In 1999, Ingram assisted in the installation of an exhibition of early drawings by Ellsworth Kelly at the High Museum of Art. His close proximity to the work allowed him to study the hand of a master for whom he had already developed an affinity. Ingram pulled pages of his favorite compositions from the exhibition catalog and began to copy them. Titled the "Kelly Re-Drawings" after their inspiration, the drawings emulate Kelly’s shapes and lines but are made with Ingram's preferred materials such as paint, graphite, white out, nail polish and spray paint. This seminal series laid the groundwork for a major shift in Ingram's work.
Nail Polish Works
In 1954, Ellsworth Kelly made a drawing in which he daubed an eyedropper of green ink at the top of a piece of paper before tipping it. The resulting drip became an automatic line drawing. Combining this idea with his admiration for Barnet Newman’s “Zip” paintings, Ingram developed a series of "Nail Polish Drawings" in which he pours carefully chosen colors of nail polish at the top of the surface and allows gravity to pull them downward. The polish references Ingram’s fascination of the cool, smooth transparent surfaces of the Los Angeles Finish Fetish movement of the 1960's. The sleek, often glittery lines created by the material unwittingly begin to define the space between and around them, whether executed on paper, canvas or in site-specific installations.
Case Study House Series
In 1945, the publisher of Art & Architecture Magazine initiated a project that ran intermittently until 1963 that challenged young architects like Charles and Ray Eames, Richard Neutra and Eero Saarinen to design residential architecture that matched innovative design with affordable construction using commercial building materials. The challenge was in response to the housing boom caused by the GI's returning from World War II. Known as the Case Study House Program, the ongoing project was published in the magazine and later in a series of books. Using this documentation, Ingram has created a series of "Case Study House" paintings. These two-dimensional wall works reflect facades of selected designs using high-gloss metallic paint combined with materials that were innovative at the time including metal, cast concrete, birch plywood, MDF panel, fabric and mirrors.
Collages and Photography
Ingram is a student of modernist architecture and part of his exploration includes manipulating photographs of structures he admires in an effort to better understand them. Beginning with plates from a book or sometimes black and white photos he has taken himself, he adds blocks of color creating "Photo-collages," whose juxtapositions hark back to the early geometric compositions of El Lisitsky and László Moholy-Nagy. But unlike the primary colors embraced by these artists, Ingram’s palette references the institutional colors of the period: cerulean blues, vibrant oranges, battle ship grays, deep ochers, and the institutional aqua green of his father's 1957 Chevy. These patches of color help to high light the important aspects of the work. For example, adding blue to the photo of Eero Saarinen's Gateway Arch accentuates how the monument frames the sky, or boarding up the windows of I M Pei's addition to the Des Moines Art Center in ochre reveals the architect’s name hidden in the framework of the building.
In 2006, Ingram travelled to Holland to visit his wife's extended family. Armed with numerous sketches and photographs from the trip, Ingram returned to his Atlanta studio and began to remove elements such as shipping containers, boats, doors even buildings from their surroundings to explore how they held up as shape and color. The logical and systematic nature of Dutch design and architecture lent itself particularly well to the process, which in their abstracted form reflect rectangular lines and repetitive areas of color similar to the De Stijl artists that hailed from the region like Piet Mondrain or Theo van Doesburg as well as later practitioners such as Ellsworth Kelly and Donald Judd. Installed as a group, Ingram pairs his drawings of boats with those of container ships and the trucks near warehouse doors, in effect creating a map that reflects the vibrant pulse of the country.
The Iconic Line
In 2007, Ingram was invited to make a series of drawings about iconic works in Knoll's furniture line. He focused on their elegant profiles and cut stencils of each one, a nod to the mechanical production and efficiency of the Modern period. Using these stencils, Ingram began his series of "Iconic Line Drawings," exploring modernist furniture by Mies van de Rohe, Eero Sarrinen and Warren Platner. He also used the stencils to make a series of etchings, which group multiple drawings on a single page. Later the series expanded to include iconic works of art such as Constantin Brancusi's "Bird in Flight" and his "Endless Column." Some of these remained simple line drawings, others turned into positive/negative studies that begin to reference the solidity of the forms from which they are derived. Ingram's love of materials surfaces here as well with the introduction of upholstery fabric and sheet rubber added to his favorite automotive paint and nail polish.
In parallel to his fine art practice, Ingram has made a series of functional objects that include bookshelves, tables, bedroom sets, desks, benches and an audio buffet. He approaches this work as he does painting or sculpture, paying great attention to color, line and proportion. Sensuous surfaces and smooth finishes are inherent in his creations, whether on a desk topped with cool cast concrete or a whitewashed bench covered with multiple layers of varnish. Ingram's most recent foam cinder block (FMU) benches and tables premiered at Modern Atlanta's opening gala in 2013.
