Award Winners / Artist Profile

About the Artist

John Grade (Seattle) creates large-scale sculptures that are exhibited internationally in museums, galleries and outdoors in nature. His projects are designed to change over time and often involve large groups of people to collaboratively build and install. He is the recipient of the 2010 Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (NY), a Tiffany Foundation Award (NY), an Andy Warhol Foundation Award (NY), two Pollock Krasner Foundation Grants (NY), and the 2011 Arlene Schnitzer Prize from the Portland Art Museum. His 65-foot sculpture Wawona is permanently installed at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle where it breaks through the floor and ceiling of the building, bridging a view from the water below the building to the sky above.

John received a 2010 GAP to cover the costs of documenting through video and time-lapse photography the gradual evolution of his piece Circuit. Circuit will be a sculptural installation that will be sited on a mountaintop in the South Cascades in January 2011. Made of glazed ceramic plates bonded with a gypsum polymer to corn-based resin set in marine netting, the 10,000 lb. structure will be carried in 400 parts up the mountain simultaneously by 200 volunteers (in the snow). Designed to crack apart through exposure to extreme temperatures the sculpture will gradually change shape over the course of one year.

John received a 2007 GAP for documentation of Fold (Seven Types of Catastrophe), a sculptural installation sited in Willow Canyon, South Utah at the Escalante National Monument. The work, cast in a composite of cellulose, glassine pulp and ground white sesame seeds, will be suspended across the open mouth of the canyon, and documented from above and below, as natural forces contribute to its collapse and deterioration. Photographic and video documentation of the collapsing project will be shown alongside the remaining bird-picked remnants of the project. The work is scheduled for exhibition at the Bellevue Art Museum in August 2008 and at Davidson Contemporary in Seattle in November 2008.

John received a 2004 GAP to aid in completing a video narrative of his sculptural process and underscore how the labor-intensive pieces are constructed in stages not visible in the finished object. As such, Grade’s sculptures are an exploration of “temporary supporting structures, ad hoc tools made to reach and bend, and hanging devices.” This video will create a dialogue between the sculptural process and the finished art object.

John also received a 1999 GAP and a 2002 Fellowship.

Information included above was provided by artist at the time of application.
From the Artist

I recently spent three months in France where I was nearly killed by hunters. I knew I wanted to build an installation in a northern forest, but had not figured out specifically where, so I began my first day by scouting off-trail alone. One long second after I locked eyes with a small deer, simultaneous rapid gun shots rang out, killing the deer and hissing by me. Perhaps because my French is so poor or because I had been told there was no hunting allowed in this area and instinctively assumed I was witnessing poaching, I dropped to the ground, crawled, then ran ducking from the scene rather than calling out. I never found out who these hunters were, but weeks later I joined a group of 70 hunters as they hunted, butchered their kill, then paid homage to the dead animals with speeches and ritualized horn play. The hunt framed the work I made while in France and opened a means of understanding a forest in a new way.

Seeking to pair and relate a gallery exhibition with a temporary installation in the forest, I began by literally framing the rectilinear space of the gallery in the forest with string at actual scale. I chose a site in the forest for subtle evidence it bore from both World Wars. Close scrutiny revealed faint depressions sunk from channels once connecting raised artillery mounds now grown over with trees. As I built a sculpture within this framed space, wild boar regularly dug up and crashed through various sections. Each morning I would repair the damage from the boar, anticipating where it might happen again, and it became a kind of dialog we were having through form.

I titled this project La Chasse (or The Hunt) and also developed a corresponding sculpture within a gallery made with mine tailings reflecting a 300-year history of coal mining in this region of northern France. The unpremeditated inspiration for La Chasse and my direct response to a site and the history and activity it harbors, reflect the way I have approached many of my sculptural projects.

Essential to my projects are the contributions of many other people. My goal is to design forms that will benefit from input from those that are helping to build and move the sculptures. Ideally, there is direct evidence within the form of each of these sculptures that many people have made varied choices and physical imprints that are unique, but collectively directed. Projects like the Elephant Bed and Circuit are as much about how forms move through and into a landscape as they are about the forms themselves. With the Elephant Bed, dozens of people entered the English Channel supporting the vertical weight of the sculptures, felt them dissipate in seconds, then swam back to shore completely unencumbered. Later this year, 200 volunteers will carry Circuit up a snow-covered mountain and unite in eight groups to reconnect forms that had previously been monolithic within a gallery setting. Important to me is the way we imagine how a sculpture will change form when introduced to a new environment; anticipating and projecting become activities as important as what actually happens to the sculpture.

John Grade