At any given gallery in Wilmington, it’s quite easy to pick out the work of Grey Pascal. The 32-year-old is best known for his sprawling, repetitious sculptures and installations, composed of everyday items, such as film strips, string, wire, Styrofoam peanuts and Play-Doh. He presents it in a way that both astounds and engages any onlooker. Pascal’s unique and laborious efforts have made him a much-buzzed-about up-and-comer—and encore’s pick for our 2012 Emerging Artist.
It’s been a year since encore covered Pascal’s show last fall, “Downward Spiral.” The expansive sculpture consisted of several spools of plastic trash bags, cut down the sides, spread apart and painted a myriad of colors, which then hung from the ceiling on one long string that spiraled around ACME Art Studios in downtown Wilmington.
Pascal is close to wrapping his most recent exhibition, “Burned and Broken” at ACME, with a group including Patrick Atkinson, J. Coleman, Scott Ehrhart, German Martinez and Sarah Rushing. It hangs through Friday, September 21st, when there will be an informal “last look” from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. His contribution to “Burned and Broken” is, well, a little difficult to describe—I’ll just let the artist himself explain.
encore (e): It’s been a year since we last met. Catch me up on what’s been going on with your work.
Grey Pascal (GP): I feel like the past year has been about reflection. I’ve kept myself busy with work, but I recently realized that I have been grieving. There have been a couple of personal tragedies in my life, and though less dramatic, there have also been significant shifts in the dynamics of several relationships. So, much has changed in my life over the past year that I felt like I had to restructure and put the pieces back together again in a meaningful and practical way.
e: How has your style evolved since the “Downward Spiral” exhibition?
GP: One question I like to ask of a project is: “Have I done something new here?” I enjoy revisiting old ideas, but deliberate experimentation is probably the greatest driving force behind my work. In my current exhibition at ACME, I have a large-scale sculpture made using the obsessive-compulsive process typical to my style. I wanted another form of performance art for this show, but branched into video and even sound installation for this piece. The sculpture, the video, and the sound are three separate entities, but fuse into a single experience. I really pushed my comfort zone with this piece, including the fact that there are collaborative elements to it.
e: Tell me more about your contribution to “Burned and Broken.”
G: My piece includes collaborative contributions from Hart Ebersole and Crystal Bright, with whom I have collaborated before. Hanging from [ACME’s] ceiling is a car-sized screen made of strips of videotape that reach the floor and touch a pyramidal cement base covered in broken glass. Projected onto the screen are various images of fire and breaking glass that add movement to its surface while a fan behind it makes it wave like a friendly monster.
The sound installation includes breaking glass, lamentations and poetry that fill the entire space, conjuring feelings of eeriness, meditation and even silliness. Though there are separate elements, it is a singular piece of art.
It is about the pairing of opposites, and while its primary purpose was the expression of grief and rage, the process became therapeutic. The final result conveys a mesmerizing sense of peace. What makes me happiest about the piece is that I think I can say with confidence that Wilmington has never seen anything like it before.
e: Take me through the process of a Grey Pascal exhibition—from the idea’s inception to opening day.
GP: I think I can pinpoint three main sources for my root concepts. One is stumbling on some crazy new material that makes me think, “How can I possibly use this?” Another is a side effect of the process of obsessive-compulsive sculpture. Large-scale pieces range from 40 to 200 hours of repetitive labor where the mind is free to just wander. It’s amazing how many ideas one can come up with while sitting for eight hours straight, drilling holes into old eyeglass lenses. Lastly, my dreams are a significant source for inspiration.
From initial inspiration, it takes me months to years to figure out what it is I really want to say in a piece, to figure out the usually improbable physics of its armature, and the labor of its execution. I quickly learned with large-scale sculptures that it is important to keep things simple and to be fluid with attachments to form. Most people are surprised to learn that I never sketch. Most of the development of the form of a sculpture is done with visualization and most of the physics I work out by writing. I want to take every piece as far as I can, and as a result, I am grateful for deadlines.
e: When did you first realize you were attracted to the artist life?
GP: Looking back, I realize I have been making temporary large-scale sculptures my whole life, but I didn’t think of them as art at the time. I would spend hours setting up hundreds of small domino-shaped blocks, filling an entire room, just for the pleasure of spending a minute and a half to watch them fall. When I was nearing graduation from CFCC for degrees in liberal arts and science, my advisor begged me to start my four-year degree. I decided instead to try one semester of strictly fine art classes and see what happened. I absolutely fell in love with art and haven’t looked back.
e: Not trying to lure you into a pretentious trap, but how would you describe your own style?
GP: The easiest way to describe my work is large-scale, obsessive-compulsive sculpture, often bordering on being installation art. I usually use recycled materials ranging from packing peanuts, eyeglass lenses, trash bags, broken glass, and strips of videotape, repeating the use of those objects hundreds, or more often, thousands of times. Most pieces are conceptually or emotionally based but in a highly accessible way. They are not meant to be static works that are looked at, they are meant to create an experience. I like to think of my art as a way for me to personally interact with anyone who sees it.