True, False and Slightly Better, 2003
Photo: Tom Dubrock

Phoebe Washburn
True, False, and Slightly Better
24 January - 24 March 2003

Rice Gallery’s spring season will open with True, False and Slightly Better, a large-scale sculptural installation by Phoebe Washburn, on view January 24 - February 23, 2003. The primary component of Washburn’s work will be thousands of cardboard boxes that she collected from the loading docks, sidewalks, and alleyways of New York. Back in her studio, Washburn painted part of each box a delicate pastel hue, transforming it into a module to be incorporated into her work. Her massive forms often seem to defy gravity as they hover above the floor without touching it, precariously balanced on comical props such as pencils, chairs, or ladders.

The ongoing life of discarded materials is an important aspect of Phoebe Washburn’s work. Each box she reuses has an inherent history, once having been used to hold, move, mail, or store materials. The artist keeps the outer labels and stamps of each box intact, but paints the inside flaps with pastel mistints, custom-mixed latex paint colors that were rejected because they were not what the customer desired. Washburn considers her use of cast-off materials to be, in effect, a shift of perspective. “Someone once described my process of collecting, painting and organizing the cardboard as making the cardboard only slightly better,” she says. “I loved that. It is very basic yet the most crucial part of my work.” Washburn draws attention to the importance of an alternative way of looking at things by sometimes including a “viewing platform” in her installations. Visitors may climb up, then look down to get a visual surprise, for instance, a swirling vortex of color in a cardboard canyon.

About the Artist

Phoebe Washburn received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the School of Visual Arts, New York, in 2002. In 2002 she had a solo exhibition at LFL Gallery, New York and was a recipient of a Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation Award.