within the constraints of logic, use intellect and wit to make incisive observations about the world around us, and thereby make more acute our own attention to the conditions of our surroundings,” said Abbaspour.

Stecklow received his Bachelor of Arts from UCLA. His work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Portland, as well as across Europe. In 2017 he was awarded the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant. In March 2022, Stecklow will open a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MuMoK) in Vienna.

An open house celebration and meet-the-artist event will be held on November 6 from 1 to 4 p.m. A panel featuring the artist and Princeton faculty Jess Rowland and Spyros Papapetros will be held virtually on November 18 at 5:30 p.m.

Art@Bainbridge is located at 158 Nassau Street in downtown Princeton. Admission is free. Hours are Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit artmuseum.princeton.edu.