When Santiago Cucullu and Ester Partegàs first visited Lynden together in February 2012, in the dead of an otherwise mild winter, they were under no programmatic obligation to engage with Lynden’s 40 acres of carefully landscaped lawns, ponds and gardens, nor with its 50 monumental sculptures. And yet, it was not long before they entered into what Partegàs refers to as “a visual conversation with the place.” It is difficult to turn one’s back on what presses in at every window, including the windows of the gallery. The scale of it, and the history—the garden was created by landscape architects around 1930, with numerous additions of trees thereafter; the sculptures date from the 1960s and 1970s—seem to require a response.
In Gos Sa Mer, their first collaborative endeavor, Cucullu and Partegàs chose to examine the paradoxical relationship that arrested them on that first visit, between the seemingly natural environment of the garden and the industrial appearance of the sculptures within it. They were immediately struck by a series of oppositions: nature/culture, organic/industrial, shades of colors/primary colors, roundness/sharpness, to name a few. On closer inspection they observed the sculptures’ failure to live up to the Minimalist ideal of purity of form, material, color and installation: the works at Lynden get dirty and scratched, their colors fade; they are in need of constant maintenance. Just yesterday a large evergreen went down in a storm, its tip landing gracefully in the cradle of a Clement Meadmore sculpture.
As Cucullu and Partegàs began to explore these dualities, they questioned their polarity: in this dialogue, trees might become pillars; sculptures, living beings requiring human care. The project also became an opportunity to investigate the dynamic tension that holds these opposing elements together. The artists spoke of a structure that resembled a cobweb, made up of symbiotic relationships, familiar and sympathetic contrasts, accepted contradictions, humorous incongruities, and ambiguities. As the plan for the installation evolved, Partegàs associated the ideas of interrelations in space, of interdependency, and of simultaneous unity and dispersion with the word “gossamer.” In its syllables she heard something that “sounded like it could be a Berlin-based techno band, or a king from a fairy tale.” Cucullu responded with Gossamer, the Looney Tunes monster created by Chuck Jones. Another living paradox, Gossamer is the embodiment of strength and delicacy. Terrifyingly huge and menacing, he is covered in fine hair (in a shade of red that a Minimalist would love) that signals that he is also a vulnerable and kind-hearted creature. “His fingernails,” the artists noted, “are painted as if they were the screws that hold that mass of thin delicate hair in place.”
When Cucullu and Partegàs returned to Lynden in May to install Gos Sa Mer, an early spring was well underway. Leaves obscured tree limbs and interrupted sightlines, and the grass was preternaturally green. The wintry arboreal landscape reappeared in the gallery—camouflaged and remixed—as black and white wallpaper. Hard-edged beams slashed through the space, their sides variously covered in the tree wallpaper and bright, monochromatic vinyl. Day by day, it became a little more difficult to make one’s way through the room.
Gos Sa Mer demands a kinetic response from those who enter it. We wind and weave, disappearing behind skewed pillars—just the right size to embrace, as Nicholas Frank notes, they are like dancing partners projecting from the walls and ceiling. Invariably, the traveler halts, transfixed by a new view (is the end of that beam orange?), aware that the visual territory has flattened or rippled. It is rare to find visitors observing from the edges: Gos Sa Mer invites them in.
Polly Morris, Executive Director