Ingrid Calame: Step on a crack, break your mother's back

8 May - 27 Jun 2009 Golden Square

Step on a crack, break your mother's back is the first solo exhibition in the UK of paintings and drawings by Los Angeles based artist Ingrid Calame.

Calame is known for her intricate tracings and transcriptions that combine documentation of the messy remains of human activity with explorations of institutions or places. Step on a crack, break your mother’s back is based on marks collected during the artist’s residency at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in the city of Buffalo, NY in June 2008. The works were prompted by the idea of tracing the sites of Buffalo’sageing industrial buildings but evolved into an investigation of a broad variety of the marks imbedded in the city.


Calame has collected tracings from a variety of locations in Buffalo particularly in the industrial structures of the once thriving steel mills. Here, painted on the floor of one massive shed she traced the large hand painted inventory numbers used by the crane operators high above to locate the giant spools of sheet steel. Other sites discovered by the artist included a drained wading pool as big as a city block. She found the bright blue floor covered in tight mechanical swirls of eroded cement which led to a series of highly intricate drawings. Calame is intrigued by the network of tarred-over cracks found on freeways, intersections and parking lots.


These thick ribbons of tar unfurl in front of drivers on American roads. At the Albright-Knox Art Gallery she finally had the opportunity to trace such marks. Closing their parking lot in sections for three days the artist traced these hand-width-wide marks that spider web their way across the asphalt surface. The graceful formal arcs are an exciting counterpoint to the figurative numbers from the steel mill and the filigree of the wading pool.


The title of this exhibition comes from the childhood game of avoiding cracks in the pavement. The artist likens this process of being conscious of place in a superstitious or playful way as equivalent to her intensive process of gathering the marks of deterioration from the surrounding world. She uses colour to enliven the found forms, calling upon disjointed memories and thoughts and building them one colour at a time like a brick wall: each colour decision cannot be removed because the next colour decision is built on it.



Ingrid Calame was born in New York in 1965. She completed an MFA in Art and Film at the California Institute of Arts in 1996. Solo exhibitions include: Schmidt Maczollec, Cologne, Germany (2008), James Cohan Gallery, New York, NY (2007), and Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis (2007).