Stuart Allen | 38° 33’ 05″ N / 121° 43’ 10″ W
Stuart Allen is an artist whose work deals with fundamental elements of perception such as light, time, gravity and space. He has shown photographs, kites and sculpture in galleries and museums throughout the U.S. and abroad. His work is found in many private and public collections including the Tokyo Kite Museum, the Crocker Art Museum, the DiRosa Art Preserve, UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, and U.S. Embassy collections in Canada, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, and the Republic of Georgia. Allen has completed permanent public art commissions for the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, Canada and the Police Headquarters building in Davis, CA. His work has been published in a variety of books and journals including: Picturing California’s Other Landscape: the Great Central Valley, Terra Nova: Nature and Culture, You Are Here: the Journal of Creative Geography, Zyzzyva and Artweek. Allen has lectured or served as a visiting artist at many fine institutions including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Weisman Art Museum, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and a number of university art departments nationwide. Allen studied architecture at Kansas University and graduated from the photography and video department of the Kansas City Art Institute in 1994. He lives in San Antonio, Texas with his wife Kelly Lyons, their daughter Aidan and son Vincent. Allen is represented by the following galleries: PDNB, Dallas, TX; JayJay, Sacramento, CA; Jan Manton Art, Brisbane, Australia; Haw Contemporary, Kansas City, MO.
Stuart Allen, artist, photographer, sculptor, public art, kite, kite maker, art consultant, Jayjay, haw contemporary, pdnb gallery, science and art
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38° 33’ 05″ N / 121° 43’ 10″ W

by Celeste Chamberland
Art writer, Davis, CA

A masterful delineation of the subtleties of perception and the convergence of light and space, Stuart Allen’s site-specific installation, 38° 33’ 05″ N / 121° 43’ 10″ W, housed in the lobby of the City of Davis Police Station is one of Northern California’s more subtle artistic treasures. Inspired by divergent themes, ranging from the elegant simplicity of nautical accouterments to the ethereal levity of a soaring kite, Allen’s installation offers a particularly shrewd, yet accessible synthesis of structural grace and gravitational malleability.

38° 33’ 05″ N / 121° 43’ 10″ W, which Allen terms a “tensegrity structure” due to the tensile interdependence of component parts essential to the work’s seemingly weightless structure, features an innovative use of media and adroit exploration of the relationship between material properties and the aesthetic qualities they convey. Composed of sailcloth, laminated wood and steel cable, Allen’s installation is somehow greater than the sum of its parts due to his deft manipulation of the tractable qualities particular to his chosen media. While preserving graceful clarity with clean lines and light tones, Allen conveys the inherent conceptual complexity of his work by incorporating the impression of movement and weightlessness with taut wires and excrescent segments of rigid sailcloth suspended from the ceiling as if soaring in mid-flight.

By compelling viewers to negotiate the gravitational qualities and physical space occupied by his tensegrity structure, Allen’s work conjures memories of Richard Serra’s imposing sculptural installations. Despite the interest in qualities of weight, mass and gravity shared by the two artists, however, Allen’s work serves as an antithetical complement to Serra’s. Inasmuch as Serra’s work boldly asserts a firmly grounded materiality, Allen’s imparts a more subtle and understated aesthetic quality. More specifically, 38° 33’ 05″ N / 121° 43’ 10″ W conveys an airy weightlessness that challenges the viewer to negotiate the uppermost sector of the room, where it coalesces with the elegant simplicity of the room’s sinuous design.

The great strength of Allen’s work lies in its ability to fuse unobtrusively with its surrounding milieu. His installation’s compositional subtlety and visual clarity complements the subdued minimalist aesthetic of the Police Station’s central lobby and elicits a graceful union of sculptural and architectural space. By exploring the notion of weightlessness as an aesthetic and conceptual category, Allen has developed a well-executed demonstration of the nebulous boundaries between art and science. The multifarious symbolic dimensions inherent in 38° 33’ 05″ N / 121° 43’ 10″ W not only illustrate the peculiarities of perception, but also offer an engaging visual interpretation of the mysteries of flight and gravity that have perpetually captivated humanity.

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