Martin Boyce



Not on display

Martin Boyce born 1967
Altered Eames plywood leg splints, brass, cardboard, fibreboard and acrylic paint
Object: 1663 x 220 x 240 mm
Presented by Tate Patrons 2011


   Untitled 2009 is a plinth-based constructed sculpture that resembles an African tribal mask. It is one of a series of works Boyce has made since    1998 where a mask element is derived from a plywood leg splint designed by    Charles and Ray Eames (1907–1978, 1912–1988). Charles and Ray Eames are best known for the    moulded plywood chair they designed together in 1945, which has since    become a modern design classic. However, during the Second World War they were    commissioned by the United States Navy to design a lightweight moulded plywood splint    for use by injured servicemen, five thousand of which were mass produced.    The splint was made from thin plywood steamed into the necessary curving    shapes suitable to support and cradle an injured leg. Boyce was attracted to the    splint’s highly sculptural yet functional qualities. In Untitled, sections of the Eames leg splint have    been reconfigured to give it the appearance of a three-dimensional biomorphic    form. The work’s organic forms also directly reference the splint sculptures which    Ray Eames made alongside her design work, thus highlighting the    connections between the language of art and design. Untitled also alludes to the influence of so-called ‘primitive’ art on    modernist artists such as Pablo Picasso (1881–1973). Untitled is displayed on a    plinth made from the leg splint’s original brown cardboard packaging with    printed graphics.

Untitled is a characteristic example    of Boyce’s interest in fashioning something new from something old, a strategy that    also enables him to contrast the functional purpose for which the objects were    originally made with the cultural role they now fulfill. This is often based on    taste and monetary value. Boyce is particularly interested in how the leg    splint’s specific purpose and relationship to trauma have been forgotten, so much    so that today it can often be found hanging on walls as a design classic or a    piece of sculpture. In turning the leg splint into a tribal mask or trophy, Boyce    aims to highlight its changed role.

Martin Boyce’s work explores the visual language of modernist architecture    and design. Drawing on its iconography and history of production, classic    pieces of furniture by Arne Jacobsen, Charles and Ray Eames, Jean Prouvé and    Charlotte Perriand, among others, have often been the focus of Boyce’s    attention. Boyce’s selected objects engage with the ethos of modernism:    democratic and mass-produced, they reflect an ambition for what can be    understood as a utopian vision – a re-imagining of society on egalitarian terms.    Boyce is also interested in how meanings change over time, in particular how    the significance of particular objects alters as society changes. Displaced from    their original ideals and context, Boyce’s objects take on an alternative life.

Further reading
Martin Boyce: For 1959 Capital Avenue, exhibition catalogue, Museum für    Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt 2002.
Martin Boyce Undead Dreams, exhibition catalogue, RomaRomaRoma, Rome    2003.
Martin Boyce, Zürich 2009

Clarrie Wallis
May 2010

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