Charles Simonds

Dwellings Winter, 1974

In the early 1970s, Charles Simonds came to notice through his works in the streets of New York. On sidewalks and in the nooks and crannies of Lower East Side buildings, he sculpted miniature architectural structures, with the help of tiny clay bricks and a pair of tweezers. These “dwellings” are the vestiges of a fictitious civilization whose history and whole belief system the artist has made up. Like fallen and ruined fortresses, these constructions introduce a chaotic principle into the public place by bringing forth forms of primitive dwellings belonging as much to archaeology as to the world of dreams and childhood. Film enables Simonds to preserve a trace of his ephemeral works, while at the same time reinstating the contextual and sociological challenge of his interventions. More than the finished object, it is the act of constructing which is important here, in a critical relationship to the time and space of the city. The films Dwellings and Dwellings Winter thus multiply the interplays of scale and the effects of contrast, showing the sculptor as someone imperturbable faced with the bustle of a working-class neighbourhood in the midst of redevelopment.

Aurélien Vernant

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