Wednesday, June 30, 2010


James Grashow is a printmaker and sculptor. His sculptures have involved multiple media and range in size from smallish "bouquets" to large installation pieces. He voices a fascination for the line between fantasy and reality; metaphor and truth. That fondness is on display in his Corrugated Fountain, currently exhibited at the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke.

After graduating from the Pratt Institute of Art in the 60's, Grashow was awarded a Fulbright travel scholarship to study a year in Florence, Italy. There he tried to see everything, with his primary focus on painting and graphics.

Obviously, he absorbed a few influences from the statues and fountains that abound in Italian cities.

James Grashow's cardboard fountain references the marble fountains of the Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680). Bernini was the leading sculptor of his age as well as a prominent
architect. Additionally, he painted, wrote plays, and designed metalwork and stage sets.

While Bernini worked in enduring marble, Grashow chooses cardboard as his medium. Think about it: the whole concept of a fountain made of cardboard is absurd. Water and paper make for a mushy mix.

Quoting James Grashow:
"They say you know an artist more by the materials that he uses than the things he chooses to make. The artist that works in stone or steel is a different person than the one that works in cardboard and paper. Materials speak to your true identity, your core belief. Mortality, fragility,and the transient nature of man are what I believe in. I wish and try to be more positive, but my work always betrays me.

Corrugated board is a material that understands its mortality. It knows it is destined for the trash bin or recycle pile. It is bonded to the human experience. They say that 85% of everything on the planet has spent part of its life in a cardboard box. Corrugated board and all of us have a shared destiny, it is in our DNA. Rescued from trash, corrugated board is so grateful to be something; to have another chance, it becomes a perfect partner in play."


Grashow goes on to say:
"An artist always talks about his or her process, the creation of a work from start to finish. Stone or steel, the Afghan Buddhas or the World Trade Center, part of being human is dealing with the totality of process. If the question is of how we face the finite nature of our being, I chose paper."

For all of the deep thoughts and insights the artist offers, it is important not to lose sight of the sheer fun that comes in encountering this piece. Being able to walk through the piece, to view and experience it from different angles, evokes playfulness. It allows exploration.

James Grashow's Corrugated Fountain is on display at the Taubman Museum of Art until February 20, 2011. Next it goes on to the Allan Stone gallery in New York.
Lastly, true to the ephemeral nature of his material, this sculpture that took 4 years to create will be placed out-of-doors to allow the forces of nature to complete the totality of process.

See it while you can,

P.S. There is one more post coming about this exhibit. It examines more closely some details of construction.


  1. amazing & beautiful...thanks, carina xoxo

  2. This is unbelievable! Thank you for sharing!!