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Keith EDMIER: Edison Impluvium

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Edison Impluvium 01The next exhibition taking place at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery at Florida SouthWestern State College will feature work by New York artist Keith Edmier. It will open with a lecture and public reception on Saturday, December 5 and continue through February 6, 2016. Below you will find articles, reviews, announcements and news about this exhibit, the artist and his body of work.

 

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‘Edison Impluvium’ cannot be experienced vicariously; the proof is in the seeing (12-06-15)

Edison Impluvium 10Keith Edmier: Edison Impluvium opened Saturday night inside the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery which, quite frankly, may never be the same again. You see, Edmier creates mindboggling sculptural environments and the site-specific realm he created for this exhibition recreates the interior of the concrete swimming pool that Thomas Edison installed at his winter residence Edison Impluvium 02right here in Fort Myers in 1910. So when viewers entered the gallery space Saturday night through what appears to be a jagged round hole in a dull gray stucco wall, they found themselves at the bottom of the Edison pool surveying smooth Portland cement walls, metal ladders and a flight of concrete steps. They also discovered to their astonishment and, perhaps, utter horror, Edison Impluvium 04that they were surrounded by host of smooth porcelain faces that appeared to follow them as they moved around the pool’s interior. At first, the crowd gawked at the ghostly countenances, recognizing something familiar, trying to place a name with the faces. Then the Rauschenberg Gallery staff and volunteers took pity and provided a roster that united each one with the person to whom it belongs or belonged.

Edison Impluvium 06The names read like a veritable list of the Hollywood elite and powerful. Linda Blair, Alfred Hitchcock, Michael Jackson, Clint Eastwood, Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, Keifer Southerland, John Candy, Chuck Connors, Michael J. Fox, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Mel Gibson, Paul Newman, Keanu Reaves, Ice Cube, John Goodman, Henry Winkler, Farrah Fawcett, Rodney Dangerfield, Edison Impluvium 09Leonard Nimoy, Charlie Sheen, Jeff Bridges, Grace Kelly and, yes, Kevin Bacon too. There’s even a president or two on the list, along with a likeness of the artist and his parents as well. But missing from this illustrious group is the man who inspired the sculptural environment, Thomas Alva Edison.

A homage to the inventor is only right and reasonable given that he is, after all, Fort Myers’ most famous winter resident and responsible in no small measure for attracting many of the people who influenced the way in which the town grew and developed. And until Edison Impluvium 08legal challenges forced a change in name, Florida SouthWestern State College was known and beloved by students, faculty and townsfolk alike as Edison State College. But his famous façade won’t be found within the confines of his recreated swimming pool. Rather, the death mask that was cast in the hours following the inventor’s death in 1931 is on display in a glass case outside Edmier’s sculptural environment, in a place of honor, where it can be appreciated in its own time and space.

The Bob Rauschenberg Gallery has seen many Edison Impluvium 07impressive exhibitions over the years. Since director Jade Dellinger took the reins a little more than two years ago. There was the Moon Museum Exhibition, Rauschenberg: China/America Mix, Yoko Ono Imagine Peace, ELEVEN: The John Erickson Museum of Art, Theo Wujcik – Artist’s Artist, Wayne White: Here Come Mr. Know-It-All and Dave Muller, Everything Sounds Good. But none changed the gallery and re-configured the Edison Impluvium 12space so thoroughly and convincingly as Keith Edmier: Edison Impluvium. Edmier has assembled a thoughtful and thought-provoking exhibition, from the architectural environment he has installed in the gallery from the floor up to the casts and masks hanging on the swimming pool walls. But like most art exhibitions, the proof is in the seeing because Edison Impluvium cannot be experienced vicariously or inferred from mere words or even the accompanying photos.

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A note about the pool Thomas Edison built in 1910 (11-28-15)

Keith Edmier 16Keith EDMIER: Edison Impluvium opens at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery on Saturday, December 5. For the exhibition, Edmier is converting the inside of the gallery into the interior of Thomas Edison’s concrete swimming pool – without the water, of course.

Edison hired a local company to build the pool. At the time, locals speculated that the inventor was Keith Edmier 18motivated to build the pool because his family spent so much time at Tootie McGregor’s Royal Palm Hotel, which had the only swimming pool in the region. Locals speculated that the pool was made of bamboo, but the local contractor that Edison hired, W.R. Wallace and Company, made the pool of much sturdier materials: three parts shell, cinders and broken stone, two parts sand, Keith Edmier 19and one part Edison brand Portland cement, for which Thomas held 40 patents dealing with its development and production.

Galvanized iron bars reinforced the cement and helped it to endure to today. “The … floor and walls … [were] re-enforced throughout with woven wires or expanded metal, corners for 10 feet Keith Edmier 20reinforced with ½ inch twisted iron bar, and the side and bottom made continuous by interweaving of the metal,” states the placard on the grounds outside the pool. The final cost for the project was about $1,000.

