Peter Shelton (American, b. Troy, Ohio, 1951)
Signed and dated on mount1
Lead, fiberglass, and polyester resin, with iron brace mount
65 x 4-15 x 26 3/4 in. (165.1 x 10.2 - 38.1 x 68 cm)
Roush Fund for Contemporary Art and gift of John N. Stern (OC 1939) in honor of the artist's parents, David and Mary McCullough Shelton (OC 1937/1936), and in memory of their good friend, Robert S. Hunt (OC 1939), 1993
bulgebone is a sculpture at once clear and elegant in form, yet absurd and unsettling in the associations it provokes. Its combination of a thin tube and a bulging, protruding vessel conjure up the workings of both organic matter and mechanical object.
The artist has wrapped a lead armature around a translucent fiberglass skin, creating a form that seems both hard and soft, abstract yet alive with bodily reference. The sculpture's mount is invisible, and bulgebone seems suspended in air, with only its drawn-out shadow attached to the wall. As it dangles and juts like a severed organ, the sculpture addresses the viewer as one body to another: as a tactile, compact, and unitary thing, yet also an "inside" that has been bound and encased. Like bulgebone's forms and installation, its playful title places the abstract sculpture in a realm of sensory and linguistic parody and likeness.
bulgebone is one of Shelton's several lead and fiberglass works of 1990-93, all of which (like much of his sculpture in other media) conjure up slightly dysfunctional organs and/or machine parts; compare, for example, u-bone with drain (1990-92), or whitebagbone (1992-93).2 The lead and fiberglass pieces from Shelton's "bone" series are one manifestation of his focus on conduit and tube forms, highly abstracted elements that reflect "a pneumatic or hydraulic vessel, a collector or condenser, a passage in its different scales, a ‘tube' that you pass through, a tunnel, a hallway, a pipe. You could think of them in terms of a circulation system."3
Work reproduced with permission of Peter Shelton
Born in 1951, Peter Shelton received a B.A. from Pomona College, in Claremont, California, in 1973. He worked as a welder in Ohio and Michigan before moving to Los Angeles in late 1974. He received an M.F.A. from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1979. Shelton's sculptural work spans a wide range of forms and concerns, from the environmental works and site-based installations of the 1970s and ‘80s to the individual pieces and complex bronze castings of the ‘90s. His art alternately explores both figuration and abstraction; his sculptural language expresses his interest in architectural structures and in shapes that reflect the human body. Throughout, there is an abiding material concern for craft, technique, and formal nuance.
Shelton, Peter. floatinghouseDEADMAN. Interview by Helaine Porter. Exh. cat., University Gallery, University of Masachusetts at Amherst, 1987.
Eliel, Carol S. Peter Shelton: bottlesbonesandthingsgetwet. Exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1994.
With L. A. Louver, Inc., Venice, Calif., from whom purchased in 1993
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1994. Peter Shelton: bottlesbonesandthingsgetwet. 3 March - 15 May. Unnumbered cat., p. 56.
Peter Shelton: bottlesbonesandthingsgetwet. Exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art,1994, p. 56.
The sculpture was fabricated by shaping a form from thin lead rods (approximately 0.5 cm in diameter) and then inserting fiberglass cloth into the lead armature. The fiberglass was probably inserted in sections, though it is not clear how many. A polyester resin was then applied throughout the interior and exterior of the sculpture. On the fiberglass exterior, the resin has an even, matte surface, which was probably achieved through sanding or sandblasting.
The work also includes a separate iron alloy brace which is used to install the sculpture onto the wall. The brace is attached to one side of the bulbous end of the sculpture with large Phillips machine screws and iron-alloy fender washers. The brace contains the artist's signature and instructions for mounting (see exact inscriptions in note 1). The signature and mounting instructions have been coated with a transparent varnish.
The work is in excellent condition, despite small losses of polyester resin from the lead armature (both exterior and interior), and slight rusting on the iron mounting brace.
1.Also includes artist's installation instructions written in ink. At the top of the bracket between two down arrows: 42 1/2 / TO FLOOR/. Directly beneath: bulgebone with copyright mark followed by 1990-93 P.S. SHELTON/HANG ON "L" HOOK / 42 1/2 FLOOR TO HOOK / CAUTION: W//ONLY GLOVES!!/ Peter Shelton (signature).
2. u-bone with drain, mixed media, 198 x 122 x 19.2 cm, and whitebagbone, mixed media, 191 x 34.3 x 38.1 cm; both collection of the artist, and reproduced in Carol S. Eliel, Peter Shelton: bottlesbonesandthingsgetwet (exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1994), pp. 50 and 56, respectively.
3.Peter Shelton, from an interview with Carol S. Eliel, 14 May and 22 June 1993; in Carol S. Eliel, Peter Shelton: bottlesbonesandthingsgetwet (exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1994), p. 45.