Project Description

Solo Together (2017)

10 Hanover, London

10 Hanover is delighted to announce a new exhibition of works by Paula Crown. Solo Together will feature three separate bodies of work: the eponymous series of red Solo Cups, a new rendition of her transfixing site-specific installation,  Freezing Rain, and mixed-media prints from the Kinematic series. This will be Crown’s first show with 10 Hanover and her second in London, having previously exhibited widely in the US. 

Crown is a multi-media artist with a practice encompassing drawing, painting, video and sculpture. The studio is renowned for experimenting with cutting-edge technology, including collaborations with architects, medical laboratories and design studios. Sensitive to the environmental consequences of an experimental and technological heavy practice, Crown instills a thorough commitment to sustainability in her work. This engagement is often apparent in her choice of subject matter and medium, which may involve natural elements and phenomena, and recycled or hand-made materials.

Solo Together is composed of 150 plaster casts of individually crushed red Solo Cups, which have been placed across the gallery floor just like after a raucous party. In the USA, the Solo Cup Company needs no introduction. A manufacturer of disposable drinks cups, plates, and bowls, their most famous product – the bright red disposable plastic cup – is omnipresent at any casual social occasion amongst friends and family. Founded in 1936, the company first became successful in parallel with the popularity of fountain sodas. Today’s distinctive red design was developed in the 1970s and quickly became ubiquitous across the US, due to its low cost, durability, and disposability. The bold and cheerful Solo Cup, made from thick moulded polystyrene, fit in perfectly with a throwaway and consumer-orientated society that allied with the conveniences offered by advances in plastic technologies. Solo Cup customers include Starbucks, Dairy Queen, Whole Foods Market, and many universities. Overseas, including here in the UK, the red Solo Cup is instantly recognizable from film and television exports. Through the censoring filter of Hollywood, the red cup is associated with a particular brand of Americana that is consumed from scenes of college life, family barbeques, and sporting events in shows such as American Pie, Glee, Clueless, and Superbad. Seen only on screen in these contexts, the Solo Cup is understood as a bright and colourful symbol of all-American fun, without any negative connotations of frat parties, litter, and social demographic.

Crown highlights the social and cultural complexities behind this superficially simple icon. They are physical remains of a transient event and beg questions to an absent crowd: “Who was here and where are they now?”, “What was the occasion?”, “What did I miss out on?” and “Who’s job is it to clear this up?”. The names of each cup are inspired by the imagined personalities of their owners, or hint towards private complexities behind public personas: Mathlete, Effortlessly Perfect, Failing Out, or Keeping Up Appearances. Each piece has been cast in plaster from a hand-crushed cup, which has then been spray and hand-painted. The combination of reproduction and craft techniques reflect the central themes in this work: the individual versus the anonymous; the way humans make personal marks upon their mass-produced belongings. Crown’s decision to mould in natural plaster (not plastic), and start and finish with her hands deliberately opposes the philosophy of choosing Solo Cups to cater for a party: her practice concerns the traces that we leave behind on the environment through our choices as a consumer, and social responsibility for the mess and damage that remains. The Solo Cup’s attraction for being cheap, disposable, and low-hassle, has been deliberately inverted into unique and preciously created objects.

The installation Freezing Rain recreates a moment in a rainstorm and captures a pause of transcendental clarity. Continuing her artistic practice to combine high technology with direct “analogue” mark-making, Freezing Rain was conceived from photographs of rainstorms. The digital images were then translated into freehand drawings of the individual raindrops, which were then scanned, enlarged, and expanded into 3D blueprints for hundreds of new individual shards of metal. Cut from the highly reflective SuperMirror stainless steel, and threaded on microfilaments from the ceiling, the “raindrops” are suspended at an angle between the ceiling and floor, completing her glistening impression of a sheet of rain. The work embodies the artist’s dedication to technical precision, the wonders of the natural world, and the recreation of a pure experience. Walking around the installation, refracted light dances around the space, and fragments of the viewer’s reflection glint back in fleeting and intangible reflections. Situated in the gallery window, the colours and shadows change throughout the day. Crown has created a fragile experience which can be apprehended momentarily but is never truly knowable – in the same way, that nature can be appreciated, copied, and used, but ultimately remains sublime and unfathomable.

The Kinematic series starts from an investigation into liquid graphite and water. In the same way that oil and water do not mix, liquid graphite poured and moved around a pool of water creates dynamic floating compositions. The forms variably evoke the topography of the earth in photos taken from space, or the view from the earth looking up at the cosmos. These have then been photographed, printed on flex gesso, and hand-painted with silver leaf in a way that augments the orientation of the work (ground or sky). Similarly to her use of photography in Freezing Rain, Crown combines the potential of sophisticated technology with empirical knowledge from the artist’s studio. This mixture of analogue with highly specialised innovation mirrors a core intent to create physical objects that embody the desire to grasp the ineffable.