Initially, the pool included stone steps leading to the pool, a plank walk around the interior of the pool, a board fence, and dressing rooms located on Keith Edmier 21the southeast corner. It was surrounded with decorative foliage, which Edison produced from his experiments as a botanist. The pool was fed from an artesian well, which meant that the water was often too cold for more than just a quick dip as evidenced by a letter Mina wrote in 1920 to her mother reporting, “had our first dip in [the] pool. Water like ice so it was veritably a dip.”

Keith Edmier 07The swimming pool underwent major changes in 1928 to meet more modern needs. The remodeling plan was designed by local architect Nat Gaillard Walker, who would go on to design the United States Post Office building known today as the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center. Walker added concrete walks around the pool, pipe framing for the railing fence and pavilion, a tea house, fountain and a bath house with showers. All features were attached to make one combined entertainment area.

The pool complex remained a favorite spot for the Edison family as Madeleine relates in a letter to her mother March 10, 1947. “We Edison Impluvium 01did enjoy the lazy days at Fort Myers—I couldn’t have borne it not to see the place again it always was—and I’m glad it was warm enough for a farewell swim in the pool!”

Edison himself was never much of a swimmer, preferring to “exercise his brain” instead.

So what will Edmier’s archaeological version of Thomas Edison’s pool look like? Come see for Edison Impluvium 02yourself. Keith EDMIER: Edison Impluvium will run through February 6, 2016 at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery on the Lee campus of Florida SouthWestern State College (FSW). Please see above for gallery hours, and read below for more information about the exhibit, the artist and his work.

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Early Romans did not have air-conditioners, but they did have impluvia (11-26-15)

Edison Impluvium 11Keith EDMIER: Edison Impluvium opens at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery on Saturday, December 5. The exhibition is a site-specific sculptural environment in which the never-before exhibited death mask of inventor Thomas Edison along with three-dimensional self-portraits and life masks of Edmier’s family and a host of celebrity friends are embedded in the walls of a swimming pool reminiscent of the concrete pool that Edison had constructed on the grounds of his winter estate in Fort Myers in 1910. In other words, Edmier is converting the walls of the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery into a modern-day impluvium.

Edison Impluvium 10But what in the world is an impluvium?

Archeological digs in Rome and Pompeii reveal that Roman homes were constructed with openings in their roofs that allowed for ventilation and circulation of air through the hallways, corridors and rooms inside. Houses were divided into two sections, with the atrium being the centerpiece and most lavishly furnished and appointed room in the structure.

Image6The impluvium was a shallow pool sunk into the floor to catch the rainwater pouring in through the opening in the roof. Surviving examples show that impluvia were typically made of marble, mosaic tile or some combination of the two. They were also tastefully decorated, often with sculptures or busts of the head of the household.

A portion of the stone tiles in the impluvium were Keith Edmier 26separated by gaps significant enough to allow a substantial quantity of water caught in the basin to filter through the cracks into a below-ground cistern or holding tank. A circular stone opening in the impluvium afforded easy access by rope and bucket into this private, filtered and naturally cooled water supply. During rainy season, excess water that could not pass through the filter would overflow the basin and exit the building, and any sediment or debris remaining in the surface basin could be swept away. In hot weather, water could be drawn from the cistern and cast into the shallow pool to cool the Keith Edmier 24entire atrium and rooms beyond. The mechanism was ingenious. As the water evaporated, the surrounding air cooled, becoming heavier and causing it to flow into the living spaces in the home. It was, in essence, the Romans’ form of air-conditioning in the hot, sticky Mediterranean climate characterized by that region of Italy during the summer months.

So what will Edmier’s modern-day variation look like? Come see for yourself. Keith EDMIER: Edison Impluvium will run through February 6, 2016 at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery on the Lee campus of Florida SouthWestern State College (FSW). Please see above for gallery hours, and read below for more information about the exhibit, the artist and his work.

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Sculptor Keith Edmier experienced in creating intricate, meticulously-crafted sculptural environments (11-25-15)

Keith Edmier 08Keith EDMIER: Edison Impluvium opens at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery on Saturday, December 5. The exhibition is a site-specific sculptural environment in which the never-before exhibited death mask of inventor Thomas Edison along with three-dimensional self-portraits and life masks of Edmier’s family and a host of celebrity friends are embedded in the walls of a swimming pool Keith Edmier 02reminiscent of the concrete pool that Edison had constructed on the grounds of his winter estate in Fort Myers in 1910.

Sounds ambitious, but if anyone can turn the inside of the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery into the interior of a concrete swimming pool (sans the water, of course), it is Keith Edmier. Just witness Bremen Towne, a meticulous full-scale reconstruction of the interior of his childhood home in suburban Illinois, which the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis recently acquired. Edmier “made or revamped almost everything in it, from kitchen appliances, to curtains, to carved wood figure of a hooded monk that stands like a momento mori in the middle of the living room,” wrote art critic Holland Carter for The Keith Edmier 01New York Times Art & Design on the opening of a career retrospective of Edmier’s work that was hosted by the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York in 2008. So detailed and accurate is Edmier’s recreation that you’d swear he excised the interior from his parents’ Bremen Towne Estates’ home but, instead, he assembled the “time capsule of domestic kitsch” from scratch, using family photographs and childhood memories as his only cues.

Edison Impluvium 01If Edmier can pull off a feat like Bremen Towne, then recreating the interior of Thomas Edison’s cement pond should be child’s play. But come see for yourself. Keith EDMIER: Edison Impluvium will run through February 6, 2016 at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery on the Lee campus of Florida SouthWestern State College (FSW). Please see above for gallery hours, and read below for more information about the exhibit, the artist and his work.

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Edmier collaborated with Farrah Fawcett on sculptural portraits of each other (11-24-15)

Keith Edmier 04Keith EDMIER: Edison Impluvium opens at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery on Saturday, December 5. The exhibition is a site-specific sculptural environment that features the never-before exhibited death mask of inventor Thomas Edison, as well as three-dimensional self-portraits and masks that the artist has cast of family and a host of celebrity friends. One of the more recognizable Keith Edmier 10countenances in the show is that of Farrah Fawcett.

When Edmier was a teen, Charlie’s Angels was all the rage, and Edmier had a copy of Farrah Fawcett’s world-famous pin-up poster on the wall of his bedroom. After he established himself in both film and as an artist, he introduced himself to Fawcett and invited her to collaborate with him on a project. Before she went into acting, Fawcett had Keith Edmier 11been an art student at the University of Texas in Austin. (Janis Joplin had also studied art there two years earlier.) As sculpture had been her chief area of interest, so she readily accepted and the tandem made nude portraits of each other.

Edmier’s depicts Fawcett as a coy, tousle-haired nymph with an ear to the ground, staring vacantly at an unseen object in the distance. Fawcett was far less circumspect, posturing Edmier in bronze Keith Edmier 09leaning brazenly against a rock, eyes closed. But although Fawcett has passed, much too soon, Edmier keeps his memories of her alive not only through the sculpture he created during their collaboration, but by means of the life cast he made of her as well.

You can see that life cast along with those of a number of other of Edmier’s celebrity friends and acquaintances during Keith EDMIER: Edison Impluvium. The show will run through February 6, 2016.

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Life-size cast of pregnant mother Keith Edmier’s most recognizable work (11-23-15)

Keith Edmier 13Keith EDMIER: Edison Impluvium opens at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery on Saturday, December 5. The exhibition is a site-specific sculptural environment that features the never-before exhibited death mask of inventor Thomas Edison, as well as three-dimensional self-portraits and masks that the artist has cast of family and a host of celebrity friends. The cast of his mother is particularly noteworthy. His 1998 life-size sculpture of Beverly Edmier is perhaps the artist’s most famous and recognizable work.

Beverly Edmier, 1967 is startling. With it, Edmier turns the century-old tradition of Madonna and Child on its proverbial ear. The sculpture is a cast of his 22-year-old mother carrying him as a Keith Edmier 15fetus curled up her transparent womb. Caressing him with her right hand, she gazes down at her swollen belly in an intimate, early exchange between mother and child.

“Beverly’s seated pose echoes that of Abraham Lincoln, another Illinois resident, in the Lincoln Memorial,” wrote art critic Holland Carter for The New York Times Art & Design on January 11, 2008. “And she is dressed in a facsimile of the pink Chanel suit that Jacqueline Kennedy was wearing the day her husband was assassinated. (Note the presidential seals embossed on the suit’s buttons; Mr. Edmier is a fanatic for such subliminal touches.) A dozen red roses like the ones Mrs. Keith Edmier 14Kennedy carried in Dallas that day, but molded from dental acrylic, lie on a pedestal nearby like an offering at a shrine.”

In this way, Edmier poignantly evokes imagery from our historical past while juxtaposing life with death. It is this type of symbolism and metaphor that we can expect in Keith EDMIER: Edison Impluvium. The show will run through February 6, 2016 at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery on the Lee campus of Florida SouthWestern State College (FSW). Please see above for gallery hours, and read below for more information about the exhibit, the artist and his work.

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Sculptor Keith Edmier has enjoyed a long preoccupation with masks and sculptural environments (11-18-15)

Keith Edmier 02The Bob Rauschenberg Gallery is bringing sculptor Keith Edmier to Fort Myers. While in town, Edmier plans to create a site-specific sculptural environment that embeds a death mask of inventor Thomas Edison in a replica of his circa 1910 concrete swimming pool along with masks of himself, his parents and a slew of his celebrity friends and acquaintances.

Death masks might seem like an odd choice of motif, but Edmier has enjoyed a preoccupation with masks and prosthetic devices since his early teens. While the other kids were hanging out or playing ball after school, Keith spent his free tiime in a dental lab learning to mold vampire fangs from acrylic resin. He quickly became adept at Keith Edmier 01crafting clay models, molds and masks, skills he showed off while still in high school to Dick Smith, the special effects make-up artist responsible for Linda Blair’s spinning head in The Exorcist.

At 17, Edmier moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film creating special make-up effects. Smith put him in touch with Rick Baker, who was working at the time with director Francis Ford Coppola on Michael Jackson’s EO. When that project ended, Edmier went to work for Chris Keith Edmier 08Walas on David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly, which won an Academy Award in 1986 for best make-up. He attended The California Institute of the Arts/CalArts for a year, but continued to work in film throughout the 1980s, supervising effects for films like Bride of Re-Animator, Barton Fink for Joel ad Ethan Coen, and the television series Freddy’s Nightmares.

Keith Edmier 06Although his stint in art school was brief, it did serve to re-focus his career goals from film to art, and over the past 25 years, Edmier has focused on themes of mortality, eroticism and autobiography, with his sculptural ouevre uniquely reanimating deeply personal memories and capturing moments frozen in time and space. Among his better known pieces are Beverly Edmier, a life-size figure of his pregnant mother carrying him as a fetus curled Keith Edmier 15up in her transparent womb, Bremen Towne, a full-scale reproduction of the interior of the artist’s childhood home in the Chicago suburb of Tinley Park, and Farrah Fawcett, depicting the actress as a coy, tousled-hair nymph laying with an ear to the ground vacantly staring at an unseen object off in the distance. Each of these works is rife with autobiographical content. Each is subtly erotic on multiple planes. And each embraces our inevitable mortality with the cold exactitude of a mortician.

And so an exhibit that embeds sculptural self-portraits and life casts of family and friends in an architectural setting that Keith Edmier 14harkens back in time to Fort Myers’ most famous winter resident seems especially a’ propos. Keith EDMIER: Edison Impluvium opens at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery on the Lee campus of Florida SouthWestern State College on December 10. Please read on for more information, including gallery location and hours.

 

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Next Rauschenberg Gallery exhibit to feature site-specific Keith Edmier sculptural environment (11-14-15)

Edison Impluvium 02Keith EDMIER:  Edison Impluvium opens with a lecture and public reception on Saturday, December 5. The exhibition features a site-specific, full-scale sculptural recreation of the historic circa 1910 concrete swimming pool located on the nearby property of the Edison-Ford Winter Estates and will include the first-ever exhibition in Florida of the late, great inventor Thomas Edison’s “full-head” plaster-cast death mask.

Keith Edmier 16In addition to Edison’s, the cementitious interior walls of the “swimming pool” sculpture (sans water) will be adorned with fifty other original plaster life masks, many created from molds made personally by Edmier from the faces and bodies of his subjects. These “casts” represent a physical record of time and include “self-portraits” of the artist as a teenager, in his 20s and most Keith Edmier 03recently as a middle-aged man in his late 40s. Keith Edmier’s parents (Tom and Beverly) are memorialized alongside a chronological “who’s who” of the artist’s friends, actors, comedians, musicians and various subjects from his personal life and work history, including “life masks” of Farrah Fawcett, Michael J. Fox, Charlie Sheen, David Bowie and former studio-mate Matthew Barney.

According to the artist, “Edison’s Fort Myers pool is reimagined as an ancient ruin and references both the Roman Republic-era idea of life casts as ancestral Keith Edmier 07masks and the water basins (known as impluviums) in the atriums of houses like those found in Pompeii.”

Keith Edmier is an American visual artist who was born in 1967. He enjoyed his first solo show  in 1993 at the Friedrich Petzel Gallery. He has exhibited extensively since, including solo exhibitions at the USF Contemporary Art Museum/Tampa (curated by Bob Rauschenberg Gallery Director Jade Dellinger), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Andy Warhol Museum, with major mid-career surveys at the CCS Bard Hessel Museum of Art, New York and De Hallen Haarlem/the Frans Hals Museum, the Netherlands. His work is in numerous private and Edison Impluvium 01public collections including the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Hessel Museum of Art/CCS-Bard College, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; The Denver Art Museum; The Israel Museum, TeleViv; and The Tate Gallery in London. A number of Edmier’s works have sold at auction, including Victoria Regia (Second Night Bloom) sold at Sotheby’s London Contemporary Art Evening Auction in 2011 for $86,906. The artist has been the subject of numerous articles, including Now Showing | Keith Edmier written by Erika Allen for New York Times Magazine in 2013.

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