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Seth Pringle on Public Interventions

February 2, 2010 Artists 6 Comments

Seth Pringle

Seth Pringle was born in rural Ohio in 1981.  He received his BFA in ceramics from Ohio University’s School of Fine Arts in 2004 and his MFA in painting from Claremont Graduate University in 2008.  He is currently serving as Gallery Manager at First Street Gallery Art Center in Claremont, California.

Seth Pringle's Welcome/Unwelcome

My recent work has consisted of a series of public interventions which I document using digital photography.   I seek out moments of emptiness within familiar public spaces, often abandoned lots that I pass by regularly or are near my home.  This familiarity lets me engage with the subtleties of the site, allowing whatever gesture I choose to make to meld with its surroundings somewhat quietly.  I want there to be a degree of seamlessness between my insertion and the existing characteristics of the place.

At the same time, there is always a degree of slippage created between the specificity of my gesture and the dynamics of the site.  Take, for instance, the piece “Welcome/unwelcome,” where I spray-painted a welcome mat at the top of some stairs, which led to an empty lot.  My insertion of a domestic element into a very non-residential area created a gap in the logic of the space.  The piece is, at once, both out of place and right at home.

Seth Pringle's Mountain View Chevrolet

Another installation, entitled “Mountain View Chevrolet,” creates slippage through dislocation.  I was struck by a phrase flashing across this car dealership’s electronic billboard.  It said, “You Can Make a Difference, Discover Upland.”  A little confused by how this slogan was supposed to promote a car dealership, I was also intrigued by the idealism and positivity embodied by such a statement, and how it was received by people reading it from a piece of advertising.  So, I decided to appropriate this statement for my own signage.  I painted “You can make a difference” on a shipping palette and fastened it to a sign-base whose sign had been removed.  With my sign placed just down Foothill Blvd. from the dealership, I was interested in how the change in context and the ambiguity of authorship would affect the reception of the statement.

I’m also interested, with these recent projects, in engaging the emptiness of Foothill Blvd.  Situated along historic Route 66 just east of Los Angeles, Foothill Blvd. extends approximately fifty miles from Pasadena to San Bernardino, covering what seems like an endless suburban sprawl.  The monotony of this space creates a sense of blankness, which I feel compelled to disrupt.

While sublimely repetitive, this area is also very active.  And by creating unauthorized installations in public spaces, I give up control over what happens to my work after I leave the site.  I’ve learned to embrace this dynamic and allow the alterations of outside parties to develop the work even further than my own conceptions might allow.  Both of the pieces I’ve mentioned have been affected by significant modifications after I completed my initial documentation.  The lot, which housed my spray-painted welcome mat, was razed and my sign was partially covered by other people’s homemade signs, advertising a painter’s services and a yard sale.   I’m delighted and intrigued to watch these developments play out over time.  It forces me to reconsider my own understanding of a given piece and it allows me to become a spectator to my own work.


Currently there are "6 comments" on this Article:

  1. Eric Olson says:

    This blew me away for unusual reasons. The conceptual framework is fascinating, to begin with. I also have a special appreciation for the interventions, and the feelings that Seth has about the ennui and monotony of Foothill Blvd.

    I grew up in Claremont, and often walked from our home on Harvard & Third up to and across Foothill Blvd. to hike and have adventures in the massive orange groves that once grew there. In the beginning before the freeways, this zone was a vibrant and interesting route of travel and commerce, linking a sequence of unique communities including Upland, Ontario, San Dimas and etc., along the foothills. I used to ride my bike for hours in each direction and knew each section well. As the freeways and growth came, the boulevard became more residential and less exotic, at the same time the distinctions between the foothill cities began to blur. Today it is all one endless mess of continuous commerce, on the slightly shabby side. There is a sadness and a pointlessness to the boulevard now, which Seth picks up on to great effect. I understand exactly how he feels, and am amazed at his sensitivity to feelings that I share, but which took nearly fifty years to mature on my part.

    As a kid who was taught to throw pots by Norm Hines, and now as a fine art photographer myself, I’d love to share more thoughts with Seth directly.

  2. Ty Pownall says:

    Hey Seth,
    It’s good to see what you’re up to. I really like the welcome mat.


  3. chris sand-ashley says:

    I found this article to be fascinating. Seth’s intriguing public interventions create endless possibilites which have the potential
    to lift us beyond our predictable/day to day landscapes and perceptual experiences. As he experiments with subtle alterations
    within “empty” public spaces, I found myself wondering about the potential impact of interventions on a large scale; when one
    thing is different which invite space and room for change, color and wonder. I love his paradigm of offering the intervention but then
    then giving up any control of what happens after his intervention and embracing the dynamic of what may come. I would love
    to hear more about his work in the future.

  4. Barbara Bishop-Sand says:

    The “sublimely repetitive” extent of Foothill Blvd. leads the human brain to “eliminate” the monotony, simply by blanking out on all visual perception of any detail. Yours is a good commentary on the effect of either urban or rural monotony, what it can contribute to our inability to “see beyond the thing” . ‘Welcome/unwelcome’ is a very tight tautology that contradicts itself….totally fascinating. Keep it up, you explorations are very interesting. Hugs,Barb

  5. vicki says:

    Awesome work seth! I never got to hang around long enough to really get a feel for what you did so I’m really glad to read this article:)

  6. Katy Hertel says:

    I enjoy how the photographs speak for themselves, and at the same time appreciate how Seth articulates his perceptions about how they came to be, before and after.
    These pieces evoke a wide spectrum of feelings in someone who remembers what Foothill Blvd and the surrounding area was like 40+years ago. Blended with the elements of endless urban sprawl and emptiness, there is poignant humor, curious wonder, and a dash of zen, which allows one to see anew.
    We must keep an eye out for what this artist will do next!

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