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June Issue 2010

701 Center for Contemporary Art in Columbia, SC, Offers Works by Bob Trotman

The 701 Center for Contemporary Art in Columbia, SC, is presenting the exhibit, Bob Trotman - Business As Usual, featuring an installation of wooden, figurative sculptures, on view through July 11, 2010. 

Masterfully carving wood, Trotman creates darkly humorous and earnest individuals in a tableau he refers to as "corporate purgatory, if there were such a thing, where it's not clear who's done what to whom." In its "confluence of power," Trotman says, "guilt, shame, warning, and despair are mixed in a whirlpool of emotions that could never be openly expressed in an office setting."

Trotman's installation Business as Usual, can be a little scary but is also funny and uncannily familiar. The artist tells us that his "subjects are confronted with dilemmas they can neither escape nor understand, and wood, through its organic warmth, its quirks, and flaws, gives their quandaries an immediacy they might not otherwise have."

Trotman received a BA in philosophy from Washington and Lee University. For 30 years he has maintained a studio in the foothills of Western North Carolina. Self-taught in art, he has received two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, three from the North Carolina Arts Council, and, most recently, a nomination for a United States Artist Fellowship. His work is in the permanent collections of a number of museums, including the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, the Mint Museum, and the Museum of Art and Design in New York.

Business as Usual was conceived as an installation with an affinity to Greek tragedy. The sculptures of men and women in corporate attire are divided into three groups: Committee, Cover Up, and Chorus. The Committee members, elevated as though to embody institutional power, are armless and have a surrealistic quality. Removable eyes and mouths allow their expressions to alter, producing the sense that they are not really in control but instead manipulated by someone else. Trotman suggests that "these figures are strangers to their own lives, separated by their projections of power, privilege and prosperity which they substitute for real joy in living."

In creating Chorus, Trotman admits tapping into primal fear of being buried alive. The four half figures are either emerging from the floor or sinking into it, their arms raised in fear or surrender.

The shrouded figures in Cover Up can be interpreted in several ways too. They could be sacrificial victims, those scapegoated to maintain the status quo, or the diminished scale of the figures could signify shame or denial of something that is being hidden. The group might also represent our cultural blind spots.

An image from Sergei Eisentein's 1925 silent movie The Battleship Potemkin loosely serves as the central icon of Business as Usual. The characters who make up Trotman's corporate tableau beckon the viewer to enter the tangled story and watch it unfold.

701 Center for Contemporary Art is a non-profit visual arts center that promotes understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of contemporary art, the creative process and the role of art and artists in the community. The center also encourages interaction between visual and other art forms.

For further information check our SC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Center at 803/779-4571 or visit (www.701cca.org).

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