A new exhibition by James Capper, whose extraordinary sculptures can walk, swim and climb mountains, will open at Yorkshire Sculpture Park on 5 January 2013. Featuring three large-scale walking sculptures in the landscape and models, drawings and films in the Bothy Gallery, this project is a timely showcase of the artist’s career to date and shows the evolution of his practice and fascinating exploration of the potential and aesthetics of the machine.
Open air work comprises three of Capper’s earth marking sculptures: Midi Marker (2012), a vibrant yellow machine with claw-like feet which imprints on the landscape; gigantic, forklift-like engine Exstenda Claw (2012); and Tread Toe (2010), a large-scale moving sculpture, self-powered by a hydraulic foot which moves forward in a slow stepping motion.
The exhibition includes work from each of Capper’s divisions: Earth Marking, Offshore and Material Handling, which reference the monumental scale and earth interventions of 1970s Land Art, such as Spiral Jetty (1970) by Robert Smithson. Smithson used a JCB to move black basalt rocks and earth in Utah’s Great Salt Lake creating a 1,500 feet-long coil that stretches out into water made red by the microorganisms that thrive in its highly saline environment.
Mechanical processes are central to Capper’s work and he is interested in the innovations of early engineering. Capper is inspired by the contributions made to engineering by prolific inventor Robert Gilmour Le Tourneau (1888–1969) who developed a number of experimental and prototype earthmoving machines, many of which were used during World War II.
Speaking of Le Tourneau’s influence on his work, Capper says: “His problem-solving was immense, it still shocks me looking through the man’s archive that he could produce all these ideas in one lifetime. I feel that it is very important to bring new ideas to art, rather than re-treading familiar paths and recycling old techniques. Le Tourneau is as important to me as any great artist that has broken down barriers. The operation of a machine becomes a performance, and the building of the machine is a demonstration of what mechanical engineering can achieve in sculpture.”
James Capper at Yorkshire Sculpture Park The exhibition runs from 5 January – 14 April 2013