IDA (detail), 2013. Polycarbonate, acrylic, HDPE, motor, and aluminum, 16 ft. diameter with projection.

Looking for the Wreck: A Conversation with John Umphlett

For the past 15 years, John Umphlett has developed a body of work in which his own body, placed under extreme duress, is a central feature. Whether dangling over cars, somersaulting through the air, or being slowly dragged through a gallery, Umphlett relentlessly explores the limits of bodily endurance through his provocative performance pieces. Some of his works are playful spectacles; others take the viewer on intimate, meditative journeys. His performed sculptures expose the vulner­ability and precious nature of life even while defying them. Perhaps unexpectedly, his works are also distinctive for their imaginative use of materials. “Evolving Resolution,” Umphlett’s 2013 show at Bennington College’s Usdan Gallery, featured a sculpture called IDA in which the artist physically connected himself to a large, electrically charged platter. Endurance—for both the artist and the viewer—is central to the manufactured tension that makes these works unique and provocative.…see the entire article in the print version of September’s Sculpture magazine.