Chris Sauter’s Rural Installations
Mind/Body Split, 2008; graphite and spray-paint on MDF, 17″x17″ installed
Today we would like to return to the work of Chris Sauter, the Texas-based artist whose writings on the rural avant-garde we recently discussed. Through Mr. Sauter’s work, we’ve uncovered a whole universe of provocative contemporary rural art; these artists, which we will feature in the coming weeks, offer the other side of a kind of continuum in the modern rural arts–a push towards a kind of aesthetic innovation that is the related counterpart to the movements to document, preserve, and re-present folk artforms and folklife. This is not to say that these two impulses are contradictory, or that there is an antagonistic relationship between the two; instead, we find both the work of Mr. Sauter and, say, Dust-to-Digital, concerned with questions of community and place, and how technology and contemporary practices can be used to say something relevant–and revelatory–about our rural communities, their people and their land.
Mr. Sauter was born in San Antonio, though he was raised on his grandparents’ ranch in Boerne, Texas. As he writes in his artist statement, Mr. Sauter is “interested in exploring the links between biology and culture, the present and the primordial, the personal and the universal,” and though his work considers an array of contemporary questions, his experience in rural Texas has shaped his notions of nature and man, science and art. As the pieces below suggest, this is an artist with a restless imagination and a willingness to defamiliarize our relationship to some of the most commonplace objects and markers along our landscape. The achievement of this project seems to stem from how he merges a sensitivity to these human connections with avant-garde aesthetic concepts. He continues:
Recently, I have been exploring agriculture and astronomy (cosmology.) Both are instances when we actively interact with nature and our origins. The origin of civilization stems from the advent of agriculture and astronomy actively probes space in the search for the beginnings of the universe.Although it is not my main goal, using agricultural imagery positions the rural experience as something equally as interesting, important, and complex as the urban. An exploration (embrace) of my own roots is both part of that desire and a mode of inquiry.
Divide and Conquer (Guenther Family Tree), 2006; 18″x12’x12′
“Seven generations of the Guenther family tree are represented as a network of interconnected grain silos with the patriarch (Karl Hilmar Guenther) as the central grain elevator. Guenther founded the Pioneer flourmill, one of the oldest family owned companies in the United States.”
Plow Flag, 2006; 11’x11’x12′
Mind and Body, 2005
There are many more pieces on view in Chris Sauter’s site, along with further links to his method and his philosophies. Through his site we discovered the work of the husband-wife team of Walley Films, who put together this fantastic piece on Mr. Sauter’s installation of Mind and Body: