Photo: Courtesy Aisling McCoy

Exploring Corbanscale

Photo: Courtesy Aisling McCoy

Corban Walker operates within a wide range of media, from photography and painting to installation, digital art, sculpture, and public art. As one might expect, he uses an equally wide range of materials, including glass, aluminum, stainless steel, slate, and vinyl. Having graduated from the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) in Dublin, he quickly established a reputation for himself in Ireland. Then, he moved to New York in 2004, joined the Pace Gallery (staying until 2014), and represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale in 2011, before returning to Ireland, this time to live and work in Cork.

His work, influenced by Minimalist sculptors such as Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Robert Irwin, Carl Andre, and Robert Morris, also bears kinship with that of many YBA sculptors from the 1980s and ’90s. Walker has a marked penchant for stacking units. Since he stands only four feet tall, it’s not surprising that everything he produces relates to what he calls “Corbanscale”—Vitruvian man when translated to his height and measure. When I interviewed him a few years ago, he remarked that he wanted “to create a book-object monograph on [his] 21st-century work: a condensed toolkit with which to explore the work.”

The result is As Far As I Can See. The book is Corbanscale, measuring 15 by 11 by 3.5 centimeters, and Walker refers to it humorously as the “brick,” which it somewhat resembles. Its 144 pages (including covers) contain multiple, mainly color images of his work, along with two short essays—one by the Irish academic Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith, the other by art critic and curator Christian Viveros-Fauné—as well as a caption list and a CV. With the exception of pages 73 to 108, which consist of matte paper, the images—including many which Walker describes as observations he has made since 2000 that have inspired his practice in one form or another, in addition to two portraits of the artist made by other artists visiting him in New York—are printed on glazed card.

True to form, the book operates not unlike one of his installations. Entering a Walker installation, you are disoriented at every step and made to feel what it is like to be Corbanscale. Whether you like it or not, you become part of the installation. The book duplicates that sense of bewilderment since many of the images are upside down, which forces you to turn the book itself upside down to see the image in its true state. Installation shots jostle with details and/or observation photographs.

Called, somewhat grandiosely, a “multi-strand publication that encapsulates the studio practice of the artist” and described, somewhat inaccurately, as “having no beginning or end, or front or back,” this is what we would call an artist’s book. The two essayists, along with architect and photographer Aisling McCoy and gallery owner Oonagh Young, are all described as “collaborators” on the project (McCoy presumably having provided the photographs and Young the design). The photographs are excellent, the unusual design surprisingly appealing, and the two essays give useful background for the artist and his concerns. This is a very attractive and entertaining little object-book, though it does stick to some conventions. There is a front (glazed card) and a back (unglazed card), and the tradition of opening with images, inserting essays, then closing with a CV is well-established. This is no bad thing, however; one needs some order amid the disorientation. A book and an experience, As Far As I Can See is well worth buying, and surprisingly inexpensive.