Whitehot Magazine

Score and Sound: an interview with Daniel Arsham

Daniel Ashram in the studio. Photo by Jose Tutiven. Image courtesy of the artist and Library Street Collective. 


By CLARE GEMIMA December 27, 2023

In the heart of Cleveland, Daniel Arsham's latest exhibition, Score and Sound, presents a transformative artistic experience blending regional influences with broader nostalgia. Having traveled from New York's vibrant art scene to witness the unveiling myself, I found the convergence of Cleveland's roots and Arsham's international acclaim to be extremely palpable.  

In our interview, Arsham discusses the profound impact of having his work recognized in Cleveland, and shares his own distinctions between its art scene versus New York’s, and how this consequently  shapes the reception of his sculptures. The exhibition's focal point, Ash and Pyrite Eroded Venus of Milo, (2023), captivates with meticulous detail, reflecting the artist’s commitment to experimentation over the last decade. 

Hosted at The Sculpture Center, Arsham's exploration of everyday objects invites visitors to witness the intersection of art, time, and personal history until January 27, 2024. Score and Sound promises a unique and thought-provoking experience, which was underscored by a packed opening, attesting to the anticipation surrounding Arsham's transformative artworks, especially from his hometown fans. 

Clare Gemima: Cleveland inarguably inspired parts of the artist you are today. What does it mean to have your work recognised on this level, backed by your own hometown? 

Daniel Arsham: Having my work recognized in Cleveland, where I was born, holds immense significance for me. It feels like a full-circle moment, and the support from my hometown adds a deeply personal layer to my artistic journey.

Clare Gemima:  From personal experience, what are three main differences between the Cleveland and New York art scene, and how do you feel it affects the visibility of your sculptures? 

Daniel Arsham: The Cleveland and New York art scenes differ in several ways. Firstly, the scale and diversity of the art scene in New York is unparalleled, and provides a broader platform for visibility. The artistic conversations and trends can vary between the two cities, influencing the reception of my sculptures differently. It is always interesting to see my work in the context of other places outside of my studio.

Ash and Pyrite Eroded Venus of Milo, 2023. Volcanic Ash, Selenite, Pyrite, Hydrostone. 85.04 x 23.62 x 25.59 in. Photo courtesy of Guillaume Ziccarelli. 

Clare Gemima: Score and Sound juxtaposes regionally-specific influences from Cleveland, together with more broad and nostalgic phenomen. Could you explain the significance of the walkman, as an example, from your piece, Glacial Rock Eroded Walkman, from a personal and public perspective?

Daniel Arsham: The connection was made through my gallery, The Library Street Collective in Detroit. My relationship with The Sculpture Center evolved over time particularly during the realization of Score and Sound. Collaborating with The Sculpture Center has allowed me to explore and push the boundaries of my practice, and their support has been instrumental in bringing this project to life. The dialogue and exchange of ideas have been enriching, contributing to the development of the exhibition. The Walkman in Glacial Rock Eroded Walkman, serves as a symbol of nostalgia and personal reflection. Growing up, the Walkman was an iconic device that accompanied me through various experiences. By incorporating it into the sculpture, I aim to evoke a sense of shared memories and cultural references. From a public perspective, the Walkman becomes a time capsule, inviting viewers to connect their own experiences with the object and contemplate the passage of time.

Volcanic Ash Eroded Polaroid Camera, 2014. Volcanic ash, shattered glass, and hydrostone. 6 x 5.5 x 6 in. Photo courtesy of Guillaume Ziccarelli. 

Clare Gemima: Standing just above seven feet, can you walk us through the creation of her from head to toe, and explain how you decided to extrapolate certain areas of her body with selenite and pyrite. Why did you choose her head, famously amputated arm left-overs, back rib, and right thigh to obstruct? 

Daniel Arsham: Venus of Milo is a sculptural exploration that involves meticulous attention to detail. Standing just above seven feet, the decision to extrapolate certain areas of her body with selenite and pyrite is likely a deliberate artistic choice. The specific areas chosen for obstruction—the head, famously amputated arm leftovers, back rib, and right thigh—may carry symbolic or aesthetic significance. Without direct information, one can speculate that these choices contribute to the overall narrative of transformation and decay that often characterizes my work. 

Clare Gemima: What are the most significant changes to your sculptures over the last decade, and what studio processes have you continued to employ over that time, or otherwise entirely ditched?

Daniel Arsham: Over the last decade, my sculptures have evolved in various ways. The most significant changes might be related to the exploration of new materials, techniques, and conceptual themes. As an artist, experimentation and pushing the boundaries of my practice are crucial. While specific studio processes may evolve with each project, the core commitment to craftsmanship and a deep engagement with the transformative nature of time likely remains a constant.

Steel Eroded Telephone (Red Phone), 2013. Crystal, glass, hydrostone. 5 x 5 x 8.5 in. Photo courtesy of Guillaume Ziccarelli.  

Clare Gemima: In what ways do you contemplate the timeless mysteries hidden within everyday objects, an act in which Score and Sound intends to articulate, and which formative experiences propelled  you to explore this concept through 3D objects? 

Daniel Arsham: The exploration of timeless mysteries within everyday objects is rooted in my fascination with the transformative power of time. Everyday objects, when subjected to erosion and decay, take on a new narrative and significance. Formative experiences, both in my personal life and artistic education, have propelled me to delve into this concept through 3D objects. Whether through my architectural background or exposure to diverse artistic influences, I’ve developed a deep curiosity about the stories hidden within the mundane, and this curiosity is what drives my exploration of everyday objects in a three-dimensional context.

Score and Sound will be on view at The Sculpture Center from November 3 - January 17, 2024. WM

Clare Gemima

Clare Gemima contributes art criticism to The Brooklyn Rail, Contemporary HUM, and other international art journals with a particular focus on immigrant painters and sculptors who have moved their practice to New York. She is currently a visual artist mentee in the New York Foundation of Art’s 2023 Immigrant mentorship program.

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