Virginia Overton's work comprises installation, sculpture and photography, often beginning intuitively as a direct response to her physical presence in a particular space. Through a process of trial and error, she creates sculpture that is performative, sometimes obstructing, bisecting, dividing or joining the architecture of a space with works that are dramatic and minimal in feel.
Infused with an ethos of economy, Overton's practice favours elemental materials, frequently recycled objects that are found on site or things discovered in the environs of the exhibition space. More commonly associated with architecture, construction work or farming, materials such as wood, metal, plexi and fluorescent lighting are cut, bent and hammered into works that evince the power and sensory quality of their own materials. ‘I like for the work to act as a marker of its own history – letting accrued defects show in the pieces – that talks about the ways in which the materials have been used’, she explains. In the work Untitled (juniperus virginiana) (2013), Overton used cedar planks from her family farm in Tennessee to neatly line the gallery wall, creating an installation that operated visually, spatially and sensorially since this distinctive wood has a remarkable grain and colour as well as a highly evocative smell. For a recent large-scale outdoor sculpture commissioned by the Storm King Art Center in upstate New York, Overton created a 500-foot brass tube which stretches out, like a line in space, across the landscape. Delicately raised on struts above the grass that grows beneath it, the tube carries ambient sound and is designed to colour and patternate over time as its material responds to the change in weather and the swift passing of seasons.
While Overton's work is clearly in dialogue with minimalist sculpture, and, in particular, with the work of both Donald Judd and Richard Serra, it also deals with the transformation of architectural space. Notions of equilibrium, weight and gravity are foregrounded in her carefully balanced assemblages, which harness what she has described as the ‘natural push and pull in materials’. A recent exhibition at Kunsthalle Bern, for example, was conceived as a series of spatial echoes, with works that intervened in and recreated elements of the museum's architecture such as Untitled (Hauptstaal floor) (2013), a floor-based sculpture which copied the pattern of the gallery's glass ceiling, and a series of parquet wood panels hung on the wall which mirrored the actual parquet of the gallery floor.
In other works, the artist deals with the visual iconography of working class America incorporating pick-up trucks (both inside and outside of the gallery space), decal trucker's motifs and lightbox signage in her work. In Chevy Deluxe (2012), a work made for The Power Station in Dallas, she exhibited a faded blue pick-up truck with a bright blue tarpaulin covering its bed, which, when viewed from the gallery's second floor, became distilled into a floating monochrome. In a sculpture commissioned by the High Line, Untitled (2012), she bricked-up the bed of a black pick-up truck and located it on a raised parking lot, viewable from the elevated park. The work both incorporated and reflected on the urban surroundings, as well as on American car culture in general, transforming a vacant parking lot into a pedestal for her sculpture.
Virginia Overton was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1971 and lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Solo exhibitions include Socrates Sculpture Park, New York (2018); Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson, Arizona (2017); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2016); The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut (2016); Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami (2014); Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster, Germany (2013); Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland (2013); The Power Station, Dallas, Texas (2013); and The Power House, Memphis, Tennessee (2007). Group exhibitions include Front Triennial, Cleveland (2018); Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit, Michigan (2017); and Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (2016).