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.

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