In my search of cabinets of curiosity and collections of the Enlightenment Era, I came across Wooden Libraries, or Holzbibliotheks or xylotheques, of the late 18th century. As the world was becoming documented by explorers and illustration, other naturalists were creating physical libraries which were made of local and exotic flora. Carl Schildbach, and Benedictine monk, Candid Huber, were two such individuals who archiving the blossoms, leaves, fruit and bark of plants in their area. The life cycle of regional greenery was physically encapsulated in each volume. Linnean classification information, Latin name and common names were written or printed and attached to the hinged books created from the specimen. The texture and colors of the preserved collections are informative and sensually attractive. The objects within the covers are arranged randomly but have a visual harmony to them as they they interact with parts of themself that they never see in their life cycle. Preservation of these ephemeral objects is a lovely notion.
Dario Robelto is a Houston, Texas based artist who excites and enrages me. He creates conceptual art from collected materials which create very narrative laden and layered works. He has used poems and other written works to allow for an audience to create the scene itself. He uses audio of heartbeats and popular songs to talk about human history and culture. He has melted vinyl to tell stories - Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love speaking to one another through their music which documents their tumultuous, drug fueled relationship. He has mundane collections which evoke the assemblages of Joseph Cornell like the Button Collector. And then there is the Civil War anthropological works.
I am incredibly fascinated by the era of huge change and expansion in America. It catapulted incredible progress in this country. The people from this time to 1950s seem of a hardier stock, who struggled as they developed this culture. I am also a romantic. Love letters and trinkets from this era say so much about individuals in a time where they were not constantly updating their social media page, with other priorities and possibly in the last recent time where survival and success was somewhat of a challenge. Its a sentimental enjoyment and connection to the time my great grand and grandparents lived.
Robelto creates beautiful homages to this era. He references geologic, medicinal, anthropological and domestic collections. The materials he uses create lush textural and contextual displays of history. The arrangements harmonic, and well crafted and displayed. The color palate evokes the fading ephemera from a culture more than a century old. But, its his material list that makes me react negatively. In example, from 2007, he created Who Will Mend Your Phantom Limbs? The list of items uses is:
"Excavated bullets from various wars carved into spools, hair salvaged from excavated lockets, homemade paper (cotton, passion flower), stretched audiotape of the earliest audio recording of time (experimental clock, 1878), 10,000-year-old flower caught in amber, carved bone and ivory, braided hair, lead coated rose stem, ribbon, mourning handkerchief, locket, photograph, cast lamp black, resin, typeset, paint."
He is claiming to use items that were once loved by long gone individuals and items that would be found in a museum or passed down in families. This time is still so accessible and there is so much we can gain from a historical standpoint, that it makes me cringe for the thought of altering them so much. I know it is hypocritical of me to feel this way, because I slip cast and burn out, both destroying and preserving domestic items such a gloves. These items, too, have personal memory even if I acquire them at thrift stores.