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Richard NonasThe Man in the Empty Space

  • Archive Exhibitions, Exhibition

  • February 13 - September 5, 2016
  • Building 5

For five decades, Richard Nonas has created a body of work whose terse, reduced vocabulary belies its power to fundamentally alter our sense of space, time, landscape, and architecture. His totemic sculptures—made from earthy and industrial materials that have a timeless character (wooden railroad ties, granite curbstones, massive boulders, and thick steel plates)—have reimagined space and terrain all over the world. With horizontally oriented, ground-based, and wall-mounted works executed in a wide range of dimensions and weights, Nonas has developed a vocabulary of serialized geometric forms that both command and alter their environments, while retaining an intimate, human scale.

In one of his most ambitious projects to date, the artist’s quietly powerful sculpture occupied and transformed MASS MoCA’s Building 5, the museum’s signature gallery, nearly a football field in length. The museum’s history as a manufacturing plant makes MASS MoCA a particularly fitting venue for Nonas, who, since his early career—when he and his peers presented guerrilla exhibitions in alternative spaces—has often been drawn to raw industrial buildings. Nonas created a major new work specifically for the trussed, window-lined Building 5, to which he added a selection of existing sculpture.

Richard Nonas The Man in the Empty Space

Richard Nonas: The Man in the Empty Space, Slant
Bayetta Rising / Zaratustra’s Ring, 1989, Steel
Skid (New-World Chaser Series), 2014, Steel
Here Now, 2014, Steel
Untitled, 2005, Steel
Untitled, 1975/2014, Oil stick on paper

Richard Nonas, The Man in the Empty Space, No Water In, 2016
Single Artificer, 2016, Railroad ties

Granite Chairs (2016 Series, Chairs for Bjorn), 2016, Granite
Photo Credit: David Dashiell