Aaron Spangler:

Tripod Untitled series, 2018-2020

Installation view Plains Art Museum
Birch, Norway, pine, white pine, white spruce
courtesy of the artist

Untitled, 2020
crayon rubbing on linen
courtesy of the artist


“Out of the Woods: In Conversation with Aaron Spangler,” Art in America

“Artist Talk: Kinji Akagawa and Aaron Spangler,” video, moderated by Victoria Sung, Walker Art Center

“I had a neighbor who came over with a Bobcat to help me do some work, and he said an amazing thing to me,” sculptor and printmaker Aaron Spangler told Art in America, of the ongoing process of clearing the land around his house. “I kept saying, ‘Let’s open this up.’ He said, ‘Aaron, the woods have to start somewhere.’ I really thought about that: where in my realm do the domesticated things I’ve created, like the orchards and the garden, begin and end?”

This tension between beginnings and endings, figuration and abstraction, wildness and control, finds an animating force in Spangler’s work. Though its contours often address urgent ecological and social concerns, the foundations are in both the concrete and mythological inspirations of local, lived experience. The sincerity of Spangler’s reimagining of wood carving in contemporary practice has been guided by his childhood experience in the Minnesota woods near Park Rapids, and by the rural space in which the artist calls home.

Spangler’s home and studio on this land, which he designed and built himself, provides lessons on form and change. His works are realized using mallets, chisels and rotary tools, and composed in basswood he sources from this land.

Spangler’s latest works are his Tripods, which assume a humanoid presence, and which sometimes reflect intricate layers of forms carved on their surface - adding to their mythological persona. His ambitious prints and rubbings, which are in dialogue with the Tripods, have also been widely exhibited. Aesthetically similar to this series is Bog Walker (2017), prominently displayed at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden at the Walker Art Center.

“When I lived in New York, I worked in bas-relief,” Spangler also told Art in America, “Those pieces were more narrative and pictorial, dealing with breakdown of rural society and politics. It was something like commercial country music, which didn’t get created until people moved to the city, from a position of exile. In New York it made sense to make work on political, moral themes. When I started spending more time back here, I didn’t have that need anymore. The ruralness in my work now is more about the actual wilderness and my place in it. This sculpture (Bog Walker) is something new for me. It’s a beginning rather than an end.”

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