Material Behavior

Carl Cheng
Past event


Throughout his nearly six-decade career, Carl Cheng’s pioneering work has been driven by an interest in technology and the exploration of manufactured and organic materials. Under the auspices of the John Doe Co.—a business created at the suggestion of his accountant, that furthered the artist’s access to manufacturers—Cheng began creating “art tools” for automating his artistic experiments and expanding his production of sculpture. Out of necessity, the tools were small and designed to fit into branded wooden boxes that could be easily shelved away. These initial art tools grew in mechanical and conceptual complexity by the mid-1970s, with Cheng producing larger installations and works of public art.

This exhibition presents a newly-restored version of Cheng’s continually-evolving Art Tool: Rake 1022 (2022). A prototype first appeared in Cheng’s public art intervention at the Santa Monica Pier, Natural Museum of Modern Art (1979). The “rake” has since evolved with each installation, added components allowing the mechanized tool to perform a variety of sculptural and form-making gestures: dropping water, blowing air, or drawing impressions on a blanket of sand. Cheng does not follow a predetermined design when creating these resulting forms; every instance is an experiment of material and movement, experienced for a limited time and never recreated. Demonstrating their own materiality while encouraging close observation from viewers, these installations express the artist’s increasing attention to how our ever-increasing technical capacity has come to indelibly mark the planet.

There will be a conversation between Carl Cheng and Danielle Dean that will take on Wednesday, October 26th at 7 PM.

Carl Cheng: Material Behavior is organized by Emily Gonzalez-Jarrett, Gallery Manager, Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater. The restoration of Art Tool: Rake 1022 was co-commissioned by REDCAT; Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; Museum Tinguely, Basel, Switzerland; and Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht, Netherlands.

About the Artist

Carl Cheng

Carl Cheng (b. 1942, San Francisco; lives and works in Santa Monica, Calif.) received his MA (1967) and BA (1963) from the University of California, Los Angeles. A retrospective exhibition of his work is scheduled to open at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia in 2024. Other monographic exhibitions have been organized at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles (2006); SculptureCenter, New York (2000); Contemporary Arts Forum, Santa Barbara, Calif. (1984, 1991); Capp Street Project, San Francisco (1989); MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Mass. (1988); ASG Foundation Gallery, Nagoya, Japan (1980); Exploratorium, San Francisco (1977); and Expo ‘70, Osaka, Japan. Cheng’s public works can be viewed at the Santa Monica Library, Santa Monica, Calif.; the Port of Los Angeles, San Pedro, Calif.; and The Promenade, Long Beach, Calif. His work has been included in numerous group exhibitions, including Potential Worlds 2: Eco-Fictions, Migros Museum of Contemporary Art, Zürich, Switzerland (2020); 3D: Double Vision, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles (2018); Under the Big Black Sun, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2011); Organic Laboratory Museum, Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, Calif. (1998); ARTEC’93, Nagoya Art Museum, Nagoya, Japan (1993); Erosions & Environmental Changes, Baxter Art Gallery, Caltech, Pasadena, Calif. (1975); and Photography into Sculpture, Museum of Modern Art, New York (1970). Cheng has received many grants, awards, and fellowships from organizations, such as LACMA Art + Technology Lab, Los Angeles (2017); Pollock-Krasner Foundation, New York (2001); Getty Foundation, Los Angeles (1990); The Clocktower, New York (1987); and National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, DC (1982, 1986).