Figure/Ground was a collaborative effort by Peter Barbor and Kate Roberts in January 2019 at Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, PA. The installation explored the relationship of each artist’s personal research and process driven approach to material. Drawing from both the psychological and artistic applications of figure-ground relationships, through their collaboration, Barbor and Roberts aimed to privilege neither the body nor the space it occupies.
Barbor’s figurative sculptures, composed of fencing wire, plaster and fiber, examine and dissect the long history of human likenesses. Suspended in a moment of becoming or decomposition, Barbor’s figures’ inherent vulnerabilities speak to the mutable nature of time. Through employing materials traditionally reserved for the preparatory stages of an artwork, Barbor hopes to suggest that the past is forever informing the present.
Roberts’ work, composed of unfired clay and fiber, likewise, is a meditation on time and its role in the decay of objects and memories. Accumulation and deterioration; solidity and transparency; entrapment and protection; order and chaos are material and organizational polarities that cause her work to teeter on the edge of viability and in a perpetual state of the in-between. This push and pull, back and forth, parallels human relationships with the natural world. Here, in concert with Barbor’s figures, Roberts’ work serves not as a backdrop, but rather, an active player in both artists’ provisional theater in the round.