Rooted in designs for masonry units shaped in configurations difficult to achieve with standard red-clay bricks; Brick Block, Tick Tock suggests alternative methodologies for constructing our homes and lives.
I came to Italy in 2019, after the life I had known in New York began to fracture and crumble. I left behind a way of life that no longer served me in order to search for one that would. In the Italian countryside—the home of my parents and theirs before them—I was looking for purpose, belonging, and space to make my work.
This project draws upon hereditary knowledge, looking to the legacies of my paternal grandfather, stonemason and builder Sergio Pietrobon, and maternal grandfather, ceramicist Onorino Basso, for inspiration and knowledge of these crafts. I see my family history symbolically embedded in these white, slip-cast bricks which collide construction and clay. The choice of creating five designs was also no accident. I often work with specific numbers—five, seven, and nine are common in my work—which convey meanings and stories that are not always evident at first glance. In this case, the five styles of brick represent me and my four siblings.
Though neither of my grandfathers are still living, it is important to me that I am creating this work in Onorino’s birthplace Nove, which is itself only twenty-one kilometers away from Sergio’s home in Castelfranco. I look to the landscape and creative output of my ancestral home as models for my practice. The geometries of Brick Block, Tick Tock are influenced by the stepped portals and designs that ornament Carlo Scarpa’s Tomba Brion, which is twenty kilometers from where I live. Like my own work, Scarpa’s architectures are rooted in the dialogue between body and stone—in the words of architect and theorist Marco Frascari, “the transubstantiation of architectural artifact into human presence.”
Through this project, I invest in and reinvent the configurations of the home—understanding the domestic sphere as the fundamental starting point for social or cultural revolution. To borrow from Gaston Bachelard, the home is “our first universe, a real cosmos in every sense of the word.” Following this prompt—the linkage of human sociality and architectural sensibility—Brick Block, Tick Tock nimbly uses these building blocks as the bases for domestic objects and relational activations, taking shape as lamps, vases, paintings, and sculpture, as well as dance performances or the social spaces of tables.
Drawing on Jasper Johns’s famous saying, “Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it,” the brick sculptures are accompanied by photographs and paintings which duplicate these dimensional forms.
VASES, LAMPS, and FURNITURE
I am also interested in bringing this unconventional building material into the home itself—as opposed to its construction. Some forms are hollowed out to operate as vases, flowers drooping out of jagged cuts. Other forms are outfitted with LED bulbs, circuitry, and switch to be table and floor lamps. Still others are stacked as makeshift tables or become supports for horizontal wooden surfaces.
Imagining myself trying to stand on the 8cm square flat surface, I was reminded of my childhood lessons in ballet. Although I never did pointe as a child, I have long wanted to wear the reinforced shoes that allow ballerinas to stand on their toes for hours at a time. These photographs document an improvised performance executed for photographer Romane Bourgeois, dancing through scattered and piled bricks. The photographs come together as an installation which lines the walls of a room, annotating the choreography against the backdrop of the music that I danced to – Ezio Bosso’s ‘Rain, in Your Black Eyes’.
PAINTING BRICKS and PAINTINGS OF BRICKS
As a child—and sometimes still as an adult—I am frustrated by the tactile limitations placed on artworks. We are discouraged from touching paintings or even sculptures, even when they are durable and can stand up to interaction. This project specifically opens to children who are invited to use paint, markers, and crayons to color a brick sculpture. In a video demonstration, two girls play with different brick shapes, rebelling against precedents for artistic viewership.
The painting of bricks capture the simple white clay forms on exposed burlap canvas, revealing the materials of both clay and painted substrate to the viewer’s eye.
Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994), 4.