Kate Conlon and Richard Blackwell:
Doubling the Cube

Organized by Third Object, Curatorial Residents at Mana Contemporary Chicago

Fifth Floor

May 11–July 21, 2018

As part of their curatorial residency at Mana Contemporary Chicago, Third Object is pleased to present Doubling the Cube, an exhibition by Kate Conlon and Richard Blackwell. The show features work in sculpture and installation that investigates spatial orientation, theoretical dimensions, and some of the ways in which truth and consensus are wrestled collectively into being. Doubling the Cube is accompanied by a catalogue designed by Hour Studio, which features an essay by Third Object and an discussion between Conlon, Blackwell, and artist Jan Tichy. 

Doubling the Cube is staged in a long room defined on one side by 11 closely spaced electrical outlets. Taking advantage of this functional architecture, Conlon has crafted 11 mechanical sculptures, each of which illustrates one of the 11 dimensions described by M-theory, a branch of superstring theory. Moving from object to object, viewers may observe the ways that dimensional transitions flow from one to the next or leap disjunctively between them. Each sculpture exists on the edge of representation, where describing the properties of a dimension visually becomes a challenge of reaching and grasping.

Conlon’s dimensional objects are complemented by Blackwell’s installation of aluminum handholds arranged in grids across the gallery walls. Evoking the grips of a climbing wall, the shiny metal holds are spaced too widely for use. Instead, they hint at the airless virtual space of design software, presenting a Cartesian coordinate system with no gravity or inherent orientation. Accompanying this arrangement is a cylinder, attached to a long wooden handle, which bears a negative impression of the Moon’s topography. With the grid of handholds and the lunar roller, Blackwell summons ideas of traversal, orientation, and terrain.

Rounding out the exhibition is a pair of works: an artist’s book researched and authored by Conlon, and a sculpture produced collaboratively by the two artists. This pair of works revolves around an internet community called the Replica Prop Forum (RPF). Adopting a sociological approach, Conlon researched and participated in the community and its years-long journey to construct a perfect replica of a laser gun prop from the first Star Wars movie. Conlon’s book documents the key twists and turns in a process of collective development, and the group arbitration of truth and authenticity. Conlon and Blackwell together produced a replica of their own—not of the laser gun, but of the case that housed the prop on set. Displayed empty, the case embodies a meditation on the promise of future revelation and the inherent void at the heart of any great quest.

Kate Conlon (b. 1989) is a Chicago-based artist whose work explores the various ways in which we make sense of the world, from the instinctive and bodily to the theoretical and mythological. Conlon has exhibited at venues including the Grand Rapids Art Museum; Oak Park, Illinois (in the 2017 Terrain Biennial); and Museu do Douro, Portugal. She has received grants and residencies from ACRE, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, and Kala Art Institute. Conlon is Founder and codirector of Fernwey Gallery and Director of Fernwey Editions, an independent publishing house that collaborates with artists on limited-edition prints and multiples. Currently, she teaches in the printmaking departments of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Columbia College Chicago.

Richard Blackwell (b. 1987) is an Australian artist whose interdisciplinary practice forges links between sculpture, printmaking, and digital fabrication. Blackwell earned his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago as a Fulbright Scholar from Canberra in 2012, and currently resides in Doha, Qatar, where he serves as Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the Woodshop and Fabrication Facilities at Virginia Commonwealth University Qatar. Since 2011, he has undertaken public sculpture commissions across Australia.

Third Object is a curatorial collective based in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. Currently, Third Object is comprised of Ann Meisinger, Raven Falquez Munsell, and Gan Uyeda.

From left:

Kate Conlon, Dimension 1, (detail), 2018. Plywood, aluminum, motor, and urethane

Richard Blackwell, digital rendering of Navigational Apparatus nodes, 2017. Courtesy of the artist