Pill Spill at the Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio
Exhibition dates: 15 July – 30 September 2011
Pill Spill, currently on view at the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion, is a floor installation by artist Beverly Fishman. As artist-in-residence, Fishman’s installation was created as part of the museum’s Guest Artist Pavilion Project (GAPP). Consisting of over 120 unique glass capsules which vary in size from 6 to 15 inches, “Pill Spill treats the Glass Pavilion as a “body” by releasing capsules into the curved glass hollows between its exterior and interior glass walls, transforming them into an architectural circulatory system.”
Check out the video below followed by a brief artist’s statement.
For more than 20 years, Fishman’s largely abstract work has explored our relationship to science and medicine in a variety of different media. Mixing optical patterns with vibrant colors and representational elements taken from pharmaceutical and scientific imaging systems, her paintings, sculptures and works on paper raise questions about the relationship between technology, our bodies and our minds. The capsule is used in this installation as an abstract module through which constantly changing color and pattern combinations are created, according to the artist. By their position on the floor, the fragile objects also contest the preciousness of their materials. Their strewn and accumulated configurations help blur the boundaries between interior and exterior spaces.
My art explores the relationship between color, form, and human identity in relation to both abstract and mechanical practices. I received my BFA in Painting in 1977 from the Philadelphia College of Art, where my teachers included Ree Morton and Cynthia Carlson. In 1980, I received my MFA in Painting from Yale University, where I studied with Mel Bochner, Elizabeth Murray, Barry Le Va, and Judy Pfaff.
Throughout my career, I have been interested in juxtaposing a formal exploration of art-making materials with questions about the transformation of human beings through science and technology. As I see it, successful art must push the limits of its medium or mediums while at the same time raising questions about the nature of human existence in today’s rapidly globalizing societies. In addition to making acrylic and oil paintings early in my career, I have sometimes created large-scale drawings, and at different times, I have explored the media of sculpture as well as two- and three-dimensional design. For the most part, however, I have chosen to develop various forms of hybrid paintings, which integrate subjective color choice and the gesture with mass reproduction and industrial fabrication. My overall subject is how technology affects both the body and the mind: how technology represents, supplements, idealizes, and stereotypes us. My work develops strategies derived from Pop painting (appropriation), Minimalism and Postminimalism (seriality and modularity), Op Art, and Pattern and Decoration.
Around 2000, I turned from an image bank evoking disease to one evoking its pharmaceutical cures. In addition, I also turned to cast resin with pigment to create new forms of cluster paintings, sculptural works that further undermined distinctions between painting, sculpture, and environment. Feel Good #1-90 (1999) and Am I Blue? #1-192 (1999-2000) are early resin clusters in which I appropriated the shapes of pills in order to raise questions about our stereotypes of “sickness” and “health,” “normal” and “abnormal,” as well as ways in which these stereotypes are sold to us through the media. These clusters in turn issued into glow-in-the-dark pharmaceutical installations such as Drugstore (2000) at the Post Gallery, Los Angeles, CA. Even more than the earlier castresin pill clusters, the pharmaceutical installations explored color and form as they changed under different environmental conditions.
After exploring pharmaceutical imagery in the pill clusters and pharmaceutical installations, I developed a new form of modular painting in the early 2000s, wherein I expanded my representational imagery again to evoke new ways in which the body and the mind are defined, imaged, and idealized. Early metal paintings combined technological representations of the body — molecules, helixes, EKG and EEG patterns, and sound waves — with morphed pharmaceutical logos. By collaging colored industrial sign-vinyl onto powder coated aluminum rectangles, I wanted to suggest a perfect virtual image at a distance and a rough and fractured surface when viewed close up. As implied by Pharmakon, a show of these single- and multiple-panel modular paintings I did at the Wellcome Trust Gallery, London, in 2003, I saw the pharmaceutical as both a cure and a poison.
As my work developed over the second half of the 2000s, I began to incorporate graphic patterning appropriated from circuit schematics as well as DNA, Bar, and QR codes; and, in addition, I began screen printing and spray painting on polished stainless steel. As was the case with a wallpaper project that I worked on during this time, the move to a reflective surface in my more recent modular steel paintings was the result of my desire to find new ways of erasing boundaries between paintings, spectators, and environments. Through the reflective paintings in particular, I found new ways to engage the spectator by means of bodily reflections and by creating a space of seemingly “virtual” patterning and color. In addition, I also recently returned to and developed my pharmaceutical installations, adding appropriated logos from illegal ecstasy pills and experimenting with different types of installation strategy.
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