Cinder Blocks and I-Beams
The cinder block, an elemental material in modernist architecture, has provided Ingram with the inspiration for a series of different works. In 2007, he fabricated a number of cinder block shapes out of wood and combined them with cast concrete shelves, reversing the cinder block and pine plank shelving units that filled innumerable dorm rooms and first apartments. Later, he used a water jet to carve a series of cinder block shapes out of granite and limestone that he salvaged from buildings slated for demolition. Not long after, he cast an actual cinder block in a matching gray foam, initiating his FMU's (Faux Masonry Units), which he has developed into a few different projects.
In each case, Ingram took the concrete cinder block and consciously made it out of a different material and shifted its use. In a similar vein, steel I-beams are milled them out of wood. No longer able to support weight as originally intended, Ingram's beams pierce the walls at unusual angles creating useless architecture or take the form of freestanding floor sculptures.
Public Art Projects
Ingram enjoys removing his work from a purely art context and engaging the general public. An idea for a new project that would achieve this blossomed in 2012, first at the Westabou Art Festival in Augusta, GA and later at the NADA Art Fair in Miami. During the fair, he exhibited a palette of 75 of his foam cinder blocks stacked to look as if they had just been delivered by Home Depot. At the closing party, he threw them into the hotel pool and allowed the celebrating art lovers to play with them.
The experience led to an interactive public art project Ingram titled "Cinder Block City." Installed by the artist in a minimalist Judd-like presentation of cubed stacks of 75 blocks each on grass or a carpet of Kelly-green astroturf, the public is encouraged to re-contextualize the installation by creating their own structures.
In its various presentations in parks, festivals and even a museum, adults and children alike have constructed high walls and arches, laid elaborate foundations as if ruins of long-gone structures, and lifted and tossed them around like strong men in a circus sideshow.
Atlanta, GA (May 27, 2014) On June 3, 2014 artist Scott Ingram will take a 50-foot long wood I-Beam and drive it through the side of a house, two interior walls and out the other side. The temporary public art piece, titled “Pierced,” will be on view through June 15, 2014. A reception with the artist and access to the interior will be held on June 5th from 6-8pm.
The project is an extension of Ingram’s studio practice, which responds to and draws from the vocabulary of modernist art and architecture. Building components often populate his work, but iconic objects like cinderblocks, or in this case an I-Beam, are altered to subvert their originally intended function. In “Pierced,” Ingram fabricates an I-Beam from wood, not metal, and uses what is traditionally intended as a structural support to destabilize the house.
The site for the project is a generic, partially pre-fabricated house built in 1971 at 850 Eastwood Avenue SE in Atlanta’s Grant Park neighborhood. The roughly 1,000 sq. ft 3-bedroom/1 bath house is the only remaining example in the area of this type of mass produced structure, which was designed for people aspiring to the American Dream. “Pierced,” reflects the lost dreams of many for whom home ownership turned out to be a disaster and for others who question whether that dream is truly attainable for all.
The owner of the house is architect David Yocum, co-principal of the architectural firm bldgs, who offered it to Ingram as a site for a temporary work of art before he demolishes the existing structure to build a new home. The beam will enter the house through the outside wall at the northeast corner and exit the front of the house. Because it will be longer than the house is wide, sections of the beam (approximately 10-12 feet long) will protrude from either side.
In 2012 I began thinking about creating a new series of paintings. However, I didn’t act on this impulse until 2014. I love painting and I think that is apparent in all of my work. A tactile surface quality is a driving force. As with all of my work, there were rules and questions that required answers. The modern mastery of Rothko, Motherwell and Kline has always left them untouchable in my mind. Re-interpreting in a meaningful and relevant way has become the challenge in these works. The Sheetrock Paintings approach ideas of abstract expressionism and the erasure of hard edge of the De Stijl and early modernism. They also poke at contemporary architecture in a humorous way, as no worker would ever apply drywall mud in such an impastoed manner.
Clay Ketter and others have nodded to the relationship between painting and construction practices, elevating construction materials to the realm of painting, but often seem to leave out the paint. I have tried to approach my work from the opposite direction. The sheetrock paintings are made of gesso, marble dust and latex on canvas, re-creating the surfaces found on a potential construction site and elevating them to a place of abstract painting.
The paintings allow room for narrative, often talking about disaster as well as new construction. The compositions reference existing conditions and structures as well as revisiting Modern aesthetics and sensibilities.