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Installations 1982-2000
Steve Rucker
All-overness...on the ground by Roger Green

Steve Rucker's colorful installations are humorous commentaries on diverse social maladies, reminiscent of works by Claes Oldenburg - an acknowledged model - but informed sensibilities peculiar to the rural South. Typically, Rucker's installations consist of vertically oriented wood or ceramic elements, arrayed in parallel lines and suggesting growing crops. Littering the ground beneath the vertical elements are whimsical ceramic sculptures, describes by the artist as "debris."

Rucker's installations are continuations of and reactions against Abstract Expressionism, the first modem movement he discovered as an undergraduate art student at Middle Tennessee State University in the early 1970's. Today, Rucker extends the all-over texture of Abstract Expressionist splatters and drips to environmental proportions. About his works' links to Abstract Expressionism he says, "Somewhere along the line ít clicked that all-overness might just as well happen on the ground."

Actually, earth artists such as Robert Smithson, Dennis Oppenheim and Walter de Maria (especially his "Lightning Field") also inspired Rucker, as did remembered boyhood experiences on neightbors'farms. Often, when mowing lawns or fields of hay, Rucker freely "drew" on their surfaces, rather than moving the mower or tractor in parallel lines.

Rucker's reaction against Abstract Expressionism shows in his copious use of imagery and narrative content, both developed out of memories of Tennessee farm life and adult concerns about social and economic ills. He also substituted for the anonymous, numbered titles used by Abstract Expressionists worded titles that manipulate language playfully. His games with language, like his habit of writing and taping guitar songs to complement installations, owe to the culture of his adopted state, Louisiana.

Song lyrics by Clifton Chenier, Dr. John, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, and other Louisiana musicians stimulated the play with words that today characterizes and adds remarkable charm to Rucker's art. One installation, "Post-Modern Pharming", deals the inefficiency of over-the-counter pain remedies and the harrowing plight of farmers who have lost their land (both subjects relate to sickness, including economic sickness, the artist explains). Another installation, "Barber Crop Quartet," equates the country ritual of monthly haircuts with harvesting crops.

Not surprisingly, the vertical elements in "Barber Crop Quartet" are wooden poles painted with red-and-white stripes; littering the ground beneath the poles is "debris" in the form of outsized ceramic scissors, combs, razors and pieces of bubble gum. By contrast, the vertical components of "Post-Modern Pharming" and another installation, "Barbwire Maladies," combine glazed ceramic and metal parts.

In both works, steel rods rising from ceramic bases support ceramic sculptures that bring to mind clever animated cartoons. In the first work the sculptures are of hypodermic needles, thermometers, two-toned capsules, cotton swabs, bandages and dollar bills. In the second work, the sculptures portray metamorphoses - a birds tail becoming a banjo's neck, a screw sprouting a leaf - occasioned by toxic chemicals. Both works also include inventive "debris."

Rucker's installations have meaning on many levels, amusing viewers while also challenging them to confront social inequities. As expressions of urgent concern about the fate of the world, couched in disarmingly playful, yet always accessible autobiographical terms, Rucker's installations are unsurpassed.
 ©2000 - 2015 Steve Rucker : www.WSteveRucker.com