Carol Bove on crushing, crashing and twisting heavy metal into better shape
On a snowy day in March, all sorts of things are happening in Carol Bove’s studio. An assistant in a white Tyvek suit is stripping down a sculpture – one of the seven lively blue forms that stood like an abstract family outside the Swiss Pavilion in Venice during the 2017 art biennale. Another is welding a huge steel tube, which seems to have writhed into submission, crushed and doubled up on itself. Gordon Terry, Bove’s husband and the studio’s managing partner, is showing a couple around the huge space. ‘He has oversight,’ says Bove, ‘but he’s really doing his own stuff right now.’ Terry, also an artist, is currently studying philosophy. ‘We talk about Kant all the time,’ adds Bove. She’s laughing, but in all seriousness, her work is as much about the psychological as it is about occupying and disrupting the space around it, asking for an unconscious response to its often unlikely presence.
Bove’s career has fairly cantered along since she completed her art studies at New York University in 2000. She first gained attention with her sparse arrangements on plain wooden bookshelves: magazines and publications from the 1960s and 1970s, and peacock feathers and shells, like minimalistcabinets of curiosity. Her work has since grown in scale as she works heavy metal into increasingly light forms. In 2013, for the final section of the High Line, she created six giant sculptures, including a Loch Ness Monster-style multiple loop of steel that spoke the same language as the old rail tracks and urban detritus around them. Last year, she reworked a classical sculpture garden at the Contemporary Austin in Texas with more steel loops, metal pieces finished in velvety car paint and elegant minimalist grids.
Born in Geneva in 1971, albeit to American parents, Bove was eligible to represent Switzerland in Venice, and she has referred to herself as ‘spiritually Swiss’, though she mostly grew up near San Francisco. Her studio, 1,580 sq m in all, is in the outlying, artist-favoured Brooklyn neighbourhood of Red Hook. On the waterfront, and cut-off by distance and a distinct lack of public transport, the area has the feel of a slightly abandoned seaside town, though some houses have now been architecturally enhanced and there are a sprinkling of cool oyster bars and smart wine shops.