The Work of Bob Gregson by Judy Birke, curator for “Out of Order” at Creative Arts Workshop in New Haven, CT
“I’ve always been interested in the connection between art, artist and audience, and the conversation that takes place between them.” Bob Gregson’s work speaks cogently to each of these elements and their connection to each other.
Gregson creates colorful wooden sculptural installations that invite the audience to interact with them in a very approachable manner; to touch and manipulate the pieces with unlimited opportunity, as well as nudging that audience to share the experience with others around them.
Much of his work, including those in the current exhibit, “Out of Order,” explores that intersection where order and disorder share the same place. Each piece begins with a static grid from which a state of visual chaos is created by turning a panel and breaking the visual elements, thereby constantly creating a new work.
As a curator, one soon realizes that there is never one “correct” solution here, in that the placement and rearrangement of each single piece is always an opportunity for additional interpretation and interaction.
…which is exactly what Gregson intends…..he aims to create works that are never totally finished, neither literally nor figuratively. Not only is there a shift in the interaction among the visual elements in the piece, there is also a clear shift in the interaction among the audiences, often complete strangers, who share the experience, brought together and connecting by a single work of art. Just as one person moves a panel and believes the new transformation is complete, others comes along and bring their own reactions and alterations.
In case you just want to do your own thing, you can grab onto one of Gregson’s free-standing larger-than-life size “walkers” that roll around on casters at your direction. Be aware, you’ll likely meet someone else taking a roll-stroll too.
No matter what and no matter who, children and adults alike all come away smiling… and they keep returning over and over again. Darn it, try as we may, these works just won’t get done! What fun!
But for Gregson it’s not all just about fun and games. This is an artist who is serious about play. While on the surface the pieces are playful and graphically bold in order to seduce the audience into touching and interacting, on another level there is a wealth of reflection and experience as Gregson, a serious student of art history, references the work of other artists and art movements of the 20th century. The seemingly simple combination of color, design and architecture, are often complex references to past movements like Dada, Fluxus, Happenings, Performance Art, Conceptual Art, all movements that explore and challenge, in one way or another, just as Gregson does, the definition of what art is, and thereby create their own rules as to how people experience it.
Despite all the action and adventure, the disruptions and developments, Gregson’s works always maintain a wonderful sense of balance. They are cumulatively fresh and unified, accessible to the mind and appealing to the eye.
Today as we communicate more and more through digital media and are less involved in the physical world, Gregson’s hands-on low-tech imagery becomes a cogent and welcome reaction to an iPhone world.
This guy is a consummate artist. He just can’t help it!