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Everyday objects are given endless possibilities in hands of artist Anne Wodtcke

| Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009

There is nothing so ordinary as a paper bag. Yet, for German artist Anne Wodtcke, it holds endless possibilities when it comes to making art.

Over the past three weeks, Wodtcke, of Munich, has transformed Fe Gallery in Lawrenceville into a studio, performance space and, now, a final exhibit titled "Sculptural Moments II." At the center of the show is an untitled installation piece made up entirely of paper bags attached to either side of the gallery's long walls. Arranged in linear groupings, they appear as if cogs on gears in a giant machine.

"For me, they seem to rush down and be really heavy, yet they're made of paper," Wodtcke says.

Several documentary photographs also on display show Wodtcke's unique way of using paper bags as art. In "territories," she and an assistant are each in oversized paper bags, seen cavorting in and around a dumpster. In "in the green," the artist sits in a rural setting with a large paper bag covering her entire torso. And in "progredere," Wodtcke can be seen walking through the streets of Istanbul, which she did with a huge paper bag draped over her upper body in February.

"The concept is that I am there, and yet I am not there," she says.

The idea to use paper bags to create art came to Wodtcke in 2003, after purchasing potatoes in a farmer's market near her home in Munich.

"When I got home, I became really fascinated with the bag the potatoes came in," Wodtcke says. "The atmosphere is coming into it, and the form itself projects out into space. It also has a hidden space.

"That's what you see when you look into it. In it, you can create your own world."

In her paper-bag pieces, as well as some of her more recent works, Wodtcke reaches out to the limits of the interfaces between action, performance and sculpture in an attempt to reinterpret the theme of sculpture in a conceptual and experimental manner. That means integrating her own body as a shape-giving element.

For example, Wodtcke was physically at the center of her piece "sculptural moments" last Friday evening, when she performed simple movements inside a stack of nine inner tubes, ultimately falling to the floor.

In these experimental setups, Wodtcke explores the sculptural potential of simple, reduced movements in connection with objects.

"These are active forms of sculpture," Wodtcke says. "I am exploring the sculptural potential of very simple movements and interactions. I integrate my own body in the sculpture, and also in interactions with other objects, like chairs or inner tubes."

The aspect that interests her is the creative sculptural process itself, the things that happen to objects and people when they interact. The time scale over which the action is played out depends on her endurance and on the strength of the material employed. The setting in which the action takes place and the parameters of space and time are the determining factors for the way the process develops.

The outcome of the experiment -- documented in photo and/or video -- is always open.

Wodtcke comes to Fe Gallery by way of the gallery's director, Jill Larson, who met the artist in June while exhibiting her own work in Munich. While there, Larson connected with several arts organizations with the idea of starting an artist-exchange program.

"The organization that I am working with for Anne's residency is called Platform3," Larson says. "While I was in Munich, I also met with two other organizations -- Kulturtage Weicht and GEDOK -- where Fe is going to send Pittsburgh artists."

For now, the Pittsburgh artists have yet to be selected, but Larson promises that plans for three residencies will be in place by the end of the year.

"It's always been a goal of mine to provide that for Pittsburgh artists," Larson says. "It's crucial and essential to an artist's career. It's inspiring to have that opportunity. To go away and leave everything behind from home, have no responsibilities and make their art in a supportive, nurturing and creative environment."

Additional Information:

Anne Wodtcke: 'Sculptural Moments II'

When: Through Aug. 18. Hours: noon-4 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays

Where: Fe Gallery, 4102 Butler St., Lawrenceville

Details: 412-860-6028

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