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Artist

Charles Long (1958-)

Title

Untitled

Date

2007

Medium

Papier-mâché, plaster, steel, paint, river sediment, and debris

Dimensions

Overall: 123 × 20 1/8 × 34 3/16 in. (312.4 × 51.1 × 86.8 cm)

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase, with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee, Neil Bluhm, Melva Bucksbaum, Philip Geier, Jr., Nicki Harris, Allison Kanders and Pamela Sanders

Accession number

2009.12a-b

Object Label

In 2002, Charles Long moved to Los Angeles, where he began to make sculptures involving materials culled from the Los Angeles River, a creek that runs for fifty-one miles through Los Angeles County. On one walk, Long photographed the droppings left by blue herons and egrets on the concrete embankments of the river with black-and-white film. Developed using the albumen process—a nineteenth century photographic technique that uses egg whites as an emulsion—the photographs depict bright white splatters on a grainy gray background. Inspired by these images, Long began to transform detritus collected from the river into sculptures that translate the abstract, two-dimensional forms of his photographs into three dimensions. To make the sculptures, he wrapped river debris mixed with silt, paper mâché, and plaster around steel armatures. From a distance, Untitled resembles a hybrid if anthropomorphic creature, but closer inspection reveals the debris out of which it is made, including foil wrappers, cigarette butts, and feathers. The multiple allusive associations of this series are encapsulated by its title, “knowirds,” which, as Long as commented, refers to “birds, knowledge, nowhere, and no-words.”

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